ScuzBums Colorado River Trip

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					                                  ScuzBums Colorado River Trip
                             Southern California Small Boat Messabout Society

                                            Author: Kim Apel

Some think ScuzBums thrive only in salt water, but that's just been proven false. The Colorado River trip
April 24-26 (2002) was a different kind of messabout, combining the usual collection of boat nuts and
their toys, but with an unusual venue: cruising down a river over three days, primitive camping as you go.
I've organized similar beach cruising trips in Baja and elsewhere, but only a few 'Bums’ participated. This
trip, however, ably organized by Gorden Bundy, attracted an impressive turnout of nine ScuzBums and
seven boats. For some of us, camp-cruising was a familiar experience. To others it was an entirely new
adventure. Everyone had a great time, and went home hoping there will be a next time. The shared
boating experience which is the main appeal of any messabout is intensified when there is also the
shared focus and challenge and discovery of following an unfamiliar river together to a destination.

The Colorado River below Hoover Dam cuts through 12 miles of rugged desert wilderness called Black
Canyon before passing the next sign of civilization, a recreation area called Willow Beach. The river is
composed of the cold, clear water drawn from deep below the surface of Lake Mead, passed through
Hoover Dam's hydroelectric turbines, and deposited in Black Canyon, where it flows with a deep,
powerful current for several miles before slowing somewhat. The canyon walls are steep, solid rock. The
opportunities for going ashore are limited, in the form of narrow side canyons intersecting the river, but
these offer good campsites, enticing canyon hiking, and some special attractions such as hot springs
feeding stone pools, just right for soaking weary muscles.

Our party (John & Barbara Canning in the Adirondack Goodboat; Roger Nelson and son Don in the
Folboat kayak; Gorden Bundy in his gorgeous, new wood-canvas solo canoe; Annie Kolls in the inflatable
Sea Eagle; Leland Foerster in the Fatty Knees dinghy (less sails), Dan Webster in his Bolger Light Dory;
and Kim Apel, also in his dory) met on Thursday night at a Lake Mead campground, and Friday morning
moved to the designated rendezvous with our required escort to the launch site. The twisty, narrow road
to the foot of Hoover Dam descends a steep canyon wall, and is not open to the public. Indeed, it is
required that all boats and boaters go down via an outfitters' van and giant canoe trailer. It looked
impossible to transfer all of our boats to that trailer                                                                                    1
and the roof of the van, but somehow we did it. The outfitters' services ($25/person) included a van shuttle
ride back to our cars at the end of the river cruise. At the bottom, launching was also a challenge, as we
had to carry boats and gear a considerable distance over rough terrain to reach the water's edge. This
trip is best suited to canoes and kayaks. Some of our bigger, heavier boats needed all hands to get on
the trailer, and then into the water. Some wondered out loud if they would have signed up for this, had
they known what a challenge it would be just to launch. Also, the usual patrons of this canoe/kayak trip
probably average under age 30. The ScuzBum party, however, averaged about age sixty. But the
scenery was stunning and, in contrast with the prevailing plastic fleet, we had the distinction of heading
downstream in a collection of distinguished watercraft seldom if ever seen on that river.

                                                                       Some of the nine trip
                                                                     participants: (L-R) Leland
                                                                      Foerster, Don Nelson,
                                                                       Gorden Bundy, Annie
                                                                    Kolls—after arrrivi ng at river
                                                                        level on launch day.

      Mid-day stop along the
    river day 2. Note the water
        action in the picture.
    Strong head winds all day.

Camp 2 Friday evening was in a sandy wash. The cruisers showed remarkable camp-cooking savvy; it
was clear that most had done this sort of outing before. Overnight the full moon rose, casting an eerie
light on the canyon walls. Anyone without a tent to shield their eyes might have had a hard time sleeping,
it was so bright. The river dropped a foot or so, as though the tide was falling, but in fact it                                                                                    2
was Hoover Dam, restricting the flow of the river at night when there was less demand for its hydroelectric
output. In the morning several of the 'Bums walked a trail a short distance downstream to Hot Springs
Canyon for a hot soak before hitting the river for Day 2.

     ‘hanging gardens’ and
    green water explored by
    Lelund and Gorden (just
       emerging from the
       grotto in his wood
     canvas solo canoe on
       Gordon’s starboard

Day 2 will be remembered as the day of headwinds. After a leisurely mid-day lunch break and a hike up
the side canyon, we re-launched to find that while our resting place was nicely sheltered from the wind,
out in the main canyon, a stiff wind was blowing upriver. Progress downstream had changed from a
casual ride on the current into a stern challenge.

    Leland in
  Fatty Knees
 (designed by
 Lyle Hess as
     a robust
 Vertical struts
 fore & aft are
   for a shade
   system he
  couldn’t ever
   use due to
       wind.                                                                                    3
When the travelers finally hauled ashore at Camp 3, it was to a great campsite. The day's unusual
challenges yielded good spirits, good food, good conversation around the campfire, and good rest, as
the voyagers adapted to the rigors of camp-cruising life, such as sleeping on the ground. This is the
magic of small boat cruising in a primitive or wilderness setting. The trip absorbs all your energy and
attention, so that after a few days, it drives all the clutter of civilization from one's mind. The world shrinks
to the here and now. The body gets a workout, but the brain gets a vacation from its usual burdens, not by
inactivity, but by intense activity of a different kind. It's very refreshing.

                       Day 3 mid-day break along a sandy shore. All boats are in the picture (though
                     they are not easy to see…) Far end: the Nelson’s Folboat, Annie Kolls’s inflatable
                          Sea Eagle, just barely a gunnel of Gordon’s Fatty Knees dinghy, Kim’s
                         “Sou’wester” dory, then Dan Webster’s Bolger Light Dory, followed by the
                            Canning’s Adirondack Goodboat and lastly, Gorden Bundy’s canoe.

Day 3 brought a welcome break in the winds. We pushed downriver and emerged from the canyon to the
unwelcome bustle of the Willow Beach recreation area, with cars and crowds and the insistent drone of
powerboats. This was our destination. We met the outfitter's van, drove back to our cars, collected our
gear, and the group parted ways. It was just a short trip, really, but it felt as if we had been far, far away. In
my book, that's the definition of a great vacation.                                                                                          4
                         Morning light, somewhere on the Colorado River, Kim
                            Apel’s Dobler Dory (LOA 15’6” X 4’ 4”) rests in
                              somnolence a-waiting the days water run.                                                         5

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