Sunday, November 6, 2011

Final Day on the San Juan

Sunday was our final day on the river. We were just sailing straight through to our take-out location in order to get back to Flagstaff at a decent hour. Today was my lucky day to be in the "Duckie". To those of you who do not know river terms, myself included, a duckie is basically an inflatable canoe. I had been a little eerie of the duckie because I knew I would be getting wet. To make matters a bit worse, my class had camped in a canyon, where there was little sun. We woke up pretty cold only to realize that our wetsuits and gear had not dried from the day before. Also the sun would not fill our canyon until noon so nothing was going to get much warmer until were paddled into sun light. I gingerly put on my wet river shoes and suit and was ready to find a patch of sun light. My partner and I climbed into our duckie and started paddling. Without any previous experience, our efforts only seemed to spin us in circles. We learned we were somehow more coordinated and could go straight if we went backwards. Of course eventually we would just end up in our regular 360 pattern. Finally we made it to a patch of sunlight. Our red, frozen hands dried out and instead of frustration at our failing efforts, everything just became funny. Then we both had to use the restroom. I was getting desperate so our river guide told us to just stop at a beach and go. Immediately I located a perfect location a few feet ahead. We hit the sandy shore, ready to relieve ourselves. Of course, just as we stepped out of the duckie, we sunk up to our knees in mud. My partner's shoes were falling off as he tried to pry his feet from the quick-sand like mud. Once we freed ourselves we ran in opposite directions to use the restroom. Then back into the duckie we went. However, we had not realized how long we were stuck in the sticky mud. Everyone else in the group was way ahead and quickly disappearing from site. We both kicked our paddling skills into high gear trying to work with the river and avoid spinning in circles. We were exhausting our every effort, while the groups ahead weren't paddling at all and still seemed to be moving faster. At last, totally exhausted, we were able to catch up. Of course, thats when the guides and other students decide to tell us how to paddle correctly! Eventually we arrived at our pull out destination and headed down the road toward home.

I really had a great time on the San Juan. I began to see the Indian culture and desert in a different light. I had often looked at Indian Reservations with a negative connotation, but this trip really opened my eyes to a new, although ancient, culture. I have a lot more respect and understanding. The San Juan sits among gorgeous canyons and rock formations. I would encourage people to plan a trip to the area even if only to look at it. However, please research and remember the history of the area and please respect the land and artifacts.

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