Saturday, November 5, 2011

On the River: Day One

My small class arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at five AM outside the university pool. We loaded all of our gear and set off on the four hour drive to Bluff, Utah. Most of the van slept the entire drive only to wake up to a chill wind at our launch site. The San Juan at one point was being trashed and over-used by the hordes of tourists that would flood it's shores every summer. Now the Bureau of Land Mangement restricts the amount of river runners to 15,000 a year. Because of this our class was lucky just to have been drawn to go. With the drawing, the BLM restricts when people are on the river too. That is why we were doing our river excursion in the cold fall air instead of the warmer summer months. Also as a result of the drawing system other groups were launching on the same day as my class. The must have thought we were crazy or something. We pull up to the dock and begin to outfit ourselves in wet suits, splash jackets, life jackets, river shoes, and helmets. The other groups stood confused in their shorts and sandals all the while loading several 24-packs of beer onto their boats.

Nevertheless, we all dressed and set sail in our three boats, prepared for the great adventure ahead.I really fell in love with the geology of the San Juan. The different rock formations and high cliff walls were beautiful.

Our class made a quick stop for a delicious lunch and small hike. The hike lead the group up to some ancient petroglyphs that were carved into stone by the Ancestral Pueblo. Little is known of the meaning of the pictures, so sitting around making up stories and meanings is really entertaining.

Soon our tour down the river was done for the first day. We had traveled 5 1/2 miles and were ready to make camp. Before dinner, though, we hiked to an old ruin. This location was probably my favorite. This house and kiva were built centuries before my visit and yet were perfectly preserved. We even found some old corn cobs that had resisted decomposition in the high desert walls. The kiva's insides walls were still coal black from a fire's smoke.It was truly amazing to just imagine one day in the life of this ancient culture.

On the hike back from from the ruins, the Honors director at NAU encouraged us to look at the ground. Before our eyes thousands small pieces of broken pottery lay. We had hardly noticed them. In some of the coil styled pot pieces little fingerprints and nail markings were visible. It really hit me then that the inhabitants were humans, just like us, and we were visiting their homes. Just on day one, the San Juan trip was already broadening my perspectives to a new culture.   

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