Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gummi bears in the wash

I need to outgrow the habit of putting food in my pockets. I got back from another five day river trip today, and like the responsible adult I pretend to be, am doing laundry. The great thing about the spin cycle is that it nicely separates the candy wrappers, soggy gummi bears, nail clippers, twigs, change, and rocks from my pants and socks. The chapstick never fairs as well, unfortunately.
I tried something new on this past river trip. I attempted to record bits of events throughout the day, though out the trip. I attempted. I failed. I made two entries and both are distinctly grumpy in flavor as they were written on days when the wind was threatening to fling me and my boat into the sharp rocks and spiky plants. So, I’ll just record my usual summary of what immediately comes to mind about the last few weeks.
Well, the last five days were spent river rafting and shocking fish. The weather vacillated between April and January. The river greeted us with rain and gusts of wind on our first day. I lost an oar (but got it back). I caught it on a rock and sent it flying as I was furiously flailing away from the rocks towards which the wind was pushing me. I have amassed the most interesting collection of blisters on my hands. Everyone else seems to have settled into calluses. Not me. I just get new blisters in new spots on each trip. Eventually they will run out of new territory to colonize and be forced to form calluses. Or so I tell myself.
The high water made the San Juan a much more exciting river to row. Stretches that had been flat water on previous trips presented as washboards of waves and the current made each stroke more of an effort.
I gear boated the first day, which meant that all I had to do was get from point A to B then to C (and set up lunch) then to D and finally Camp (E?) before the shock boats. Gear boating is supposed to be your relaxing day on the river, but the increase in weather had an inverse relationship with my relaxation abilities. (AAAAAH Not the Rock!!!)
The weather was better the following days but still threw windy temper tantrums on a regular basis. We caught the usual cast of fishes: Catfish, Pike minnow, bullheads, and suckers. I was only stabbed by one catfish on this trip. I think I am getting better at this!
There is one good thing about the serrated razor blades that serve as catfish fins. The little buggers practically net themselves. All you have to do is get the net near the catfish and it gets its spiky little self stuck in there. Of course, you then have to untangle the slimy pokey thing from the net which is generally when the stabbing happens. It could be worse. It could be a carp.
That’s it. I am going to have a bowl of lucky charms, fold my laundry, and go to bed. There better not be any gummibears stuck to my sheets.
And a few photographs for you viewing pleasure:

last night on the river, from the camp site.

cool, catfish leeches!

wait... I thought we were hiking to an arch. oh well, this is cool, too. (but maybe we'll take the map next time)

when was the last time you looked closely at a lichen? I suggest you try it. Amazing (and no, I am not on drugs I swear)

Cryptobiotic soil, also AMAZING!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

catfish and goblins

Here I am in Moab sitting down to a lunch of a more than slightly blackened grilled cheese sandwich. The appearance of which, I tell myself, reflects an inability to multitask and not a complete deficiency in cooking skills (or so I hope). Sometimes I wonder at how I used to cook for 40-60 people in the co-op days.
The last two weeks have been filled with lots of desert and river work/fun. I became a gainfully employed “fish squeezer” on March 30th. April first we launched on the San Juan for a week of rowing and fish zapping. We are monitoring endangered species (Colorado pike minnow and razorback suckers) and removing unwelcome invaders (catfish, carp, brown trout, etc). On the last trip I learned how to paddle a shock boat. On this trip I hope to get some practice with the dutch oven. How else do you make brownies on a river?

So, I spend my work week river rafting and fish flinging. When the weekend comes I take a break from this tough life with various hiking adventures. Arches National park is right down the road and someday I might even make it to Canyon Lands. There are great hiking adventures right in town. Petroglyphs lurk around rocky corners and absurdly augmented jeeps roam the landscape like drunken mountain goats.

Yesterday I headed out of town to explore a pair of slot canyons (bell and little wild horse) with a fellow fish squeezer. It’s a non-technical hike (no ropes or skills needed) but we were still a little surprised to find ourselves sharing the narrow canyon corridors with screaming babies in backpacks and several troops of grumpy grumbling kids (there were plenty of happy kids too, but they didn’t make nearly as much noise). The scenery was great, the hike amazing, but next time I think we will figure out which day of the week it is before we get to the trail head ( ohhhhh, it’s Saturday…. Oops).

We finished our hike with plenty of sunlight remaining and decided to explore Goblin Valley State park. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere, but highly worth the visit. I could try to describe it in words, but out of laziness I’ll just upload the photos instead.

On Tuesday morning I will be heading back to the river for a second round of fish filled fun. Is there an aspect of my life you want to hear more about? Want a species list of every herp I have seen so far? Wish I would write more than once every 6 months? That’s what the comments are for!! (hint hint).