On the River: Solitude elusive at Jethro rapid | AspenTimes.com
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On the River: Solitude elusive at Jethro rapid

Mark VonderHaar

Memorial Day weekend is not the ideal time to find solitude, especially when you’re floating down a river that hasn’t had good flows since 1999. I thought I had a decent plan, though, to avoid some of the masses: Launch on Friday from Slickrock on the Dolores River and stay one day ahead of the Saturday launches. I am still somewhat doubtful this idea was a success.The biggest challenges of the Slickrock to Bedrock section have little to do with the river. Heat, wind and lack of cold beverages will stall a float party faster than the yawner rapids. A quick inventory of rafts floating this section gives clues to its difficulty: One group was hauling six girls ranging in age from 2-6, and we must have encountered a dozen dogs and at least 20 boats with umbrellas (including mine).At more than 4,000 cubic feet per second, we were moving faster than 5 mph. So we made our first camp by noon, complete with a petroglyph panel and the sound of rapidly moving water.During the hours before dark, 20-30 boats had passed with children, dogs and colorful umbrellas. My wife and I returned from a short hike only to find our camp poached by marauding Southerners.”This here’s a two-party camp,” said Jethro (that really was his name).I didn’t argue with him but I didn’t lay out a welcome mat either. Their true intentions were revealed when I left them the next morning – they were staying put for the next night as well. Next stop was a popular place called Coyote Wash. We had no intention of setting up camp amid the 30 rafts that were parked in the harbor. However, it seemed like a nice place to hike. After a two-hour stay and no harbormaster in site, we drifted downstream to camp and spent 10 solid hours without seeing or hearing a soul. The next day was another lazy float that included side hikes, rock art and dinosaur footprints. When we reached the takeout at Bedrock, a parking lot with close to 100 cars greeted us. I thought back to the night before and concluded the 10 hours of solitude was worth the drive, the float and “Jethro rapid.”


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