Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ruby Horse Thief - Colorado River

Location: Ruby Horse Thief Put-In - Colorado River
We had been planning a river run for labor day for a while now (thanks Jed!).  At the last minute our plans for going up to Wyoming fell through, so with short notice we got in touch with some friends in Colorado and decided to meet roughly half way to do Ruby Horse Thief on the Colorado river.  There were 5 of us from SLC, and 3 from just outside Denver.

We met up with our friends and camped just outside Fruita, and in the morning, after some shopping, headed out  to the put-in opposite Loma.  After unloading 5 of us left to shuttle cars to the take-out while the rest stayed and pumped up boats.  We had a hard shell kayak, an inflatable kayak, a 16' raft, and a 13' raft, along with a load of gear.

Other than some slow leaking in the inflatable kayak, the first day on the water was great!  I'd done several rafting trips, in whitewater and calm, and with oars and paddles.  This was the first time I'd done the kayak though, and it was quite a different experience.  You're much closer to the water, just hanging your arms over the sides you can easily touch, whereas on a raft, you're at least 18-24" higher sitting on anything inflated.  They are also incredibly agile.  You can turn on a dime, and run circles around a raft.  Also by sitting lower in the craft, you have a little more sun protection, which after a few hours of being on a river, can be a valuable thing!  The kayak's we had were made for two people, and they would have easily handled that, but they also easily work for one person plus a many day load of gear.  I could have easily fit a large dry bag, a med-small bag, and still fit 5-10 gallons of water (I didn't do this, however, because my boat leaked, lol).  The hard shell kayak had gear and supplies to last at least a week.

Other than the beautiful rocks and wildlife, the river here is nice and relaxing.  Few and far between there are spots where you can intentionally get a little splashed, or bounce around just slightly, it's predominantly calm waters.  This was exactly what we were looking for :)

Our campsite for the first night was MEE 2.  When we got there, we found a brother and sister had poached our spot, but luckily it was a huge site, so other than having to unload out gear through their camp (where one of them rudely continued to lay in the path we had to traverse laden with gear), this was a minor inconvenience.  We certainly informed them that we had registered the site, and planned on being up drinking and partying, and they didn't complain, so to each their own I guess :)

The campsite was nice.  It consisted of a few trees, the largest of which we setup under, and a backdrop of cliffs with a large overhanging bowled-out cave.  We did some hiking around in the morning, it was a beautiful area.

The second day was a short one for the river.  We only had to go 4 miles to our next camping spot at Black Rock 10.  This is the last site in the blackrock area, and was recently formed when the water level opened up a new site (BR 10 used to be BR 9).  It was a good spot other than the lack of shade, but luckily we had a canopy to help us make a few small patches of sun relief.

The rocks in this area are unlike anything I've run into before.  According to mike they are intruded magma which has the sandstone eroded away.  In high water the intricate rocks can become dangerous, creating sink that can suck a boat right in.  It also provides excellent diving platforms, and we watched several people jumping off them into the waters below!

The third day on the water was our last, and we made the final 8 miles a lot faster than we expected.  It was sad to unload and prepare to leave the river, but we secretly were all dreaming of our hot showers and soft beds after the drive home!

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