Friday, May 27, 2005

Buffalo River Canoe Journals - 6: Temperatures Are Falling

Made it through the night and even slept well. I am glad I brought my small one-person tent on this trip and even though it is a little snug with me and all my gear inside, it is easy to heat up and stay warm during the coldest of night. I don't have a thermometer to measure the temperature but I am guessing it got down into the single digits during the night. I was warm but my water bottle froze up during the night inside my tent but not in my sleeping bag. (Forgot to put it inside in my brain-numbed state.)

The grove of trees protected us from the heavy frost so there wasn't any ice on my tent this morning. We built a fire in the morning (something we almost never do) to keep warm as we prepared breakfast and took down the camp. Once the boats were ready to go, we doused the fire, carried all the ashes and coals down to the river to disperse naturally, and then buried the pit, disguising it by putting the original soil and sod firmly into place so that in the end, you couldn't even tell it had been dug there. Having hiked before all day to some pristine place feeling like you are the first one to have been there and find the charred remains of a fire ring made out of rocks, makes me appreciate the "leave no trace" type of camping that I do.

The sun stayed behind the clouds all morning making it hard to stay warm but finally it came up about an hour after lunch. We soon warmed up in those glorious rays of gold but it was still only just slightly above freezing. We camped for the night on a large gravel bar one mile up river from the town of Gilbert, which is actually back away from the river a half-mile or so. The actual river corridor that we have been boating down has Wild and Scenic designation by our national government and therefore, it prevents people from building on the shores. Without the designation, there would be somebody's dream home built every 50 yards along the entire length of this river and it wouldn't be nearly as fun to paddle down. If you ever need proof that this is true, just drive around in the mountains outside of Denver.

We had a great supper but it was Dick and Marie's turn to cook and like usual, it took three hours to prepare. It wouldn't be so bad but because we were all so cold, all we had was the thought of eating something warm keeping our spirits up and having to wait for that gratification was taking it's toll on us. We happened to be at a spot with lower surrounding mountains so the sun didn't start setting until almost five o'clock. Right as it was setting, half dozen vultures flew over camp and settled into a tree not thirty feet from my tent on the other side of the river. Soon it was joined by some more and with ten minutes, there were almost two hundred vultures jockeying for position among the branches of the old snag of a tree. It was very entertaining watching them jockey for position and getting pissed at there neighbor vulture for taking up more than their fair share. By the time the last of the light disappeared from the sky, they had settled down and all sound from them stopped completely.

The moon is nearly full, illuminating the river valley like a torch and in the crystal clear clarity of the cold night, it took on an almost gem-like quality. My breath escaped in huge billowing puffs, crystallizing right before my eyes and sinking gently to the ground. A storm front is moving in and my senses tell me it is going to be a real doozy. With two more planned days on the river, we are going to either have to come up with a plan B or find out of what we are really made. The temperatures quickly fell to somewhere well below freezing and I escaped to my tent closing myself inside the soon to be warm cocoon as Mother Nature closed at the night on the other side.

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