New Mexico Rivers
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Escalante River - May 13, 2011 - Calf Creek to Lake Powell - Part 1
The Escalante is a river I’ve wanted for a few years now and never had the chance to put together until spring of 2011. Logistics are daunting no matter how you do it. Lots of road miles (180 miles of shuttle from Calf Creek to Bullfrog, if you stick to pavement) and an expensive 50 mile boat shuttle on Lake Powell from the Escalante mouth to Bullfrog Marina. (Split three ways it was $140 each.) The alternative is a back-breaking hike out to the nearest backcountry road. Every account of that hike made the boat shuttle sound like a bargain and I was happy with the service. Considering the distance it’s pretty reasonable.
Beyond the shuttle logistics, there’s the even bigger problem of flow. After setting aside a month long window this year to try to make the trip happen, things were looking semi-good in early May. I gathered all the information I could from trip reports and internet contacts, and although conditions in 2011 weren’t ideal for a guaranteed flow, they weren’t bad, either. I watched the snotel sites daily from mid-April until I left for the trip, and the gauge at Escalante as well. In addition I studied the National Weather Service’s forecasts for the high country in detail just about every day for a month before the trip. The snotel sites are much more important than the gauge in my opinion. Sure enough, there was snow, there was warming weather, the snow has to go someplace… it was all a matter of timing.
I had a trip mate lined up with equal free time to share the logistics. Then he seriously injured his back right before the trip. Not wanting to give up, I posted my interest in either joining a trip, or sharing shuttles while going solo, on several western paddling sites. Within two days I had a deal worked out with two Colorado boaters to share the Lake Powell shuttle and even the car shuttle!
Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere. - Emma Smith