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Canoe on Colorado River.

Colorado River Adventure
Paddling the Lower Colorado from Hoover Dam to Yuma, Arizona
February 18 - March 6, 2009
By Kris Reed, former Green University® LLC Intern
with Donny Elpel

Highway marker costume.

Day 1. February 18, 2009 - 4 Miles
      Donny: If my life were a filing cabinet then there would be a few different files, ranging from sports to food. The one I am going to look through today is the one titled: Trips. In this file there are subcategories, such as Montana trips, Arizona trips, and Ireland trips. In the Arizona category I find the titles: Virgin River, Lake Mead, Colorado River. This last one is what I am looking for:

      It is time for our adventure. We are going to canoe down 350 miles of the Colorado River. Our starting point is 4.5 miles below the Hoover Dam. Kris and I say goodbye to our families and push off from the shore. We bask in the sun and marvel at how high the cliffs are to either side of us. If not for the bends of the river, we would be able to see the concrete monstrosity that is the Hoover Dam, which has held back the Colorado for so long.

      Kris: Donny and I cast ourselves from shore, floating down the lower Colorado River to Yuma Arizona. The line is cut to set us free from a world of imaginary responsibilities. We are like a hook, intended to neither catch nor snag anything more than a drifting current.

      The sun greets us and we are soon down to our shorts. Not far from the shore, we lay our paddles on the gunwales and set to rest ourselves to be caressed back to life by a medicinal sun.

      Ducks calling ahead make our hands instinctively reach for our paddles and dig in with long strokes, our heads tilted to try and glimpse beauty around every rock and corner. Barrel cactuses poised on the edge of cliffs seem ready to dive into the clear deep river, which now steals our eyes. Depths of ten, twenty, thirty feet beg exploring, but the chill from toes and fingers dipped in soon make us complacent with the rigid plastic of the canoe seats.

      A clatter of cascading rock reveals a pair of mountain sheep scrambling across hillsides. The sounds bounce off canyon walls and soon we echo our own voices in shouts of animal calls and wild screams and any other noises that aren't fit for square buildings and paved roads.

      A stream juts into the river and sends us on a detour where we find dazzling sights and a deep pool filled with eighteen-inch carp. We try and hook one with bagel bait, but only lost our bagels, along with the sun, which has now left us to rest. I don pants and long sleeves and we paddle back to the river.

      Donny: After miles of paddling we find a small ledge, ten feet up from the water, on the side of the canyon wall. We first survey the spot and conclude that it will do for the night. After dragging our supplies up the rock face - and then the canoe - we lay our sleeping bags out and fall asleep, staring up at the night sky. This was the perfect way to end the first day on the river.

Evening on the Colorado River. Day 2. February 19, 2009 - 6 Miles
      Kris: I awake in the dark and I am too enchanted with the night sky to fall back to sleep and instead rest my thoughts on the stars with an unfocused gaze. Dawn comes and the black sky disappears, but my eyes stay vigilant above until the last star is overpowered by the sun's light.

      We shuttle our gear back down the cliffs and paddle until the sun is well up before we stop to make a fire and cook oatmeal. We own these surrounding hills and cliffs with our presence and soon settle into the rhythm they dictate - the slow and powerful flow of the Colorado, with millions of years of erosion and uplifting, and but a few years of tampering with machines. Donny sleeps in the front, and I slowly paddle in back, my neck a swivel.

      A sandy beach appears and we jump at the chance to get out at this first sighting of soft and level ground. Unfortunately, this beach has attracted many before us that do not understand, nor respect this fragile desert; the piles of trash sob this to us. Toilet paper sticks through the soil everywhere, evidence of ignorance and fear. I venture far away from this beaten beach before I drop my shorts and take delight in wiping with sticks and stones and mixing my responsibility into the soil to erase my presence, yet leaving a gift for new life.

      Donny: People who came to this place for "recreation" had cut the sparse greenery to shreds. They built a fire and burned their cans and melted their beer bottles. The worst thing was their lack of hygiene. Their trash was everywhere - plastic bags sticking out of the sand. The thing that Kris and I were most enraged about was that human excrement lay in piles around the camp, not even covered up, let alone buried. This made me think, "Why do people come camping if they are going to bring a huge boat that spills toxins into the water? Why do they call it camping if they bring all of their objects from home? Why don't they just stay home in the comfort of their easy chairs and flat screen TVs, allowing their brains to rot into mush? How could they be so stupid or even just ignorant to the fact that camping is about getting closer to the natural world?" When most people go camping they might bring a tent or even a camper, but you don't need guns or alcohol to have fun. If you want to get drunk and run through the trees in your birthday suit with a 50-caliber rifle, be my guest - just don't do that near me. If that is what you want, then bring your fifth wheel and park it at Wal-Mart.

      I have been camping, more than a lot of people in this country. Yet, I have not needed to go out with a pistol because I am afraid a bear or something will eat me. Most people say that my family is a bunch freaks because we don't bring kegs of beer or stereos on our weekend trips. But the thing is, they don't understand that if you just shut it off, then you will hear things that most people don't even know are there. And I am not saying that my family doesn't do it's share of this. Six people isn't a small group, I just think that if people looked through the haze that they are in, they would find that they don't need to drag all the things they have at home into the woods. Not all people are like this, and I am not trying to say they are.

      Kris: Even with the unsightly human presence, we spend the rest of the day here cooking, tracking, and sunning until my toes begin to get chilled and I retire to bed. A quick aside if you will - Donny achieved a great feat today. Trying to make his dinner of boiled potatoes, onions and noodles taste good, he killed two birds with one stone. He used up all our spices and made the most foul tasting food I have ever tried; the mere sight, smell, or thought of it made me retch. I am happy with just salt in my cup and fall asleep with a happy stomach.

Everything is a costume if you play the part. Day 3. February 20, 2009 - 12 Miles
      Kris: I wake up before sunrise and take off sprinting in my five fingers (bare feet) to the tallest sand dune in sight. Exhausted at the top, I jog along the ridgeline from peak to peak through strewn and piercing rock that brings awareness to my footfalls.

      Upon one summit I spot a valley and bound down to it with hops and rolls. I run alongside quails with lizards dangling from their beaks and finally stop at a creosote bush where I do my part in fertilizing and planting seeds before running with my nose to the ground as I follow a coyote trail.

      Several curious tracks finally bring my run to a halt. They are concentric rings amongst the desert soil. At first I thought they might be manmade; an overturned cup or bucket (for they were too perfect to be drawn with a stick) but there are no footprints. After spotting several more, investigation reveals their story: a dried up flower stalk blew across the once lifeless soil until it became entangled with a rooted, dried up stalk. The first, with the aid of the wind, did a dance around the other, trying to persuade her to tie the knot. After the first had left a rut in the ground of its enticement, the latter decided to join it, and the two lovers blew away together, leaving behind a tale of their own love more fortunate than Romeo and Juliet, but just as passionate.

      I return to my exploration of the surrounding country and head toward a patch of green at the end of a washout. I find no water and need none except to satisfy my connoisseur taste for the blood of life. I turn my presence to the canyon and journey up it, my fingertips running along its walls, sampling its power. The canyon narrows more and more until it takes all my contortionist skill to slip by; but still I journey up and up, and on and on with no more need in life than to peek around the next bend and over the next cliff.

      I am miles away from camp, but I feel Donny calling me, so I scramble out of the energizing canyon and into the warm sun. As I walk back I become aware of the fact that all the animal holes seem to face northwest. I take a guess that either the wind tends to travel from the southeast, and they are protecting their homes from the sand's tendency to erase history, or they are shielding themselves from the heat of the sun.

      Back at camp, Donny tells me how bored he was the whole time I was gone, and yet, he made no attempt to better his situation and entertain himself. I want to expand on this observation and compare his plight to that of humanity's contentment with "that's just the way things are," but I am too caught by the river and we push off from shore.

      Donny: I stayed at camp to write and read, and read I did - for awhile. Then I got back into my rut of needing to be entertained by someone else, a bad habit I have fallen into. So I proceded to shout and holler to Kris that I was bored. When he came back, we packed up and went on our way.

      Kris: It's overcast, and a cool wind blows, but I sit dressed in only running shorts; I let the goose bumps rise. The cold air kisses my skin and sets my arms to a steady pace of paddling. We move fast and the miles fly by us, and I feel lucky to be one of the few who are able to enjoy a fullness of life that includes the pleasure of cold air on the naked skin.

     Three-, six-, nine-, twelve-mile markers dictate our pace before we find ourselves at a gravel beach with loads of driftwood. We have a bigger fire tonight that better ties the space between us and the stars, and I realize that there isn't any distance between us at all.

      I dig my first hip hole ever tonight and find that it increases circulation in my legs, and instead of awakening with frozen feet stuffed in thick socks, I instead rise with bare feet that are warm. The cold wind continues to blow, and I slip inside a bivy for protection and fall back asleep, awakening every hour or two for a glance at the stars that fuel my dreams.

Colorado River rock formation. Day 4. February 21, 2009 - 11 Miles
      Kris: I walk around in bare feet after light has begun to show on the surrounding environment. Tea and oatmeal enliven me and I do an odd pantomime like a crazy person - running, swimming, and jumping away from some unseen force that inhabits this gravel beach. After getting some warm blood flowing, Donny and I indulge in a pastime no longer enjoyed by many: skipping stones.

      In the canoes and roughly five miles to Cottonwood Cove marina, the strong wind blows harder and the smooth glass lake soon turns into an ocean with foot-high waves. I enjoy the cold in just my shorts, but must dress up when we head for burgers at the marina. Calling home, I find my Dad and our friend Charlie plan to meet us in a week; so after picking a tentative meeting spot, we return to Lake Mohave with a quickened pace.

      We paddle till dusk and make a quick camp in a Burro hot spot. The sound of loons lullabies me to sleep, and I manage to sleep with less clothes and neck protection than previous nights. I am starting to get attuned to the pleasure of sleeping cold.

Smelling a yellow flower. Day 5. February 22, 2009 - 10 Miles
      Kris: The clouds still cover the sky and I am beginning to miss my friend the Sun, but still make sure to enjoy this much rarer Nevada companion, the cloud.

      Out on the water, we paddle a few miles before breaking for crackers with giant gobs of peanut butter on them, for today is much colder and my body craves the extra fat to keep me warm in scant clothing.

      Flowers carpet one of our resting spots and I explore awhile, being pulled in by the beauty of an erotic world. Evening primrose coaxes my nose to the ground and closer examination brings to life tiny flowers of a Borage flower. Lupine drags me up a hill; then Waterleaf guides my decent. I land at an Aster and then get up to rake my fingers through a field of Mustard.

      My reenergized senses lead us out onto the lake. An island with a natural arch pulls us off course; it briefly becomes a gateway to a world with Sun as a I paddle under it.

      Soon we are at a campsite, and we put on a show, using dead Rabbit Brush to burn giant torches. Before settling into a night without stars, I make the tarp handy should it start to rain.

Anxiously awaiting to paddle the canoe. Day 6. February 23, 2009 - 11 Miles
      Donny: We woke up with the sun, or at least Kris did, and then got me up at a respectable hour. We decided to haul the canoe to an inlet and shove off from there. Unfortunately, I fell out and filled the boat up with water. After we emptied the canoe and drained it, we set off more cautiously. We paddled all the way to Katharine's landing and pulled our boat up on shore, out of view. We walked around for a while, assessing our problem: We would have to haul our canoe to the dam and portage up and around.

      Kris: Donny, who's only reason for getting to the next spot, seems to be restaurant food, buys us some double cheeseburgers and we meet some gentlemen who offer us a ride around Davis Dam if we'll wait until they are done boating at the end of the day. We accept their offer and set out for a walk on a nearby hiking trail. I meet many flowers who have yet to grace me with their names; I take plenty of pictures to help my memory when I key them out later.

      I spend the rest of the day reading and observing harvester ants; I put Palo Verde beans and Fan Palm seeds at the edge of their hill to see what they do with them; sometimes they brought them into their nest and other times they disposed of them.

      Donny: I decided to check the store dumpster, and what I found was a sleeping bag - a nice, rolled up sleeping bag. I brought it to Kris and we examined it carefully; it looked perfectly fine to me, so I decided to keep it. Later, when the two guys came back, we loaded our stuff onto their pickup and drove across the dam to Bullhead/Laughlin City.

      Kris: We get our ride around the dam after the sun has set and put into the river with no other light than the passing casinos and houses. The river is moving at a pretty good clip, and Donny crawls into his sleeping bag while I enjoy the night paddling.

      Eventually, I am too tired to paddle anymore, and we pull on to a gravel bank amongst houses and broken glass to sleep for the night.

Morning sunrise and fog. Day 7. February 24, 2009 - 25 Miles
      Kris: The changing water levels released from the dam left our canoe twenty feet from the water! Good thing the river receded instead of rising, or we would be up shit creek - literally without a paddle or a boat. We carry our canoe to the river and get in before the Sun has greeted us. The cold air creates a mist off the water, and the Sun begins to peak out its head. I become enraptured in this scene's transcendental qualities.

      Donny: We woke to see that the sandy beach we slept on was riddled with glass beer bottles and other things that we had not seen in the night. Some people see the places they visit on vacation, or even just a weekend trip, believing it's theirs to do whatever the heck they want with. They litter and destroy the things they go out to see. On more than a few occasions I have seen names carved into a tree, and that's not that bad, but when you see that someone took time to destroy something like a tree, it shows that they are bored watching television and they are making an effort to go outside - but they don't know the proper way to go about it.

      We paddle through a thick fog for a good part of the morning until the fog lifts and we are hit by the blazing sun we mostly just drift towards Needles, California.

      Kris: For the first time this trip, there is no cloud cover. We sprawl out in the canoe and bake in this unfamiliar heat. The Sun's heat tires me more than lake paddling and my paddle does not touch the water except to steer.

      The passing shoreline is nothing but houses most of the way to Needles, and so I spend the day staring into the depths of the river at giant trees that must have once lined the shore that has now been rip-rapped to nothing but rocks. I count the passing tires in the debris-filled river and use them as a gauge to note the miles covered.

      We try landing on multiple beaches to relieve ourselves and to fill up our water bottles, but are always shooed away since this stretch of the river seems to be all privately owned. Yet we finally make it to a RV resort where we are invited to stop by the men who drove us around the dam. We venture into town to find a restaurant where Donny can fill his belly, since he has refused to eat anything but restaurant food.

      I should mention that Donny is fourteen, and I let him indulge in his stubbornness. He sets another world record when he manages to spend fifty dollars at a KFC and departs with a twenty-piece bucket of chicken which will be empty by morning.

      Donny: I find myself making bad decisions as I buy fifty dollars worth of greasy KFC chicken and we set off again down the Colorado with a bucket of chicken in one hand and a paddle in the other.

      Kris: It is again completely dark out, and I do some more night paddling without a moon for company. We end up sleeping within a half-mile of a train that passes by every thirty minutes, but it does not deter us from getting plenty of sleep in a dew-filled night.

Coyote. Day 8. February 25, 2009 - 21 Miles
      Donny: The trains woke us early and we sat about eating chicken and reading. I went exploring and found the train tracks and sat there watching the trains rush by, dreaming about what it would be like to hop one and ride it to wherever. Eventually Kris found me and we headed back to the canoe to set off on a another leg on our own amazing race.

      Kris: We float downriver without stopping until I notice a coyote. I paddle backwards to the shore and start trailing behind it until I can take a reading of its direction. I return to the beach and dash silently across it, then scramble up the bank and pick my way through a sharp gravel field before taking refuge in the camouflage of a Tamarisk. Soon enough, the coyote comes along, head swinging from side to side, but unaware of my presence. The coyote is within ten yards, and I watch as its eyes seem to stare into mine, but then turn away. The coyote's tan fur makes it disappear into the desert and its swishing tail begs me to disappear into the earth together.

      I start to follow, and I start to vanish, but I am brought back into my thoughts as Donny yells out his boredom and the coyote and I must depart for now. I retreat from my home and back to the canoe, holding close to the shore, waiting for a glimpse of my truest friend. Someday I will join the coyote.

      We continue our float down the river and we read aloud to Donny's delight. Through the pages of the book we evaporate from the oppressive heat and find ourselves tracking grizzly in a Montana wilderness.

      Tonight, croaking bullfrogs lull me into my dreams.

Sun sparkles on the water. Day 9. February 26, 2009 - 19 Miles
      Kris: A coyote wakens me before light, and I feel I am being called back into the woods. We get on the river before sunrise and paddle seventeen miles through Topak Gorge Wildlife Refuge.

      Donny: We stop to get information on the Topak gorge and we are told it is very dangerous, and we should be careful. We decide to venture through the gorge anyway, and we are greeted not by raging waters, but by meek calm ripples no worse than other parts we have paddled through.

      Kris: We stop and cook oatmeal after the sun has passed its zenith. We canoe into Lake Havasu City and hide our boat behind some bulrushes. My reluctance to venture into the city to buy food - when we already have more than enough for the whole trip - is trumped by Donny's desire to "eat out." We feast at a Golden Corral. I was still full from our oatmeal, but Donny has started the "no restaurant left behind" incentive and can't pass one by without eating until we vomit.

      After stuffing ourselves beyond pain, we wobble back to the canoe like penguins and collapse in the soft bulrushes. Loons dive for their food on one side and cars speed past unaware on the other. The moon is a perfect bowl that fills our dreams as full as our bellies are.

Blowing to fuel a campefire. Day 10. February 27, 2009 - 20 Miles
      Kris: Up at sunrise, we paddle around the big island that nearly spans Lake Havasu.

      Donny: We attempt to go under the "London Bridge," but manage to go completely the wrong way. We paddle most of Lake Havasu battling winds and overly "friendly" motor boaters who find it hilarious to speed by us, nearly filling our canoe with water.

      Kris: We keep pushing onward until we reach a store at the end of the day. After a day of fasting, we again visit a restaurant where we eat burgers.

      Somehow not satisfied with his meal, Donny goes into the general store and is dismayed to find they only have one flavor of Pringles. Unable to accept it, he asks the clerk, a jolly and well-fed fisherman, if they have any other flavors. In reply, he is told, "No Dude! I only carry pickle. It's totally rad, you should try it, man." And so Donny buys the Pringles...I think he would've been better off buying a pickle.

      I am looking forward to crossing the Parker Dam tomorrow, but must sleep one more night near city lights.

Kris loaded up to portage. Day 11. February 28, 2009 - 16 Miles
      Kris: I read and let Donny sleep in, but he knows that a restaurant is only a quarter mile behind us, and he is the one anxious to get in the canoe. I procrastinate and try to convince him that he doesn't need restaurant food or that he should save his money, but he is not to be denied. We return to our dining area of last night for pancakes and omelets.

      Donny tries to buy some junk food and fishing gear at the general store, and he is upset to find that he has already blown all of the $250 he brought on this trip. No more restaurants...hurray! I reluctantly spent $50 supporting his addiction, but I am otherwise excited to know that we can now eat exclusively from the backpack full of food that we brought.

      Donny: We paddle to Davis dam at the end of Lake Havasu and struggle to haul the gear and canoe the one-mile portage around the dam. We get back on the water about an hour later and proceed down river, which on both sides had been developed into houses and businesses everywhere.

      Kris: The wind was up and strong and it was sapping me of all my strength to keep from taking on water in the wakes that would occasionally reach fifteen inches.

      The river flows once again on the other side of the dam, and we move fast. The wind is gone and I am glad I no longer have to deal with waves licking the gunwales. Ten miles downriver and there is still nothing but houses and RV parks; so we sneak into an unused housing lot to camp among Fan Palms and mature Tamarisk.

      I crawl into a bed of Tamarisk needles and fall asleep to the sound of a crane scurrying around in the palms.

Paddling smooth water. Day 12. March 1, 2009 - 8 Miles
      Kris: This is one of our best campsites, and I must reflect on the trip so far. Lake Mohave was awesome and I would do it again and at a slower pace in summer to explore more of the resilient landscape and the beauty under the water; but from Davis Dam to the Blue Water Resort and Casino is awful. There are almost zero legal campsites to stay at without money (which I have very little of), and the speed boats zip by all the time, causing a noise that deafens the sounds of Nature. The speed boats are either unconcerned or ignorant about a canoe's safety. We would hug the shore to give the boats plenty of room to pass, but still some would buzz us, or even try to squeeze between us and the shore, causing us to get swamped with water several times.

      I had no prior interest in motorboats before, but I learned to hate them and wish they'd all sink. The idiots onboard could not experience anything besides wind in the face, deaf ears, and a belly full of beer, and I think it caused retardation. Many of the idiots that caused us to take on water would speed by us with a wave and a smile - seemingly unaware that the wakes that followed them created near-death experiences for us. Some speedboats even came barreling down on us at full speed as if they expected us to get out of the way. It was like a car chasing down a pedestrian at sixty miles per hour, while expecting the frightened walker to move.

      Part of me wants all speed boating to be banned, but the bigger truth is that I hate rules, and I just wish people would become more aware of the ripples they cause and become responsible enough to care.

      We get to the end of this despised section when we reach the Blue Water Resort and Casino, where we will wait until my Dad and Charlie meet us. I am glad for the chance to read, and I am unaware of the time that has passed until my Dad stands before me.

      After unsuccessfully searching for a camping area, we discover that we are allowed to camp in the parking lot, a genius ploy to suck in more gamblers. An RV pulls into a parking spot, three feet from Donny's head; when the portly driver steps out he exclaims to Donny, "Scared you, didn't I?" To which Donny replies an obvious and stammering, "Ye...yes." He is humored to hear the RVer's reply, "Well you shouldn't of worried... you were safe as plums!"

      Donny: I logged that into my brain as one of the weirdest things I have ever heard and went to sleep. This was pretty much the end of the canoeing for me, because Kris's father, Jim and his friend Charlie both took turns paddling, so I became a navigator for the support van, and that was fine with me.

      Kris: Our Newfoundland dog, Molly, has also joined us, and I stay up with her most of the night watching a coyote that circles us.

Canoe gunnel and water. Day 13. March 2, 2009 - 44 Miles
      Kris: I'm up at 5:15 a.m. Arizona time, surprised to see that the Sun does not rise until seven. Charlie and I plan on paddling to a campground in Blythe, Arizona, while my Dad and Donny wait there for us. My sister, Jeni, from LA, has also decided to join us for a few days.

      We are driven around the dam before putting in, using a new canoe my Dad brought, which makes travel much faster with its sleek frame. I figured this would be an all-day stretch, guessing it to be roughly forty miles, but soon find out that it is closer to sixty.

      The houses disappear after ten miles, and we are left with open country for the rest of the day. No people or motorboats, just the songs of birds and water, and the idle chatter of the Bulrushes and River Cane.

      We talk to some fellows exploring the bank at about one o'clock and find that five hours of paddling have yet to bring us halfway. We dig in our paddles with an unfamiliar urgency, and I revisit the pleasant feeling of muscles doing hard work.

      Five hours more of paddling and we reach another dam where my Dad and sister wait to take us to camp. Our longest day so far, at nearly forty-five miles with a current that seemed to be absent. Sore arms attest to it all.

Day 14. March 3, 2009 - 13 Miles
      We take our time visiting in the morning before being driven back to the dam where we stopped last night. My Dad, Jeni, and I end up putting in above the dam and, shortly after, we portage around it. We paddle back to camp and spend the rest of the day playing cards and telling stories.

Paddling to our next camp. Day 15. March 4, 2009 - 18 Miles
      We take a long morning visiting with each other before Donny, Jeni, and I push off from shore around noon. We spend more time goofing around than paddling to our next camp, singing songs and cracking jokes.

      Ocotillo! We are finally nearing the Sonoran Desert, needing only to see Saguaro Cacti, before making such a joyous claim.

      Jeni returns to Hollywood for her movie shoot, and we start making our mac and cheese dinner. Travel with cars and more gear is a weighty experience, because of all the extra planning and lack of freedom involved. The cell phone, which now must ride in the canoe, seems to confine Nature to passing scenery, losing the intimate connection. I guess these compromises now and then are worth it to spend time with family and friends, but it also makes me look forward to the end of this trip for the first time.

      I smell a skunk as I drift to sleep, but I find its odor pleasing, and it does not seem to taint my dreams.

Canoeing along sheer rock cliffs. Day 16. March 5, 2009 - 40 Miles
      Out on the water before sunrise, we paddle eighteen miles before my Dad and I meet up with the van for lunch. Back on the water, we cover the rest of our forty-mile day through the wildlife refuge.

      The reeds and rushes growing along the bank are impenetrable, and their sweet voices are the sounds of sirens that pull my soul into their motherly cover. Burros bay us on and cranes stand like Inuit's at their fishing holes. Castle-like cliffs and Harriers bring conversations to war and power, but it is the croaking of bullfrogs that sets the beat of our paddles and an owl that guides us around the bends of the river.

      We enjoy cards and hot chocolate before bed, nodding off to the rustling of riverside creatures.

Tarantula spider crawls out of my shorts. Day 17. March 5, 2009 - 20 Miles
      Charlie and I paddle the last leg of our trip with strong and steady strokes that define our personalities and take us to our final destination in under four hours. A tarantula crawls out of my shorts as I change into them, welcoming me to the land of Saguaros.

      We get out at the Imperial Dam and the trip is over. The river is reduced to a canal here before it takes a few more gasps and dies in Yuma, Arizona. Dams, speedboats, sewage, trash, and homes have finally sapped out the Colorado River's life, and its murder is one that is done in front of everyone's eyes. Yet there is no jury willing to try the guilty and reset the wrongs. The strong and powerful voice of the Colorado continues to fall upon deaf ears.

      I like to imagine a future where this river again sings and carves out its majesty, but it does not seem possible during the unsightly reign of civilization. As long as humans see Nature as something best viewed on TVs and keep the Colorado prisoner, we will not know that we are the ones behind bars. Only when we release the Colorado, can we realize our own freedom.

      Kris Reed joined Green University® LLC as an intern in the spring of 2005 and has returned intermittently ever since. He co-hosted Canoe Camping: on a song and a paddle, Volume 4 in The Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series.

Imperial Dam on the Colorado River.

Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
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