Low-water Run of the Yampa River, Part 3: A Breakdown and a Put-In

Dear Reader,

Our truck turned 200,000 miles, and in seeming celebration or revolt, it had its first ever major breakdown just an hour, of our 8-hr drive north from Cliff’s house, shy of the river put-in, in northern Colorado where our water tribe was waiting.

The Breakdown

The truck’s drive shaft completely fell off, in the middle of nowhere and as night quickly descended.

Waiting for the tow trucks

But most fortunately, as if the Gods, yes, wanted to mess with us but, no, not too badly, we broke down a few minutes before loosing cell service forever, and just a 40-minute drive beyond our recent home town of Rangely.

We got a hold of a friend with a truck and a trailer hitch that could pull our raft, kayaks and gear to the put-in that night. And we knew an auto shop we could have the truck towed to.

Our trailer, ready to be towed.

The River Put-In

By 2:00 am we arrived at the put-in to the sounds of a low, gurgling river and our friends’ softly snoring tents.

Minus our truck, and with the frazzled, road-side, breakdown deal making behind us, we silently set up our tents by moonlight and crawled inside for a few hours of sleep.

By daybreak, camp was stirring. We greeted our clan of out-of-state buddies, two of whom we hadn’t seen in a good dozen years, and recounted our unexpected story of the breakdown.

The Washington State group in transit (Photo Credit: Lisa & Roger)

Simultaneously, we tried to make sense of our jumble of river gear. We’d transferred our gear from one truck to another at nighttime and then dumped it into a heap at camp. It was no longer organized. And I needed coffee. But where was the bag with our bowls, mugs, forks, knives and spoons? Did we leave it by the side of the road in the dark? Where was our breakfast food? Where was our coffee?

We had tents to tear down, gear to pack, water jugs to fill, kayaks to inflate and a raft to fully load. I was in charge of assembling our group’s vehicle-shuttle paperwork, which became more complicated since our “lead” vehicle was now in the shop. We had sunscreen to put on, a final visit to the outhouse to make, and a swarm of buzzing mosquitoes to slap, slap, slap.

Lowering the rafts into the Yampa. (Photo Credit: Lisa & Roger)

Harried and Chaotic

Put-ins are always harried and chaotic.

Think about it. You unpack from a dry mode of transport, typically a truck or cars, and then repack, in our case, into rafts and kayaks, that are designed to get both wet and tossed. You unpack from a vehicle that make stops at stores whenever needed.  And you repack into a vehicle that needs to contain every single item you will need to survive for a week, but no more.

With the river still dropping even lower, the boats had to be as light as humanly possible.

Add thirteen other people and their gear and a slick river bank.

And the pressing need to get on the river quickly. We hoped to make miles before the afternoon up-river winds began to kick in.

That morning, instead, I really just wanted to: 1. sleep 2. drink coffee 3. visit with my long-lost friends 4. drink more coffee 5. eat breakfast 6. break down camp leisurely, and 7. prep for the river trip. In that order.

I was a sleep-deprived jumble of needing to do everything at once, and thus doing none of it. All at the same time.

And yet, before I knew it, we were casting off from shore with the rest of our tribe.

My husband John probably did most of our work, while I was busy slapping mosquitoes and still looking for coffee.

[Upcoming: Part 4: The Art of Running Low Water]

The rafts at the Put-In (Photo Credit: Lisa & Roger)

We are alive.

We are healthy.

We are adventurers.



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