Low-water Run of the Yampa River, Part 6: The Art of River Camping

Dear Reader,

Having the river all to ourselves was something to be cherished. And having such a slow float was a different type of treat.

Camp #3: Laddie Park

Crabby at Camp

But by the time we got off the river, we were sun baked and tired. And we had chores still to do: boats to unload, gear to carry, kitchen and bathroom to set up, tents to erect, sleeping pads to inflate and dry clothes to change into.

Tepee Camp was our first night. It’s a steep climb up from the shore. John and I were already cranky after a truck-breakdown night of so little sleep. We set up our tent and then had to move it again – off an ant city with its teeming ant highways. We grumbled and cussed (at each other unfortunately, because what good is it to yell at an ant) and then carried our tent down a jagged path through the juniper forest to a less-flat but more ant-free opening.

Fortunately, that night wasn’t the Field family’s night to cook. Lisa, Roger, Rowan and Em did a masterful job of cooking that night. Although I did still pull out our watermelon, cut it up and passed it around.

Rowan, fixing dinner at Tepee Camp

Relaxing at Camp

As soon we finished setting up camp, we sat in our chairs, hip-to-thigh, under whatever shade tree we could find.  There, we marveled at the play of moving light on the walls of rock around us.

Or we grabbed a river-cooled beer from our mesh bags at the water’s edge and plopped down in waist-deep water. There, we caught up on each other’s lives.

An ideal camp would be shaded when we arrived and would get first sun in the morning. It would be relatively bug, and ant, free. And there would be waiters serving chilled margaritas. Okay, maybe not.

The eddy at Box Elder Camp

Box Elder Camp

We have a favorite camp on the Yampa. On Day 4 we arrived there. It’s name is Box Elder.

There, I floated on the boogie board the Smith’s had brought but hadn’t used yet. An unusual sight had me mesmerized, as I went around and around in the river’s giant circulating eddy. It was a constant stream of bubbles percolating up from the sand a foot or two below the surface. John had spotted it when he first paddled up to the campsite. But I hadn’t seen it until I was right on top of it.

Playing horse shoes at Box Elder

That evening we played horseshoes on the long, wide stretch of perfect beach.

And just as light fell, Rowan trapped the bubbles in a bottle and was able to light them on fire, proving our hypothesis that it was natural gas. We were, after all, in natural gas and oil country. We’d just never witnessed it escaping freely into the river before. John speculated that it was due to all of the area fracking.

Box Elder camp

We are alive.

We are healthy.

We are adventurers.



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