Day two on the river got underway at noon, after we ate a breakfast of eggs and hash browns, packed up our campsite, manhandled the three boots up the steep, muddy bank, carried them 50 yards down the shoreline past the unnavigable diversion dam, put them back into the water and lashed all of our stuff onto them. Seven miles ahead was the supposed highlight of our trip, the three-quarter-mile long Stateline Rapids, rated a solid Class IV+.
The guide book said it was a mandatory scout location, walking the river from both banks. After we navigated Stateline, the book said, the rest of our 37-mile trip would be easy, with only a couple of Class II rapids downstream from there. (Left: The Southwest desert was starting to bloom. Photo by B.)
That was reassuring because everyone was nervous about Stateline. Us greenhorns were afraid the water would be too tall and fast and we might not make it, and the river men were afraid the water would be too shallow and slow and we might not make it.
It was assumed the women would walk down Stateline on the shore. The men were quietly querying each other as to what we would do.
It was known that J and G, our two expert river men, were intending to take each of the three boats down the long rapids, in turn. Would any of the other five men accompany them?
I have already stated that I had felt an unease about this Bucket Trip from the start, fearing that the Dolores river trip might be a wee bit unsafe. My disquietude, especially in light of the somber, serious discussion of Stateline Rapids in the guidebook, had been occupying my mind and I had put my finger on what was bothering me.
I had decided that the worst fear I had in this life was of dying by drowning, and I was facing my fears now. Actually, unbeknownst to me, I was a full day away from confronting this fear head-on.
Towering cliffs closed in upon the river on both sides as we made our way down stream. By mid-afternoon, we heard the roar of Stateline Rapids and could see the agitated water ahead. (Left: High cliffs crowded in upon us on the river. Photo by B.)
We put in on the west bank and walked down a dirt road that allowed us a view of the long expanse of rapids. The upper rapids were especially ferocious, and since from the left bank we couldn’t see the entire length of the preferred passageway down the right-hand side of the river, we rowed across the river and repeated our scout on foot on the other side.
The cautious captain of the 4-person boat decided to portage. Three-quarters of a mile is a long way to portage.
The long boiling rapid, with equally forbidding looking upper and lower parts, had gotten the attention of all of us. One of my trip mates said he wasn’t going down that tumultuous rock-strewn chute on the raft and that I shouldn't think that I had to, either.
That sounded comforting. Let G and J take the boats down the rapids, and we’d watch from the bank and help out somehow if they got into trouble.
But I couldn’t do that. I offered to crew with G and J as they prepared to shove off, and the three of us put the smallest boat, the 4-person paddle boat, into the river so we could paddle it partway down the rapids to a portage point mostly through the upper rapids. (Right: Wrestling a boat down the upper Stateline Rapids. Photo by B.)
Everyone watched from shore as G and I, following J’s commands, tore frantically into the river with our paddles as the boat spun round in the wild current and bounced off rocks like we were in a pinball arcade. My heart was in my throat as we hurtled down the rapids and then safely made calmer water in a diversion channel and paddled to the shore at a portage point.
The two bigger, less maneuverable oar boats waited upstream. Jy took his turn at crewing alongside G, and under J’s command, the largest boat put into the river and came down the rapids while we all watched from shore.
We had thought our problems at the diversion dam the evening before had been tough. The trip’s troubles were about to begin.