Mary Beth Writes


(I’ve written about this trip before but it’s been a long time.)

In 2000 we did a wilderness canoe/kayak trip on Utah’s Green River. We did this with our three kids plus friends and their two sons. Our youngest was nine, the oldest was 16, and our combined three boys were slapdash goofballs.

All the kids were fantastic on this trip. I actually witnessed the 12-year-old asking his mom for more sunscreen. How hot was the desert in July? Over 100 degrees every day. Always sunny. I remember the unnerving sensation of my skin cooking as I became my own bacon.

The Green River is a “slow” western river. (If you’ve read my short story The Pilgrimage, this was the river, Read here.). It’s wide and usually calm on the surface though there are hidden surprises as the river swerves around canyon walls. Often one side the river might be just a few feet deep but where the channel courses under the surface there’s an abrupt drop-off. So a canoe could get stuck on a sandbar, someone gets out to push the canoe, takes a step too far and now that person is in the drink and flailing while their wife laughs way too hard. How do I know this?

We had two guidelines on this trip. Drink a lot. Don’t take your life jacket off. Well, you can take it off when you sleep in the tent.

It was a late afternoon. We’d stopped for the day and it was time to cool down by sitting in the river. We did this wearing our clothes because one dried that fast later. The current was always too strong for our littlest kid so one of us had to hang on to her so she wouldn’t float away. (I think we looped a rope around her life jacket.) Next to us was a canyon wall hundreds of feet above the river, it created an echo for our laughing and yelling. Big, extroverted western crows flew over our heads; the whuff of their wings echoed off that wall.

The boys discovered an 18” bank along the river. They would run to that edge, yell like banshees, jump and splash wildly into the fast-running river. They’d then swim with the current to a spot further down the bank, run back to the jumping spot, and do it again. Yes, always wearing those life jackets. Yes, their yells and laughter still ring in my old head.

We were outside paddling and camping for five amazing days. The last day we approached the confluence of the Green River with the wild and wooly Colorado River. You’ve seen the documentaries, I bet some of you have done white-water raft trips through the Grand Canyon. The Colorado, when you approach it from the Green, is both magnificent and terrifying. We pulled out at the designated camp site where the outfitter would pick us up the next morning. We camped on a small hill where we could sit to watch the two rivers.

What we saw was the muddy, dark Green River flowing mightily but serenely into the wide, wide Y where the rivers met. The Colorado was steel blue alive with white-topped waves. The Green hummed and gurgled. The Colorado crashed, smashed, and foamed.

Both were powerful western rivers subject to gravity, the hard topography through which they flowed, and their sources of water further up and farther in. They were also as different as a feral cats are from tigers. Everything was the same. Nothing was the same. None of us even waded in the Colorado. Well, I bet the boys tried and we yelled at them. The only way out of there, for us, was the outfitter’s jet boat back to Moab.


Lately I’ve been in some conversations about “the afterlife”. I was thinking about that, went to bed, woke up remembering the confluence. The Green River was a powerful adventure. The Colorado was beyond that.




Love the majesticness (I don’t think that a word) of the picture! I can smell your skin sizzling and the kids laughing. Good blog!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks and I'm keeping Majesticness!

You're a brave soul Mary Beth! Not so sure I would venture out on those rivers. But thanks for the descriptions of your trip and the breathtaking pictures.
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks! Back then I had more chutzpah and my knees didn't creak...

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