In the mid 90’s, while we were still working, Monty mentioned to some friends at Raytheon that we were going up to Colorado over 4th of July. To our surprise one of his friends said that sounded like a great idea and he’d come along. Mike had spent some time with us down in Mexico and camping in the Sierra Anchas and the dunes in Arizona, so I guess it wasn’t that unusual. Mike had his own truck and camper so we were all set.
We had several things on the itinerary for this trip. We planned to spend the 4th of July in Telluride watching the fireworks in the bowl of the mountains. We’ve done this before and it is an unbelievable experience, the fireworks are so close you can almost touch them. We wanted to spend time in the Durango/ Silverton area and one of the main things was a chance to take a trip down the Dolores River by canoe. Monty has an incredible folding boat that he bought when he was in Germany in the 1970’s. This is a wood-frame canvas-covered boat that comes in pieces, the pieces all fit and lock together. It really is a masterpiece of engineering but we’ve never used it.
It just so happened that Mike had recently bought a small canoe and he was eager to try it out also. This was going to work out just perfect. First we found a camping spot along the river, then drove one vehicle up stream a few miles and hauled the boats to a shallow spot so we could board and settle into this trip down stream. After some confusion we decided to just take one boat, we stashed our boat in the weeds and prepared to board Mikes canoe.
Did I mention none of us had ever used a canoe and our combined knowledge wouldn’t fill the head of a pin? But how hard could this be, all we had to do was get in and float down the river, right? Well, the first problem was getting in. Now is a good time to bring up the fact that Mike is about 6’5 and 230, so we decided he better sit in the middle leaving the two smaller people at the ends. We should get the boat out in the water a bit because once Mike gets in we will be riding low in the water. We’ve got about a foot of water under the canoe, Monty is perched in the bow, which is apparently the front of the boat, I’m sitting in the back. Mike steps into the boat with one foot and flips it completely over dumping all three of us into the icy river. We were so shocked and laughing so hard it was difficult to right the boat and try again. This time Mike sneaked up on the canoe like a crab, he slid one leg in and then the other. He didn’t dare stand up, but scooted his butt around so it is finally on one of the middle seats.
OK, we got a handle on this now, just get the canoe off this sand bar and we can get moving. We keep scooting, like a dog on the carpet, until we can get the canoe free. Gosh, I hope no one sees us, three grown people acting like idiots. Hey, we’re cool, we are moving along the river and this just might be fun, oh, watch that rock, Monty is hollering for us to paddle to the right, something about nooooo the other right!! Damn that was a pretty big rock, but we’re OK, no harm. Man here comes another rock, who’d have thought there would be so many rocks in the river. Let’s miss this one, OK, we missed it but we are kind of crooked here though, someone needs to paddle the other direction and get us straightened out. I’m pretty sure we can’t go down the river sideways. Monty is shouting directions something about paddle damn it, I hear banjos, but apparently Mike and I are frozen watching the rocks, and the river is getting faster, I mean really fast. Let’s get over to the side and re-group. There really isn’t a place to pull over but when we get close to the side, Mike puts his hand up and grabs a tree branch, well that worked great as we tipped to the side the canoe immediately filled with water and dumped the three of us out into the river. Yikes it is cold, did I mention snow melt! Luckily it was only about chest high , well chest high to Mike, shoulder high to us. Now we have to right the canoe and get back in. I think this is where I said something about forget this, you guys go ahead I’ll walk back to the camp, there might have been some cussing involved.
I remembered there was a bridge over the river before our camping spot. I was doubtful that we could navigate thru the bridge pillars and live to tell about it. We’d already hit every rock in that damn river.
If it’s not too late to make a long story short, the guys made it just fine. To hear them tell it the rest of the trip was fantastic, no problems at all and they really had a good time. I, on the other hand, was on the swamp side of the river and couldn’t make my way back to the camp. It was so awful, just mucky swamp water, the beavers had downed trees everywhere. It was impossible to duck under the trees and difficult to crawl over. I picked my way along the shore line but I was never going to get to the camp. I finally gave up and turned around to go back where we launched the canoe. The guys came along in the truck but they were on the opposite side of the river so that didn’t do much good. They did wave encouragement, that was nice.
I guess the good news is I didn’t see any snakes, but I met a lot of deer flies up close and personal. I’ve never met a deer fly I liked, they are vicious critters with evil in their hearts and blood dripping from their fangs. We’ve run into them on the ATV and they will literally chase the ATV as fast as you can ride and bite like they have some kind of vendetta. They are about the size of a horse fly and are so sneaky they never land where you can see them. They travel in packs, and their mission is to bite the back of your arms or legs Boy, I hate those things, I had welts all over my arms and legs.
In some of our other trips you might see reference to Monty suggesting we rent a kayak or canoe These boat rentals are usually next to the sign ‘Don’t Feed the Alligators’ .