July 1, 2006

The Strawberry Roan

The boat launch area for Desolation Canyon of the Green River can be a busy place in the middle of June. I quickly rigged the 13' Maravia Spider for a solo patrol and floated away from Sandwash boatramp around 5pm. I wanted to get a start where I'd be between the groups from the morning of my launch day, and the launches of the next morning I thought I knew the flat water section of the river well enough to float past dark. 

My plan was to float for several hours past dark to a place where I knew there was a river bank big enough for my paco pad, where I'd sleep. The stillness of evening quietly took the remainder of the day while I got into the cooler and found a dinner of carrots, red peppers, and blue cheese. I leaned against a duffel bag, and my temporary world of solitude couldn't have been better.
After dark I rowed for a couple more hours, arriving at the riverside bench I had in mind. I turned on my headlamp, gave it a quick scout for cacti, and decided it was a suitable sleeping spot. I unrolled my paco pad and lay down, miles from another person. I gazed at the stars, and listened to the gentleness of Tabyago riffle. It was near midnight, the rigging day was long, and sleep came quick.

During the night I woke to the sound of horses hooves approaching on the trail from downstream. I sat up on my paco pad trying to hurry and wake up. I knew immediately that it was a solitary wild mustang stallion that I'd seen before, at a distance, in this area. The first thing I could think of to avoid being trampled was to turn my headlamp on him and give a couple crazy yells simultaneously. To my surprise, he turned and took off running. I thought to myself "that was easy", and lay back down to sleep. Sometime later the identical process took place. This time when I turned on my headlamp he did nothing. I shut it off, and stood up on my paco. The horse also stood still. For several minutes the old Strawberry Roan and I had a Mexican standoff in the wee hours of the morning there on the banks of the wild Green River. Finally, the horse moved toward me several steps. I threw my paco on the boat, untied it, and stood holding the bowline, captivated by the scene. I didn't know much about horses, but I knew I wanted to be ready to go real quick. By now we only had about 50 feet of star light between us. I could hear him breathe in the milky light of a waning moon as I watched him wag his massive head from side to side, and paw at the dusty trail. His coat was filthy with dried mud and dung. His eyes and tangled mane were as wild as his heritage. He was a massive animal, and greatly intimidated me. I knew I needed to go, but I was completely fascinated. He was the epitome of everything wild, unbridled for generations. I wanted to approach even closer. I asked him if he was really going to run me off in the middle of the night? He didn't speak english, but his answer was clear enough so I went.
I tossed the bowline on the front of the boat and quietly floated away. I watched his mystic silhouette come to the waters edge, to drink. I then realized I was sleeping in his territorial watering spot. I went on around the bend to a sprawling beach, where I tied the boat, and went back to sleep. I again woke to the sound of horses hooves in the night. He was running back and forth, and making a bunch of noise in apparent protest, behind where I slept. I told him that this beach was going to have to accommodate us both. Again, he didn't speak English, but his answer was clear enough to allow me a peaceful sleep for the remainder of the night.

Cowboy cashe, unknown season