EPHEMERAL

It’s damn hard to catch Utah’s desert rivers in prime boating condition. It just doesn’t happen every year – and in those years where everything sets up perfectly, I’ve always found a way to fuck it up.

In 2011, I got sick with a brain tumor, and missed maybe the biggest water year we’ve ever had. (My wife ran Desolation at a peak of almost 50,000 that year!)

In late February 2017 I took a nasty tumble in the backcountry and shattered my left arm – and once again watched most of the amazing snowpack melt away before I could get back in the boat.

In 2019, conditions set up perfectly, and by March I knew it was going to be one of those years. I kept reminding myself “Don’t fuck this up, do whatever you have to do to stay healthy.” I didn’t even pull my bike out once, thinking it was the riskiest way to mess something up.

Fortunately, I managed to not only stay healthy, but I got incredibly lucky too. I struck out on a few trips when winter showed up again for the 4th time this May, and when my schedule booked up for most of early June, I figured the season would end after seeing Cataract at 65,000 cfs in Mid-June. I mean, Utah rivers NEVER run after Mid-June.

But this was no ordinary year. The snowpack just kept hanging in there, and the window never seemed to close. Some watersheds in Southern Utah reported over 180 percent of average snow water equivalent. It was so good I even headed to Escalante on summer solstice for a second lap. Summer. Freaking. Solstice. And this time we had 5 or 10 times the flow we had the two times previously.

I paddled my first desert river in March on the backend of a pretty big spring storm, and paddled all the way through summer solstice, and it’s still going.

I’ve owned a packraft now for a decade, and I can never remember a spring season like this.