:: Rafting, in a shell (a big shell):
*4 days floating the San Juan river in southern Utah (between Sand Island and Mexican Hat)
*4 kids aged 4 and under (Owen 4, Juniper 3, Sam 2, Hazel 1)
*1 duck, Senior Pato (He's a Happy Meal toy from 20 years ago and is my dad's traveling partner. Don't ask.)
^We are in the blue raft: Juniper, Hazel, me, my man. Also, see those Ancient Pueblo steps carved into the rock?^
1) There was my aunt's bad dream, "Involving Hazel and water". Which, though appreciated, sent me spinning into a vortex of anxiety and internal arguments pin-balling back and forth between protecting our kids and living life, for god's sake. (In the end, we decided on life with a life-vest and six sets of watchful, adult eyes.)
2) My dad's camper-trailer got a flat as we pulled in to the launch campground. His spare also had a flat. Next day, my dad drove to Durango to pick up the rental raft and get his tires fixed.
3) His truck died in Durango.
4) On launch-day, we were late to catch our shuttle.
5) On launch-day, after all vehicles and extra camp gear were gone (shuttled down the road) and I was left alone to tend the children and boats while we waited, Juniper crapped her pants in the only appropriate swimwear we brought. I couldn't clean her up for half an hour as I was keeping the other kids out of the water and the road and other people's boats. And by the time I could clean her up, it was the worst poop-mess I've dealt with as a parent (partly due to circumstances: there was an outhouse and a waterpump and a BLM volunteer pacing around who would be none-to-thrilled to see me wash down my poopy kid where everyone else was filling their potable water jugs).
6) My kids had picked up a tiny sniffle the day we left home. The night before we launched, Hazel turned that "tiny sniffle" into a 100 degree fever and coughed until she puked.
7) In the end, all of us in the blue boat were sick in one form or another.
8) The first day, my husband's back locked-up. He was good to row, hold Hazel, and cook.
9) The first day, Juniper crapped her pants two more times while hiking to some ruins. When we asked her what was going on she said, "I fink I have a spooky ghost in my belly."
10) I barely slept. Hazel coughed and puked 2 out of 3 nights. Typically, we were in the boat at naptime and she hated that. She would cry and cry until she fell asleep in my arms. On the worst day, she cried until she puked. That was also the day we couldn't get her to eat or drink. She was nursing, but puking-up every ounce of milk she drank.
11) Hazel was walking a fine line of hydration which, in the dry, hot, windy, moisture-sucking desert, can turn from okay to emergency in no time.
As for Juniper's "spooky ghost": Hazel was going through so few diapers that I was able to put one on Juniper to help keep that spooky ghost under wraps. (Funny side-note: Juniper is a very imaginative kid and Owen is very literal. So every time Juniper talked about the spooky ghost in her belly, it would incite an argument from Owen who insisted there was absolutely not a ghost in her belly. I never knew a bout of diarrhea could be so entertaining.)
:: And yet! Despite my husband's back, and Juniper's bum and Hazel's body-water, and my sore throat...we had a good time. It was *great* to be dirty and tent-camping, no roads or vehicles within the radius of our senses.
^River House Ruin^
^Early on my step-mom, who has spent most of her life afraid of water, relaxed enough to sketch from her perch.^
:: We found the perfect place to duck out of a rainstorm.
The third day we had several sections of small rapids. The first one we hit hard, Juniper was at the bow and got drenched. That was the second time I'd ever seen June Bug shiver. She said, "Mama, my teeth are loose."
:: We camped.^Best campsite EVER with early evening shade and an awesome beach.^
Sand play was endless.
There was beach yoga.
Our girl started feeling better.
To limit use, the San Juan is a permitted river with a lottery draw. Thanks to this system, we saw only two other groups of rafters with whom we leap-frogged throughout our trip. I took note of the cafe umbrella for our next rafting vacation.
We ate well, drank well, and ended evenings with smores.
I slept sandwiched between these two lovely (albeit dirty) creatures...
:: From lunchsites and campsites, we explored.
On this evening, we bumped into a herd of wild burros on the Navajo side of the river. We watched them for a while and when they finally all lined up and headed out of the clearing Juniper said, "They're going to preschool!" Which is what she says about anything that lines up.
:: On the river, we saw wild turkeys, Canada geese and their fluffy yellow goslings, great blue herons, and the rare desert big horn sheep.
:: The last day, floating toward the aptly-named "Mexican Hat".
And, Happy Father's Day y'all! I'm sure lucky to have a dad who goes raft-camping with his grandchildren, not to mention the amazing man with whom I share my life and kids. Cheers to the dads.
P.S. To 6512 and Growing Rachel: Yes, you have to crap in a weird device-thing. (Unless you have a spooky ghost in your belly, in which case I would suggest diapers and doggie bags.) What to bring: don't bring too much; remember you have to unload and load it all back up everyday. (We had a gazillion camp chairs we probably didn't need.) Pack somewhere between car-camping and backpacking, erring on the side of backpacking. Fill your extra space with beer and fresh fruit and veggies instead. If you're cooking at all (even with a camp stove) you're required to carry a fire-pan, so you may as well use it! My in-laws roasted chicken-apple brats over the fire, served with slaw and beans. But don't *count* on the fire, in the event of a really windy camp (our first night we could hardly stand up straight). Oh, the volunteer BLM rangers really do check that you have all the required items, so double check that list otherwise you can't launch. Have fun! I'm curious to see how much lower the river will be when you go.