Many years ago, when the children were but munchkins, we ran the Dolores for the first time. Being as parenting has taken a more intense role in our life we elected to run the bottom and avoid Snaggletooth rapid this time around. While it pained us all that we couldn’t run from top to bottom, our year had to this point, been most fortunate, and running from Bradfield to Moab is a dream that will be realized one day. Just not now.
The school year ended and we started driving to Moab, en-route to Slickrock. We had to make a slight detour to visit Arches for a day, and drive the kids through all the scenery of Colorado and Eastern Utah. Not sure they appreciated it all, but if they talk about it during back to school this fall we will know what resonated and what didn’t.
We began our journey traversing through old cattle pastures with overcast skies. The scenery isn’t remarkable, but as we approached our campsite that first night, the mosquitos most certainly were.
Day two and the sun comes out. Spirits are high, and the river corridor shows us why the Dolores is such a legendary western multi-day trip. Towering sandstone and an ever deepening canyon never produces whitewater, but does give you the best lazy river you’ve ever been on at 4.5 mph. We did some rowing instruction, rock stacking, and just like at home, we made two different dinners because we have kids.
We stumbled upon what might be one of those most legendary campsites in all the land. “Grotto” provided an overhang that was over 100ft deep and nearly 300ft long and situated just a few feet from the river. With a legendary backdrop we setup our own little commune, complete with tattoo parlor, hot dog restaurant, and rock stacking sensory station. This was truly one of the most unique camps, and possibly the most unique, that I might ever have the privilege of staying.
We closed out the excursion with a birthday party, a massive rain storm, and one last marshmallow roasting session. I’m not sure how these kids could have had a better start to summer vacation. A docile stretch of river that is almost perfect for families and beginners, and one that we might not get a chance to see again for years. Leaving the Dolores is almost like leaving an aging relative in hospice. You know that it might be the last time you see them again, for awhile, or maybe ever.