Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dream of Wading the River

Words and photos by Greg

A small dream: For years I've looked at a certain spot in the river and thought, "Hmm. Could I carry my bike and wade across that?" This is a dry year. The river is low. Time to try.

First up, ride out of town, then miles and miles of beautiful chunky singletrack, climbing upward through the desert sandstone past a few lingering spring blossoms.

Next, a rollicking trail that dipped in and out of small, rough canyons, high above the valley and town.

Then, while storm clouds darkened the sky, a doubletrack descent to the river. Then further upriver to the shallow riffle where I hoped to cross.

I waded out into the "shallow" riffle to find that nothing was quite as easy as it seemed from high on the cliffs above. Deeper, swifter water than it had seemed. And under the water the footing was nothing but loose, slippery boulders that threatened to toss me into the flow.

Could I have made it? Maybe. But it didn't seem worth the chance of my bike and I being dragged down the river over the rocks. I retreated. But luckily, "just happened" to have my old Sherpa packraft tucked into the orange bag strapped to my pack.

Inflated the raft, tossed my bike and myself on top. Then, just below the riffle, I paddled across with my hands. Landed on a convenient rock where I re-packed the raft.

Rode the rails for a minute, then dragged the bike up the bluff. Looking back down, it still looked pretty easy to wade across.

Then more trail back toward town.

The small dream of wading the river? Failed. The bigger dream of crossing the river? Fulfilled. It's been about a year since the concept of the packraft and bikerafting fully whacked its way into my consciousness from merely a fuzzy idea that someone else might do to something I might do. (Thanks, Mike! Roman!) And so far, so good. Rivers are no longer barriers to mountain biking. Maps are twisting into new shapes and possibilities. And I'm dreaming new dreams.


  1. Cool Greg! Love seeing that old raft live on in its sunny retirement down south.

  2. BTW Greg, wading is generally harder than boating and for some of us in AK, a sport in itself.