On the Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures course, students take turns being the Naturalist of the Day, writing down their observations of the natural and cultural history of the place in which they are travelling. This entry by Henry Gates was written during Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River. There are still three spots available on the 2013 Colorado Plateau course – visit http://wrfi.net/courses/colorado-plateau.html for more info!


4/20/12 – Labyrinth Canyon Day 3 – Naturalist of the Day: Henry

There is nothing quite like a sunrise in the desert. The immense beauty it brings at such an early hour usually sets the precedent for the day.

Today’s first light broke around six o clock, setting a vibrant yellow lining around the horizon to the east. I faded in and out of sleep, with the colors intensifying each time I awoke. When I crawled out of my sleeping bag at 6:50 the sun was just peering over the line of land and sky to say good morning to me. In my book there is no better good morning or alarm clock in the world.

The day went about like any other boiling water and fetching food for the first meal of the day. We packed all our goodies, rigged our canoes, topped off our water bottles and left the shore at our usual 9 am. We continued our nomadic lifestyle setting sail on the river John Wesley Powell and his group named The Green.GreenRiverCanoe

The river gives way to much life in this barren place. Dan and I quickly encountered a quaint family of geese on one of the river banks. A mother and father were swimming along with their goslings for a nice morning stroll. They had 6-8 babies that couldn’t have been more than 6 weeks old – a telling sign of the warm spring. We could easily see the size difference in the male and female parents. They swam outside of their goslings protecting their young from the strange floating craft. Not long after we scoped out a huge bird a top an electric pole. Many thought it was a hawk, but John thought it was a golden eagle. It would have been cool to see this bohemith bird in flight but cool none the less to see it at rest.

Not long after we saw the anomaly of the La Sal mountain range poking its snow capped mountains just above the horizon. As we passed along the enormous navajo cliffs above the river we saw the houses of the cliff swallows. Dan explained to me that they made these by picking up mud from the river banks and mix it with their saliva to create these nests. Not a bad place for a nice little home above the river with a great view.

Just  before making our first pit stop of the day, Dan and I observed a great blue heron in flight, but a few meters above the Green River. We speculated he was probably hungry and looking for a midday feed that hopefully consisted of some kind of fish.

We found camp around noon at the beautiful Trin Alcove. We ate lunch and took our first dip in the Green under the blazing spring sun. We had class for about 2 hours gaining knowledge about our new found landscape. After, we went for another nice swin in the cold, murky waters.

As I sit in a nice grove of maples it is hard to remember the heat of the day. We have gained nine more miles along the river both literally and figuratively. We have a layover day tomorrow to expand our knowledge and explore these deep canyons of Trin Alcove. But lest we not forget of the great wonders we have seen in our past and an eye on the adventures to come.

Henry's NOD