A few days from now, I will start hiking into the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming with a SUP. Five months and nearly 2,000 miles later, I will reach the Gulf of California. The trip will be a true “source to sea” of the Colorado River, and I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen.
My friend Bobby and I have been thinking about and planning this trip for over a year. However, I’m not sure when I thought of doing it on a SUP. Sure, the idea of a source to sea has been in my head for a long time. River put-ins and takeouts are really just arbitrary points on the map. Whenever I reach a boat ramp after a week on the river, I take a second to look downstream. I think to myself: “the river keeps going, why don’t I?” This expedition is the culmination of many years spent paddling, rowing, swimming, and flailing down all types of rivers - from steep creeks in New England to big, rolling waves in Idaho and the Northwest. I’ve explored a handful of the nooks and crannies of the Colorado River basin and this trip will allow me to see more than I ever have.
Over this fall and winter, I will paddle my SUP across water as silent as the Green River Lakes in Wyoming, as scenic as the Gates of Lodore in Utahlorado, and as rowdy as Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon. I plan to consume at least 125 burritos. I’m not a professional stand up paddleboarder and I will certainly swim a lot of big rapids. More importantly, the trip will be categorized by amazing solitude, breathtaking beauty, and the cleansing feeling of being immersed in an environment for so long that I will forget the rest of the world.
There are plenty of reasons why this trip might be a failure and very few reasons why it might be a success. Eleven dams, an international border crossing, countless rapids, and a river full of natural and human-caused challenges. I’m sure the flatwater across Lake Powell and the headwinds in Desolation Canyon won’t be too much fun. Not to mention that the Colorado River doesn’t even reach the ocean. That’s right--the last few days of our trip will be spent hiking around various diversion dams, through giant agricultural operations, and across a dried-up river bed with pools of water too toxic to drink. Logistically, the trip is an exhausting mental challenge. Figuring out how to order and plan five months of food while also looking at river mileage, appropriate campsites, and resupply locations has proved to be a fulltime job. Despite not knowing if I’ll make it all 1,700 miles on my SUP, I feel drawn to the challenge and the need to learn if my dream is possible.
By this point, you’ve probably been thinking to yourself: “Why would anybody do this?”. That seems like a fair question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. If I wanted to eat authentic Mexican food, I could just go to the corner of State Street and 800 South in Salt Lake City. In general, I paddle rivers because traveling across beautiful landscapes with my close friends is really the only thing that has ever made me feel normal. When the opportunity presented itself to be on the river for five months, I had to say yes. For me, being on the river is easier than anything else I do. Paddling a SUP is not only the most fun way to travel in these environments, but it’s also the most simple. On a SUP, I feel more connected to the water and the rest of the world than I do on my raft or kayak. Moving downriver on a paddleboard is a similar feeling to flying and it launches me into a state of pure joy and fascination. I’m looking forward to the challenge, the adventure, building relationships with my friends, and living alongside my favorite body of water. I’m already feeling so grateful to have the support of a large community of river running friends as well as brands like Hala who are making this trip possible.
Since beginning the planning process, not a day has gone by where I don’t think about the river. It lives in all parts of me: in my brain, in my body, when I’m awake, and in my sleep. I need to remind myself that reaching the Gulf isn’t the point. Life is about the journey. And this will certainly be one hell of a journey.