Pilgramage Part II
by dustin sturges
If you didn’t get a chance to read part one, or if you did get to read part one but needed a reminder as to where we are in the story, take it for this: Dustin and Co. got to the Westwater put-in; got drunk; Dustin almost run over by SUV; Dustin was confused by strange paraphernalia being loaded into the big raft.
Our designated campground was the beach on river left just above lower “little D” and as it was extremely low water, progress was slow and mellow. The river rolled lazily along and we just went with it. By the time we got to camp, we were all exhausted and cold. The rafters were there first and as we rounded the last bend, we could see one of them standing waist deep in a huge crater in the beach, digging like a mad man. All of the kayakers beached and stood around contemplating going down to surf the wave that the rapid is famous for. After a few beers we decided that dry clothes sounded much better.
Camp was put up and everyone got dry. It was explained that the giant hole being dug was a hot tub that would be heated by a fire in the fifty-gallon drum. We all said “yeah right,” and went on our way, thinking that there was no way they would pull it off.
The wilderness hot tub has been the “holy grail” for all of us for years. There is a cabin somewhere in the Wasatch Mountains (it is only big enough for ten; I’m not telling you where it is). The original builders had hiked a huge sheet metal hot tub to the top of the mountain to sit beside it. It leaked, and even if it didn’t there was no water to fill it. The same concept was utilized at the annual Zion Easter Party with more success, but it was a giant pain in the ass to maintain the heat. I can’t even count the times we all sat around holding our frozen peckers in our hands, wishing we had built a hot tub into our snow cave. Needless to say, we were highly skeptical about a hot tub in the middle of nowhere on a river trip.
Lou and I went for a hike while everyone screwed around with the “hot tub.” Lou has been an Outward Bound guide for a few years and while she does hike a lot and spends most of her time outdoors, she does not get to do the truly dumb things that make Southern Utah so much fun. We found a thirty-foot tall chimney that got us to the top of a huge fin of sandstone, climbed it, and hoped we could get back down. We sat up there and watched the sunset. The sunset in the desert is a thing that one can never take for granted. I have seen a million of them, and every time I’m still amazed.
By the time we found our way back down (it took us half an hour to find the chimney) it was dark. I bumped my way along to my tent and found my headlight. When I got to the main beach, I couldn’t find anyone. There were just a bunch of voices coming from a huge fog bank that had settled on one end of the beach. I went ahead and got another beer from the J-rig and moseyed down the beach to investigate the voices.
Now, I am not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination, but when I saw 10 people happily splashing around in a huge steaming hot tub in the middle of nowhere, I screamed “Holy Fucking Halleluiah!” It worked. No kidding. I stuck my toe in to find one hundred and eight degrees of muddy river happiness. I was so amazed that I almost forgot to take my clothes off before I jumped in.
We sat in that thing all night and it never got cold. We were so content that we even had dinner served in the tub. It was great. The fire in the heat exchanger (mysterious fifty-gallon drum) roared merrily into the night and we finally all dried off by it and went to bed.
The next morning we broke camp. The hot tub had to be pumped out—it was explained to me that the tarp was the good kind and had to be treated with care. That was fine with me. It had served us well.
We ran the rapids with no problems. The water was so low that everyone was eddied out in the room of doom, a usually frightening feature. At the end of the run there is about eight miles of flat water, complete misery on a cold day. We however had a J-rig with a motor, so we tried not to laugh as we putted past all those miserable bastards rowing out.
Yes, my friends the Promised Land is a boat with a motor and a hot tub on the beach. I have been there and things on future trips will never be the same.