The 2-River Challenge was a 166 mile ultra-marathon paddle on the two main rivers that divide Northeastern Utah. We traveled 120 miles down the Green River from the town of the same name to where it meets the Colorado River. Then we continued UPSTREAM an additional 46 miles on the Colorado River to Potash Landing, which is a few miles outside of Moab, Utah. The trip was completed between May 2nd and May 6th, 2012.
Below are videos from each day of the challenge, from my winter training sessions, and a little Q&A about the project.
Day 0 - 5/1/2012
Day 1 - 5/2/2012
Day 2 - 5/3/201
Day 3 - 5/4/2012
Day 4 - 5/5/2012
Winter training session at Horsetooth Reservoir
Big Moo Canoe featured in Word Ark Magazine (2/19/2012)
I always enjoy the preparation for big challenges as much as the challenge itself. I generally paddle at least 200-300 miles getting ready and I use that time to think about what the event will be like, what I'll face, what I'll need to bring, and generally getting psyched up for the effort. Though I had been on both the Green and Colorado Rivers previously, some of the route was completely new country and I had never travelled more than 10-miles upstream before, and that was not with nearly 100-pounds of gear aboard.
I enjoyed watching the sun as it cast changing shadows across the canyons throughout the day, seeing beavers crash into the water to scare us away, watching the moon rise and set over the huge canyon walls, and camping on sand bars among the quiet still canyons. I also enjoyed taking pictures and video along the way knowing that I was going to be able to share this remote canyon with so many people who would never come here and visit. This was especially true when we visited Tri-Alcove Canyon where three canyons go off the river from a single point. We also visited a spot along the Green River where a beaver trapper had made an illustration of his paddleboat on the wall of the canyon, 176-years to the day from when he made it on May 3rd, 1836. The final highlight of the trip came just afterwards when I was interviewed on a local AM radio station, as that was my first time on the radio and was a fun opportunity to talk about Heifer for 10-minutes to a live audience.
Were you by yourself or with a team?
I travelled with my paddling partner Marek Uliasz who got me into ultra-marathon canoeing nearly 10-years ago after I had spent many years doing a variety of whitewater boating. Marek has been a fixture in my Big Moo Canoe efforts as a training partner and we have spent many hours paddling together in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, and Utah.
What were the challenges?
Every trip has a challenge or two and this one was no different. We had a really dry summer this year and so when we reached the put-in it was obvious that we were going to be dealing with low water, which means slower speeds. Additionally, the desert generates winds throughout the day based on heating, cooling, and the normal weather front or two. We had planned this trip early in May so that the heat would not be too much of an issue compared to summertime, so going in, wind and low water were going to be our challenges. However, we had one trick up our sleeve in that we had built sails for our canoes and we had planned to do some sailing when the wind blew upstream; however, best laid plans don't tend to work out. We ended up contending with very heavy winds each day and much of it was in our face and not behind us as we had anticipated. This made our paddling days very long and we paddled from sunrise to well into the night each day, twice finishing near midnight. However, when the wind blew from behind us we had a blast cruising along under sail amongst the huge canyon walls.
What was your first effort for Heifer and The Big Moo Canoe?
The first Big Moo Canoe took place in May of 2008 and was a 250 mile solo challenge to paddle, over the course of three days, along the upper part of the North Platte River near Saratoga, Wyoming. It was a daunting task for me since the longest single day paddle I had ever done was 50-miles. To make it even tougher, you have to catch the undammed North Platte River when it's flooding in May, so I also had to contend with high frigid water, snow, hot sun, and a lot of spring wind. Each day my crewmates, Chris and Dawn Betz, would put me in the water before sunrise and shuttle me back to the put-in until I had completed my daily goal of 83-miles, typically around dusk. I could have never completed that challenge without their support and encouragement. My daughter Megan and I returned to Saratoga in June that year to do a small Heifer challenge paddle where she raised several hundred dollars towards the project goal. I did a lot of outreach in our local community, online to paddling groups, and we even had a Sunday school class in Saratoga who did a Heifer project in support of the Big Moo Canoe. In that first year we rose over $8,000 from donors in 15 states including some anchor business sponsorsâ€¦and I thought it was over at that point. Well, by later that summer it was clear I had been bitten by the Heifer bug. People had so many questions about the Big Moo Canoe challenge, and canoeing in general, that I decided that we could extend the challenge a bit by organizing a family outing at a local lake. We hosted about 40 people who got a chance to canoe, fish, and learn about Heifer. My daughter Megan and my son Lucas helped me maintain a table at our church for several weeks around Christmas time to collect "alternative gift" donations, which has become an annual tradition ever since.