Trip Report: Green River Desolation Gray
The Desolation Invasion
Submitted by Tom Riggs
They had said goodbye to their loved ones, written their wills, gotten their affairs in order, and checked their munitions and gear assignments. The long trek across the western half of the Great American Desert was behind them after commandeering the last vestiges of ice from small villages plundered along the way. The logistics of assembling the land portion of this invasion were massive; 13 rafts and cats, supported by 3 IKs, and 4 donut inflatables, plus a few Paco pads for stealth operations. The last leg to the beach head at Sand Wash took out the fourth armored division’s port fender but morale remained high despite the questionable morality of the invasion task force.
Yeomen, scallywags, commodores, and the recalcitrant were impressed into service to erect their respective ships of the line, dreadnaughts, and bateaux. Their efforts were not to be uncontested as the forces of nature had rendered the assembly point a quagmire of booby trap laden mud that began the casualty count of the bold by sucking their legs into the bowels of the earth unless sated by sacrificial Tevas, and Chacos. Mosquito dive bombers and fly boys attacked the longshoremen but in numbers less than intelligent reports had predicted. Still the liberators pressed on.
By dawn the fleet was assembled correctly despite the generous portions of glog meted out by the officers through the course of the night. Commanders, Layport, Purkey, Herring, and Hoffmeister had secured revetments for lodging the troops in protective cover from aerial assault prior to D Day. The sailors were nourished with yogurt granola and fruit in advance of boarding their respective craft.
Commodore Hoffmeister positioned the flotilla 3 abreast by four deep with Captain Purkey (aka Scottie) in the engine room piloting the 13th naselle with a whopping 5 HP motor that was older than all but the most seasoned crew members. The 72 ft behemoth, easily the largest vessel to have plied these waters, was replete with cannon, Viking oarsmen and shield maidens, and coxswain John Mason who showed his DI experience from Camp Pendleton or at least how he could command if inflicted by some Pendleton.
The armada passed those other parties who had launched hours earlier hoping to secure a campsite before the Oregon Plague caught up with them. We held our fire and gave a friendly salute to those less fortunate to be strictly oar powered. During our frequent stops to allow the crew swim breaks in the 80F water the persistent man powered crafts could be seen approaching but the tortoises would not win the race today; we had Mr Evinrude. The boats decoupled a mile above our invasion beach as we ground up 26 miles to reach Jack Creek 1 camp. Our landing was unopposed and the dogfaces claimed the new frontier in honor of Captain Morgan, Admiral Nelson, Sailor Jerry and of course Lieutenant Dan.
After disemboweling the boats’ contents to the central mess hall and perimeter outposts, Admiral Herring sought to maintain the esprit de corps by issuing each sailor a bountiful ration of tequila with lime and triple sec to fight off scurvy. This recommendation came from first mate Layport and laid the groundwork for the ongoing battle against other scourges of the sea such as leprosy, dengue fever, warts, and falling out spells. Sated with burrito bowls and more drams of rum, the troops eventually settled to their quarters for the evening with heavy eyes searching the heavens for the latest series of Musk’s satellites, clouds, or incoming beer cans. No reports of any unusual activity. That does not mean there was no unusual activity, given the nature of the crew, just no reports.
After a hearty scramble and bacon breakfast by the the Van Valkenburg Storm Troopers, the naval and marine forces re embarked in their invasion crafts. There would be no stealth movement for such a large massing of men and women at arms. Those not relegated to rowing still maintained a modicum of exercise by practicing 12 oz. curls throughout the day.
The day’s battle briefing would not be held at the meal rotunda but rather up a side canyon that the armada floated to then donned landlubber footwear to make the trek to the base of Mushroom Rock where The Ancients had encrypted our orders in petroglyphs. Some discussion about the meaning was bantered by the officers, but after much palaver, the dogfaces in the trenches knew the true interpretation was “venimus, vidimus, vicimus. Loose decryption, “we came, we saw, we drank beer”. With that, the navy scattered back to their craft and set sail again on the waters of Deso Cayon in search of spoils to pillage and rum to quaff. The word had been given.
Fretwater Falls, Wild Horse Rapid, and Steer Ridge Rapid were mostly riffles that the preinvasion force had apparently tamed with explosives, bombs, or scurrilous taunts rendering them to the lower end of the class II spectrum. The lookouts spied no suitable galleons, or frigates laden with riches from the New World, so each quartermaster had to dig into their ship’s larder for more glog to power their craft to Steer Ridge Campsite where a layover day was scheduled to allow the troops a day of R and R. (No, Brenda, not Rich and Rare, but rest and relaxation).
Once docked, the USS Herring, HMS Van Valkenburg, and His Emperor’s Ship the Hoffmeister each deployed PT (personal tush) craft to secure the harbor. Private Everett Aigner was assigned frogman duty in the current to counter or report any sabotuers. He held his post until he grew gills only to come ashore for appetizers and mess. The Bunce and Davis along with the Purkey each had their armaments aimed for land and sea defences. The enemy was vigilant and the impending attack never materialzed. Most surmise it was due to the boisterous nature of beach beer pong, a volley of bocci balls, or the dreaded ring toss set up by commander Mosier who also served as the regimental harmonicist.
The next day brewed a tempest of tarp erection to thwart the 90 to 100 degree heat that would consume precious quantities of ice designated for the Riggs- Barry Margarita crew. What could go wrong? It merely loosened up the joints for the combat know as charades. Undulating, worming, and generally having a kniption fit, Captain Karl gave it his all performing a charade for the word “Yellowstone”. We didn’t realize he was versed in Mediterranean languages for it was Greek to the rest of us. Not to be outdone, Cooper Long thrilled the audience with his aerial combat and dying moments of the Kamikaze.
Morning slumber was broken as Captain Davis fought off the “sleepies” by manning the Blaster. It was an important action to be repeated daily followed by caffeine stimulants for the troops. History is replete with examples of generals and admirals plying their troops with drugs to whip them into battle frenzy and then glog so they really don’t care about the outcome. We were no different. Fate has a way of catching up to those who have sinned and apparently “Ron of Arabia” Neve had paid the piper. Surprise Rapid had an alligator rock that grabbed his raft stranding his boat and crew of daughter and grandson,private Everett far into the current. A rope toss by the passing Riggs craft fell short and subsequent rafts avoided the minefield altogether.
There was a rumor started by Lieutenant Ron Jones that we should cut our losses and move on, but the top brass said we leave no man behind. They surmised that Lieutenant Ron Jones wanted to minimize confusion and pare the ranks to only one “Ron”.
Commander Layport took action and made an upstream carry of her IK then deployed it above Ron of Arabia’s stranded craft, carrying a ship’s tow line. She gallantly crossed the current and made it abreast of the stricken craft. Frogman Everett was transferred to the smaller craft and a tow line was attached. The IK quickly caught the current and came to an abrupt stop as the larger ship would not budge. The end of the line was at hand both literally and figureatively for the Layport PT rescue boat. The current was too strong and the tether negated manuevability. The boat pitched and heaved several times before lobbing Frogman Everett and Commander Layport overboard. Whistles sounded the alarm and Hendryk Van Valkenburg stepped up from his executive officer duties and launched Rescue Operation “Pale Ale” to gather the two swimmers from Davy Jones Locker (there’s another one of those nautical Jones fellows).
Ron of Arabia, still had an Arabian Princess on board and she was instructed by her captain to release the tether. It was a gallant order for it meant his available escape craft was being let go. This craft was soon recovered by the Navy and returned to service and again carried upstream for a different rescue plan.
Commanders Hoffmeister, Davis, Bunce, and Cabin Boy Riggs were now upstream with the extractor known as “THE PIN KIT”. But wait, an approaching floatilla from Holiday Expeditions was approaching. Surely they could help. They indeed were helping mankind by hosting a cadre of souls from the Shriner’s Hospital from Salt Lake City. They offered their advice of which we already had 24 versions then bid us adieu, noting that they could return in the winter when the ice would render the river more solid footing.
Back to plan 37Z. Hoffmeister would paddle Davis and pin kit to the opposite side of the river and return for Commander Bunce where they would skirt the loose footing and poison ivy to position them in better line with Ron’s stricken craft. Cabin Boy Riggs would stay put to signal approaching vessels of ongoing rescue operations. During all these manuevers Ron of Arabia and crew were jumping up and down in the center of the raft to try to wiggle it free.
From the near shore we could hear much yelling and hollering as the rescue team tried in vain to communicate their intent to Ron of Arabia over the rapid’s roar. Finally after several attempts a rescue line reached the raft. The rescue team instructed Ron to tie it to the front of the frame. As Ron crawled to the front of the boat to tie off the static line it shifted enough weight to float the doomed craft to the current and downstream to safety. This act of gravity diminished the value of the rescue plan and abated the embellishment of lies the rescue unit would be able to fabricate; nevertheless the intent and plan were there to create stories of selfless heroism. Maybe next time.
Commander Hoffmeister ferried Bunce with pin kit then Davis back from the forbidden bank of the river. Paddling two people in a single IK was akin to rowing a swamped raft, requiring more brawn than mortal men possess, but perseverance was with the allies who made it to the right bank and all members scrambled downriver to their respective craft.
Beer was administered to those affected by the near wreck of the Hesperous. Root beer for Everett.
Ron of Arabia was stripped of his command and now Captain Riggs would navigate his stricken but uninjured craft while Dr. Davis plied the now patient Ron of Arabia with calming elixirs suitable to heal nautical injuries.
The invasion fleet blew through Snap Canyon, Three Canyon, and Belknap Falls Rapids settling for the night above Chandler Falls Rapid. After more grub and glog, the sentries reported no naval or aerial threats on the horizon and the dog faces again slept well in their hovels.
The next morning, the skies were clear and some junior officers plied their skills running their ships through the minefields of rocks that Desolation Canyon presents at mid summer flows. Joe Hutch Rapid was much less muddy than spring trips and along with the other named rapids was read and run. During naval exercises Krista Hoffmeister showed her artillery skills by targeting and scoring hits on several of the other craft involved in the drill. Return fire was merciless and she was rendered into a sodden tart, but again medicinal beverages were apportioned, wounds were licked, and merriment struck another crescendo as the fleet pressed on.
Desolation Canyon gave way to the even more desolate Gray Canyon as the armada passed the Roan Cliffs on river left. The enemy would have even less cover for sneak attacks in this stark landscape. Meteorlogical warfare had begun to take its toll with the stalwart Commander Alcantara succumbing to the solar bombardment and taking refuge on the Davis ship of The Line for a much needed and deserved break from the incessant rowing under intense radiation. She had been outfitted with a first generation solar deflector umbrella which proved valuable but had less coverage than the General Dynamics full blown bimini tops that had been fitted to other ships. Some of the lighter destroyers such as those piloted by Mosier and Ron Jones had no armor and the crew relied on personal protective devices, PPDs, such as hats, long sleeves, and sunscreen to ward off the effects of the bombarding rays. Hydration was key for all sailors in this environment and word was spreading that the ice stocks were running low. The “high” command gave no creedence to those rumors but the quartermasters on each boat knew the score.
Range Creek Camp #1 was the day’s destination and the heated air was gaining moisture from the cloud cover that had pushed in. The troops set up their tents in a more dispersed fashion along this willow brush studded beach and again Bocci ball along with another hearty dinner were the evening’s activities that helped ward off the inescapable rising heat index that was suffocating. Around midnight, flicks of small raindrops began to sprinkle the cot signaling it was time to pull the bivvy sack into position. Those warning shots gave a one minute notice before the full brunt of the monsoon engaged the camp. A flurry of activity ensued with scantily clad silouettes scrambling to secure rainflies. Many were looking for a much needed bar of soap to take advantage of the deluge. Others were looking to donate their soap.
By dawn the blaster sounded revillee and only wet sand left a reminder of last night’s affairs. With precision, the army was fed, quarters were stricken, and the boats were reloaded for the next leg of the expedition. The groover gasket repair performed a few days earlier was reported to be holding fine. All were wondering what type of infraction draws “groover inspection “dooty”. Ron Jones received a medical waiver from the surgeon general from the aforementioned task, citing it would be cruel and unusual punishment for a man with a delicate constitution.
Moving on, the flotilla passed Saleratus Rapids, and Coal Creek Rapids unscathed then pulled into river left well below Ouray Lands to inspect a stone cabin built in 1911 for those surveying the area for the Buell Dam which was never constructed. One of the armada’s missions was to confirm the dam’s absence and take it out if found. No dam, just a few weathered cabins backed by a questionable road hacked out of the hillside. There was a snake sighting but the lunch menu had already been set so the reptilian course would not make the meal.
During this visitation the Holiday Expedition which we had passed earlier hopscotched our beachhead and our fear was that they would secure one of the campsites we were hoping for. The plan was to secure Schoolhouse Section Canyon Campsite, but upon arrival the landing could not accommodate our large number of boats and the reed laden flat seemed it would block any friendly breeze that may arise. With that the admirals decided to move down to Rattlesnake Camp, but upon rounding the corner after Rattlesnake Rapid, horror upon horror, was in front of us. Holiday Expeditions had invaded the beach. General quarters were sounded and at last the bloodthirsty (err, beer thirsty) marines would get a chance to engage in combat with water cannon, taunts, and songs to make a rugby team blush. It was not to be. Diplomacy won the day as the Herring / Layport command Central allowed them to finish their lunch before we had a chance to unleash our weapons of mass destruction – Brenda Bunce, Dave Purkey, and Pat Barry. All the strong but silent type; well not so much Pat Barry regarding the silence.
The beach was soon strewn with tents and sleeping bags set out to dry from the previous night’s engagement with mother nature. HQ sent reports of an incoming weather front so the order was given to erect the two tarps. Combatants were advised to erect their personal shelters as well since the incoming cloud cover was akin to a warning shot across the bow.
Lieutenant Ron Jones had no cabin boy on his craft so had to set up Hotel California by himself but the sleeping bag and shirt used as anchors proved to be insufficient ballast and an upstream gust of wind decided to evict him from his beachfront property and relocate his abode into the river. Ron was cussing as fast as he was running/wading after his tent. With the rescue operation complete his tent was taken to sick bay for duct tape repairs to one of the poles.
Meanwhile, commandant Risa Davis rallied the troops to stabilize the circus tarps during the wind and upcoming squall. Each tarp pole sentry had one hand on a stabilizing pole (oar) and the other outfitted with a survival beverage to wait out the storm. Chairs were corralled under the tarp and cans were chased down the beach but the sentries held fast and the day was won.
The storm passed as quick as it arrived and soon combat beach beer pong was in full swing. Little did the marines know that this engagement would last into the night with headlamps illuminating the last tosses until a mighty cheer sounded victory for the Van Valkenberg team or was it the Amy Herring Team. At this point no one cared. Soon the firepan came out and beer goggles were used to describe the various constellations. This was of course another training exercise for naval navigation. The beer being the requisite component.
Then came a shriek and a cry of unprecedented anguish. We were out of beer and the ice from the earlier cocktails was gone. Yikes! It took no time for the commanders of the fleet to come to grips with this insurmountable predicament. We would have to strike camp in the morning and steam for the nearest port o call.
Up and at ‘em, the sailors did their morning ablutions, had coffee, and chow, broke camp and were underway. This well oiled and previously well lubed machine knew the perils of running a navy with insufficient rations for the morale of the men and women. Led by the HMS Davis the fleet embarked for the landing at Swaseys, blowing by Nefertiti Rock, Price River and a few minor rapids en route. The current was swift at the concrete ramp but all craft managed to make anchorage in a well planned staggered arrival. The plan, later disclosed, was to leave the stragglers behind and get to the nearest watering hole. Darwinism in action, survival of the beerest. Another war was won by the planning and leadership of Admiral Herring, whose feats of daring, average looks, and poor judgement in character would leave the history books another embellished chapter in the annals of the OWA.