We just got off the San Juan River in Utah, and it feels like we left a piece of our hearts out there. Our fantastic voyage was made possible by none other than our main man and best friend, Ben Dove, along with his incredible parents and their rockstar company, Canyon River Equipment Outfitters (REO). The trip was a solid five days, but by the time we hit dry land, I was already plotting how to sneak in another four days on that river – I swear, we’d just hit our groove!

Ben’s cousin Sam (owner of a very cool design firm in Los Angeles, Ill Fortunes) came to photograph the trip and was an absolute blast to spend time with. Everyone we met on the trip was memorable, and Sam is a riot! Unfortunately, his borrowed tent had no poles, so every night we were doing creative rigging to keep his tent up. I ended up as Chief Tent Rigger and I’m happy to say it never collapsed on him mid-night.

Our trusty vessel for this escapade was the “Shredder Cheese,” a play boat that saw us through each day of our adventure. Most days, we were joined by our trip’s guide (on our commercial permit) Forrest, since we had enough rowers for the oar boats, giving us plenty of confidence to punch through all the rapids. I didn’t start completely confident, but  but by the end of the trip, I had grown so comfortable that I couldn’t imagine it any other way – and Charles was cheesing the whole time he was in the Shredder.

The water was super high, at 8,000 cubic feet per second, which changed how a lot of the rapids ran. Some normally challenging ones were reduced to riffles, and other random rapids cropped up where the water is normally more calm. Government was the most exciting, but apparently that’s usually the case.

The high water also meant that our biggest group challenge every day was catching our eddy outs to make camp. Some of the oar boats blew past more than one site, the water was just moving so quickly, but each new camp was still beautiful and dramatic in the deep canyon. Our last day, the shredder went ahead to investigate the next camp since we absolutely had to hit it – we almost flew past it, but at the last moment I caught the brown triangle camp sign, usually 5 feet out of the water and 10 feet up a beach, which was submerged to where only the brown triangle was visible. We hopped out to get the shredder on shore, immediately dropping into 5 feet of water, but got our feet under us and helped all the boats make land. Plenty of time for a little hike, some dinner, and some particularly nice port wine. The stars were incredible the whole trip. The last night we had a glowstick & fancy dress party.

I’m already pining for more river adventures, meeting more new people, and more unforgettable memories. It turns out that more than one type of boating can have a hold on my heart.