At began at Canoecopia while I was chatting with Larry Laba, CEO of SOAR Inflatables. He had a bone to pick with my book, Expedition Canoeing, which included practically every type of canoe except his inflatable canoe. I listened quietly and promised to try one. Someday.

That day came sooner than expected when Laba received a hard-to-get permit to canoe the Gates of Lodore section on the Green River, which runs through Dinosaur National Monument, and invited me to join him. He warned right from the start that there were lots of regulations we’d have to follow. I vowed to keep an open mind and a willing smile. I’d heard that Lodore was spectacular, and well worth the high (regulatory) price of admission.

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Trouble surfaced immediately. It was nearly noon on our appointed put-in day when part of the crew arrived with the unhappy news that Laba’s truck had broken down (with all the boats) near Salt Lake. It would be late afternoon before he, the boats, and the rest of the crew would arrive.

We shared our concern with a park ranger, who we’ll call Ranger #1 (keep track; there are four more). Could we try plan B? Say, leave around 7 p.m. and take a closer campsite than our reserved one 16 miles downstream? Ranger #1 radioed for advice. No luck; the closer site was taken. Our choice was to plow through to our designated spot that night, or start the next morning.

Watch for the adventures of
C&K contributing editors Cliff Jacobson, Larry Rice, and Alan Kesselheim with SOAR owner Larry Laba in upcoming issues of Canoe & Kayak magazine.

Before Laba arrived, a 30-mile-per-hour wind started blowing upstream. We agreed it would be best to begin the next day and make up lost time. Meanwhile, Ranger #1 had gone for the day and been replaced by Ranger #2, a pleasant young woman with a willing smile. “Would it be okay if we start tomorrow and make up lost time?” we inquired. “Yes,” she said, “but you will have to camp at your assigned site for that day.” That seemed fair enough to us.

The following morning we were off. Because of the extra distance we had to paddle we didn’t arrive at our scheduled campsite until 6 p.m. Ranger #3 was standing onshore to greet us. He asked to see our permit, then fired off a barrage of questions: “Do you have a groover? A food-strainer? First-aid kit? Extra PFD? Throw rope? Fire-pan?” Since I’m used to the freedom of Canadian rivers-where I can camp when and where I please, and where safety and land ethics are an individual responsibility, I wasn’t prepared for the grilling. Still, given the heavy use of the Green River, I realized the necessity.

Day three ended just like day two. Ranger #4 stepped out from behind a bush just as our boats touched land. He had radioed Ranger #3, so he downplayed the questions about our preparedness and focused on other matters.

Now, I should make it perfectly clear that I understand the need for regulating high-density rivers and for checking boaters who are sometimes irresponsible and unprepared. Still, we had been interrogated by two rangers on two successive days. Was big brother watching, or what?