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Kirby: Knocking off bucket list item No. 8

Published May 23, 2011 5:01 pm

Desolation Canyon • Spending time on a river is an important thing to do before you die.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This time next week I'll be in Green River. Not necessarily the town, although that, too. I mean the actual river. I'll be in the Green River.

Sonny and I (along with some other people who really should know better) will be rafting Desolation Canyon. Five days of no phones and no visible sign of authority.

There are times when everyone needs to get away. At my house, everyone needs ME to get away. When we do it together, my wife calls these getaways "vacation." When I do it without her, they're "idiot trips."

A week is barely enough time for me to pack. That's because I have to do it three times — once by myself, a second time with supervision by my wife, and a third time as I stand to one side and watch her throw out everything even remotely inappropriate/illegal.

Her: "You are not taking the billiard ball mortar."

Me: "There might be sharks!"

I first rafted a Utah river in 1999. My wife and I spent three days exploring Cataract Canyon with a large group of strangers. It made a lasting impression. The following is my entire journal for that trip:

"Day one, 8:45 a.m.: Successfully launched our estimable craft. Weather fine, with notable exception of sun being hot enough to fry ham on our foreheads. Supplies holding out. River calm and highly brown in color. Vegetation consists of two or three indigenous weeds and 5 million linear miles of tamarisk, a tree so ugly that originally it must have been grown on Mars. No sign of local inhabitants. Vigilance is our watchword.

8:58 a.m.: Encountering frequent clumps of a cappuccino-like river foam. Violent retching.

9:09 a.m.: Numerous tall cliffs. Lots of brown water. Many tamarisks.

9:44 a.m.: Cliffs. Water. More #%*@! tamarisks.

10:11 a.m.: No sign of U-boats or enemy frogmen.

10:31 a.m.: Spirits high despite captain's refusal to trade some of the women for rum.

10:47 a.m.: [deleted mutinous observations]

11:15 a.m.: This journal bites."

You can see why a guy would get hooked on rivers. Desolation Canyon has been on my bucket list ever since. Lately, the aging process seems to be speeding up, so I persuaded Sonny that Desolation had to be this year.

All people should have a list of stuff they aspire to do before they die or get so old that they'd rather. Actually, it's a good idea to have several of these lists. I have three: Utah List, National List, and World List.

Rafting Desolation is only No. 8 on my Utah Bucket List. Other items on that list are spending a day shooting artillery with the Utah National Guard (No. 4), standing atop King's Peak (No. 5), and legally starting avalanches (No. 6).

For reasons pertaining to staying married and potential criminal liability, I can't tell you what items one to three are. But they're cool. Mostly.

Never mind that. The point is that bucket list items are things that make you want to keep living, goals of the spirit that make right now worthwhile.

A bucket list should be flexible. As your life and circumstances change, you need to keep the list real in order for it to have a positive effect on your spirit.

It's also important that you stay flexible. I need to remember that next week whether I'm drifting along with current under sunlit cliffs or crouched in a poncho under a hammering rain. Nothing is perfect in life, including bucket lists.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley. —

Know an exciting destination for Kirby?

It's nearly summer, and Robert Kirby is ready to hit the road. He's not prepared to go just anywhere, though — Kirby needs your help. What's happening in Utah's hinterlands this summer that's worth a road trip? Kirby prefers town celebrations that involve blowing stuff up, but he's game for nearly anything. (Woodruff, Kirby already knows about your Black Gold Testicle Festival.) Share the lowdown by sending an email to rkirby@sltrib.com or visiting facebook.com/notpatbagley.