Three easy steps to improve your marriage and allow more time on the river.
1. Get her a dry suit
Many of my first packrafting and canyoneering adventures with my wife ended wet and cold and according to her, miserable. I had a hard time convincing Amy to go on more, until her birthday, when I surprised her with the “best piece of equipment you ever got me.” It turned suffer-fests into enjoyable outings, for both of us.
This “best piece of equipment” was a Kokatat Gore-Tex Front Entry Dry Suit with a drop seat and socks. The drop seat makes nature breaks easier and the built-in waterproof socks keep her feet warm and happy. While significantly more expensive than neoprene ($960), the suit is significantly warmer and takes the misery out of packrafting.
Selling my wife on a packrafting adventure is always easier when we can bring our dog. Having a dog in a packraft, however, is challenging. Spraydecks are not an option and dogs are often wet. In in the past I would spend most of the day sitting in a cold puddle of water. Then we got a self-bailing packraft, problem solved.
While heavier (10 pounds) and more expensive ($1,530) than my other packrafts the self-bailing BayLee makes having the dog along easy and enjoyable. Feathercraft sandwiches four inflatable chambers between a slick outer floor and rugged nylon inner floor. With permeable slots, the inflatable floor lifts the paddler out off the water while letting excess water flow through. There is a consistent puddle inside the boat yet the water level never rises above the highly comfortable seat, leaving one’s butt warm and dry. Additionally, the main tube has two separate chambers for a total of six chambers, making it a legal watercraft for places like Dinosaur National Monument.
Forrest and Fryxell
Even with Fryxell on board the Baylee is highly maneuverable and worthy of whitewater. It’s very buoyant, forgiving and with an oval shape allows rapid turning. Durable materials combined with legendary Feathercraft craftsmanship create an unique and quality packraft.
Wiggins Fork River, Wyoming
3. Choose a scenic and fun river
Near the sleepy cow town of Dubois, Wyoming, a little known river flows gently from the wild and rugged Absaroka Range. For most of its length the Wiggins Fork is a swift Class II+ float appropriate for novices and those with dogs. Only a couple dirt roads skirt its edges. Free of any impoundments the Wiggins Fork flows free and is normally navigable for just a few weeks in May and June. Red Hills and steep canyon walls of volcanic origin create impressive scenery. Wildlife is abundant and humans rare.
Wiggins Fork River
There’s one short but dangerous Class V/IV section that must be avoided by a two-mile cross-country portage on river right. Alternatively, a two-mile hike from the Forest Road to Double Cabin Campground allows a put-in just below the gorge. If you paddle below the confluence with the East Fork of the Wind River be aware the land to river left is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation and belongs to the Arapahoe and Shoshone, not the Forest Service or BLM. Below the confluence also watch out for several wire fences that cross the river and could ruin your dry suit, packraft, and potentially your marriage.