We spoke with the commander about the condition of the trail to the river and then planned on parking near the trailhead before beginning the long drag to Monkeytail Branch. We were happy to find the trail quite navigable for 2-3km before ending at a large tree fall. Leading up to that we cut our way through a few smaller blocks. The most devastating thing occurred when I approached a tree that was bent over, with thick vines on the other side of the track. I thought that it was high enough to clear...but I was mistaken. The halting crunch was not good. Looking up through the moon roof of the Jeep to see the kayaks gone was not good. And getting out to see the rear rack ripped off the Jeep was definitely not good!
We unstrapped the kayaks and moved them forward. Then I inspected the damage. The Jeep had some damage but not too bad...and the rack was fine. I just pulled out my toolbox and reinstalled the rack about 6-8 inches forward of where it previously sat. We strapped down the kayaks and pushed on.
At the major tree fall we unloaded and I headed back to Las Cuevas, parked the Jeep and hiked back. From there we began the 2km overland kayak drag. This is not quite as fun as it sounds but is a great workout. All was going well until the track began to go up hill. Then the track disappeared into a thicket of dense vines and herbaceous vegetation. I pulled out my machete and sliced and beat through this while dragging my kayak and gear. The track would reappear and then disappear. Over and over. Was I going the right direction? Onward I pushed and again the track would appear. Whew! Exhausting is an understatement. After awhile, I only chopped were necessary and barreled through the rest. Twice we had to go over massive trees that had fallen directly across the track.
Finally, we began the descent into the river valley. Still fighting through the occasional thicket and tree fall. With the descent also came the sliding kayak which sometimes careened into a deep rut. We heard the sound of running water and glimpsed the Monkeytail off to our right. Seeing a wall of vegetation in front of us on the road we abandoned that and headed straight for the river. We were there!
Instead of setting up camp, it was about 4:30pm, I wanted to go up a bit. Big mistake. Already tired and dehydrated, we now had to walk up slippery, uneven terrain. After a few hundred meters enough was enough and we set up camp. After a hearty meal of fajitas we both passed out cold.
The next morning we arose still sore. My collar bone was killing me where the strap laid across to drag my kayak. That took a couple of days to heal up. After breakfast we headed upstream a little ways before being turned back by an endless boulder field. We headed downstream, walking almost as much as paddling it seemed. But the habitat was great. Nice clumps of large Quamwood trees.
We heard and saw several pairs of macaws along the Monkeytail that day. I spotted a pair sitting still and not really doing anything. This was quickly becoming indicative of there being a cavity nearby. We sat there watching them. Finally, one of the dove down sharply to the right. Where it went was out of our line of sight. So I moved downstream about 50m and there she was, head sticking out of a cavity in a Quamwood. Very cool! She stayed in there for a few minutes before they left screaming and flying to the east.
We found a cavity on the Monkeytail.
Brad maneuvering through the rocks.
Brad lowering his kayak down a waterfall...or waterless fall.
(photo courtesy of Brad Westrich).