Rafting, Writing, and Hiking in the Canyons of Dinosaur National Monument

Professor: Hal Crimmel
Institution: Weber State University
Course Number: 3350/4830/6610

English 3350/4830

Honors 3350/4830

MENG 6610/6710

Rafting, Writing, and Hiking in the Canyons of Dinosaur National Monument

Dr. Hal Crimmel

Week One, May 3-May 7.

Meeting time: M-F 9:00-12:30

Meeting Place: Elizabeth Hall, Room 204

Week Two:

On location in Dinosaur National Monument, Monday, May 10-Sat., May 17.

Office: EH 456 / 801-626-8044 / [email protected]

Required Texts

A notebook/journal

A few in-class handouts

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire.

Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water

Crimmel, Hal. Dinosaur: Four Seasons on the Green and Yampa Rivers

Meloy, Ellen. Raven’s Exile: A Season on the Green River

Minot, Stephen. Literary Nonfiction.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge.


Optional Supplemental Reading

Handouts and some other texts will be available in our portable library.

Course Description:

This six-credit creative writing workshop introduces you to the high desert ecosystem in one of the secret gems of the National Park System, Dinosaur National Monument. Lying on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, Dinosaur is home to two great rivers, the Green and the Yampa, and their storied canyons. Human inhabitation of these canyons stretches back at least 7000 years as attested to by the mysterious rock art left by Fremont peoples. The monument is home to rare species of plants, endangered warm-water fish, desert bighorns, cougars, elk, and mule deer. During the first week of the course we will meet on campus to read such acclaimed desert writers as Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Ellen Meloy, and others who have written well about arid lands and the rivers that flow through them. We’ll also focus on the practice of creative nonfiction and explore the techniques and theories of this increasingly popular genre.

The final six days of class will take place in Dinosaur National Monument east of Vernal, Utah. We’ll divide our time between two base camps: Split Mountain or Green River Campground near the dinosaur quarry and Echo Park, gathering impressions and working on our writing. We’ll use these two camps as bases for our explorations of abandoned ranches, canyons, and other areas. We’ll cap the course with a one-day whitewater rafting trip through dramatic Split Mountain Canyon.

During our field component we will pursue the idea of physical and emotional wellness in conjunction with writing about the spectacular high desert natural environment. To this end, we will strive to 1) unplug ourselves from the technological chatter of the twenty-first century; 2) eat healthy, minimally processed foods, and prepare them in a low-impact way; 3) engage in practices such as yoga that stimulate and rejuvenate our bodies. Perhaps by the end of this course you’ll find yourself not only writing better, but feeling better.

By the completion of this course, you should have:

1)       a knowledge of the principles and techniques of creative nonfiction;

2)       knowledge of the themes and techniques of several prominent nonfiction writers;

3)       a substantial amount of writing to include in your portfolio;

4)      a better understanding of the high desert and the ecosystems it encompasses.

Safety: Safety will be the number one priority of this trip. We will reduce risk by travelling in a university owned and maintained vehicle, and by staying in campsites maintained by the National Park Service, which are either close to park facilities such as visitor centers, staffed by National Park Rangers, or have emergency radio installations. The use of alcohol or illegal drugs will be prohibited; the use of either gets you an immediate one-way bus ticket back to Ogden. We will travel as a group to ensure the safety of the individual, and we will have a medical kit on hand at all times. Potable water and pit toilets are available at our campsites. As specified in the waiver forms you will be responsible for following the directions of the trip leader while on location in Dinosaur.

Assignment and Grades:

To receive full credit for this course, absolutely no absences permitted!

Grades will be based on a 100-point scale and will be based on the following work:

–Participating willingly and graciously in trip planning and organizing, camping chores, hiking, exploring, and other activities. Prepare to enter a whining-free zone for the six days we are in the field. You will be expected to eat, sleep, and work outside in a remote desert canyon environment; go on hikes in rough terrain and take a one-day whitewater rafting trip.

–Completing assigned readings. Reading must be completed by class time for our discussions to be productive.

–Daily journaling. This work will help you generate materials for your capstone essay.

–Four short 600-word creative nonfiction writing exercises.

–Co-lead a discussion or activity in Dinosaur in conjunction with the reading, our activities, or some thematic aspect of the class.

–One capstone twenty-page creative nonfiction essay, due Friday, June 4, by 5PM.




Introduction & Dinosaur Slide Show

Read Chapters 1-4 in Literary Nonfiction

Read Refuge: “Prologue” through “Magpies”

In-class Writing Workshop

Field-related tasks: menu suggestions, driver certification; review gear checklist; gear sign-up



Read Refuge: “Long-Billed Curlews” through “The Clan of One-Breasted Women”

Read Chapters 5-8 in Literary Nonfiction

In-class Writing Workshop

Short assignment #1 due

Continuing Education Tasks: Sign waivers/accident insurance forms + fill out course credit sheets



Read Chapters 9-12 in Literary Nonfiction

Donna Rigby: “Narrative, Creative Nonfiction and the Personal Essay: Housing the Text” (handout)

Read Desert Solitaire: “Author’s Introduction” through “The Moon-Eyed Horse”

Short assignment #2 due



Read Desert Solitaire: “Down the River” through “Bedrock and Paradox”

Read Chapters 13-15 in Literary Nonfiction

Familiarize yourself with Dinosaur National Monument by checking outwww.nps.gov/dino and following links of interest.

Short assignment #3 due

In-class Writing Workshop



Raven’s Exile pages 3-84

“A Place in the Sun: A Northerner Meets the Desert West” (handout)

Short assignment #4 due

Monday, May 10-Saturday, May 15: On location in Dinosaur National Monument

Itinerary subject to change at any time to compensate for weather, illness, injury or other unforeseen events.

Monday, 5/10: Departure

Meet A-2 parking lot 8:00 AM

Depart for Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument 8:30 AM

Lunch near Vernal

Arrive DNM 2:00 PM. Stop at Monument HQ 2:00-4:00 / Tentative Hike: Explore Echo Park

Camp at Echo Park 5:00 PM

Evening Discussion 7:00-8:00: Read in Crimmel “A Short Time to Be There”



Class 9:00-11:00: Writing Workshop; read rest of Dinosaur: Four Seasons on the Green and Yampa Rivers

Lunch 12:00-1:00

Field Session 1:00-4:00 / Tentative Hike: Loop hike or Laddie Park

Evening Discussion 6:30-7:30: Raven’s Exile: “Postcards”; “The Shape and Taste of River”



Class 9:00-11:00: Writing Workshop and Secret Knowledge of Water:“Introduction” + Part One.

Lunch 12:00-1:00

Field Session: 1-4:00 / Tentative Hike: Pool Creek from Chew Ranch or Mantle Cave

Evening Discussion 6:30-7:30: Secret Knowledge of Water: 75-83 + “The Source”



Class 9:00-11:00: Writing Workshop and Secret Knowledge of Water: “The Acts of Desert Streams”; “The Sacrifice of Children”; “Haunted Canyon”

Leave Echo Park 11:30 AM, Departing for Split Mountain

Field Session: Harper’s Corner Nature Trail and/or Hog Canyon & Josie Bassett Homestead

Camp at Green River Campground or Split Mountain

Evening Discussion 6:30-7:30: Secret Knowledge of Water: “Flood at Kanab”; “Fear of God”

FRIDAY, 5/14

Class 9:00-11:00: Raven’s Exile: “The Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas”; “The Zen of Chubs”; “Gravity in a Fluid Medium”

Field Session: Jones Hole Creek

Evening Writing Workshop 7:00-8:00



Re-read Crimmel, “High Water and Wingless Protein: A Spring Journey”

Leave Green River Campground or Split Mountain Campground at 8:00 AM for Adrift Adventures office in Jensen

Raft Green River, Rainbow Park to Split Mountain with licensed National Park Service rafting concessionaire Adrift Adventures: 9:00- 4:00 PM

Leave DNM for Ogden: 5:00 PM

Arrive WSU 9:00 PM