Scotty Stoughton is an entrepreneur and known to cultivate what some would call a “good vibe.” The man behind the annual WinterWonderGrass and Campout for the Cause music festivals, now Colorado institutions, Stoughton is a musician as well as a river rat. Almost a decade ago, Stoughton founded SUPCo with his business partner Javier Placer, pioneering the sport of stand-up paddleboarding in Colorado. In 2017, the pair bought Adrift Dinosaur, a guiding outfit, and began offering trips on the Green and Yampa rivers.
Now, with traditional concerts no longer a safe option, they’ve launched RiverWonderGrass: Four-day, 44-mile rafting trips on the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument that combine nature, community, and live music.
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Five years ago, Stoughton and Placer did a 21-day trip through the Grand Canyon on their paddleboards, an epic adventure that served as inspiration for the trips they offer now. “After that trip, I said we’ve got to find a way to bring people that experience without the huge commitment or expense,” Stoughton says. “We bought Adrift with the goal of putting together stand-up paddleboard, raft, and eventually music trips, all with the mission of exposing people to this incredibly deep and sacred outdoor experience.”
When coronavirus hit and local musicians were suddenly without summer tours and festivals, Stoughton decided the time was ripe to launch the company’s first music trips, commencing the first trip in early July. Through September, Adrift Dinosaur will host five trips with 25 guests each and full bands, including Trout Steak Revival and Buffalo Commons along for the ride. The last launch, September 10 to 13, features Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon, Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival, and National Flatpicking Champion Tyler Grant of the band Grant Farm.
￼“I cannot overstate the beauty of the experience, for all involved,” says Grant, who was also on RiverWonderGrass’ test launch in early June. “Adrift takes care of everything and we just float, paddle, pick, sing, eat, and enjoy the beauty of the river. We musicians have sets to play and entertaining to do, which is normal for us, and the guests can just take it all in.”
At $1,100 per person, the trips are all-inclusive—no rafting experience or additional gear required. Guides man the rafts and cook all the meals, which include locally sourced, organic ingredients, and are surprisingly elaborate considering the setting (think: fresh pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, kale salads for lunch, and steaks with homemade cherry sauce for dinner). Each trip features one band along for the float, and paying guests are free to simply listen to the sound of acoustic music reverberating through the canyons, observe the wildlife, ask questions about the geology and history of the land, and build new friendships. In the time of coronavirus, that last point can feel groundbreaking.
“It’s an opportunity to interact with others in a safe, outdoor, small group environment,” says Grant, acknowledging that it’s also a chance for guests to build friendships with musicians they love.
As COVID-19 cases continue to spike nationally, Adrift has asked all guests to quarantine for 14 days ahead of time, as well as self-monitor for symptoms and take their temperature in the days prior. If anyone gets sick on the trip, there are protocols in place that have been set by the National Park Service and local governments.
“RiverWonderGrass is a really good time, but it’s really mostly about supporting the mental health of everybody,” says Stoughton, emphasizing the opportunity to disconnect from social media and the news while escaping your living room. “It’s really all about inspiring community, positivity, and deep, deep conversations.”
All trips maintain a 10 p.m. curfew and although guests can pack a 12-pack per person, drinking while on the river and drug use are forbidden. Without the distractions of a typical concert, on isolated sand beaches under the stars and around a fire, guests can reconnect with the earth, themselves, and one another.
“The theme of these trips is really ‘Less Party, More Purpose,’” says Stoughton, who plans on running the excursions for years to come. “Four days on the river can restore a lot.”