Monthly Archives: December 2011
I woke up at 5:15 today. Slept mostly through the night. Everyone was a bit anxious in the morning about rowing the Roaring Twenties, but no one more than me with Ariel onboard after nearly flipping the raft yesterday, But I am much more confident again after a clean run through Twentyfour Mile Rapid, the first class 6 rapid of the day. (The Roaring Twenties are the 5 miles of river starting at river mile 21,so named for the series of rapids that, by Grand Canyon measurements, are packed closely together — every half mile or so. There are 2 class 4′s, 3 class 5′s and 3 class 6 rapids)
For breakfast we had eggs made to order…as long as you ordered scrambled eggs. Not everyone got eggs because the first people took too much. Guess that’s why it was supposed to be “made to order” instead of “self serve”. Good thing there is other food to fill in.
It was a sunny day again. This time we stopped for lunch at noon. That makes a big difference. Shortly after lunch we reached Redwall Cavern. Wow! Everything is big in the Canyon! The cavern is at river level and it’s huge. Surprising the roof doesn’t cave in. As we approached it, the size is deceptive.
The eddy beside the cavern is about a 1/4th mile long with a strong circulation upstream. The cavern is at the lower end of the eddy, so we had to stay in the current until we were practically past the cavern before pulling in or we would just be pushed back upstream. It’s tough to row these big rafts against the current, even when it’s just a recirculating eddy.
People sure get goofy here. There is something about having a rock sky overhead that demands taking whacky photos.
We even played frisbee inside the cave. It’s so big that if you stand at one end and throw it you can’t hit the other end. Ariel played her cello here and Jay played his guitar too. But the acoustics here aren’t as good as I had expected.
After awhile we packed up and headed down river. (Not allowed to camp here)
We reached camp at Nautiloid Canyon, mile 35, and there was a bit of confusion. First everyone had a different idea of where to park the boats, then where to setup the kitchen, then the groover got set up in the open right where people were setting up their tents. It really was comical. If another group had seen us they would have thought we were the Keystone Cops. The problem was that half the campsite had been washed away recently from a flash flood that came down from the side canyon. It cut a path 40′ wide and 6′ deep through the beach. I relocated the groover to a more private spot. The rafts were moved from in front of the washout to a spot further down the beach, just in case another flood comes.
We had grilled chicken for dinner. I’m getting spoiled with all of this good food!
There is a short hike here, but no time to do it tonight. We’ll have to check it out in the morning.
Commodore’s Log, River Day 1. There are 3 Davids in the group. To make things easy, they’re calling me Commodore, leader of the fleet.
On the river at last! Quite a special day. Last night it actually started to rain around 2:30 AM. I woke up and put the rain fly on the tent and then it stopped raining. I couldn’t get to sleep after that. Excited about the morning. I still got up by 6:00 AM without an alarm clock. Bryant from PRO Outfitters, showed up at 7:00 AM as planned. After a simple breakfast of cereal and cinnamon rolls, we sat under the pavilion and Bryant went over more details about
the gear, things like how to manage the trash, the organization of the coolers and food boxes, draining the water from the coolers so they stay colder. Everything in the coolers is frozen extra cold and packed on special ice that has no air bubbles so it lasts longer and to pull out the dinner meat in the morning so it will have time to thaw. He explained the 3-bucket dishwashing method (which is required by the park service.) He talked for over an hour. Is everyone going to remember all of this? He says it’s all documented in the menu plan binder, so we can read it if we forget. Kika, Natalia, and Captain Shu aren’t here yet. Shu has been down the river 9 times before, but I don’t think Kika and Natalia have been before. I guess they’ll have some reading to do at camp tonight. Bryant finished with a demonstration of using the satellite phone, water filter, and groover setup.
Right after he finished, the park ranger showed up to check photo IDs and give us the park service talk before we head downstream. That lasted another hour. He told us about the hazards: scorpions, rattlesnakes, falling into the river in the middle of the night, slips and falls. Apparently people mostly get hurt when they are NOT on the river. Other noteworthy wildlife are the ravens and the California condors. The ravens are thieves. These birds will steal anything they can, but they especially like food and shiny objects. One guy reported that they stole his Rolex watch. They can carry off anything under a pound. Condors are endangered species that are being reintroduced to this area. If they are at a camp, don’t stop. If they come to your camp, scare them off. The concern is they will become habituated to people. I’m wondering if a raven with a 2′ wingspan can carry off 1 pound, what can a 9′ condor carry off? (Note: See the NPS website for more info on the condors in Grand Canyon.)
The ranger explained that emergency airlifts out of the Canyon are free, but if someone is lifted out, make sure they take a small pack with clothes, ID and money or they will be homeless and broke while they wait days or weeks for the group to get off the river with their stuff.
(Note: You can learn more about these details on running the river by watching the orientation videos made by the park service. All river runners are required to view these videos before running the river. You can see these video segments on youtube
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 1 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 2 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 3 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 4 of 4
By the time the ranger finished, it was 10:00 AM. We finished packing camp and were ready to push off by 11:00. It’s sunny and about 75 degrees. Perfect! I remember it was 55 and raining when we left Seattle a few days ago.
One final brief talk before we push off from shore. I talked to the group about what is happening on the river today. We are planning on camping at Soap Creek at river mile 11. There is one big rapid today: Badger. It’s a 5 (on the GC scale 1-10). I plan to have a quick talk every day before we launch so everyone knows what is happening before we start.
Brother Craig and daughter Ariel are riding in my raft. My first time rowing such a big raft on such big water. I’m just a bit anxious with Ariel onboard. Fortunately the rapids start out easy the first few days and get steadily bigger, so I have time to get familiar with handling this boat.
We stopped for lunch at river mile 4.5, just past the bridges. I was on cooking duty for lunch and with everything so busy this morning, we didn’t thaw the sandwich meat. No problem. There was plenty of other food for the lunch. Lesson learned.
It rained twice today; briefly, but hard, like a Florida rain. With the rain came a strong headwind of about 20 mph. I had Ariel put on her dry suit. She wanted to go swimming. The current was slow, but when she let go of the boat, we were blown away from her quickly. Craig threw her a rope and pulled her back. Good practice for rescuing.
We got to Badger rapid. Capt Shu led because he has the most experience on this river. He explained the line was left of center, but then it looked like he went right of center. Chris followed and they both made it through, so I followed. YIKES! They all went right over the pourover! We made it, but lesson learned: don’t follow blindly. It was already late in the afternoon, so we decided to camp at Jackass Camp, river mile 8.1 on river left, just below Badger. The cooking crew started at 5:00 PM. They made stir fry. It took awhile, but it was good! I will ask the cook crew to start earlier tomorrow so we don’t have to eat or clean up in the dark.
Ariel was eager to play her cello. It was a bit out of tune. Two pegs kept slipping. The dry air will do that.
After cooking was done, we had a meeting to organize and plan for tomorrow. I am enjoying leading this group. they’re great! At the evening meeting I noticed the lightning in the distance and said to expect rain tonight. The 5-day forecast warned to expect rain and much colder weather (25 degrees cooler!) later in the week. Not sure they believed me since the skies were clear and stars were bright. At least Chris decided to use his tent. We shall see. It’s 9:00. Time to sleep now. It’s been a long day.
I woke up at 5:30 AM without an alarm clock. After going out for breakfast we all piled our gear in the parking lot to wait for the outfitter to arrive and shuttle us to the river. Some people made a last-minute visit to the drug store across the street to buy sunscreen, hand lotion, sunglasses, postcards. Our ride showed up at 11:00 AM, right on schedule. We loaded gear into the truck, piled into the van and headed up Highway 89 to Lee’s Ferry.
When we arrived at the put-in, the other group with a permit for that day was already there and rigging their boats.
Unloading the gear and rigging the rafts was quite the team-building experience for us. “Rig to flip!” is the mantra. No matter how gentle the river is expected to be, tie everything in as if you will get flipped. While we were rigging the boats, a park ranger carefully inspects our gear to make sure we have all mandatory gear and it is in good shape.
Jay volunteered to load his boat with all of the beer. His boat looks awfully heavily loaded! While I have more whitewater experience than most everyone on the trip, of the 6 oarsmen, I probably have the least experience rowing an 18′ raft. So I took the groover boat. I figure if I flip it, we just get a lot of wet shit. Better than wet food. Made it all fit, but wow, it feels like I’ve got too much gear!
Seems like a great group of people on this trip. Ariel is making friends with Kathleen and Elizabeth already.
After rigging and loading the boats, we moved downstream a few hundred yards and set up camp to prepare for our launch tomorrow. Bryant, the guy from PRO Outfitters, showed us how to set up and use the kitchen gear. Then we all piled back into the van and went a few miles up the road to the restaurant at Marble Canyon Lodge for the last indoor meal for 3 weeks. Kika, Natalia, and Captain Shu are staying there for the night. Seems silly to me at the moment…unless it rains…
My hands and lips are already getting dried out. Glad I bought extra lotion! After dinner we picked work crews. I wanted to be sure everyone was on a team with people they don’t already know. It makes it more enjoyable for everyone. You get to meet new people and if you’re there with a partner, only one of you is busy on a work crew at a time so the other can be packing or unpacking. The only exception seems to be David C, Rod, and Elizabeth, (and Sandie when she joins us later in the trip). They really want to be on the same crew so when they aren’t cooking, they can all go on hikes together. I’m not thrilled with this, but OK. It should be fine. Ariel is with Kevin, Kathleen, and Jay. Dave Shu, Steve and Chris are all on a team. Craig is with Natalia and Kika. I am with Gary and Lucy. Hmm. Should have swapped one on Craig’s team with one on my team. Oh well, it will all work fine.
I bought Ariel a big blue broad-rimmed sun hat at the lodge. Kevin bought dinner for me and Ariel again, just to show his appreciation for all the work I’ve done as trip leader. He knows it’s hard work. (Thanks Kevin!)
The water temperature is 57 degrees instead of the usual 45. Sweet! It’s because they had so much snow this year that they drew a huge amount of water out of the lake. That caused a temperature inversion, so all the warm water on the surface went to the bottom of the lake where they let it out of the dam. The air temp is warm tonight too, about 70 degrees. Amazing! I am finally ready to relax and enjoy the trip. Just need to get my gear organized better in the boat. That may take a few days to get it just right. Tomorrow we head downstream!
Today was a sunny, warm day. We made a short detour to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Mildly interesting from the rim. Did you know it isn’t really a canyon? It’s an escarpment. Then we drove on, crossing the Colorado River by Lee’s Ferry. We will be back here tomorrow! Lots of cool places to check out in Southern Utah and Arizona, but we didn’t have time. Gotta get to Flagstaff. Got to the hotel by 4:00 and carried all of our gear to the room. In all the shuffle carrying gear I misplaced my wallet! It’s gotta be around here somewhere. I can’t get on the river without an ID! I’ll have to look for it later.
Followed Brother Craig to the airport to drop off his rental car. Everyone met in the lobby at 6:00 PM to go to dinner. Everyone was there right on time. That’s a good sign. Hopefully everything will go as well on the river. This is the first time we have all met. It looks like the leadership and hard work put into the planning and communications with the group to get us to this point have paid off. Now I should be able to relax a bit, enjoy the trip, and focus more on being Daddy for Ariel. Wow, is she ever excited!
Dinner at The Cracker Barrel. Afterwards we stopped to get some postcards to be mailed from Phantom Ranch that will be carried out by mule. Made some last-minute reorganizing of the gear. Bought extra skin lotion. (You can never have too much in the desert.) Found my wallet under the bed in the hotel room! Yea! Now I can sleep easier. Just need to send a few final emails and go online to renew the library books we have so they aren’t overdue when we get off the river. Shutting down the laptop and unplugging for 22 days! I will leave the laptop in the care of the front desk until we return in 3 weeks. The outfitter will be showing up tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM to pick up us and our gear and shuttle us to the river. I feel the bonds of civilization loosening already.
Sunday at 5:30 AM. Writing this journal entry in the morning while I lay in bed waiting for sunrise. Yesterday we covered a lot of miles. The best part of the day was when we passed a really cool place in Idaho where a river cut a gorge into the flat land: Malad Gorge State Park, a segment of Thousand Springs State Park. We pulled off the Interstate to check it out more closely. I’ll bet a lot of people drive right over this and never even notice. (See the aerial photo of the park with the Interstate highway in the top right corner ) It looks like a baby Grand Canyon. It made for a nice hike around the rim and a good break. Traveling this time of year is nice because the park was empty. The Malad River flows into the Snake River, another great river for whitewater expeditions like we will have on the Colorado R.
Lots of sunshine as we drove across Idaho and into Utah. Many miles of construction zones around Salt Lake City sure made for slow going. We must have wasted at least an hour. I’m learning to dislike Interstate driving. We made it all the way down to Scipio, UT, in the center of the state. Sleeping in the back of the truck again. Nice and warm in the sleeping bag, but there is frost on the inside of the windows! No surprise, we’re at about 5000′. Today we will meet the rest of the group in Flagstaff. Lots of cool things to see before we get there though. Southern Utah has some amazing sights. (Note: date stamp on Ariel’s camera got off by one day starting today.)
October 21, 2011
It’s been a great day. It was a typical rainy day as we left Seattle this afternoon. Fortunately, it’s a “warm” rain and Snoqualmie Pass was just rain too, not snowing.
And as usual, get far enough over the mountains and the rain gives way to sunshine. The forests give way to windmill-laced plains. We made it as far as Deadman’s Pass, Oregon. Camping in the back of the truck tonight after moving some stuff up front to make room to sleep. No, it’s not all my gear. I have a lot of gear for others who are flying down. So far we haven’t thought of too many things we forgot.