Grand Canyon Expedition Day 7 Part I: What it means to be living on Canyon Time


Previous Post: Day 6 – Little Colorado R and a birthday
First Post: The Story Begins…

Morning of Day 7.  This is the earliest I have gotten up so far.  It’s 5:30 AM and still dark, a good time to do some writing by headlamp and watch the sunrise.
TRIP TIP:  If you go camping, get a headlamp with a red light.  It uses much less battery power and it doesn’t affect your night vision or disturb others.

Quiet time in the morning

Quiet time in the morning

I had a lot of vivid dreams again last night as I have nearly every night on the trip.  I never have such dreams at home, or at least I don’t remember having them when I wake up.  I don’t sleep as deeply here as at home in bed, but I feel very well rested in the morning.  It was the same on my first trip to the Canyon as well.  Is it from going to bed so early?  Is it all the physical and mental exercise I get all day long? [Yes, it is very mentally stimulating to row as you are always giving a bit of attention to where your raft is heading and making minor adjustments to stay in the current.  Even in the flat water when you kick back and relax, you have to keep aware of where you are or you'll get caught in an eddy and find yourself drifting in circles as the rest of the group floats on by.]  Or maybe the dreaming comes from sleeping on a 2″ thick sleeping pad in the fresh, cool Canyon air instead of on a big mattress indoors.  Or is it just that all the worries and stresses of a busy life back home don’t exist here leaving the mind clear?  The wilderness is so remote and the surroundings so distracting that I’m too busy living in the present to be thinking of what is going on outside the Canyon. It’s like meditation 24 hours/day for 21 days straight.

Here in The Canyon, all man-made boundaries and measures fade.  Without electricity, lights, television, or alarm clocks, the artificial measures of time disappear making it easy to adapt to the natural rhythms of the day, going to bed soon after dark and rising at dawn’s first light if not earlier.  The calendar loses meaning.  Days of the week are soon forgotten.  The phases of the moon become the units of measure for the calendar.

Halloween Moon in the Grand Canyon

Halloween Moon in the Grand Canyon

Days are only tracked by the number of nights camping since we started.  Even the notebook with the menu plan identifies the meals for each day by the camp number, not the date.  Today we will be sleeping at Camp 7.  I can recall the date of the month only because I have a paper listing our planned itinerary for each day’s camp and on it also are the dates.  The absence of man-made labels marking time feels like a map of the world devoid of the lines and colors marking cities, countries and other imaginary political features.  Just the real, natural features of the earth and time.    My schedule indicates Camp 7 is October 31st, All Hallows Eve.  Cool!  Glad we brought costumes to celebrate the holiday.  Trips run all year long.  I can only imagine what it’s like to be here for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

My Grand Canyon itinerary

Trip itinerary I carried along with my journal. Note the revisions made during the trip. (click to zoom)

Menu binder provided by PRO River Outfitters

Menu binder provided by PRO River Outfitters. Work teams written on left page. Note the camp # on the page and the tabs.

Clouds are starting to move in from the west.  It’s hard to tell yet if it will bring rain, but I expect cooler weather.  On Day 4 we had high clouds that were a warm front.  Not this time.  Lower, thicker clouds and the wind is starting from the North, straight down the Canyon.  Understanding weather is useful knowledge on extended trips in the wilderness.  The weather here is very different from the Pacific Northwest, but it is much like Florida’s weather which I know well.

Ariel mentioned to me last night that she keeps hearing people say “When Ariel is gone…” or “after Phantom Ranch…”  [Ariel will be hiking out at the half way point at Phantom Ranch.] She is wondering if people don’t want her here. That was *my* mistake.  I made it very clear before the trip that everyone shall be mindful of their behavior until after she has left the trip.  I know they didn’t mean it the way it sounded and she understood it once I explained it.  I have heard many times how everyone is enjoying having her along.

Hula hoops in the Grand Canyon

Hula hoops are a great way to warm up in the morning!

Today we will be doing a loop hike starting from right here, going up Carbon Creek Canyon and then follow Lava Canyon back down to the river a mile downstream.  A few people will row most of the rafts down to confluence of Lava Canyon, park the rafts there and hike the same loop in the opposite direction.  When they get back here to camp they will get in the remaining raft and row it down to rejoin the group at Lava Canyon.  From there we will continue down river to the next camp.  We will be  heading to Upper Rattlesnake camp at river mile 74.5.  There is a hike there too.

Pirate Raft in the Grand Canyon on Halloween

My raft is ready for Halloween!

Craig is dressed for Halloween too

Craig is dressed for Halloween too

OK, time to pack up and get ready for the hike!

Hiking up Carbon Creek Canyon

Hiking up Carbon Creek Canyon

Footprints in the mud-turned-concrete in Carbon Creek Canyon

Footprints in the mud-turned-concrete in Carbon Creek Canyon. It's been awhile since this creek flashflooded.

Brief video of the top end of Carbon Creek Canyon before climbing left and going down Lava Creek

Hiking down Lava Creek Canyon

Hiking down Lava Creek Canyon

Colorful layers in Lava Creek Canyon

Colorful layers in Lava Creek Canyon

Raft shuttle arrives after hiking Carbon-Lava canyons

Raft shuttle arrives after hiking Carbon-Lava canyons.

I’m really wondering if “Canyon time” is so unique to the extended time spent in a remote setting or if it is possible to achieve this “living in the present” feeling at home amidst all the noise of the world.  What do you think?

[Author's note: The photos posted throughout this series were contributed from many photographers in the group.  With over 10,000 images taken by 12 different people, I lost track of who took what.  My apologies to everyone that I can't give proper credit to each photographer.]

Previous Post: Day 6 – Little Colorado R and a birthday
First Post: The Story Begins…

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Posted on January 22, 2012, in Grand Canyon 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. About Canyon Time: I was amenable to everything the “Commodore” (David) wanted from me as a raft captain except, I was not willing to wear a watch. He aquiesed on that point and revised the request to be “dinner clean up before dark, and breakfast shortly after dawn.” One of the most amazing things about Canyon Time was something I didn’t fully realize until I got home. On the Canyon, when you go to bed, you’re done, period. There is nothing else you should have done or can do. There are no plans to make for tomorrow. When the day is over-you’re done! Ok, in the morning, maybe you should remember to pull out dinner meat so it can thaw, if you’re on kitchen crew.
    On another note: I made a point of talking to Ariel about why I would not say certain things around her. It was out of respect for “childhood.” She really isn’t a child anymore but she isn’t an adult either and there are things that she will learn about soon enough. I wanted her to have the joy of innocence for a bit longer. The Canyon is such a close environment, and she is perceptive enough that she was keenly aware of being excluded at times. It certainly was not due to a lack of affection or appreciation of her presence. It was simply to let her grow up at a natural pace. We have the rest of our lives to be grown ups (grups per Star Trek) and innocence goes by quicker and quicker these days, and I find that to be regrettable.
    One of the reasons I run whitewater in an IK (inflatable kayak) is that it forces you to be completely present, or you may well be swimming the rapid. The power of full engagement, or being in the zone, or being present are all the same things and worth pursuing. The Canyon forces you to be “there” and that is one of my favorite aspects of the experience.

  2. I remember that. I couldn’t bring myself to ditch the watch. In the Canyon it’s just too hard to estimate time because the horizon is constantly moving as the canyon walls rise and fall and the river changes directions. Maybe next time and I’m not trip leader…
    Thanks for discussing it with Ariel. I almost forgot that we talked about it later, but anyway, I’m quoting my journal “in the present”, that is, I’m revealing the experience as it happened to me.

    Thanks for your perspective on Canyon Time. I would like to hear more ideas on the topic, even if you haven’t been in the Canyon.

  3. About a third of the way down the gc, I got the feeling/realization that my non river life was gone and behind me, my future non river life was just a vague concept, my life now was river life.

  4. Well put. Most vacations last no more than 2 weeks, so by the time you are really getting into it, you’re seeing the end approaching.Canyon trips generally last from 16 to 28 days depending on the season and if you continue all the way to the lake. So once you’ve settled into the rhythm of the trip, you still have 2 weeks or more to go, just living there.

  1. Pingback: Grand Canyon Expedition Day 6: Little Colorado River and a birthday « The Notes Guy in Seattle

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