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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 13

Tenth river day 11.7 miles Upper Black Tail 4/04/2019

Eleventh and twelfth river day 14.2 miles Above Owls Eyes 4/05/2019 and 4/06/2019

We rowed to Elves Chasm, a magical oasis in a side canyon composed of polished travertine rock, clear refreshing water, and striking greenery abutting upon the red rock. The stoke was high as the group entered the canyon and hiked deeper towards the iconic waterfall and pool. Everyone climbed up then leapt from the waterfall into the pool below with the exception of Brett. He chilled at the boats and probably did some fishing while we explored the canyon. The access to the jumping point was a slick arch creating a spout of water cascading down from the side and above. This span was covered in brilliant green moss where the water collected briefly before plunging into the pool below like we aspired to do. To reach this crest one had to boulder beneath twisting around and onto an arch from behind. As we were leaving, the girls decided to do an all ladies naked photo in the pool. Photos completed and everyone feeling electrified we head to the next campsite: Upper Blacktail. Upon our arrival at camp, we discover that we have both the upper and lower campsites to ourselves. Dispersing we set up camp for the night.

Day 11 we set off for our second layover of the trip at Below Tapeats Camp, I rowed the two major rapids of the day: Specter and Deubendorff (pronounced Dumbledore by most the group).  Deubendorff had some big waves, one of which I unfortunately hit sideways. Fortunately, we stayed upright but got really wet. The group eddied out just below the rapid at the long beach of Stone Creek Camp to hike to a waterfall, eat, and play Frisbee. Most the crew rinsed off under the cool powerful water of the falls that dropped down the canyon a quarter of a mile into the hike. We pass on Tapeats Camp because it was supposed to be a large sandbar. Alas, it must have washed away in the experimental high flows, or our guidebooks were really outdated. Most of the camps that were labeled large in the books have changed because every time we planned to camp at one it was unquestionably a small camp.

We then had a major problem because we wanted to hike Thunder River and we were about to blow by Tapeats, the camp below the hike. Pulling over we engaged in a huge debate of how we were going to get back to the mouth of Thunder River to do the waterfall hike if we kept going. Some parties involved wanted to go down stream and camp on river left at Above Owls Eyes, which was the best option at this point, but they wanted to just swim across the river and hike back upstream to get to the Thunder River trail for the hike tomorrow. I was not a fan of this option because as some people were capable of this, I did not feel the whole group was. I made sure the boats stayed where they were and hiked downstream to see if there was a place to swim or ferry the boats across to hike back up. It might have been possible because there were some trails, and one went along the river on one of the maps we brought. I scouted this scenario while a majority of the group continued to drink. The trail followed the river and the possibility of being able to hike back up was looking good! Then right before I got to the last drop in the river, at a pool with slacker current and small eddy on river left where we could camp and ferry rafts to hike back to Thunder River, the trail shot steeply up a drainage avoiding an impassable cliff towards the top of the canyon. It made this shift right before it would have been convenient to park a raft and hike back to Thunder River from where we were going to end up having to camp for the night. With that plan scratched I headed back to find a majority of the group even more rowdy from drinking and saying that we could just hike up on the other side of the river (river left) from the camp and swim to river right in the morning. All the people that were proficient at swimming across for the most part where very vocal for this plan. I was really against this plan for the group as a whole. I suggested we ferry the boats across from were we were and unload the raft with the least amount of gear needed for the group onto the other boats and leave it to ferry people back across in the morning. This erupted in to another debate of whose boat to unload, I really didn’t care how we went about it just that I got to hike Thunder River. Finally we ferried Brett’s raft across; Micah had volunteered to carry stuff to the campsite if Brett made the ferry. It was on; Brett hulked out pulling like a mad man each rapid stroke getting maximum purchases to move the boat powerfully across the river. He made the ferry, losing very little ground down stream. Well Micah didn’t carry everything which would have been a lot and we ended up stashing another boat up stream of the campsite near Brett’s. The down fall to stashing Brett’s raft was it was the groover boat. We had to carry the all the bathroom stuff, but if I recall correctly it was a new ammo can and wasn’t as full. We got everything we needed to camp eventually. Luckily we were having a layover, so it was a couple days before we needed to load up everything again.

The next morning we lined two boats up the Colorado river to try and make the ferry to the other side a little easier. The idea being that we get them up river a little ways to compensate for the inevitable down river loss as we do the ferry. I had some kayaks go across with throw ropes incase the rafts lose their ferry angle and get blown down stream. I wanted back up to make sure the rafts get to the opposite river bank before the current takes them past the ledged out section, thus making it impossible to do the hike. The rafts made the ferry with no problem, however. We started the hike from Tapeats climbing up to the top of Thunder River canyon and hiked along the rim of slot formed by the creek. After a ways the trail dropped back down to Tapeats creek before heading back up at the confluence of Tapeats and Thunder River. As we hiked up towards the origins of Thunder River, we saw some backpackers coming down the trail. They all had light weight matching packs. I hiked all the way to the Thunder River Spring scaling the wall near the waterfall made by the spring. I was trying to find away to get to a cave I spotted above and to the right of the waterfall. After making it almost level with the cave I turned around having reached beyond the point of my comfort zone. There was a corner with crumbly rock that I would have needed to swing around. I didn’t feel comfortable making this move without being clipped into something. The view was still amazing. I was looking down on most of the waterfall with an oasis of green interspersed with pools of water just to my right on a shelf between me and the cave, before I retreated back the way I came just short of reaching my goal. The sound of the water was deafening, Its was amazing to see this amount of water shooting out of the mostly barren rock environment. After a brief rest we hiked back towards camp, and Jackie and I stopped to talk to the backpackers. They have spent a lot of time hiking around the canyon and were going to try to scramble along the side of the Colorado River to connect to Kanab Canyon and back to a trial system. We told them about the cliffed out section on the Colorado and how it appeared there was a trail that went above it at the mouth of Tapeats Creek. We talked a little while longer then headed back to the rafts. One of the rafts was gone when we got there, a crew having taken it back to camp already with the rest of the group waiting on us before heading back.

At the campsite Brett cooked up some trout he caught, on his camp stove, while we were on the hike as the kitchen crew made dinner. Thanks to him I had two dinners! Costumed up after dinner as everyone was getting ready for another dance party, we witness one of the most magnificent sunsets of the trip.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 12

Ninth river day 15.1 miles Bass Crossing 4/03/2019

Packing up after the much needed layover we prepare for 3 of the bigger rapids rated (8) on the rating scale developed by Otis R. Marston using a 1–10 rating, 10 being the most difficult. As opposed to the International Scale of River Difficulty, which classifies rapids from class I to VI and is more common elsewhere in the US and internationally. There are only 6 runnable rapids out of approximately 80 numbered rapids (According to most estimates) with this (8) or above rating in the Grand Canyon. We will be knocking half of them out by the end of today. Having previously rowed Hance (8) this will leave just Lava (9) and Upset (8) after we make it through Granite (8), Hermit (8) and Crystal (8) before arriving at our home for the night. Having watched the previous group run Granite and Hermit the day before we were ready to run them without further need to scout.

I rowed Hermit which was a fun wave train and ran it “hey didle didle right down the middle”. Ozz was up for Crystal to my relief. He rowed the large yellow raft rolling though the choppy water towards his goal: a massive lateral wave at the top of the rapid. Smashing through the goal on its bottom left, my mouth was dry from anticipation. In that instant, water came flying over my head covering my face, reliving some of the dryness in my mouth. We stayed left not daring look at the large hole on the right for fear that it would somehow suck us in.

Arter running Crystal, the last of the major rapids for the day, we quickly stop at the Ross Wheeler. It’s a small, tippy, and very heavy boat that was designed by Brett Loper in 1914 and abandoned here in 1915 by Charles Russell, August Tadje, and Leslie Clement in a failed attempt to run the canyon. We ended up staying at Bass Crossing Camp because Bass Camp was occupied.

Shortly after unloading the rafts since it was our night off, Jackie and I hiked to Bass Cable Crossing and tried to hike to Shinumo Creek Camp to see the top of the Shinumo waterfall, but decided we didn’t have enough time. Enjoying the view at Bass Crossing for a little while, Jackie decided that we wanted to try and find Bass’s inscription, which we didn’t manage to find, but enjoyed the blooming wild flowers that we were lucky to have seen. In a dessert environment, most plants only flower for a few weeks as their heat and drought resistant seeds remain dormant most of the time until next year’s annual rains. I feel super lucky that our permit coincided with this beautiful display in the overall hostile feeling desert environment.

We hiked back to camp to the smell of kabobs wafting up the valley. Brett and his cooking crew had the hardest dinners, but the best tasting in my opinion. After the delicious dinner I found a secluded spot up above the camp with a clear view of the sky to cowboy camp. I was stoked for some star gazing later in the night, however, right as Jackie and I were laying down to watch the sun set before the stars, I saw a cricket jump into a spider web right by my face. Immediately a huge black widow came charging out right beside me and pounced on the struggling cricket. As she was wrapping up the cricket, we immediately wrapped up our camp pulling out the tent, setting it up, and stuffing all our stuff inside.

For the beginning of the day we hiked up the bottom of Shinumo Creek. The day before Baldy “the chief asshat“, if you remember the guy from day 1, was ,surprise, surprise, still a dick when we saw him and his group again. He gave us a warning, saying the water was too high to hike up and we should do…. Blah, Blah….. Well I zoned out and thought to myself, “how many rafts did you flip?”, as we walked away from him. Well, believe it or not we actually made it to the base of the waterfall. The only casualty we encountered was Micah, he lost his footing wadding backdown the canyon in the current, so he floated the creek laughing and beat us all back to the rafts.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 11

Seventh and eighth river day 19.2 miles Grant (Monument Creek) Camp 4/01/2019 and 4/02/2019

Having spent the night sharing the camp spot with a group that was already there, we had our first layover day here at Monument Valley a week after we pushed off from Lees Ferry. 

As the other group packed up and left the next morning, we hiked down to watch them run Granite Rapid.  Rocks and boulders pushed out of Monument Creek and have constricted the Colorado River forcing the water against the right wall which is composed of Vishnu Schist for you geologist types. This wall produces massive waves converging at 45-degree angles with equally large waves coming from the left shoreline. The crew squared up to the lateral waves coming off the right cliff even though the current was going that direction as well.  The huge laterals splashing over the bow of the rafts after each hit kept them off the wall while simultaneously allowing them to get right of a massive hole at the bottom.

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After watching that crew run the rapid the rest of the layover day was a combination of laundry, bathing, relaxing, and exploring the area. Some of us hiked up Monument Creek trail after a false start up another side canyon because we followed a braided trail that quickly puttered out, which probably led to Cedar Spring.  Upon reaching a fork in Monument creek we turned right intersecting with Cope Butte trail. The group split up here wandering around exploring and taking in different views. While I was headed to yet another side canyon, I encountered hikers who most likely came down from Hermits Rest. I chose to head back to camp by descending the right fork of Monument Creek, a beautiful narrows section that took me back to camp. On the walk back the wind picked up, I immediately sprinted for camp because I had left my solar charger on a chair by the river to charge my battery. By the time I got back to my relief the people in camp had everything secured. My battery still wasn’t charged. I believe the solar charger was actually getting too hot and this was keeping it from charging. I had this same problem to a lesser degree on the Main Salmon in ID. I feel like it wasn’t as hot on that trip. You can see more on my review of the GOAL ZERO NOMAD 13 SOLAR PANEL at this link 2020-gear-review-part-1.

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The group decided it would have a couple of themed events and tonight was river prom.  The schedule seemed to work out so that pretty much every night we had an event, I was cooking. This night began with playing power hour; this is where you drink one shot of beer ever 60 seconds (usually kept track of by varying degrees by the participants). Someone screams drink when they realize a minute has gone by. This is normally deuced by a change in music on a playlist set to change every 60 seconds.  Fully decked out in my best pirate attire, along with Ozz the giraffe, and Ryan in a cat print dress with a pink wig, we charged through making dinner and doing the dishes to join the party. While dancing on the beach, all of a sudden Bonnie disappeared into the water: the beach had crumbled under her feet and she was gone. Luckily, she popped up and made it back to shore. The rest of the night was spent literately dancing the beach away. Towards the very end of the night when most of the peninsula had been danced away and a majority of the people had retreated to the main beach area. A few dedicated souls remained on the edge of the beach and danced with every fourth of fifth move involving a large step forward as more of the beach disintegrated into the water. I drifted to sleep stirred awake by occasional shouts of, “everybody drinks, everybody wins!”

 

Gear Review 2021 Part 2

Gear Reviewed: IPad, Woruija Hard drive couldn’t afford a good one after iPad but fucked up with this, and a werner surge paddle.

I didn’t purchase that much gear this year and what I am reviewing in this post was used at the end of year and not for very long.

m1 iPad Pro 12.9 500GB

I got the new iPad Pro 12.9 500GB, I was really stoked because it came with the M1 chip. My not so old laptop started struggling processing photos and videos. So, far the only limitations I am running into with the iPad is when I am away from Wi-Fi for an extended period of time. The cloud keeps updating my photos and it eventually uses all my data. This hasn’t happened a lot and has nothing to do with the iPad, just my data plan.

Below is Amazon’s description.

Description 

iPad Pro features the powerful Apple M1 chip for next-level performance and all-day battery life. An immersive 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display for viewing and editing HDR photos and videos. 5G cellular models for blazing speeds away from Wi-Fi. And a front camera with Center Stage keeps you in frame automatically during video calls. iPad Pro has pro cameras and a LiDAR Scanner for stunning photos, videos, and immersive AR. Thunderbolt for connecting to high-performance accessories. And you can add Apple Pencil for note-taking, drawing, and marking up documents, and the Magic Keyboard for a responsive typing experience and trackpad.

Features & details 

  • Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
  • Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color
  • TrueDepth camera system featuring Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage
  • 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner for immersive AR
  • Stay connected with ultrafast Wi-Fi
  • Go further with all-day battery life
  • Thunderbolt port for connecting to fast external storage, displays, and docks
  • Face ID for secure authentication and Apple Pay
  • Four speaker audio and five studio-quality microphones
  • Support for Apple Pencil (2nd generation), Magic Keyboard, and Smart Keyboard Folio

I am really stoked on this item; it ranks number 1 for the gear I have used this year. I would definitely purchase it again. I am not sure on the 500 GB yet. I haven’t had it long enough to know if that is the right amount. I feel like that is enough to work on multiple photos. I haven’t worked on any video project to verify that that’s enough. I feel like it is more than I need for my usage, but time will tell. Again, really stoked on it. I know it comes with a hefty price tag compared to my computer, but the amount of time I am saving processing media is totally worth it. I would 100% purchase this again! Best early Christmas present yet.

Woruijia 1 TB hard drive

I purchased a 1 TB external hard drive made by Woruijia for way less than a SanDisk because the iPad cost so much I couldn’t justify the SanDisk at the time. I mean it sounded like a winner: ultra slim, shock proof, and anti-drop external hard drive for $50. Well, it was too good to be true; the disk became corrupted within the first few minutes of trying to download stuff. I spent the next week trying to fix it at about 2.75 days to get to almost the end then nothing….. could not finish action. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong about not spending the money on a SanDisk.

Below is Amazon’s description.

Product information

Product Dimensions ‎11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches; 3.15 Pounds Item Weight ‎3.15 pounds Manufacturer ‎Apple Computer ASIN ‎B0932DZPW2 Country of Origin ‎China Item model number ‎MHNJ3LL/A Batteries ‎1 Lithium Polymer batteries required. (included) Date First Available ‎April 30, 2021

Digital Storage Capacity1000 GB
Compatible DevicesLaptop
BrandWORUIJIA
Connectivity TechnologyUSB
Hard Disk Size1 TB
Form FactorPortable
Cache Size1 TB
ColorBlack-C
Hard Disk DescriptionPortable

About this item

  • Ultra Slim & Large Capability. This external hard drive has the large capability of 1TB or 2TB and the energy-saving feature which is your perfect movable database.
  • Super Fast External Hard Drive. This external hard drive with super high transmission , 5 times as fast as usual hard drive when reading and more than 1 time faster when writing, sure to boost your work efficiency largely!
  • Quality Metal Shell & Excellent Performance. This portable hard drive external is shockproof and anti-drop, the quality aluminum alloy shell offers great heat dissipation for durability and safety. Add matte texture to bring you comfort touch while preventing fingerprint.
  • Smart Design & Super Strong Compatibility. This external hard drive is readily compatible with mac, WIN7/8/8.1/10, Android and more, nearly workable with 99% of PC systems. Smart enough for auto sleep with no operation for 10min, able to prevent body heat and increase data security.
  • Portable Pocket Design External Hard Drive. Ultra compact and slim to lie in your palm and travel the portable hard drive everywhere in your pocket.

It sounds good after reading the above description, right? Well don’t be fooled, I would not purchase this product again! It was useless within minutes of using it. Then I wasted so much time trying to format it. Luckly, I got refunded almost immediately.

Werner Surge Straight Shaft Paddle

Luckly, I had purchased this as a backup last year because there were none in stock when I needed it. I normally keep one on hand just in case I leave one lay at the takeout, lose it out of the truck bed or another way one loses their paddle. I was boating with my well used Powerhouse when I noticed it lying beside someone else’s and realized right away it was time for a new paddle. My power face was significantly smaller than the newer paddle.

According to NRS the Surge, maximizes the vertical phase through the water, giving you a smoother catch and release. This enhanced power phase gives you scope to get the most out of every paddle stroke, where it really matters.

Product information

Blade size: 112 sq. in. / 725 sq. cm
Blade measurements: 19 x 8 in. / 48.25 x 20 cm
Blade material: fiberglass

One piece straight shaft
Lengths: 194 cm / 197 cm / 200 cm / 203 cm / 206 cm
Weight: 35.25 oz. / 999 g
Feather angles: 30° right-handed / 45° right-handed

One piece bent shaft
Lengths: 194 cm / 197 cm / 200 cm / 203 cm
Weight: 37.75 oz. / 1070 g
Feather angles: 30° right-handed / 45° right-handed

I purchased the 30° feather and 200 cm length paddle. I would like to try the 203cm or 206 cm but they were not available where I purchased the paddle. I am 6’1″ and am an intermediate kayaker. I like the paddle; it is the first fiberglass paddle with a forward bend in the blade which is supposed to give you a smoother catch and release and generate more power. It definitely produced more power than my old paddle which was severely used. I can’t speak as to if it produced more than my Powerhouse when it was new. I immediately noted a difference with the number of strokes I need to get from point a to b and rolling was easier.

I would buy the Surge again, but I would also buy the Powerhouse again. I have had fiberglass straight shaft paddles for the last 3 paddles due to the reduced cost. My favorite paddle so far was the carbon fiber bent shaft Powerhouse. I think my next paddle will be the bent shaft version of the Surge because, to date, it is the only forward bend fiberglass Werner has available.

Gear Review 2021 Part 1

Gear reviewed: Big Agnes Tigerwall 2 Platinum, Slackers Slack Rack W/Slackline, Ride Lasso Snowboarding Boots.

I didn’t really use that much new gear this year, 2021. This was mostly due to the fact that it was the most time I spent in the van to date. I spent just shy of a month traveling to Jackson, WY. In that time, Ally and I stayed in the van almost the entire time with the exception of a few nights in  friends’ houses in Eagle, Buena Vista, and Breckenridge. I lived in the van full time from when she left in the beginning May until July excluding a few nights I stayed in a hotel while exploring Yellowstone and the Tetons with my parents. Then, in the beginning of July she came back and we stayed at The Virginian Lodge in Jackson for 2 weeks before I drove back to WV. Those 2 months of living in he van were horrible……

Anyway back to the gear: since I was in the van for a little over a quarter of the year I really did’t purchase that much gear this year; it was also hard to find somethings due to supply issues. I broke the gear out by function in previous reviews (2020 Gear Review Part 1 and 2020 Gear Review Part 2).  Since I bought random stuff this year mostly for different types of activities and I didn’t have any big expeditions planned, I will not break them out by use this year but list them randomly.

Big Agnes Tigerwall 2 Platinum

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I used the Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum on the PCT and loved it. The reason I got the Tiger wall was because it had two doors, which I like in a two person tent. Both tents are very similar with the exception of the dimensions and the two doors. They were both quick and easy to setup. The Tiger Wall has more storage pockets. The one above the head also has a slot to run headphones through when storing your phone above. The tent is about 2 pounds so that’s a pound a person. That’s amazing. There isn’t much storage space inside but vestibules on each side make for ample storage. Since the material is so light it needs to be taken care of. I opted for the ground cloth which puts it over 2 lbs but protects the bottom of the tent. Care should be taken in placement when setting it up so nothing pokes through the fabric. I haven’t had any damage to the Tigerwall yet. The Big Agnes Fly Creek accumulated some holes when I thru hiked the PCT, but they were easily patched with tape. Just to give you an idea, the stuff sack for the tent stakes wore through the most from the pressure of them on the sack. Not gonna lie it weighed more when I was done hiking from the tape, but most of the tape was on the stuff sack.

I would definitely buy any platinum tent from Big Agnes I had nothing but great experiences and they are really light weight! This was probably my favorite purchase in this review.

Slackers Slack Rack W/Slackline

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I got this to keep occupied with COVID still happening. I already have a Gibbon 1 inch line but wanted something for the kids to mess with also. The Pittsburgh house where I was spending most of my time doesn’t have trees so I though I would try this rack out. The rack doesn’t come with anything to keep the line taught. To accomplish this one needs to purchase a 4’x4′ beam. It accommodates a 6′- 12′ beam I chose a 8′ 4’x4′ because that’s what I had laying around. I am probably going to purchase a 12′ beam because would like to utilize as much of the 13′ line as possible. As I mentioned before I wanted something for kids so I thought the 2′ diameter line would be more stable underfoot for them. I think it is, but the rack it’s self seems to wobble in conjunction with the line movement. This just helps develop ones balance. The ratchet seems cheaply made. It now needs tools and two people to let the tension go. I am nervous during this process because I would like to keep my fingers.

I don’t think I would buy this particular system again. It’s nice and I’m glad I had it but in the future I think I would just build two small platforms dig some holes and run a slack line from an anchor point over the boxes to the opposite anchor point in the holes. (See diagram below)

Ride Lasso Snowboarding Boots

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I normally get a softer flex boot since I spend a majority of my days on snow teaching snowboarding lessons. The softer flex boot I like unfortunately was not available due to supply chain issues, so I chose this one randomly out of the the few available with my pro deal. The lasso ended up feeling really light oh my feet and I’d say it was a medium flex just slightly stiffer than what I have normally been using. I really noticed it at first but after three hours I got used to it. I think my favorite part about the boot is the side BOA that adjusts the inside of the boot. It really tightens up that heel and locks it in place. It’s the first boot I’ve had where my heel does not move up and down when I pressure the boot to turn the board.

I would definitely buy this boot again! Its mid range price is not a hindrance and well worth the extra cash for that perfect fit! I go through boots like crazy due to the consistency of my gear getting ran over by students while teaching. Even with that abuse I expect these boots to hold up for 2 years. I live in the Mid Atlantic and average three months on snow most of which is teaching plus another few weeks riding out west in the shoulder seasons. This brings me to a  yearly median of just over 550,000 vertical. The only downside is the extra stiffness makes them a little more difficult to drive in. Still safer than driving in ski boots though!

Next up for review

IPad Pro 12.9 500 GB

Woruijia External Hard Drive 1 TB

Werner Surge Paddle

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 10

Sixth river day 13 miles Upper Rattlesnake 3/31/2019

We scouted Hance Rapid this morning, the biggest rapid we have encountered so far. The plan was to start right and push left to some calmer water to set us up for the wave train while avoiding the pourovers river right down stream. As I tried to push left I quickly realized that the current was too strong. I tried to swing the raft to straighten it up for some of the water features I was trying to avoid while attempting to now pull towards the left. The butterflies that were in my stomach on the scout became a palpable fear as I hit the first pour over sideways because I was only halfway through correcting my angle. Luckily the 18 ft rafts were extremely forgiving, their size making them resilient in the large rapids. Everyone got pushed off course on this rapid because we were not used to oar rigging. After every raft made it through Hance the group read and ran Sockdolager and Grapvine Rapids, the only two significant rapids between us and Horn our next big one.

Pulling into Phantom Ranch, a historic oasis nestled at the bottom of Grand Canyon, is the north side of the Colorado River tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek. It is the only lodging below the canyon rim, and can only be reached by mule, on foot, or by floating the Colorado River. Of course we took the easy way and floated in. I set a brief time limit needing everyone back shortly. I was concerned with the amount of time we spent figuring things out at the beginning of the trip. I really wanted to expedite the trip a little to be proactive, so we were a day ahead instead of a behind. Before everyone left I wanted to start filling water jugs at the tap. This is way easier than filtering it. To filter the water one had to get buckets of water from the river the night before. This allowed the sediment settle over night in the bucket. Next the filter was taken to the settled water and hooked to the battery. The filtering then began, taking care not to bump the bucket or lower the filter intake to near the settled sediment. Your drinkable water is limited to how many buckets worth of river water you let settle.

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I chose to stay behind a forgo the rumors of ice cream, beer and pay phones, to fill the remainder of the water jugs because I wanted to give everyone else as much time as possible, since most of the group really wanted to send post cards. Ben also stayed behind helping me fill and carry the remaining water jugs before eating lunch on the boats.

While eating and discussing April fools pranks,  since he had brought saran wrap and Smirnoff Ice, a women approached interrupting us to asking questions. We didn’t know a lot of the answers and tried to explain that we were on a self supported trip with a group of friends had never been down the canyon before. She seemed to get a little frustrated we couldn’t answer her questions. She left abruptly, angrily saying “I hope you don’t tell your clients you don’t know anything!” We probably should have explained what self supported was a little better, though she should have payed more attention instead of being so demanding with her questions.

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Wishing we had time to saran wrap someones kayak now, we to decided to ice someone instead. The idea behind the wrap was to seal off someones cockpit with the clear plastic. Instead we stuck a Smirnoff Ice wrapped up in duct tape in case the glass broke, the duct tape would keep the glass contained so we did’t litter in Grant’s kayak. The group started trickling in finally. Grant found the Smirnoff in the bottom of his boat. He grabbed the bottle unceremoniously took a knee as he twisted the red cap off to chants of chug… chug…, throwing his head back and downed the bottle as the gathering group cheered.

Finishing up at Phantom Ranch we head towards Monument Valley where we would stay the next two nights. In between us and our destination is Horn Rapid. After scouting Horn Rapid, Grant was supposed to run the line we discussed in his kayak and signal us by raising his paddle when he passed  through the horns, two rocks which were under water at the time. At some point he decided he did not like the the way the line we had discussed looked because he went right on another possible line we had talked about running. Micah followed Grant as I followed Ben down the original line. When I dropped in, the hole was so big and steep the nose of the raft actually came forward and hit Jackie,  who was sitting in the raft in the front compartment, in the head.

We stopped just above Grant Rapid at Monument Creek camp for the night. The site was occupied by another group who was heading down river in the morning. We managed to set our camp up in up river corner section of the beach where it ended the sheer canyon wall.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 9

(13 miles) Stayed at Upper Rattlesnake 3/31/2019

Ferrying across the Colorado River from the mornings camp we tie up near the mouth of the Little Colorado River. The Little Colorado is a beautiful blue river similar in color to Havasu Creek at certain times, however this was not one of those times. The river was flooded when we got there. The turbidity making the normally blue water dark with sediment. We spent some time there floating down the Little Colorado, on various inflatables we brought along for just such occasions. We tubed and swam a small rapid created by the higher water near the confluence. Wading out into the water, tube in hand, I feel the current trying to take me down stream. Pushing the pedestrian tube in front of me, because the unicorn one was being used, it ungulates fighting between submerging and floating. The tube stands no chance as I press into the flowing water that created these canyons. I smoothed the first float down, however on my second float I smacked a rock with my hip, so I decided that was enough and hung out on the shore until everyone was done.  As  the group rowed back out into the Colorado river we crossed the Little Colorado river’s outflow, chocolate milk in color, colliding with the lighter color of the Colorado darkening the latter for the rest of the trip.

We stopped above Tanner Rapids on a large beach to check out some Petroglyphs. The Petroglyphs were supposedly scatted about boulders near a very small cave formed by rocks. On the hike in from the the water to find them, Ben and I saw to me what was the prettiest flower of the whole trip. It was enduring by itself growing in sandy soil on a rock shelf. I am amazed at how it survives. The tenacity and adaptation it exhibits is striking.

Desert plants have developed three main adaptive strategies: succulence, drought tolerance, and drought avoidance. Each of these is a different but effective suite of adaptations for prospering under conditions that would kill plants in other climates. The majority of succulents have extensive, shallow root systems. Water is further conserved by reduced surface areas; most succulents have few leaves, no leaves, or leaves that are deciduous in dry seasons.

Drought tolerance (or drought dormancy) refers to a plant’s ability to withstand desiccation without dying. Plants in this category often shed leaves during dry periods and enter a deep dormancy. Most water loss is from transpiration through leaf surfaces, so dropping leaves conserves water in the stems. Some plants that do not normally shed their leaves have resinous coatings that retard water loss.

Rooting depth controls opportunities for growth cycles. In this strategy the plants have deeper roots which differs from succulents. The trade off is that once the deeper soil is wetted by several rains it stays moist much longer than the surface layer, supporting several weeks of growth.

Drought avoidance  is seen in annual plants, which escape unfavorable conditions by not existing. They mature in a single season, then die after channeling all of their life energy into producing seeds instead of reserving some for continued survival.

Plant growth is triggered by a certain amount of rain. There is still further insurance: even under the best conditions not all of the seeds will germinate; some remain dormant.

The desert environment may seem hostile, but this is purely an outsider’s viewpoint. Adaptations enable indigenous plants and animals not merely to survive here, but to thrive most of the time.

As humans in life we developed strategies similar to the plants. I would surmise most of use fall into the tolerance category. Where we show up and just do what is expected or needs to be done in most the aspects of our lives. I believe the other ends of the spectrum would be root depth and avoidance.

We can also grow roots in a community or situation there by becoming part of the environment or culture and of an extended period of time evoking change.

The polar opposite would be similar to drought avoidance.  Avoiding  situations that we don’t like or make use uncomfortable is probably a popular human strategy.

This is a copping mechanism we learn over time from our experiences. I hypothesize that growing deep roots would be the hardest and bravest method where as avoidance is the easiest. May we grow as strong and beautiful as this flower.

Returning to the rafts after exploring around the Petroglyphs, we eat lunch on the boats, which was some type of quinoa wrap stuffed in whatever leftover plastic bags we could find from previous meals. Pro tip BRING a reusable container with you on trips like this! I borough one on a Main Salmon trip after having to use whatever I could scrounge on this trip and it made all the difference. In the mornings when I was eating breakfast I would just pack my lunch in my container and enjoy it when ever I got hungry.

The rest of the day was spent scouting Unkar Rapids and rowing to Upper Rattlesnake were we spent the night. The main reason we scouted this rapid was so we could see the Unkar Ruins, which were on the river right scout.

 

 

 

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 8

(14.3 miles) Stayed at Above Little Colorado 3/30/2019

The next day we stopped at Nakoweap after a 9 a.m. shove off off time. I knew we were getting the group systems down and this showed it! Pulling into an eddy after running one of the longest rapids in the Grand Canyon, we confirmed the group that passed us last evening actually stayed there. The Nankoweap Granary is a series of stone and mortar storage bins situated high up in the cliffs. These bins were constructed by the ancient Anasazi people to store their seed stock and food. The short hike to the graineries rewarded us with yet more amazing views. The canyon rim, at least 5,000 feet above us, was caped with frosted white from a recent snowstorm above.

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After rowing 14 miles we made our home for the night at Above Little Colorado Camp, because we missed the spot we were aiming for. Unfortunately the raft that persisted on passing the lead raft could not read a map. This worked out great because it set us up for the Little Colorado float we were going to do the next day. Setting up a camp takes a lot of work. The group unloads everything from the boats that will be needed. Lets just talk about the kitchen for a moment. The first thing you have to do is put down tarps to catch any food scraps, next you set out tables in a L or U formation on the tarps. If the tables are not stable, luck would have it that there are an abundance of smashed beer cans that can be used as shims for leveling out the tables. We strove to keep and abundant supply available for just such emergency.  Next in the kitchen assembly came the metal boxes filled with the pots, pans, and everything else one would need for cooking if one can find where the last person put things. At this time the stove is being attached to the propane and the grill is being set up. The blaster, a one burner water boiling machine, is hopefully being assembled far enough away that it doesn’t catch anything on fire. Now that things are ready to cook, someone is trying to find all the food. The dry goods are taken out of an ammo can, not to be confused with the groover ammo cans. This can now becomes a trash receptacle. At this point be prepared to fight off the ravens that have been waiting for you to turn around so then can make off with dinner for minimal effort.  At this point every cooler has been looked into twice and still no main course; oh wait, there it is!  Just as the cooking is reaching its crescendo, the cleaning begins.

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Pro cleaning tip: have the trash at the head of the dish line so if by chance there are leftovers they get scrapped off. Next in the system are 3-4 metal buckets, 4 if you want to presoak, 3 is your a normal lazy person setup. The first one is hot soapy water, second is hot rinse water, and the third is a cold bleach soak. SO there were a lot of RULES for the buckets.

    • Heat river water in the metal “chicky pails” directly on the fire blaster. The flames should be UNDER the bucket, and not up around the sides—this ruins the buckets and does not warm the water any faster. Heat—but do not boil—the water to avoid scalding hands.
    • Try not to set buckets in the sand while waiting for the blaster as the sand will burn and ruin the bucket. 

I feel like we cranked the blaster up and set the buckets on the sand….. we also scalded our hands, dammit should have followed one of the rules. After the dishes are washed all the water has to be filtered into mesh to collect the food particles.  The food particles are then forced into the overflowing garbage. Lastly the water is pored into the river.

A lot of work goes into setting up camp; this was just a example of dinner. Meanwhile a fire was set up over a fire pan, since you have collect and pack out the ashes. All of these steps help to minimize the impact and make it feel like you are the only ones there. It’s a hassle but well worth it to keep the area pristine and available for use. That night the wine flowed freely leading into a glow stick party.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 7

(8.7 miles) Stayed at Upper Saddle 3/29/2019

We have another slow start this morning. As I finish strapping down the the last dry bag, I know we are on the verge of getting our routine down, even though we haven’t pulled out of camp much before lunch time yet. The group has our sights set on Nankoweap for the evening which has a nice large camp complete with a beach for all the activities. Stopping for our first hike of the day Buck Farm, most of us fully dressed in costumes, we anchor our rafts. Buck Farm is a popular side canyon hike. The canyon drains the east side of the Kaibab Plateau, also known as Buckskin Mountain. Buckskin is an alteration of the Southern Paiute word Bucksin, meaning mule deer. Hiking up the canyon, the group split half to the left, half to the right, after passing Jared perched on a boulder rocking out to a portable speaker, American flag waving over his captain’s hat. The path I had chosen cliffed out after a short scramble as we tried to it to make higher, flatter ground so as to continue the hike into the canyon. Eventually everyone on the left hiked back. Some tried the right side and those intrepid hikers were rewarded with finding mule deer antlers while the rest were rewarded with the beauty of the place.

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Saddle Canyon was our last stop before Nankoweap. We didn’t make it here until later in the day putting a huge time pressure on the group. The stronger and/or more determined hikers got to the waterfall, took a quick look around, and rushed back. As I was passing people on their pilgrimage towards the waterfall I knew at some point I was going to have to tell people they were going to have to turn around. I know you can’t make everyone happy and let everyone do what they want on a trip with this many people, but I really wanted everyone to have a good time and I felt like the trip just wasn’t set up for that at this point. I was trying to find a little more balance as the trip progressed. I kept checking the time compulsively finally telling people to turn around. Shortly after I realized I didn’t have to have anyone turn around, because I made it back to the boats just in time to see a group pass us. I knew right away they were headed for where we wanted to camp.

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As a result camp was set up where we were at for the night. Tonight was also my group’s turn to cook, I volunteered to set up the groover, which is the toilet, so named because back in the day they didn’t have seats and the metal box would leave grooves on your butt. This particular groover was an olive colored ammo can with a toilet seat attached on it. If you have never used one before let me give a brief description. The ammo can is for solids only, the liquids are what causes most of the smells. A separate container, in this instance a bucket, was beside the groover so you could separate the two. I personally found this difficult to do a first. The reason the liquids went in to a bucket was because on the Grand Canyon your are supposed to go number one directly into the Colorado River. Dilution is the solution to pollution.

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I felt I should take the first turn setting it up in my cook group, being the trip leader. It just happened to be the easiest task to do. I got done with the groover in no time and since we decided to stay where we were instead of pushing on to a different campsite this was the first time in four days I got to relax a little. I highly suggest volunteering to set up the groover so you can enjoy your evening.

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 6

(16 miles) Stayed at Martha’s 3/28/2019

Today is a big day according to our itinerary, we plan to stop at Silver Grotto, a popular side canyon involving scrambling, wading, and swimming through deep pools, Redwall Cavern a beautiful canyon with a large beach, and finish the Roaring Twenties 5 miles of river packed closely together by Grand Canyon standards, starting near mile 20.

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We catch the eddy at Silver Grotto, shortly after finishing the Roaring Twenties. Well most of us do, C.J.’s boat just misses it and pulls in downstream in the next eddy, a boulder divides the two eddies keeping the raft from coming back up the river. I asked Oz to row down our eddy, have them jump in and float the eddy back up. Some debate arose on whether he could row back up. While this was happening Grant paddled down in his kayak feet perched on top of the bow with his skirt undone. As I watched him float back up the stream current caused by the eddy he says casually, “I just told them to jump in they will be right up.” Again more debate over why he would do that and if they would make it. I kind of laughed to myself as Grant say’s, something like, “GESH THEY WILL BE FINE I JUST FLOATED UP STEAM WITH MY LEGS OUT!” As the debating continues they arrive in short order which ends it and we set about going on the hike.

The entrance into Silver Grotto Canyon looked kind of tricky. The limestone was worn smooth by flash floods and time, but by the time I got there other people had managed to climb up and were holding a piece of webbing to help others up the smooth face which happened to be extra slippery in this case because 15 water logged people had just climbing up it. My first attempted wasn’t that great as I moved my beer to my left hand with the GoPro. I grabbed the webbing with my right hand and tried to wind the webbing around my hand as I went. As I was almost to the top, I slipped and slid down the wet face of the canyon unfortunately spilling some of my beer. On my second attempt, I made it into this beautiful pool filled slot canyon.

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Continuing downstream we pull into Redwall Canyon. The group goes about taking the classic silhouette group photo, along with some double person panoramic shots. I am not sure how these turned out. I didn’t have the patients to try this for too long. I got tired of trying to run behind the camera and moving to the other side before the camera captures me again. After the photo shoot some of us played Frisbee or Boccie while others just took in the amazing scenery.

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Arriving at Martha’s Camp where we will be making our home for the night, I hop out of the raft, bowline in one hand, sand stake and mallet in the other. I make quick work of hammering the sand stake into the narrow sandy beach, as I tie a figure eight on a bite into the rope and clip it through a carabiner attached to the sand stake. As everyone else does the same, our group quickly discovers that we are down a stake and mallet used to anchor the boats, along with some other stuff that was in a bag that was left at Redwall.

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A few people were still sleeping on the rafts and trying to let line slack in and out with the shifting tide. The dam was not releasing continuously so there were daily ebbs and flows to the river volume. This process kept the rafts from being beached or from being in the current.

I was pretty stressed out that day for a couple of reason, but mostly it was feeling like we were rushing through everything not really getting to enjoy a spot, stopping just long enough to check it off the list before we rushed off to the other one. I still felt like I had some lagging effects from my recent concussion, so I went off to sit at the river and look at the stars, while listening to the water rush down the canyon trying to destress.