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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.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 5

(14 miles) Stayed at Indian Dick 3/27/2019

We encountered our first actual rapid today. House Rock, a class 7 on that weird scale that is used for the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River, like several other big-water western rivers, uses a rapids scale developed by Otis R. Marston consisting of 1-10 for rapids, 10 being the most difficult. The International Scale of River Difficulty, which classifies rapids from class I to VI, is more common elsewhere in the US and internationally. Instead of trying to figure out the differences between the scales we just divided by two to get what we thought was an appropriate rating for the International Scale.

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House Rock is on a bend in the river where the current smashes against the left canyon wall. We pulled in at three separate spots to scout because of limited space in the eddies to prevent the possibility of getting washed downstream. This scout took some time for two reasons. The first being the farthest rafts had to cross over rock ledges to get to the closest rafts. The second because people were in different boats from their gear and the rafts were not all in the same eddies making it difficult to get what was needed. We ran this rapid in three groups of two with kayakers setting safety throughout the rapid. I stand on a rock outcropping above the river watching the first two waves of boats pull out and run the rapid. The 18 foot rafts look tiny as they pull away from the left wall and the more immediate obstacle, the huge holes scattered along it. I watch as one of the rafts gets tossed as it comes into contact with one of these holes. It makes it though as Jake, who kayaked ahead and was now standing on a boulder above this massive hydrolic, pumps his fist in the air. Slowly working my way over the slightly crumbling red and black ledge consisting of Supai sandstone, it’s now our turn. We pull into the current almost perpendicular to the ledges, C.J. gives us a double fist pump from his yellow raft that Kelly was keeping in the eddy from shore. The boat starting to angle down stream, pulling hard away from the wall as the current tries to take us towards the holes. We are fighting the flow of the Colorado River as it slowly pushes us left, the angle of the raft changed to square up to the approaching holes of the left shore. Now our raft is facing slightly left at a 11 o’clock angle as we hit the first wave. It was exhilarating to smash into this first huge wave and feel the water explode over the bow of the raft soaking everything only to hit the next two sequential water features before giving a hoot and fist pump to Jake as we passed. The stoke was high having smoothed the first actual rapid.

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Stopping at Indian Dick Camp for the night, we start setting up slowly learning the routine. The sunset was gorgeous! My head was moving fast at first then slowing between the up and down river scenery trying to take in two equally amazing views. Up river had the gold highlights as the last of the suns rays touched the top of the canyon walls. While downstream the sunset caused a pinkish hue, then it faded away to expose a silver river of stars in the canyon sky as the opposing swash of water is slowly consumed by the darkness.

Oz and I discussed how to tie and backup boats into the night, which would be needed later!

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 4

(9 miles) Stayed at Below Jackass 3/26/2019

At this juncture in the trip I was starting to become stressed for a couple of reasons. Setting up camp takes some time as people are becoming familiar with what is in their rafts and the group as a whole doesn’t have a lot of experience in multi day rafting. It will take about five days for us to figure out the kitchen set up because of the way I set up the rotation. It will be day five when there is a group in the kitchen who has experience from the first day. If I do this again, I would want four volunteers one from each group plus the first group on kitchen duty. Or even just one volunteer from the next night to help or watch who would then break out and spend time with the next groups to show them what to do until the rotation was complete and everyone had an idea and wasn’t just winging it over and over until day five! Or even better take some people with experience on the next trip. I am glad that will be people in this group. I feel these amendments to the set up would allow for a more efficient flow instead of how I did it this time where each night the kitchen crew had to figure out what they were doing. Also no-one knew what was actually on their boat because they had been so busy partying for the last two days. While the kitchen crew did their thing the rest of the group set up camp and tried to find what group gear was on their boats.

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The first game of Bocci Ball was played, no one read the rules as we decided to play intuitively and then see if we did it right when we were done. I never checked the rules so if I play again there is a chance I am doing it wrong. The balls were glow in the dark and there was much debate over the different throws. The under hand throw seemed inferior to the back spin. When the back spin was thrown it landed in a puff of sand with very little momentum forwards or backwards as opposed to the under hand throw which continued its momentum.

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Our first dinner was delicious, like all the dinners on this trip! Eating my salmon, asparagus, and mashed potatoes, I gazed into the open canyon across the large sandy beach I was sitting on, listening to the water rush passed contemplating how to make the experience better. Kevin and another raven, whose name I forget, squawked while looking for scraps of food. This pair would follow us down the river looking for an easy meal.

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Another thing I would do differently would be to have simple meals for breakfast and lunch, possibly even dinner. It was great to eat better on this trip then I normally do, but the amount of time involved in making that happen for me would be better spent exploring the side canyons or relaxing. I realize this might not be for everyone but I would definitely go with easier breakfast and lunches on future trips. I would be happy with cereals and oatmeal for breakfast and GORP, cheeses and hard meats for lunch much like backpacking food. I am still on the fence for the dinners, it would be nice to have the more hearty elaborate dinner that can be accomplished with the amount of room available on a raft. However, on the other hand some type of boil in the bag dinner would save the time of unloading all the gear and cook time allowing for even more time to explore. I guess it really depends on the river and time allowed for the trip. On a Main Salmon trip I went on we had plenty of time to kill in the evenings and the dinners were nice to have. The Grand just had so much to explore!

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Lesson number two was learned the morning of 3/27/2019 when we woke up to find all the rafts beached with somewhere around 300 beers per raft plus gear weighing them down. We set about getting the rafts floating. With a count down we lifted upwards on the yellow rafts. With a sucking sound they broke free a lot easier then I imagined. Once freed, they slid fairly easy. With that task completed we go over how we want to do things as a group; like getting the camp ready, dishes, finding the food for meals, hand signals and what rapids we want to scout before we prepared to launch. After all this was discussed and boats packed, we headed down the river to Indian Dick Camp with another late start, but we are figuring it out.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 3

(9 miles) Stayed at Below Jackass 3/26/2019

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Have you ever seen a bag tossed from over 400 feet in the air? Me neither, I missed it but from the description the toss wasn’t hard enough. The bag didn’t clear the metal truss cleanly of the Navajo Bridge where it stalled almost to be lost to Ryan forever. Then it tumbled off, hit another part of the bridge, rebounded sending it plummeting again toward the river, where it then disappeared in the shrubs on a narrow sand bar on the edge of the canyon wall. I came into view of the situation to see multiple kayaks sprinting towards the sandbar and people on the bridge pointing towards where the bag had landed. “Dammit they actually threw it!” “Don’t worry.”, says Ryan “My mom asked the gift shop lady if any rangers were around before she had Dad throw it.” “My parents aren’t stupid.” Well especially your mom. (I could just imagine her saying “Here honey throw this just in case someone actually is watching.”) The kayakers recovered the bag after a short search and we were on our way to Below Jackass Camp where we will spend our first night in the CANYON!

If you have never been to the Navajo Bridge it is actually two bridges, one newer traffic bridge and the older which is now a pedestrian bridge. These two bridges combined are one of seven land crossings over the Colorado river for 750 miles.

The group stopped at Sixmile Camp for a short hike which was inaccurately but officially named Sevenmile Draw. We only pulled over to check it out based on the recommendation of a couple of the guys from Moenkopi, the outfitters where we rented our gear, that stopped by to party with us for a little while on the night before the ranger talk. This hike really set the expectations high for the rest of the trip! The draw ended at a huge dried up pool where in the rainy season I could imagine brown sediment laden water plummeting down into the pool from the rim of Sevenmile Draw. As I follow the thin line of rock worn smooth by the water, my eyes continue to be drawn upward passed the red and brown colored canyon rim into the sky where the narrow draw forms a mirror image of itself contrasting the white clouds and blue sky leaving me to stare at a river of clouds flowing down the canyon of the sky.

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We decide to scout Badger Creek Rapid a class 5 on the scale for western big-water rivers, which is based on a 1-10 scale as opposed to the 1-5 scale everyone else uses. If anyone knows why this is please explain it to me. I just divide by 2 to get an appropriate rating. According to my logic this makes Badger a class 2.5 which would normally not be scouted by this group, but since none of us really know what to expect and the book lists it as an area to scout we did. Finding our line easily, we run the rapid only to have one of many new learning experiences. The rapid went fine, but a boat missed the eddy for our proposed camp so we all follow and end up staying at Below Jackass Camp. Apparently with oar rigs you really need to pull not push your way down the river. As a kayaker and paddle raft guide all of my experience has been to point away from an obstacle and paddle (push). WIth an oar set up it is easier in most circumstances to point your boat towards the obstacle and row (pull) away from it. Typically an oar rig has more weight in the form of gear and less passangers to help produce power, therefore all your power comes from using your larger back muscles in conjunction with your arms (pulling) to produce more power going backwards then using your chest and arms (Push) to go forward. This pull vs push will be an ongoing theme for most of the group for a short time because the notion is so foreign to us and years of muscle memory is telling you to push. The next morning we will have our second learning experience.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 2

(0 Miles) Stayed at Less Ferry 3/25/2019

It’s hard to believe it’s already been two days since we started this trip early Sunday morning , March 24, 2019, with a cancelled Uber ride with hardly any notice given. There is nothing like starting a trip of a lifetime with, “Oh by the way, we are not picking you up.”  Good luck getting to the airport at 3 a.m. Panic starts to set, its hard to think being only a few sips of coffee in, but as luck would have it, Jackie’s roommate was just getting home from her shift working as a bartender! Finished the life giving coffee, loaded bags in car: check, reload bags because rear hatch won’t shut: check, damn we have a lot of shit, and then we’re Grand Canyon Bound!

Meeting up with friends at the airport there is excitement in the air as we get preflight drinks. This was also my first time flying with SouthWest. I was not a fan of the free-for-all seating and haven’t flew with them since. I had gotten a SouthWest branded credit card for the trip, but promptly cancelled and went back to using my Delta Amex right after the trip. The yearly fee is worth the better flight for me. even the flights themselves are slightly more expensive but the perks are better in my opinion.

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We arrive at the River House, a rental where we will prep and consolidate our personal gear which at this point consists mostly of alcohol while the rest of the people going on this trip trickle in. The crew is comprised of mostly current or previous river guide staff from Laurel Highland’s, a rafting company located in Ohiopyle, PA. Micah was the last to arrive because he got the wrong flight. Once everyone was there, we wrapped up the National Park’s pretrip information packet.

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We woke up to coffee and breakfast the morning that our trip actually begins, March 26, 2019, complements of Tim and the other dude from Moenkopi, the outfitter we rented our gear through. After eating, our group met the other group launching that day. Our first impression of them was “what a bunch of ass hats.” Baldy, as I will affectionately refer to the chief ass hat, informed us they were doing 17 miles that day and were in a hurry and would appreciate it if we didn’t ask any questions. Some of them then showed up late to the presentation. During the orientation, the ranger asked by show of hands “Who’s been down the Grand Canyon before?” as expected every hand in their group went up and one hand in ours went up. I heard sounds of haughtiness escape their sneering lips. Then the ranger asked how many people were river guides and almost all the hands in our group went up compared to a couple in their group. That’s right Baldy, take that, you guys actually suck! After we adjourned from the rangers meeting, we packed all our stuff, and picked up all the beer cans from the party the night before. We then made our final trips to use the facilities with running water because, with the exception of Phantom Ranch, this will be our last opportunity for the next 21 days. Pushing off at around 11 a.m., watching Ryan on shore talking frantically into his phone trying to come up with a plan for his parents to get him some last minute gear, as we row towards our adventure where we will have a steep learning curve. Most of us have never used oar rigs before since our guiding was chiefly done by stick. We pass Baldly and his well oiled experienced crew, screaming, “You better hurry up you have 17 miles to go!” as some of us crack our fist beers and while starting to figure out how to row our rafts.

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Ryan catches up to us and informs us that in 4 miles his parents were going to throw a bag of his stuff off Navajo Bridge located 467 ft. above the Colorado River. There was much speculation and debate about this over the next hour. “Can he catch it?” “It will kill him!” “They should put it in a dry bag.” “Yea and add air so it floats better.” “Will it reach terminal velocity?” “We are going to jail!” “The rangers will think we are doing a drug drop!” “Great, they will search our bags!”

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 1

I recently came across an article: How to Snag 10 of the Most Coveted Private River Permits. Somehow I ended up experiencing 3 of these on my quest to bag the hiking Triple Crown. I was fortunate enough to snag a first round Grand Canyon permit for March 2019 with the original dates we wanted. “The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is the ultimate river trip. It’s one of the longest trips, with the biggest whitewater, in the most dramatic setting. And no surprise it’s also the toughest private river permit to snag”, according to the article. I am a lucky individual, but I believe we make our own luck. I try a lot of things and just putting oneself out there for possible experiences and learning from ones failures makes for opportunity “luck”. Having choices helps greatly in what others might view as luck.

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“I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession that doesn’t appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level I like to go off and do something totally different”

Yvon Chouinard

Being an 80 percenter myself, I am competent in a lot of things instead of great at a few. I have used this philosophy in my academics and work as well as sports which have lead to multiple choices in about everything in my life.

A strategy was applied when applying for the Grand Canyon Permit. However even with the program, and my outlook on life I won a lottery in which over 6,000 people applied for around 472 permits. I will agree I was lucky.

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It was probably a life changing experience, hell CJ and Kelly got engaged! Have I become so used to natural beauty that I overlook it when it is not on my bucket list? Have I been so hung up on the Triple Crown, I can’t live in the moment? Or was I worried about what I wanted everyone else to experience and not what I wanted to experience? A few months ago before I tore my A/C and gave myself back to back concussions I was excited and looking forward to the trip. Afterwards looking back, it was one of my least enjoyable experiences. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying it was horrible, like I said before I am “lucky” and have had a lot of once in a life time experiences. It was still an amazing place and opportunity it just wasn’t what I hoped for or as great as it could have been.

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Floating in a yellow 18 ft Maravia raft at Lees Ferry on the first day, surrounded by what is going to be my world for the next 21 days my emotions are mixed I am both exhilarated and nervous for what is to come. Oz is at the oars sitting on a white Yeti cooler, which doubles as a seat, stuffed with dairy products for the duration of the trip; unbeknownst to us there was not enough creamer to make it passed the second week of this journey. If only we had known what hardships awaited us then, BLACK COFFEE for a week! On each side of his legs are boxes, in our case they are filled with beer and personal gear for the most part with the exception of a spare battery for the water filter. We got the luck of the draw other boats’ side boxes were filled mostly with group gear and the occasional beer. One group got the raft known as the Grover Boat, this boat had assorted brown 20 mm ammo cans that were either empty at the moment or stuffed with charcoal and toilet paper. As the contents of the ammo cans were consumed they would be rotated into use as grover boxes. Have you figured it out yet? Yep, that’s right, the grover boxes are where you shit.

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Sitting in the front of the raft on a blue inflatable Paco Pad, it’s hard to believe that just over a month ago I was popping pain pills and washing them down with a Porter, while jamming my face with chicken nuggets. Under us are the day boxes, which include food for the trip; then when removed becomes the trash container, the Aqua Partner water filter, and the ash box. Yep that’s right, we pack our ashes out also! To our right and left sides are 20 gallon water jugs lashed to the oar frame. Behind Oz are our grill/fire pan, water stations for washing our hands, personal gear, and over 18 cases of beer.

Shoving off after rigging the boats and floating to our camp a few hundred yards down river to await the ranger talk in the morning before we properly begin our adventure.

2020 Gear Review Part 2

I am going to give my opinion on gear usage in the two outdoor settings I mainly participated in during 2020, the van and river trips. I might add some side notes on other uses. Being first an environmentalist then becoming a long distance hiker, I have found that I end up being a minimalist in many ways. The need to look for multi functional equipment before making a purchase is almost second nature now.

Below I will split the gear by the primary function I bought it for, but will also review its alternative function.

Primary River Use

Yeti Panga 50 Duffel

This was another gift from my brother, he gets the most useful gifts for my life style! I received this before a three week Grand Canyon river trip! Besides the Grand Canyon I have used it as a day bag which is over kill, and also on a week long river trip, which it was just right as Goldilocks would say. It’s the ideal size at 50 liters for holding gear for one person as a dedicated bag for all the sleeping needs. Which in my case consisted of a tent, sleeping bag, pad, lights and night clothes. You really want to keep this stuff dry and the Panga is made for it. It does fall short for two people, as a dedicated bag for all the sleeping needs, it just wasn’t quite big enough. Multiple latch points allowed for it to be secured to the raft and the removable backpack straps made it super easy to transport from raft to campsite. The straps also made for a quick way to secure the bag in the back of a pickup.

For the Van

I sometimes use it to keep my river gear in when it’s dry and not in use just so I can stay organized. It’s not great for that because I have to have the gear dry before I use it as storage, but works.

It’s a bomber piece of gear but a little pricey. I would purchase if I was doing a lot of multi-day river trips.

NRS Expedition Driduffel 35L

I bought this immediately after getting back from the Grand Canyon trip. I found the Yeti duffel mentioned above so useful I wanted a duffel for day trips. Prior to the duffel, I used float storage in my kayak and roll down dry bags in the raft. The duffel is just so much easier to use when accessing with the zippered top. It works as a lap bag in the kayak, although I feel it’s a little big for that. The lap bag allows effortless access to things unlike the float storage bags. It opens wide horizontally from the top zipper to locate things, as opposed to the top down access of the float bag, which makes finding things difficult since everything was stacked on top of each other. It’s the perfect size for a thwart bag, holding first aid, beer and snacks in a super accessible place for day trips. The material doesn’t seem as durable as the Yeti and it lacks the backpack straps.

For the Van

I basically keep my first aid supplies used on the river in it, so I know where they are in the van. I do store it open so it stays dry, sometimes there is condensation in it from the cold beer stored in it on the river.

Goal Zero Venture 30

I purchased this for use on the South Fork of the Salmon. As stated in my previous review of the Goal Zero Nomad 13 Solar Panel and Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Bank I had trouble charging it on the Grand Canyon River Trip. The Goal Zero Venture 30 has enough battery capacity to charge my IPhone 3 times. It has a light on it for use in emergencies or if you need an extra. It’s kind of hard to find in the dark, but after finding it once you can find it easily by feel. My Nomad 13 Solar Panel actually charges this battery! It had enough charge for the 3 day South Fork of the Salmon trip. However, I had to recharge it on the 7 day Main Salmon trip.

For the Van

It lives mostly by my bed where I use it to keep my phone or IPad charged in the evening while watching movies or reading. It comes with a cord that is USB to Mico USB cord that can be used to charge it or to charge other devices using those inputs. It has a function where it optimizes its charging capacity depending on how you charge it. I suggest you use this feature, it took forever to charge from the USB in the van until I used this function! You can charge 2 USB and one Mico USB device simultaneously. It started trying to charge itself when the cable that comes with it is stored plugged into it. This is kind of annoying since it will drain the battery if the cord is stored in it and I keep misplacing the cord when not attached.

I made this purchase mostly based on wanting to use it for future backpacking trips. It’s too heavy for a weekend trip, but I feel worth the weight for a longer trip if you want to keep a phone charged even though it’s a little heavy for that also. I have a spot device I like to keep powered along with a phone so I am okay with this weight to return ratio.

I will not purchase this again if the above mentioned malfunction causes the battery to fail. I had to replace the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Pack because it failed. It was warrantied, but I am against the waste involved. Once is a mishap twice is just a shitty product. As it stands the Venture 30 still functions for its purpose.

Hydro Flask Thermos

The outfitter gave everyone on the Main Salmon Trip a thermos before we pushed off for the week. It keeps coffee warm for a long time, too warm if you try to drink it immediately. I prefer my coffee with creamer so that cools it down, but if you drink yours black I suggest you drink some in a cup and save the Hydro Flask for latter that day.

The thermos is fairly durable. I swam out of my kayak one day on a home run and I found my thermos later that day with some dents and chips as well as hot coffee still in it!

For the Van

I use it for my second drink. It is just too warm to drink immediately so I pour the extra in it and enjoy a hot drink after I finish off my first mug.

Will purchase another when I lose this one, I think it will last until I misplace it.