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.