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

Warner 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.

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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