Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 17

Sixteenth river day17.5 miles 185 Mile Camp 4/10/2019

Waking up the group prepares to run Lava Falls, the highest rated rapid on the canyon. I rowed this rapid but from scouting some of the other rapids which I didn’t run, I would say Upset and Crystal rapids looked harder.

We finally arrived at the scout for Lava Falls Rapid after fighting headwinds all morning. Another party’s rafts occupied the main pull in for the scout, so we carefully spread out as not to block them in. As we walked to the scout from our rafts, I heard the water’s roar over the pounding of my heart. As we looked out over the rapid, the excitement and nervousness were palpable while we searched for our line. As we discerned the way through the mayhem that was Lava Falls, the other party started to drop in. The first boat went through the drop catching a little more of the humongous hole (that can easily flip a craft) than I would want to. Their boat pivoted to its side and the oars flew from the oar mounts, popping up like a whack-a-mole the instant the boat took the impact from the edge of said hole. Trying to recover, the down steam oar still loose and flapping about, they made it through the entirety of the rapid sideways after the hit at the top of the drop. My nervousness immediately dissipated, with the knowledge that they made it through just fine.

Rowing towards the horizon line, indicating the hole the other boat hit, the entire river seemed to drop into white frothy chaos. The turbulent water kicked up and splashed as I found and focused on the landmark we picked to navigate through the rapid from the scout. A jet boat suddenly roared up beside me directly in line with the massive hole I was trying to avoid. They seemed to hover just above the edge of a place I wouldn’t want to be before backing up and waiting their turn. I got kind of nerves thinking they were trying to run the rapid at the same time as me, but once they backed up, I quickly found the landmark again and focused on it. This indicator I was searching for was a swirling bubble line formed on the right side of the river, by the blending of the downstream and the upstream current made by the lava formations jutting into the Colorado, among the topsy-turviness of the river. Staying on the left edge of this vortex of water was the only indicator I could see for safe passage, suddenly the horizon line dropped away just as I saw I was online on the right edge of the powerful hole consuming the middle of the river and slightly right of the raft we watched from the scout. Busting through with a WHOOOOOOT we rode out the rest of the huge tail waves super pumped waiting for the rest of the crew to make it through. While waiting I reflected on a phrase I read from the guidebook: “Have fun and remember a good run at Lava is less then 20 seconds long. Don’t sweat the little things!” I shuddered imagining what a bad run is.

The boat that had pulled up beside me earlier came through and headed to Jared’s boat. He spoke with them wearing his jockstrap with a raccoon tail and an afro wig. He discovered they were preforming a fish survey. I felt like Jared managed to get some fresh ice for cocktails off of them.

Once everyone was through the rapid, we pulled into Tequila Beach. I hopped out and pounded a sand stake into the beach with our orange mallet that also doubled as a beer can crusher. I hit the stake 1,2,3,4,5 times then gave it a final 6th whack as Oz handed me the bowline to clip into the stake. Tequila Beach is just downstream of Lava Falls, it’s the spot people stop to celebrate making it through the highest rated rapid and last major rapid in the Grand Canyon! As the group poured off the rafts, some already in full costumes others still changing, duct taped glass bottles of tequila were circulated among the group. Bonnie in a blue tutu, wig, and make up to match was the first to start dancing. Soon Courteny also sporting a tutu quickly joined her. Ben in an 80’s style wig, cut off jorts, and pink Subaru headband, sliced limes on a upside down bucket used as a table. The chaos of the moment mimicked the chaos of the rapid above.

More shots of tequila were poured now from plastic soda bottles, which were filled prior to leaving Lees Ferry, in case they were dropped to protect this amazing environment. Jared, still in his jockstrap with a racoon tail attached, picked up the spent lime slices that were tossed after being bitten into doing his part to help, tail shaking as he bent down to pick them up. Jake walked around offering bags of treats and candy for people to grab. We were quickly joined by the women from the party that we watched go through Lava before us. They were setting up camp and staying the night. They partook in the tequila as we discuss our trips. Shortly after someone came up with a plan to ice the group staying there then make a hasty retreat down river. Methods for a distraction were shouted amongst the music and revelry. A Congo line was chosen and we congoed through their camp stashing bottles of Smirnoff Ice scattered throughout. One on the members of the other group got a bottle and immediately started chugging the drink, while the crowed yipped and yelled, some chanting “you got iced!” During the meylay Ryan’s dress, a cat print that would feel at home in a grandmother’s wardrobe, caught on fire as he danced too close to the other camp’s blaster which they were boiling water on. Still chanting “you got iced” and dancing before he noticed the flames coming off his dress. Once noted he instantly started fanning his dress up and down screaming, “I am on fire, I am on fire” with each flap of the dress. He quickly stopped, dropped, and rolled; he performed the actions, moving left to right, with his flaming dress under him once he hit the ground! This was the first time I ever saw anyone actually stop, drop, and roll. In seconds he was up cheering with the crowed as they crescendo into a roar of joy. We thought this was the appropriate time to make our planed escape. Laughing we ran away, Jared saying, “I mean only one person out of sixteen caught on fire. Thats not bad”, untying our boats, and pulling out the sand stakes we realize that the tide had dropped and ruined our hasty escape plan. We were beached. The other group came down to help push us off, probably to get rid of us after congoing through their kitchen and catching on fire. Finally free of the beach still cheering and hollering we got stuck in the eddy and floated back up stream to where we were beached. After what felt like a long time the other group staring at us in disbelief, probably hoping we didn’t decide to come back, we broke free of the eddy and started downstream only for Jared to realize he had left his speaker somewhere at Tequila Beach. He hiked back up and retrieved it for us. Finally, we were on our way 45 min to an hour after our planned quick escape.

We stopped at 185 mile camp, a large camp with a beach for the night. After dinner Ryan, all hyped up, was washing dishes at an extremally fast pace throwing water everywhere. Jamming the dish, fork, or spoon through the 4 wash bins faster than the speed of light or so one would have thought, literally running me over repeatedly in the process. The dish washing system was set up with 2 cold buckets of water in front of 2 warm buckets. The first and second had soap and the fourth had bleach. The idea was the first one was a soak or prewash, the second one being a wash, the third was a rinse, and the last was for sanitation. After you were done with the dishes, one put them in hammocks under the tables made for stuff to dry on. Dish water from all 4 buckets was then strained for food scraps and the particle free water was then dumped into the river while the food scraps were put into the trash. The tables were also setup on large sheets of material that served as strainers catching any wayward food scraps that fell during the cooking process. Every particle this material caught was also put into the garbage. This particular night there was a lot more in the sheets under the table from all the slashing and sloshing accompanied by the hectic pace of the dishwashing. We had dinner then spent the night discussing the difference between yams and sweet potatoes and the units of measurements for fruit. This night was also only the second time I saw Jared sleep. He passed out on the beach looking for his sandles, which were beside him.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 16

Fourteenth river day continued, and layover day camped at Fern Glen Camp 4/08/2019 – 4/09/2019

Once we made it back to the boats after about a 7-mile round trip hike with little rest from last night we were starting to feel exhausted. Once we reached our proposed campsite, we found it full. Some frustrations within the group were starting to rise from a simmer a boil. Ben started to put up camp in the other groups site while I searched downstream for a suitable spot, others just enjoyed themselves throwing Frisbee. Ben had to be exhausted; he was rowing every day and had just spent the night with Ryan chasing down our rouge raft. The rest of the rafts had a least two captains. After some discussion and talking to the other groups that occupied the three campsites in the area, I wanted to risk it and push about 2 miles downstream to Fern Glen Camp. The risk being that if that site was occupied, we had no choice but to stay there. The next campsite was 3 miles from Fern Glen and we were running out of daylight, energy, and patience. Arriving at Fern Glen we were beyond excited to see that it was vacant. I decided to have a group holiday in honor of Ben and Ryan for chasing the lost raft and everyone was exhausted from the previous two days events especially the aforementioned. We took an unscheduled layover day for this holiday which was much needed! I felt like I was walking a tight rope with the itinerary we had, which was packed really tight with amazing things to see and a group that was starting to get really tried. As someone who constantly strives to have choices in everything, I wanted to have a buffer day in case any unforeseen circumstances happened again. The buffer day ultimately being a choice to not have to sprint at the end or stop at a really cool place etc. I think having the ability to make choices as constraint free as possible is one of the most important things in life.

Some would argue the only choices you don’t have are the choice of birth and death. Everything in between is an infinite number of choices. One could argue that the amount of choices you have come from knowledge, power, and wealth. I would argue that most people have fewer choices in life than others due to restrictions whether actual or perceived. Death is also a choice some of the time. Choices may lead to death or prolong life. Each choice either constricts or expands the choices available at each turn. Impediments such as socioeconomic status are major constraints for people stripping them of choices. For example, a homeless person still has a “choice” of sleeping in the gutter or a shelter but is this honestly a choice? The less you build your ability to make choices the more constraints you generate or perceive for yourself, thus pigeonholing you until you have very limited choices.

Overall, I guess I believe in Destiny not Fate, with your ability to have/make choices being a very strong driver although there are some constants that could make people feel like Fate is in control (such as the homeless example above). I would like to believe that choices could overcome these constraints but as a privileged* person I cannot relate to all the possible obstructions and know for sure *(white, male, grew up in a middle-class family).

I had the trip planed with the choice that if we were running out of time, we could choose to float through the night and still make it to the takeout on time. I really wanted to keep that extra day in pocket so we wouldn’t be forced to do the night float. I was probably going to have to cut the schedule back dramatically and have some big river mile days, but for now everyone probably needed the layover, I know I did.

We set up the shade tarp for the first time shortly after arriving at the camp. The setting up of the tarp, corresponded with the windiest day we had. Eric was flying his kite when the wind really picked up. Multiple people trying to reel it in and keep their hats at the same time made for a slightly comical show until the chairs, clothing, tarp and, well, most everything else went flying away including the kite! The kite was caught before it made its permanent escape, along with all of our stuff I believe. Once stuff was secured, I walked through the driving wind being pelted by sand until I reached the relative cover of Fern Glen Canyon. I hiked into the canyon until the wind subsided and everything became still except for the sound of dripping water. After locating the source, a pool behind a boulder that had rolled down into the narrow canyon chocking it off from the chaos, I stopped listening to water, relaxing and enjoying the calm from all storms happening around me. After some time, I walked back to the tumult of the sandstorm, the group, and my tent.

Later that night, kicked out of my tent (this is a story for another time), I was sandblasted by driving wind, and the next morning my hair was lighter from sand. I found sand in sleeping bag, shoes, it was everywhere, even in my life proof case. The wind had forced itself into the case while it was charging. This night was the opposite of the brief calm experienced in the Fern Glen Canyon. However, I wasn’t the only one kicked out of a tent. Luckly, I had not found a scorpion under my sleeping gear.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 15

Fourteenth river day 4/08/2019

Oz had heard a noise and went to investigate the source. Having found the probable cause he asked Ben, “am I tripping or are there only 5 rafts.” Together they count again 1,2,3,4,5. “FUCK!” (I feel like we had this discussion earlier) almost immediately everyone is awakened, and we proceed to get a really bright light off Jake. We count one more time hopping that there are 6 rafts. We already know the answer is no but check again anyway. We hastily grab gear and ready two kayaks to chase the raft down. Coming up with as solid of a plan as we can in a hurry while simultaneously double checking to see if the kayakers have the gear they need. We quickly go over the plan one more time, while we look for the number of the satellite phone we rented. Surprisingly shortly after we discover the raft was missing, Ryan and Ben are in kayaks with what they need. We know from looking at the map while others are organizing the gear that there are no major rapids until Lava about 28 miles away. One more hasty check to make sure everything is good, and they are off to catch the raft. I hardly slept that night after we packed up as much as we could leaving the blaster out to make coffee in the morning; we head back to our tents wondering if they found the raft yet. The missing raft had about seven days of food on it not to mention all of Micah and Bonnie’s alcohol and gear that wasn’t unloaded.

Up until this point the trip had not felt like we were in the wilderness. I have spent a lot of time in the wilderness both backpacking for recreation and as a wilderness ranger or part of a trail crew. When you have everything you need to survive on your back, you feel like you have a time constraint. You are limited by the amount of water and food you can carry. Yes, it is possible to find water and food but that is also a constraint on your time, exchanging the time you have in search of what you need to survive. Having these fully loaded rafts with technology and more food and beer then we need for the trip while seeing other parties of boaters just didn’t quite make it feel like we were in the wilderness. The wilderness wanted us to know that wasn’t the case, however. Losing the raft with food for most of the remainder of the trip let me know we were indeed in the wilderness, and we needed that raft!

I awake every few minutes then every hour as the night wore on, checking my InReach for a message from the raft rescue crew. We couldn’t find the number for the device so the plan is for them to call my parents first letting them know nobody was dead, but they need to text my InReach with whatever information they had. I am fully expecting a message saying we stopped for the night and am hoping for, and we also have the raft. Reception is spotty and I have to manually search for messages every time I wake up. At 5:30 a.m. I awake for the last time at Ledges campsite. With no confirmation from Ryan and Ben I am worried. I make coffee while banging on a pot screaming, “wake the fuck up!” I really want to get on the water and see where they are, and to establish that they are okay. Making our way down the river expecting to see the raft and guys at every bend in the river, but nothing. At about the second mile in, we start to get disheartened. Not only do we have no confirmation on our friends’ whereabouts, but Havasupai was only about a mile away. It amazes me how a bunch of raft guides get stuck in the eddies from hell that the Canyon produces, often times struggling to get out, while the unguided raft that broke free last night managed not to get stuck yet. At one point previously on the trip I had time to open a beer and drink it as the eddy pulled me back up the river where I finally rowed it out back into the flow. This method of drinking a beer and waiting was far easier than fight the power of the water trying to get back into the main flow.

As we get even closer to Havasupai, we start affirming that the raft is in the eddy at the mouth of the river because we really didn’t want to miss this hike. Our prediction was almost true. Not too far from the mouth we come up on Ben and Ryan with the escaped raft corralled once more. We pull over excited to see them and have a quick, simple breakfast of oatmeal prepared on the blaster only. It is a chore to set up the whole cooking station and we had limited space. Excited that we have everything and everybody again, with full bellies and high spirts we head around the bend to Havasupai where our excitement only compounded as we pull into the crystal blue water pushing out into the brown Colorado River.

Fish just below the surface part as we enter, giving the water an even clearer lighter shade of blue. There were so many fish that they actually darken the water before they swim away. Just this experience pulling in surpasses the beauty that was portrayed in pictures and stories before having the privilege of experiencing it. It only gets better after we secure our boats to the pitons making sure to back them up after the previous two days experience. The hike up to Beaver Falls is slow because one had to pause and take in the beauty of the blue cascading water. Once we make it to Beaver Falls, we are really lucky to only see a few more people there. We climb up the cliff and jump into the pool eventually having the entire place to ourselves. Reenergized because we found our boat, friends, and are enjoying the beauty of Havasupai. Again, it is so amazing we had almost the whole thing to ourselves. After jumping in a few times, I go up stream a few hundred yards to explore and it is like Disneyland. Not far from our seemingly private paradise are swarms of people like locust destroying crops, but they are destroying the environment. Trash is scattered everywhere, trails crisscross the fragile environment causing erosion, and logs are stacked and piled along with hanging ropes to make more terrain accessible for destruction. The shock of seeing so many people after viewing with the same 15 humans for 14 days is intensified by smell of so much cologne and perfume. All my senses are on overload. Even with all this chaos it is still a beautiful sight to behold, and I count myself lucky to have seen it. I have a feeling the destruction will only worsen as time goes on.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 14

Thirteenth river day 17.3 miles Ledges 4/07/2019

This was scheduled to be a big day, little did we know how long of a day it would end up being. After floating down the Colorado for little bit we pulled into the first hike of the day, and were greeted by Deer Creek Falls plummeting to ground out of the Tapeat narrows, 2 miles from last night’s camp at Above Owls Eyes. After climbing up the canyon again, we repeatedly looked into Deer Creek Narrows searching for the rush of water we heard constantly before finally seeing it again towards the top of our hike before it cascades down the slot canyon out of site again.

Hiking the trail between the canyon wall and the narrows, our path becomes very slender in spots with the right edge dropping into the again unseen rush of water. Snaking our way along the dry, dusty red wall we are suddenly rewarded with an explosion of lush greenery surrounding a pool in Deer Creek before the water rushes forward again disappearing into the harsh red rock narrows.

On the water rowing again, we saw the hikers from before moving slowly picking their way across the rocky, uneven sloping shoreline. They started waving their arms beckoning us to them. They wanted a ride to get back onto a trail! Obliging we piled them into our boats giving them a lift to Kanab Canyon, saving them hours of rough scrambling and route finding in the process. We offered them beer and fruit from our coolers stocked with a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh produce, steak, and cold beer, which they gladly enjoyed on the float. When we stopped to drop them off, we offered them more fruit and beer to take with them, at this point being ultra-light hikers, most of them were appalled. That would add extra weight and they would have to pack out the empty beer cans. Thanking us again they hiked away with their perfectly weighted and rationed meals while we floated away on coolers stuffed with more food then we could eat, cracking fresh ice cold beers.

Next up on the agenda was Matkatamiba Canyon. Half of the rafts missed the eddy for this hike either on purpose or accident. The three boats that made it scoured the walls looking for anchors to tie the boats to. We ended up only finding one piton and tied all three boats to it. Hiking into what I though was the coolest slot canyon we had explored to date, we shimmed, waded and splayed our way deeper into the canyon until it finally opened up. Unfortunately, we were forced to turn around just beyond this point by time constraints. Heading back to the rafts we discussed how we would love to explore this canyon more if we did the Grand Canyon again. Our first surprise of the day was waiting as we approached the mouth of the canyon. Panic arose: we couldn’t see our rafts! The Colorado had risen on our hike and pulled the boats out into the flow, luckily, they were still attached to the piton. Trying to untie them we found that the tension was too great. I climbed on the furthest raft with Oz, we cut the strap lose, and it pinged back flying at him relived of its tension. With our raft free the rest of the remaining boats were able to be pulled back further back into the eddy. Surprisingly with all our fingers still attached I rowed to a downstream eddy to await the unstrapping of the remaining two rafts. We met up with the rest of the group then headed down river to scout Upset Rapid. Walking down the right shore we discussed the two different routes for the rapid. The left one where you run the meat of the rapid and right line that was a sneak, it appeared to us that the sneak line was a little shallow and one had the possibility of bouncing of a shallow rock and being sent into the massive munchy hole in the center of the river. I believe that we had flows between 13,000 and 18,000 for our 21-day trip after looking back at the gauge reading after our trip was over. As the route was debated, we saw Jared in his boat pulling out with his crew. As I was wondering which way he would go, his boat started angling left, moments later he smashed the off the big crashing waves at the top; well guess he’s taking the big line. Coming out the other side he tries to keep his moment to the left of the nasty hole in the center of the river! Powering forward he busts through the left side of the hole settling the debate for the rest of us. We are running the left line!

After the group was all successfully through, we looked at the map and decided to stay at Ledges Camp for the night. Pulling up to the low limestone ledges we hop out and stake our rafts to the small sand area above the low ledge which was cursed as we were soon to find out. After unloading and setting up camp, we wait for a huge steak dinner. The smell of meat cooking on charcoal wafts through the camp drawing spectators to the kitchen, which consist of three foldout aluminum tables, a propane stove with multiple burners, and a blaster, think of a huge jet boil, for heating water quickly. Tonight, the kitchen was lighted by headlamps, Luci lanterns, and strips of Luci solar string lights stretched between a tree and a tripod of Warner kayak paddles lashed together. Brett dressed in a red puffy and swimming trunks watches over the steaks both to cook them and guard them from the pressing group. After dinner with an extremely full belly, I crash out only to be awoken later because one of the rafts had broken free and was missing!

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 11

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gear Review 2021 Part 2

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

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

m1 iPad Pro 12.9 500GB

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

Below is Amazon’s description.

Description 

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

Features & details 

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

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

Woruijia 1 TB hard drive

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

Below is Amazon’s description.

Product information

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

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

About this item

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

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

Werner Surge Straight Shaft Paddle

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

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

Product information

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

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

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

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

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

Gear Review 2021 Part 1

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

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

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

Big Agnes Tigerwall 2 Platinum

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

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

Slackers Slack Rack W/Slackline

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

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

Ride Lasso Snowboarding Boots

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

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

Next up for review

IPad Pro 12.9 500 GB

Woruijia External Hard Drive 1 TB

Werner Surge Paddle

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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