The struggles of the elusive winter.

Winter missed us, well at least here in the Mid Atlantic and most, if not all, of the east coast from my experience. Last year 2022 wasn’t bad for resort skiing here in McHenry, at Maryland’s only ski area. The conditions didn’t mimic spring skiing all year round! It was however horrible for anything without man made snow which unfortunately is my favorite place to partake in snow sports. It kept cold enough for the resorts to keep their produced snow in decent condition. Unfortunately though like this year it hardly snowed 48’ 2023 and 56’ 2022. Even more heart breaking this year it wasn’t cold enough to keep all the trails in decent condition. Basically one had all the base and the rest would melt out, then fresh snow would be made to replace it during a brief cold snap.

The last few of years, Ally and I really had bad timing chasing the snow. In 2021 we flew out to CO to try and get on the snow right before our local resorts opened up. They day we came back from that trip a section of 70 closed down less then an hour after we drove through on the way to the airport, due to a fire. This was in December and it was still so dry that fires were breaking out.

We did catch a few spring storms at Winter Park in 2021 and 2022 which seemed like massive amounts of snow given our local mountain conditions, but in reality wasn’t that much accumulation. We finally hit the Jack pot this spring in ID! Landing at the airport at midnight, Micah picks us up with news of over a foot of snow in the mountains with about the same amount forecasted for tomorrow. Waking up at 6 a.m. we head to Tamarack. Tamarack is a ski resort about 2 hours from Boise. We loaded the truck in the rain and headed out of town along the Boise River. Then as we paralleled the Payette River snow flakes started to form. As we approached the town of Cascade, we passed a heard of elk and followed the North Fork of the Payette as the snow thickened. Arriving at the ski resort we had free refills all day as the snow continued. After receiving a text alert of even more snow the next morning on our phones, we rallied for yet another free refill day. We went to Bogus this time. The fog was intense and visibility was super low and we spent the day trying to stay together. Then another powder alert; this time we took our time and were rewarded as the weather lifted and we could see the amazing 360 view, instead the back of each others heads like yesterday when we were trying to stick together. I mean, any trip out west this season would have pretty high odds of hitting the powder Jack pot, I feel we got lucky this late spring trip.

I have notice a trend with the snow in my local area. It seems to be coming later in the season than when I grew up. As I write this the on May 3, 2023, this notion is reinforced by the last 2 days of snow. The last two day’s accumulation are probably just shy of a quarter of the snow we had this season.

I am concerned the El Niño weather pattern is coming which will be bad for the ski seasons on the east coast. This could help send average temperatures to new heights, which isn’t good for winter sports. You can help protect our winters by donating to POW.

Big Sur Part 2

Waking up after a “ cozy” nights sleep, we corrected ourselves from our sleeping position twisted together like the bottom of a wicker basket. Since I had mistakenly brought the one person tent the opening where your head goes was almost wide enough for both of us quickly funneled down to space scantly adequate for one person. After wiggling out of the tent we eat and pack up.

We spent most of the day hiking and exploring the coast in Andrew Molera and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks, also checked out a possible alternative route to the hot springs we were backpacking into tomorrow. We finished the day with dinner at Big Sur River Inn which also happened to be our accommodations for the night.

Having seen multiple “no camping, $1000 fine” signs all along the coast, I believe it would have been worth the risk if you made it a night before getting caught. If you had to pay the fine you would’ve come out ahead if you were staying in any of the glamping sites, inns, or resorts available. This is where my thought on getting the SUV rental as mentioned earlier in part 1 comes to mind. I feel it would have been feasible to risk paying the fine to camp in a vehicle. We went during shoulder season and had a hard time finding our accommodations. It would be totally worth paying the fine every two nights.

Waking not tied into a pretzel, but sprawled out in bed probably three times the size of the tent I brought, we got ready and had breakfast on our porch lounging around, slowly packing our backpacks. After scouting the alternative trail to the hot springs we decided to take the route that went through our first campground.

Hiking up the ridge was fairly drab with the brown and olive being the main colors with a touch of black char left on the forest from the 2017 Soberanes Fire. There were occasional pops of color the higher we hiked from the poison oak turning from green to bright red for fall. The hike in was overcast and mostly in the shade due to the sun position and foliage. I can see how this could be a brutal hike in the sun. We had a few options for camping along the trial on the way to the hot springs. We decided to push through the 10 miles and just shy of 4,000 ft elevation gain since we had gotten to our second possible camp site, napped, and had a lot of day light remaining.

We passed a couple, which I heard way before we saw them. From inadvertently listening to the conversation (since she was shouting at him) and by our brief interaction when we hiked by, I surmised they were on a date and hadn’t been together very long. I think he was going too fast for her. When I walked into his line of site, “oh look people”, he said, trying to distract her. No such luck! If it was our first date, I wouldn’t have a second. Reaching Sykes Camp at about 2:15 we set up then went in search of the hot springs.

We had a little trouble finding the hot springs since the map had them on the wrong side of the river, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. Sykes Camp was severely damaged and completely destroyed in several places. The man-made improvements that captured the hot springs in pools were removed by the high-flowing river. The trail was blocked by multiple washouts along creeks and dozens of fallen trees across the path. The trail was closed indefinitely. It was officially reopened in 2023, though it was passable at the time of our hike.

In our research for the trip we had trouble finding information about the condition of the trail and hot springs. I believe this was due to the over use and trying to protect the resource. I found this excerpt giving you an idea of the condition. The challenging trail to the camp from the coast has been littered with abandoned backpacks and tents, bras, jackets, food wrappers, water bottles, and toilet paper. The campsite and hot springs were at times very crowded, especially on holidays and weekends. Over 200 people have been counted camping near the river, although there are only seven officially designated campsites and a single pit toilet designed to support 20 visitors. Some visitors reported that unburied human feces were readily visible. Many visitors to Sykes are unaware that unlike state parks, the wilderness camp site does not provide garbage service. Unprepared for the difficult hike, they abandon trash and gear at Sykes, which encourages others to do the same. Richard Popchak of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance reported that, “The U.S. Forest Service is woefully underfunded and understaffed. In the Monterey Ranger District, they have not employed a Wilderness Ranger since the 1980s.”

The area was not nearly as trashed as the above mentioned excerpt details, but I did see a ton of toilet paper all along the camping areas. The information we found from the above mentioned Ventana Wilderness Alliance stated the trail was closed and the man made tubs were torn down. They also published the map we purchased which has the hot spring marked in the wrong location.

In the morning everyone had left so we did a soak then hiked to Redwood Creek Camp to explore the area. When we returned we had another nice soak before returning to camp. I slept outside to give Ally room since the tent started to spring a seam from both of us in it. By the end of the trip the zipper on the door failed completely.

Waking up we noticed that one other group had arrived, so we enjoyed the springs one last time before hiking back to where we had napped on the hike in. We decided to stay there that night and had an easy hike out in the morning. Leaving Terrace Creek campsite early we made it back to the car with time to go to Capitola Village for dinner on the Ocean to celebrate our first year anniversary!

Big Sur Part 1

Ally and I took a week to backpack and explore Big Sur, California for our 1 year anniversary. I started organizing and packing early then per usual I needed some of the gear for something else, then had a sudden mutisport day and threw gear everywhere, which lead to a frantic stuffing of everything I need for Big Sur into bags at the last minute.

We stayed in Wexford the night before the flight and hired a Supper Shuttle to the Pittsburgh airport. This is less stressful than a 2 ish hour drive at a ridiculous hour to the airport, followed by the long haul from extended parking (I am frugal in most instances, Ally not so much) since we moved to Garrett County, MD. I used to use Super Shuttle all the time when we were in Pittsburgh. It cost more than parking if your trip was less than 2 weeks, but worth it for the convince. The downside is you arrive at the airport at the suggested time, leaving a lot of time to kill. We stopped to have drinks since we had a lot of time to waste we also ordered breakfast sandwiches with our Bloody Mary’s. After receiving the bill I decided it was better to order drinks and food on the plane from now on. I am sure you have noticed that everything costs more now. I have really cut down the amount I go out to eat. The main reason being I go out for convenience, but now it seems everyone is understaffed so I wait for my seat, I wait for my drink, I wait for my food, then I wait for my bill. Good thing we were trying to kill time. This waiting kind of takes the convince out of eating out for me. Eating out has become like an event with hours of my time tied up in it. I could have cooked, ate and cleaned at home in the time it takes to eat out now. Anyone else feel this way? After receiving my bill and adding the 20% min tip I decided it was a bargain at a per hour unit cost, but ridiculous for two Bloodies the size of one and two tiny breakfast sandwiches. Rant over back to eating on the plane. As I mentioned above, I am frugal. Since I have a branded card I get 20% off food and drinks on the plane and there is not a tip option, so right from the get go I am saving 40%! I have to remember this epiphany.

After enjoying our comparatively cheap drinks and food on the plane we land and go to get our rental car. This is where Ally and I diverge on frugality. She upgraded to an Audi A3 because it was the same price with my credit card as a standard rental. I wanted to spend a little more per day and upgrade to an SUV. We will see which one was the cheaper choice later.

My first impressions of the car was- I am not happy. I was too tall for the car so after grumbling Ally said she would drive. Good thing the car had a sun roof, my head hit the top if I didn’t put it into super recliner mode. Ally burnt rubber, tires screeching at the first light leaving the rental as we speed across the intersection headed to get supplies at REI. I was thinking , “hmm I want to drive now” as I try to charge my phone. Seeing no USB imputs I lay my phone multiple places seeing if it will charge. By the time we get to REI we realize we need USB – C inputs to keep our phones alive. I giggle thinking I left a cigarette converter at home because surely new vehicles didn’t have that input as I discover one trying to figure out how to turn on the cars WI-FI.
As we gathered our supplies, mainly food from REI, striking out on both the lighters and lightning chargers, I joke about needing a tent because I probably messed up in my rush packing. Checking out we head to Target where we found the phone chargers in short order, but it took us a full on mission to find a lighter (well 3 lighters), we finally found what had to be the only lighters in the store a 3 pack near the vacuum cleaners.

Driving now in super recliner mode my arm fell somewhere, not quite out the back window, but definitely not in the front window. I have to admit driving down route 1 from San Jose to Big Sur was a blast. Leaving the city, we passed though farm land on the way to costal redwoods. Speeding around the turns catching glimpses of the ocean from high on the cliffs as we approach our destination, the smell of salt air wafting in through the open windows.

Stopping to hike down to the ocean briefly, on our way to eat at the Big Sur tap house, we watch the waves crash again the jagged rocky shoreline sending water exploding into the air before hiking back up, through bright pick flowers exploding sporadically amongst the carpet of green in the tiny area lining the boardwalk. This flower is Carpobrotus chilensis a species of succulent commonly know as the sea fig. Finally we arrived at our destination Wayland campground. This is a part of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This has 1,346 acres of redwood, oak, chaparral, and meadow areas. Hikers can enjoy 8 miles of hiking trails within the park and over 200 miles of trails in the Ventana Wilderness (USFS) which borders the park which we explored while backpacking to a hot springs.

I go about setting up the tent, and immediately regret joking earlier about grabbing the wrong tent. As luck would have it I stuffed the one man tent in my pack as I was rushing to pack for the trip. I told Ally “I grabbed this one so we could cuddle for our anniversary” she immediately knew I was full of shit.

Gear Review 2022 Part 2

Continued food from part 1.

I have eaten Peak, Back Country, and Mountain House many times and I believe they have been around for a while and most likely are made by food scientists. The newer to me meals listed below seemed to be trying to fill a niche with more environmentally sustainable food, while trying to up the taste levels by producing small batches cooked by people that have a passion for it.

I want to start off by saying across the board all the meals needed more time to rehydrate than stated in their directions. I even wrapped my meals in a puffy to keep the heat in. I wouldn’t suggest this method in areas with problem bears. The average extra wait time was 5 minutes per meal to reach what I thought was optimal rehydration. Optimal defined in this instance as not crunchy.

Nomad nutrition

“Our mission is to feed avid adventurers and their pursuits with locally crafted, wholesome and sustainable meals; to share our passion for clean, non-GMO sports nutrition; and to support local food producers whenever we can. In short, we set a new standard for adventure meals.”

All these selections were plant based nutrition. We had the Irish Shepard’s pie. This meal needed extra time, lentils were still firm with an additional 7 minutes, the flavor was decent, but texture was lacking.

Would buy from the company again just to try more of their selection, however, wouldn’t try the Irish Shepard’s pie again.

Good to go

“Our mission is to create the most delicious meals, using clean ingredients, to be enjoyed wherever your adventures take you.”

The Pad Tai (pescatarian, gf) had a good texture and a taste that was mildly spicy.

Their mushroom risotto (vegan, gf) texture good, taste was ok but somewhat bland.

Would try their products again.

Crazy Creek Chair

Ally bought this chair, it’s a luxury weight item I wouldn’t carry on 99% of my hikes. To give her credit she did get the Hex 2.0 version, their lightweight model. Still, that is an extra 18.5 ounces I can do without.

As I sit here in it typing away, I have to say it’s fairly comfortable. While not as comfortable as the couch beside me or my swinging chair, outside it actually offers more lower lumbar support the both of them. It would be extremely comfortable given almost all other options while backpacking. As a plus the stays make for excellent splints in the backcountry, should the need arise! Hell, the whole chair can be rolled around a leg if need be. How I know is a story for another time.

Overall, I would not purchase this for my use. It’s not quite comfortable enough to replace a car or raft camping chair and too much weight for my backcountry hiking kit. However, after Ally lugs in on a backpacking trip, I do snag it every chance I get. I would definitely try to squeeze it into a multi-day kayaking trip.

Sea to Summit Spork

I purchased their Titanium spork. I wanted to get a longer utensil to fit inside bagged meals and their utensils were beside the food at REI. I ended up choosing the titanium spork because it was the lightest and why buy two pieces of cutlery when you can get a fork and spoon in one! In reality it’s really just a spoon with shallow pointy spikes. I do love it, its light weight but most importantly its long enough to fit in a bagged meal. I haven’t had the occasion to use it in place of a fork, but I think it would suffice.

The only drawback is it is not dishwasher safe. I found this out the hard way. I was loading the dishwasher after I got home from a week in Big Sur and noticed there was still some cheese stuck to my spork in the sink. As I was putting it in to the dishwasher, I thought I should google to see if this can go in here then my mind wandered… minutes later the dishwasher was running. While unloading it I saw my spork and was like, “hummm I guess it’s not dishwasher safe.” I googled it to confirm my observation. Google agreed that all the anodized finish was gone, and it was not dishwasher safe. After going down the internet rabbit hole I still use my spork that may possibly be slowly poisoning me, but hey it’s dishwasher safe now that the anodized finish is already gone, right?

Would defiantly buy this again, as a matter of fact I will probably just pick one up next time I am at the store and not put it in the dishwasher next time.

Gear Review 2022 Part 1

There wasn’t a lot of outdoor gear purchased this year (2022). Most of this year’s purchases were building supplies. I would have to say the best outdoor purchase made this year was a house in western Maryland. Due to this purchase and the time spent moving, along with the overall general maintenance of multiple house I had to pass on a lot adventuring. Being an adult has some drawbacks. On the plus side though I now live within walking distance of the takeout of one the rivers I paddle the most. While also being close enough to a ski resort for my wife and I to squeeze in some uphill laps and normally a couple lift runs to start our days. The best part is it’s simple to get some night laps in if we want to at the end of the day! It was a busy year, but definitely did the staycation pretty hard taking advantage of the new location. Here’s to more traveling in 2023 because even though I will be mostly still purchasing building supplies in 2023, we sold the Pittsburgh house freeing up a lot of time!

The gear I will discuss this year will be for backpacking which was used on a weeklong trip in Big Sur, CA. Purchased for the trip was a Crazy Creek Chair, Spork and a variety of food. I will also give an update on the Werner Surge straight shaft paddle I reviewed last year.

Let’s start with the update for the Werner Surge straight shaft paddle.

Below is an excerpt from last year’s post.

Click here to read full review from last year. ……….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.

Werner Surge Straight Shaft Paddle

I had to purchase Surge bent shaft way earlier than expected. Less than a year after using the paddle I reviewed, the left blade flew off while kayaking. I had just finished paddling Iron Ring on the Upper Gauley in West Virginia when I went upside down. I thought to myself while rolling up that’s odd it’s like there was no brace or resistance when I took that stroke. After rolling up I confirmed my blade was missing upon finishing the river I looked at the shaft and there was no type of breakage the glue had just failed on the paddle.

I called Werner to try and get it warrantied. I knew it was less than a year old but didn’t have the receipt. The nice contact at Werner said I could mail it in at my cost then it would be about $116 to fix it. Off I went to get everything in order to have my paddle fixed. First up by a new paddle because this was going to take a while hence the bent shaft I now own. Hopefully it lasts more than a year! Next up, see how much it cost to ship paddle. Almost $100! Well shit I can just buy a new paddle for almost that total amount, oh wait I already had to. Called Werner again and about a month later after the defective paddle was sawed into multiple pieces and lots of confusion, I now have a replaced Surge straight shaft. I have to say the warranty rep was very helpful though out the whole process and did their best to make things right. Even after I had given up and told them this was no longer worth the time I had been investing to try and get the paddle warrantied they made sure I got my paddle replaced.

I will stay with this paddle unless one of these new paddles are also defective. Overall I am still happy with this product.

Next up the backpacking meals. We used a variety of companies; Evergreen Adventure Foods, Nomad Nutrition, Good to Go, Patagonia Provisions, Peak, Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House.

Evergreen Adventure Foods

This is a new company started with the mission of reducing waste. The founders kept seeing plastic food waste everywhere they went. The idea is to reduce this waste with biodegeable food packets. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will have much of an impact. Their target market is probably already responsible hikers. The litter they were seeing comes from people just leaving it here not because it’s not biodegradable. As a user of this product, you still have to hike it out to dispose of it! I love idea overall and their product was the best tasing of all the meals we used on this trip.

If you’re going to try just one Ever Green Adventure Foods meal, they want you to try the Bella Pasta. I agree of the meals sampled this was the best tasting by far.

“Mushrooms are an underrated superfood in our opinion,” says Jessica, “plus the Bella Pasta highlights (and helps protect) the Mt. Whitney area.”

The only down fall of this product unfortunately was a major issue. The packing of all the meals from Evergreen Adventure Foods leaked when we tried to rehydrate the food. with a little ingenuity or preplanning this is not a major issue, but if we hadn’t of had an old meal bag to use this would have been an issue since we had nothing to rehydrate it into on this trip.

Definitely will buy this product again I like the idea behind the company and now know to bring a stasher bag as backup next time. I couldn’t access their website as of this post but here is a link to the Facebook Page.

Next up for review

Continuation of food

Crazy Creek Chair

Sea to Summit Spork


Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 20

Nineteenth river day 25 miles 264.8 Mile Camp 4/13/2019

Twentieth river day 14.2 miles 279 Mile Camp 4/14/2019

Twenty first river day 1.4 miles to Pearce Ferry Takeout, derig, and drive to the rental house 4/15/2019

In hindsight, I am glad that I choose to add these couple extra days in the Canyon after the Diamond Creek Access area. I found the last two days were my most enjoyable. I think it was a combination of the end being in sight and the slower pace of the trip. With the trip almost over and knowing that we were on track to make our target pickup date along with having no other must-see objectives to knock of the list, I could allow myself to relax and not feel stressed. Another little thing I found enjoyable was that we separated into two groups, without having to try and stay together to provide support in the case of an overturned raft or other emergency. This really allowed for a much-relaxed pace. The group I was in lashed our rafts together and floated along playing cards and soaking in the sun as the day drifted by stress free. The only thing we had to really worry about this day was the campsite. The sites in this section are affected by the water levels in Lake Mead and the conditions vary greatly with current lake levels. A lot of these camps, along with the banks were caving into the river, much like icebergs breaking apart, sending the rims, and whatever were on them, tumbling into the water.

We decided to stay on a terraced campsite with log reinforced steps put in by the National Park Service. Since the banks were eroding and falling in, we thought this would make for a more reliable camp area. Later that evening we hear a large cracking sound and looked across the river from our camp towards the Silt Flats to see the side of the bank give way crumbling down into the river.

After Separation Canyon the flow of the river mellowed out to a float, as the surrounding area picked up in intensity. Lots of motorized boat traffic zipping by along with increased activity in general. A group of Indigenous people were providing tours on motorboats. A few that didn’t have tourists onboard would stop and ask for beer. Dealing with tourons is thirsty work. There were also helicopters buzzing all around taking even more tourist to their private accommodations or providing tours of the Canyon. We could see the massive tourist trap, the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe shaped steel frame with a glass floor and sides that overhanging the Grand Canyon’s rim looking down 4,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon. This is the most famous attraction at Grand Canyon West, managed by the Hualapai Tribe and located on tribal lands, consisting of just less than 1,000,000 acres. The tribe has about 2,300 members with Peach Springs on Highway 66 being the location of the tribal headquarters. The tribe operates a hotel, restaurant, and gift shop in Peach Springs.

Our last night we stayed just around the corner from Pearce where we were to meet our outfitter to dismantle the boats and get a ride out the canyon. We shared the spot with another group. I believe they were guides in training. We talked to them for a little bit, and some came over to our glow stick party. I don’t remember much about the evening. Micah, and I went to bed early. I do recall a guy walking towards us on the way back to camp he said, “she bumped into me, spilt my beer…. then she just meowed at me!”

“Sounds about right, have a good night.” I replied.

Waking up in the morning we packed our boats for the last time only to derig them fully in 1.4 miles. After hours of unloading the boats and loading everything onto the vehicles we climbed into the vans that were to take us to the house we were staying in for the night before all heading back to corners of the county, but the one thing we were dying to know was if everyone at Moenkopi loved olives? A pause from the driver, “yes, I guess. Why do you ask?”

“They were on the menu in almost every meal. We have a lot left!”

Moenkopi was great as an outfitter. They supplied us with all we needed and even worked with us as we were navigating a government shutdown, which could have possibly ended our trip. I just hope they don’t add our leftover cans of olives to the next group.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 19

Eighteenth river day 19.8 miles Separation Canyon 4/12/2019

Today marked the beginning of the end of our 21-day river trip and the beginning of C.J. and Kelly’s future together. I believe this is the day they told us they got engaged. C.J. had given Kelly a PBR tab in lieu of a ring, until they got back to civilization. This proposition had occurred sometime earlier in the trip but they had just informed the group as we headed for a change in the canyon and group.

We floated by the Diamond Creek Access, which is the first place since we put on 226 miles ago at Lees Ferry that a road comes to the river. I chose not to utilize this takeout for a couple of reasons: First being it cost more but the second, and main reason, was that I will probably not paddle the Grand Canyon again and I wanted to see as much as possible, so that left the Pearce Ferry Access to take out.

A few miles after passing Diamond Creek we run, in my mind, our last actual rapid of the trip, blandly named Two Hundred and Thirty Mile Rapid, also called Killer Fang Falls. The rapid gets it’s more menacing name from the schist fins lurking in the current on the river right line. These fangs apparently might have some bite. Newlyweds, Glen and Bessie Hyde were looking to make a statement with their honeymoon trip down the Grand Canyon in 1928. Each member of the couple had a different goal, Glen wanted to make the fastest boating trip while Bessie wanted to be the first known woman to make the trip down the Grand Canyon. This unfortunately never came to fruition. One of the many theories about what happened to the couple speculated that the twosome hit these “fangs” and were thrown from their boat. One of the more interesting theories was Bessie may have reappeared as a river guide named Georgie Clark after killing Glen. When Clark passed in 1992, her friends discovered a marriage certificate among her possessions for Glen and Bessie Hyde. She also had a birth certificate that said “Bessie DeRoss,” and a pistol stashed in her underwear drawer. Historians, however, could not verify the documents, and photos of Clark as a young woman don’t resemble Bessie. No bodies have been found to date leaving this mystery unsolved.

The rest of our trip after Killer Fang would be unremarkable rapid wise. With few remaining between us and Separation Canyon, our destination for the day, and after that none until Pearce Rapid right after we takeout. The rapids after Gneiss Cayon Rapid are now submerged under water and silt from Lake Mead. In July 1983 the lake flooded just upstream of Gneiss Rapid to Bridge Canyon. Even as the water levels recede it will take a very long time for sediments to be washed away reveling the rapids once more.

When we got to Separation Cayon, so named because it is where three men, William Dunn and two brothers O.G. and Seneca Howland, decided to walk out from Powell’s party in August 1869, never to be seen again. I wandered off and sat on a rock in the mostly empty drainage of the canyon and took in the everchanging shapes of the clouds and listened to frogs’ croaking on this beautiful evening, probably neglecting my unloading duties. I got back to camp; stuff was unloaded so I went with Oz and Eric to find the Cenotaph dedicated to the afore mentioned men. (I had to look it up. Cenotaph -an empty tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere.) You’re welcome.

When we set off down the river the next day, we kind of separated ourselves into two groups each doing our own thing. This would continue on the water until the end of the trip, but we would come together once again at our campsites.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 18

Seventeenth river day 35 miles Upper 220 Mile Camp 4/11/2019

As we were nearing the end of the trip people were starting to get tired and tempers were stating to flare. Luckily, we had no stops scheduled, as we were trying to make up time so we wouldn’t have to do the night float. We rowed a solid 35 miles, our largest milage of the trip! This combination of our distance and having a mostly uneventful day finally lead us to get our first choice in campsites for a while. We have had to use alternatives because the bubble of people that we had been with for a couple of days were in the good sites. Having passed the bubble we did catch up to a new group that we hadn’t seen before, but fortunately they were just downstream from the camp we wanted. This day’s only event was the swimmers we had. Brett tried to tackle Micah as he ran from his raft to the barge of rafts we had lashed together; he slipped and fell into the water. Laughing we pulled him onto the boats before he went under the tied rafts. I also fell in trying pee off the back of a boat. It is very important to use the tripod position keeping 3 points of contact when reliving yourself off the raft after drinking all day. If I would have had one more point of contact, two knees and a hand for example, instead of standing straight up using both my hands elsewhere I would have stayed in the boat. I am just glad I didn’t have a dry suit on. It would have filled it up with water while I struggled to get back on the raft.

We put on the river before motorboat season which in my mind made for an idealistic trip. The fuel powered boats had caught up to us a little earlier in the trip, but on this section, we also saw our first helicopters. The amount of commercialism would explode two nights from now after we passed Separation Camp.

As we were setting up camp and cooking dinner C.J was put in charge of the desert. Seconds before he ruined the nonbaked cheesecake by frying it in a pan he declared, “I don’t read directions and I don’t measure shit!” Hence the sorry condition for the cheesecake scramble. Luckily, he only made one box and Bonnie was able to salvage dessert. While that was going on I busy hitting Micah in the head with a tent because I was aggravated with someone else. He was laying down early because Ryan and he, wasted, had gotten into an argument over something or another and we had to separate them. So as the last piece of the tent, a pole bag, landed beside him.

He asks, “What did I do?”

“Shit, sorry! Nothing, I didn’t know you were back there.”

“Why?”, he drunkenly asked.

I was mad because I need lotion for my hands, they were cracking profusely from the arid desert environment despite having lathered them with lotion every night then pulling latex gloves over them to keep the moisture in. My lotion was in one of someone else’s multiple bags and they refused to let me get it. So, I decided to make room for my lotion in my bag since their tent and sleeping bag was taking up most of the space, hence the tent missiles landing about Micah. Now with all sorts of newfound room in my bag all I needed was to get my lotion back to try and heal my hands since I was actually spending some time on the oars. Calming down and my anger diminishing from his simple question, “Why?”, I proceeded to apologized to Micah.

I believe spending all day drinking White Claws as our main form of hydration was taking a toll, especially since we pushed ahead rowing all day not taking any hiking breaks. At this point however, I was so annoyed I just wanted to go home. I didn’t know how I was going to make it the next 4 days. This was one of the worst experiences of my life. On the plus side now that I didn’t have to pack, unpack, load and unload someone else’s gear which in turn gave me hour or more of my life back to relax and try to center.

Hopefully, like miserable physical experiences, pushing your body beyond its limits which in turn requires even greater mental constitution to overcome the obstacle, miserable emotional experiences also wither with time. Leaving behind only memories of the accomplishment while the memories of the pain fade away. A person just remembers the spectacular view at the summit not the bleeding, raw blister, oozing and scabbing into your sock, making the hike up all but unbearable.

So, I believe the mental emotional anguish will too dissipate leaving mostly the memories of smashing through the waves, heart racing, smiles on everyone’s face in the day paired with magnificent sunsets of the Canyon, everyone feeling truly alive going into the night. The only difference I foresee between the emotional and physical is that the latter leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment, but what does the emotional leave?

I was awoken later that night by C.J. screaming, “Kelly!” It took me a minute, but when Micah started laughing, I realized C.J. was trying to quietly find Kelly because he had gotten lost while trying to pee. We laughed even harder when, “Keeeellllllly!” became a frantic screech and he was literally 200 yards away from his tent at Brett and Courtney’s tent. We almost went to help when he stumbled to the rafts and screamed again, but it was just too funny to watch. Finally, to our dismay, Kelly opened the tent door and in a dejected voice, “over here C.J.” thus ending our enjoyment for the day.

In the morning we passed the group, lined up on the bank, as we rowed downstream doing Brett’s favorite, the reverse wave, we yelled, “hey you guys!”, only to turn and wave the other way. When we turned back around, we were greeted with a line of bare asses. Around one guys ankles were the exact copy of Micah’s golden booty shorts. Laughing almost as hard as we did at C.J. last night, we rowed away.

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.