Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 1

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

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

Yvon Chouinard

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Gear Review Part 2

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

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

Primary River Use

Yeti Panga 50 Duffel

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

For the Van

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

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

NRS Expedition Driduffel 35L

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

For the Van

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

Goal Zero Venture 30

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

For the Van

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

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

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

Hydro Flask Thermos

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

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

For the Van

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

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

2020 Gear Review Part 1

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

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

Primary Van Use

Yeti Tundra 35 Hard Cooler

I received a Tundra 35 as a gift from my brother, it’s great and I love it! I would probably have went with the 75 or 110 if I had purchased it, but I did not and I am super stoked about having it! The features of the different size coolers are basically the same except for the capacity. The first time I used my Tundra 35, my pasta actually started to freeze. It does a great job keeping things cold. My only complaint is it didn’t come with a bottle opener. I added a beer bottle opener to it, it was easy to do I just tied it onto the handle. The non slip base is great when the van is moving and I slam on my brakes, but when I try to slide it under the bed platform, the non slip really works making it difficult to move. Hence, it now lives out from under the platform making it the perfect dedicated beer storage cooler keeping those frosty beverages within easy reach. The Tundra 35 can hold enough food and beer for a long weekend for just me. It doesn’t quite fit the needs of two people for the weekend. When my partner comes for a few days she brings her cooler which is about the same size. This allows enough room for beer and food! If I worked out how long to freeze my beer so it thawed at different rates and didn’t explode, the cooler would work great for two people for an extended weekend, because this would limit the need for ice. Let me know if you have a formula for this?

For rafting

The integrated tie down points make it a breeze to attach to the raft with NRS straps. The reason I would have went with a bigger one if I purchased it myself is for mufti-day rafting and less need to stop to resupply in the van. I know, surprising the cooler holds the same amount of things for rafting trips as van trips.

Would definitely get again, probably would upgrade to a Tundra 110.

Goal Zero Nomad 13 Solar Panel

I have trouble getting this to charge my Iphone! I think I feel like it’s Apple proprietary bull shit. I have trouble getting multiple things to charge my stupid Iphone. I use it primarily to charge my Goal 0 Venture 30 battery through my van windshield when parked. I tried chaining multiple Goal 0 Nomad 13 Solar Panels to charge my Sherpa 50. I never got it to gain power, but it seemed to stall its draining. I don’t end up using it as much as I thought I would. I takes awhile to charge my batteries living in the rainy Mid Atlantic. If it would work with my phone I would definitely use it more, but as of now I charge my battery then use the battery on the phone. Since I drive the van a good bit I just cut out the solar and use the van battery to charge stuff.

For rafting

On both the Grand Canyon and the Salmon River the charger seemed to get too hot and not charge. It only seemed to charge my battery packs in the mornings before it got sunny and super hot. Does anyone else have this problem?

Going to try it backpacking to see if it works out any better. I don’t have high hopes.

Would not purchase again for my needs.

Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Bank

This can power my computer for a short amount of time. It keeps my phone and Ipad charged for about 5-6 days with moderately heavy use. It charges from the charger faster than overnight. I usually plug it in to charge the night before I leave. I have forgotten and plugged it in later when I woke up and was like shit I forgot… and it charged in at least 4 hours. It’s small enough to move around the van with you or carry around in your pack. It’s heavy for hiking weighing around 2.2 lbs.

For rafting

I have had the built in light click on in my bag and drain the battery a few times, but I use and carry this thing around a lot. When it happens it’s a bummer but it doesn’t happen that much and the light is useful. I don’t use it as a primary light, but when I am looking for something and the battery is beside me I really appreciate it being there. It’s been useful way more times then its drained my battery.

Would definitely purchase again.

I purchased rechargeable lights for the van instead of running wires and purchasing a large battery. I did this thinking it would be more environmentally friendly. I am not sure if that is going to work out. It is in the sense that I can use the lights in multiple settings as opposed to having different dedicated lights for each activity.

MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern + Charger

I chose this light because it was supposed to charge other devices from the solar solar and enclosed battery. This function only worked reliably for a few weeks. Now sometimes it charges sometimes it doesn’t. It’s fairly bright when inflated and hung overhead. It can also be set upsidedown/rightly and used as a lantern.
I love that I can charge it from the van USB port with the enclosed cord. This is needed if you don’t have access to the sun, i.e. don’t spend a lot of time above tree line.

For rafting

The light would not charge my phone at all on a three week rafting trip. The plastic got really hot and the strip which you hang it from came loose. I was able to tape it and it has stayed since. I did keep it charged via solar and provided plenty of light in the tent. Was not enough by itself for the group outside of the tent.

Would probably purchase again on sale.

MPOWERD Luci Lux Inflatable Solar Lantern

This light is not as bright and only charges by solar. It’s not as useful as the MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern + Charger. It works fine in conjunction with the other Luci’s to light the van. I primarily use this one before bed since the light is softer.

The plastic did crack in the cold, but it still holds air and functions as it should.

For rafting

Haven’t used yet. I feel it will function fine. The light isn’t quite bright enough for me to justify taking it.

Would probably purchase again on sale.

MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights + Charger

This light charges with solar and USB which makes it great for the van. Since its a string light, I can have it charging via USB and use it at the same time unlike the lantern types. Their charging cords are not long enough to have a useful placement while being charged. I bought two of these and they give off enough light to make reading in the van a breeze without straining my eyes.

For rafting

One of my friends brought this light on a couple rafting trips and it was amazing. It lit the kitchen area and he kept it charged with the solar portion only. I was so impressed I bought two for the van.

I feel these lights would be extremely useful on a bikepacking trip!

Would probably purchase again. One of the two quit working after only a little usage. Will see if the other one lasts longer. I will not purchase again if only getting a few months usage out of it for environmental reasons.

Avocado Mattress Topper

This was purchased by my partner. I had an old worn out mattress, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and she found it uncomfortable. After she mentioned it I noticed it was uncomfortable also. She went on a mission to find an ecofriendly mattress topper. So, now we have a Avocado brand topper (and a mirror in the van, not sure how that got there) which is really comfortable it helped a lot! She chose a latex topper so it would be less likely to be rock solid in sub zero weather. Not only did it make for better rest at night in a range of temperatures, the company uses organic materials and ethically sourced labor throughout their supply chain.

For rafting

I would’t be against packing it and taking it on the river, but it would take up so much space. Haven’t motivated to try it yet.

I wouldn’t buy it, but would definitely use it if she purchased one in the future.

Next post gear for the river

Yeti Panga 50, NRS Expedition Driduffel 35L, Goal Zero Venture 30, Hydro Flask Thermos