Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 5 and 6: The Black Canyon

I don't really know what to say about this trip. It really was indescribable. The Black Canyon is one of those places that you just have to see to believe. It has Grand Canyon grandeur, hard rapids, scary sieves, portages that make you grunt and sweat, and we had perfect weather yet again. We also had a secret weapon....Milo.

The Put In

It was a very spur of the moment deal. Woody gave me a call and said that he had gotten a call and there was a group headed up to do the Black Canyon. This is a run that Woody and I had both wanted to do. Its a very strange feeling. Immediately after Chuck's accident I didn't want to ever see this place but now nearly 10 years after I was immediately excited about the idea. I wanted to see it all for myself. It was made even better by the company into the gorge that we were going to have.

Lunch High Above The River

Woody, Jennifer, and I were joined again by Billy and Aaron. We were invited by Brian from CKS. The six of us were signed up for the overnight experience. We were also joined by one of the Black Canyon homeys. His name is Milo, and from what I am learning as I travel around Colorado, everyone knows Milo. We also had Tommy, and Jules along for the ride. They drove in late in the evening for the full on experience with Milo of the one day Black Canyon trip.

Jennifer (chickodini) and Milo on his 38th trip

The Painted Wall

I had traveled to the gorge and looked over the edge once. And it had blown me away. The Canyon itself is so impressive it rivals any gorge, or canyon I have ever be in or seen. As we drifted through we all found ourselves constantly leaving our mouths hanging wide open. The cliffs seemed to over hang the river from a couple thousand feet up. Birds surfed the thermals and drafts from the bottom of the gorge. It was very cool to be in there. Brian kept saying he wouldn't be surprised if a Pterydactil came flying around the corner. Someone else said it was serious Lord of the Rings land. Yes all weak analogies compared to what the place really was. So we just keep trying but you just can't do it justice.

Desert Camp

Our trip started with meeting at the take out in the evening before we were to get on the water. We all camped in a desert pullout on the Chukar Trail road. We woke up with a very bright high desert sun 30 minutes from hitting camp. It would go from a cool mellow morning to a hot breakfast in the sun.

The shuttle itself is pretty full on. An hour on a fairly brutal dirt road, and then 45 minutes back up to the park. Then the precipitous road down to the East Portal access to the river. Once we were down at the put in a quick overnight packing session took place. Lots of debate on what to take. Some took pads no sleeping bag. Some took bags no pads. I went without the bag but a good pad and a shell jacket to sleep in. I loved my decision except I forgot something for my legs. It was fine but next time I will have some tights and paddle pants. Weight is a serious issue because the portages are pretty hard because you are going up and over quite a bit of rock. By the end of the trip my arms and legs would be tired from the portages not the paddling.

A Couple Pretty Sieves

We had a mellow paddle into the gorge and then the first rapid we hit was a tell tale sign of what was to come. Sweet tight moves, with nasty sieves awaiting a missed line. We all walked. The whitewater in the Black Canyon is great but there are a lot of sieves, and undercuts, but I don't think that I would ever consider this to be an incredible whitewater trip. Just like the Colorado book says, its an adventure. You just have to make up your mind that you are cool with the experience. Lots of fun rapids, lots of walking and lugging boats. But the payback is being able to pass through one of the coolest enviorments in the world.

Brian and Milo gave us great lines on rapids and good paths for the portages. Thanks for that. Let me just tell you that very good beta or someone on your trip that knows the gorge will save you alot of grief on this trip. They even clued us into the poison ivy tactic that worked wonders for Woody and I. They told us to put dishwashing soap on before the hike like lotion and then just wash it all away when you get to the end of the hike.

We camped at the end of the long portage down river right in a very cool campsite under a big overhanging rock. Miles, Tommy, and Jules carried on trying to finish their one day trip. The goal was to be at the take out before dark and up to the car by midnight. They all made it but it sounded epic.

Hanging at Cave Camp

We cooked up a fine tuna and rice meal under the rock, passed a flask, and told stories. I scrambled around in the rocks and found another rock for my collection. We also found a huge perch rock that stuck out into the air of the gorge probably 50 feet off the ground with a perfect flat area for us to look over the stuff we were portaging and look further upstream and downstream. That was a cool place.

A Few of the Cool Places in the Canyon

Here are two videos from the trip. They are around 10mb.
Black Canyon Part 1
Black Canyon Part 2

It is a trip I will always remember and I consider a must do.

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