Monday, January 23, 2012

12 Days in the Grand Canyon: Things I learned on my Grand Canyon Trip

Grand Canyon Overlook
Things I learned while I was on my Grand Canyon trip.

Day 1.  "Clean up your stuff before you go on to do something else!"  My mom told me that when I was a kid and I am still paying the price for not learning that lesson.  Piles of dishes still show up in my kitchen sink at home but when you are camping in the cold it is much harder to clean your dishes after they have frozen over night and that will piss you off because then its much harder to make coffee since you only have a few pots to start with unlike my collection at home so that I can go a week without cleaning. 

A well organized kitchen makes all the difference
Day 2.  "Skeg Down!"  Holy Mackerel that little plastic slice of love hanging off the back of the XP 10 is magical.  It makes the swirly water at the bottom of every rapid and in every tight canyon on the river  a piece of cake.  I would occasionally find my boat wandering all over the river in the seams where the fast water and surging pools collided.  Then I would notice that I was not, "engaged".  Some of our crew paddled the entire river, rapids included, with the skeg down.

Woody was skeg down all the way!
Day 3. Brook Burke is the man!  This dude had less than 10 days of whitewater kayaking under his belt when he started to paddle through the Grand Canyon.  Throw in the fact that he got sick in the first few days and you have a double stud factor of 11.  

Brook feeling the power at House Rock!
Day 4.  You don't need to pack everything in a dry bag.  Things that can get wet can get packed anywhere and single pieces fit well into the little spaces between bags, behind seats, and in front of your feet.

Day 5.   There is soooo much room in the XP that I can't even tell you how easy it was to pack and actually pack too much stuff.  I had socks, underwear, playing cards, harmonica, jacket, a jar of peanut butter,  jelly,  and a roll of bagels that I never used!  It was really nice to know that I would have enough even if it got really cold.  The key is to look for all the nooks and crannys between the bags and  spaces that bags don't fit.

Will it all fit?
Day 6.  Neosporin and bandades will heal a cut much faster than just letting it go while in the desert.  Here in the southeast you can just let it go and the moisture in the air will keep it from cracking and bleeding over and over.  Not so true out there.

The only injury on the trip
Day 7.  There is always something than can kick your ass even if you are on top of your game.  You might just fall down, knock a rock loose, meet a cat the size of a German Shepard, leave your drain plug open, or find your boat missing from the beach.  Not that there is anything you should do about it or be afraid of.  Just recognize that sometimes shit happens and having a good attitude, dealing, and understanding that we are all in it together is the way to go.

I kind of do and kind of don't want to meet the cat that goes with those prints.
Day 8.   Thermoses rock! When you are paddling in the cold a Thermos full of hot soup is one of the most satisfying things I have ever had for a river lunch.

Day 9.  If you pull your bad ass outfitting off the back band and lay it down on the seat pad you won't have a frozen dew seat in your kayak in the morning.

How long did it take to carve that creek?
A good tarp is as good as a tent except when it comes to mice and ringtail cats.
Day 10. Probably the most important comfort issue to be conscious of during the trip through the Canyon in the winter is condensation and moisture.  True there isn't much rain, snow, or sleet down there but if you dress too warm you may sweat and that will chill you if the breeze picks up or the cold water of the river hits you so constantly monitor and control your temperature so that it doesn't happen.  The other place to really watch is your camp set up.  As the temps drop there becomes a serious difference between your temperature and the outside air temp. which leads to condensation.  If you sleep out under the stars that moisture will build up on your sleeping bag and can be serious enough to wet the bag pretty heavily.  I even got a little wet inside a tent without the fly.  The two things that really help with condensation seem to be coverage that will catch the moisture (a tent with a fly or a tarp), and ventilation.  It seems to me that having a tent or tarp that allows ventilation around you without it settling on top of you is very important in this battle.  A crazy simple tip to spotting a dry camp spot:  dry sand = dry camp spot,  damp sand = damp camping.  I know that seems obvious but it was a great indicator.

Day 11.  Neck warmers are the bomb when it comes to controlling your temperature or just keeping warm.  My parents used to tell me that 92% of your body heat went out of your head.  After this trip I think the other 40% leaves through your Carotid artery.

Steve J. psyched to be on the water

Day 12.  No matter how many times you do something you can find something special about each trip. Down playing the experience because you have done it before is a weak excuse for not having an incredible time.  Its ok to be totally stoked on the experience!  What a great crew I got to paddle with!  I hadn't spend this much time on the water with Woody before.  It was awesome to see Steve Jordan (a former partner of ours at LL) do so well on the river and see that his hard work to get ready for the trip really paid off.  I met a great crew of new friends and I had many friends in mind and traveling with me that couldn't join us.


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