Wednesday, January 25, 2012

12 Days in the Grand Canyon: Every day something different

Everyday something different.

Day 1.  Day one was a big one for me because I just don't get to go on trips where everyone is paddling one of our boats let alone everyone was paddling the same boat.  It was also a really cool experience to see how well the Remix XP performed for everyone and how perfect it is for this type of trip through rapids and long stretches of flat water.  Pushing off from shore and feeling the stability that the boat had with 100+ pounds of gear loaded into it felt great.  Yes it was another proud designer moment.

Day 2.  One of the incredible things from day 2 was the appearance of the Redwall Limestone and this wall.  You can see how small the kayakers are next to it.  It was distinctly layered with dark and light colored sediment layers.  The perspective as a paddler going through the Canyon is really wild  because the walls that surround you seem so big and dominating of the landscape but from the canyon rim looking down and in, the river gorge is just a small part of the Grand Canyon as a whole.

Day 3.  The hike up Little Nankoweep Canyon and up onto the first bluff above the river was really cool.  I am not sure how much altitude we gained but I would guess around 1000 feet and we might have walked 2 miles each way.  The tricky parts were 3 slightly sketchy climb spots on the way up and down.  Nothing terrifying but it certainly made you concentrate.  This hike is just up stream of the classic Grainery hike at Nankoweep Canyon.  We had this incredible view down river and we stood on this rock directly over our boats parked far down below.

Day 4.   Oh boy this was a big one.  We camped at a place called Basalt on day 4 because Mike had a hike that he had never done and really wanted to see.  Mike has somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 trips through the canyon so this is actually an unusual thing to find.  I joined in on the experience even though the report was that there would be sketchy climbing.  I got to the first "crux" of the climb and pulled rocks off the wall that I was trying to use to climb and lets just say that rattled me.  A couple rocks rolled down from the folks up above us and I opted out with signal.  But a big group pushed on to the top of the ridge.  I waited at the bottom of that first crux listening as they worked their way up the wash, avalanche looking area.  They managed to climb all the way up but I heard several cries of "ROCK!" and I could hear rocks careening down the gully.  One of them even got down near me even though I couldn't see them any more.  I saw that they had reached the top so I started walking back to camp but I could still hear them as they started the descent.  Then came a really loud yell!  "ROCK"! and "COVER UP!".  I heard a few echoes of the call by people further down the climb and then it was quiet for a minute and there were some nervous laughs.  I was glad to hear those laughs.  I couldn't handle it any more I went down to camp but for the next 20 minutes I glanced nervously up at the path leading into camp hoping to see them but at the same time hoping to not see someone come running into camp.  It all came out ok and the group had stories to tell all evening and into the next several days about the "Mike Hike".

Day 5.   One of my favorite things about day 5 was this camp.  Its called False Trinity.  It was small and close in but there were good places for everyone to set up their tents and room for all of us to have a nice kitchen space.  We watched the nearly full moon come up along with Orion.  We had a great night chatting about the Mordor middle earth like canyon of the inner gorge.

Day 6.  It was the rapids of day 6 that I really enjoyed.  Granite, Hermit, Crystal, and the Gems were super fun and we covered 16 miles like it was nothing.  Hermit was in fine form.  As I slid down the green tongue into Hermit I could see down the row of waves and down in the middle was a huge wave that was breaking heavily.  It made me think a little about dodging the heart of the waves but then I remembered I was in a 200lb kayak.  It would take a giant hole to stop me.  With that reassurance in mind I floated through the towering peaks laughing all the way.  The big wave broke over me.  I didn't even slow down.

Day 7.  We covered 24 miles and got to camp a little tired.  We were all struggling to stay up and it really helps to stay up at least until 8 or 9 pm or you wake up way before sunlight with nothing much to do.  So I came up with something to do.  We had a fun evening playing with our headlamps and long exposure photos for a an hour in the moonlight over the canyon.

Day 8.  The highlight of this day was doing an up and over hike from Tapeats Creek to Deer Creek, which was only possible because a few of our team hauled our boats a couple miles downstream for us.  This hike takes you up to Thunder River which is a creek tumbling out of the side of a massive ridge fed by an underground aquifer.   We climbed up past Thunder river and across Surprise Valley to Deer Creek which is one of the more famous side canyon hikes.  There were spectacular wide long vistas and an intimate carved micro canyon which falls over a 100 foot waterfall into the Colorado river below.

Day 9.  Day nine had a complete up and down feeling to it.  We stopped off for a classic hike at Matkatamiba.  The hike was super stylie climbing through the smoothly carved hall way that the creek had formed and it was warm up on the rocks when the sun hit us at the top of the gorge, but when we returned to our boats we realized that we were one boat short.  "Boat missing!"  A big group took off immediately to try to catch up with the kayak that must have slipped into the river on a surge or rise in the water level.   The rest of the group held back to keep track of the boatless paddler.  It took us over 2 miles but we caught up with the boat.  All the gear staid in the cockpit and only a few things got wet that shouldn't have.  John rode on the back of Woody's boat until they caught up with us.  That was a hilarious sight.  Woody told me that while John was perched on the back of his boat he had said,  "the next 60 miles is going to suck if we don't find my boat", and Woody's reply while trying to keep the his boat above water was, "you're telling me!" 

Then late in the day we caught up with another trip that had a unique set up.  They had a cataraft with two kegs strapped on the front and with true river man class they invited us in to fill our water bottles with a fine local brew from Flagstaff.  Thats a nice way to cap off a slightly stressful afternoon.

Day 10.  Lava day.  It fills paddlers minds from the moment they get on the river sometimes.  When it gets quiet people start talking about what they think the water level will be at Lava or how it went for them last time they were at Lava.  Its the perfect whitewater climax to this trip with only a couple days left.  We spent the morning running good smooth lines with only one swim and a flip or two out of 16 boats.  We had big smiles through 20 more miles of the the lower canyons that day.

Day 11.  Miles and miles.  These last few days we covered about 25 miles a day.  My arms were tired but it was a good tired.  The shadows continued to morph and change on the canyon walls.  The moon followed Orion over the horizon.  The end of the trip felt close.  I tried to keep myself focused on the present but little bits of home started to seep into my thoughts.  The lower canyons are beautiful.

Day 12.  We had just a short paddle to the take out so it was more of a silly float.  I think we all felt pretty happy with ourselves accomplishing a great trip, with a great crew.  Paddling fairly remotely for that long, with a lot of people, in the winter, is a fairly serious endeavor.  It came off perfectly.  Its not very often that you travel with 15 other people with, no drama, no real problems, and lots of memories from a trip of a lifetime.


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.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Source to Sea on the Colorado River

Two new videos from Will and Zak up on the Rockies Youtube channel.  The first details their journey from Flaming Gorge to Ladore Canyon.  The second from Desolation Canyon to the Grand.  What an amazing adventure these guys are on traveling all the way from Wyoming to Mexico, 1700 miles.

Here are a bunch of photos from their trip so far.

You can keep up with their trip and look back through the 3 months they have been traveling here.  I just got a message from the guys that said, "We just ran out of river yesterday in Yuma AZ and were trying to figure out how to cross the Mexican Delta."  We'll see what happens next!


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Driving to the Put In: Grand Canyon 2012!

Driving down to Flagstaff with the home team.
Well today we are driving up to the Put In for our trip through the Grand Canyon.  I was lucky enough to have my home team along for the ride and a quick glimpse at Monument Valley, and the South Rim so they could see where I was going to be for the next couple weeks.  It was a perfect day to drive down to Flagstaff and meet up with the river team.
My home for the next couple weeks.

It was great to see the team in Flagstaff for final packing and celebration of 3 New Years.  East Coast, Central, and Mountain.  I think the packing got a little sloppy in the end.  We'll see if we got it all on board.  Happy New Years Everyone!  See ya on the water.

Last minute packing on New Years Eve!

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