Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 10 in the Grand Canyon: Lava Day!

Nervous Scouting Lava
 It's day 10 in the canyon and that means one thing, it's Lava day!  The stress started the night before at camp, especially for those who have been challenged by the big volume whitewater thus far.  Every conversation focused on the rapid and its main features, the Burble Line that lines you up to start the rapid, the stompy V-Wave, the ledge hole Hole that eats huge motor rigs, and the Eddie at the bottom that can keep the best kayaker missing rolls.  As the fire turned to coals that evening some were still trying to decide whether to go with their skegs up or down.  In the morning breakfast was hushed and we packed our boats with just a little more care, just in case.

Woody Dropping In
Lava has several different lines.  Our group usually runs down the main tongue, breaking hard to the left just behind the ledge hole, and hopefully missing the deceptively powerful V-wave and then bobbing down through the lower waves.  Our success varied from a perfect line to beat downs and a swimmer.  If you miss the charge left or have a little angle to the right you will find yourself quickly in the maw of the V-wave.  It seems to me that getting thrown there serves a harsher line than going for the v-wave directly.  A few of us decided to run the meat of the rapid.  We also had varying levels of success.

The Eye of Odin shot while paddling in by Chuck Joy!
Over the years we have developed a series of traditions with regards to running Lava Falls.  We check our skirts, line up on the burble line, and look for the Eye of Odin.  Recently I added another tradition, inspired by our pal Kasi from Switzerland.  He yodels while dropping into big rapids and it sounds awesome, when he does it.

Lava Day in the Grand Canyon from Shaneslogic on Vimeo.

Treasure was found!
Here is a link to all the photos from Day 10 in the Grand Canyon.

That was a fun day!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 9 in the Grand Canyon: Staying Warm

Chasing the Sun Down the Canyon
Day 9 we started at Ledges Camp (Mile 152): not a warm place in the winter. The morning had been a little cooler temperature wise, a huge wall shadowed camp, and ice had formed on the water buckets. The sun was never going to hit us there. The cold wasn't bad but the wind bit a little as we slid into the water. We chased the sun down the river, through a few rapids, but mostly just pretty relaxed whitewater. Havasu Canyon gave us one of the highlights of the day. We squeezed the entire group of 16, in our boats, up into the tight slot gorge. Everything glowed iridescent blue from the travertine-filled water bouncing around the canyon walls.

The Glow in Havasu Canyon
Warm Sun Lunch Spot
As we continued downstream, the sun only hit us in a couple of small patches. On days like this, the only consideration for a lunch spot is that it must be in the sun. We finally found a spot tucked up against a vertical wall with a waterfall spraying off the rim above and bright warm light on our faces. Our destination that afternoon was Cove Camp (Mile 175). It felt good to put away so many miles, but I was starting to feel the accumulation of several days paddling and hiking. From camp, we strolled up through a side canyon where a mud flow had thrown huge boulders around. As we returned to camp we found the sun had swung around the wall was blaring down on our camp. We all stopped what we were doing and soaked it in for the 30 minutes it allowed. It felt great. The second it went behind the walls again, we all pulled on our coats and hats and built a fire.
The Sun Hits Camp!
Staying warm in the Canyon during the winter is not hard if you are prepared. We were lucky this year with the weather. We had bright blue skies with lows in the 20s and highs near 50. There have been colder trips for sure. Last year they had some days where it never got up to freezing.

On the river its amazing what paying attention to layering and good gear does for winter paddling. Most days I was in light leg tights and a single heavy top under my drysuit. I like to keep my core a little extra warm so that warmth radiates out to my extremities I wore my paddling mitts almost every day and a beanie whenever the temps dropped. Warm food and drinks are a must. One of my favorite pieces of gear on this trip is my thermos. At camp, I wore heavier fleece pants and wind pants on the colder nights. Up top I wore a fleece and down jacket. Obviously you need a warm hat but the one piece that I think people might forget which makes a huge difference is a neck warmer. It closes that last little gap where the wind and cold try to get to my jugular. As for sleeping in the cold, of course a good sleeping bag but don't forget to have a sleeping pad that will insulate you from the ground. Shnuggling against frigid sand and rock caused a few of us to have a cold night along the river.

Full Moon and a Warm Fire by the River
Here is a link to all the photos from Day 9 in the Canyon.

As Day 9 finishes it begins to settle in that we are getting close to the end of the trip.  I try to keep  as present mentally as I am physically in the Canyon.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 8 in the Grand Canyon: Feeling a Little Primal.

The happy place at the top of the Deer Creek gorge

Deer Creek Falls

The 8th day we started from Stone Creek Camp (Mile 132) fairly early so that we could do a couple short hikes and still cover 20 miles to Ledges Camp (Mile 152).  The first was one of the most iconic in the Canyon, Deer Creek.  Deer Creek is a small stream that has chewed a very unique canyon for itself out to the rim of the inner canyon. At the canyon's edge it drops 80 feet or so into a pool along the Colorado.  The second hike was also a very popular hike called Matkatamiba.  It is a cool climb up through a smooth polished mini canyon that you can climb chimney style for quite a while.
On the lip of the inner canyon at Deer Creek
By day 8 in the Grand Canyon we started to feel a little primal.  There was sand in everything.  On day 3 Woody was pretty much rolling in it. I sort of cleaned my dishes after each meal.  A lick is as good as clean. Right?  The cadence of the nomadic group provided the only clock work that really mattered.  Sunrise started each day.  We pushed as far into the evening darkness as we could so that we could remain asleep till first light.  In a very basic sense, the only things that mattered were; Eat, Sleep, Stay Warm, and Travel.  There was a routine.  We began to do things pretty much the same way everyday.  Waking, fixing coffee and breakfast at a certain time. Packing our bags a certain way.  Loading them into our boats just so.  Climbing into our gear.  Paddle.  Lunch. Paddle. Hike. Eat. Gather Wood. Fire!

Orzo, Veggies, Calamari & Tapenade
You could definitely classify everyone in the group by whether they stew over their canyon food for months or pick it up at the grocery store right there in Flagstaff.  There are 3 schools of cooking for this trip as far as I can see.  Number 1 captures the serious backpacking gourmets who prepare their meals before hand and dehydrate them.  They do more planning than I have ever put into this type of trip but man, the meals look awesome, and they are one pot meals because they just boil the water, cook the contents, and eat out of the same bowl.  Cooking and eating out of a single bowl is a big deal.  It means less you have to take and less you have to clean up after each meal.  Number 2 has the down-and-dirty packet boilers.  This includes your Mac N' Cheesers, your Beans and Rice-a-roni packs and your high falutin' Mountain House style backpacking food folks. This style is also very simple and what it lacks in creativity it gains in time saved.  The only reason I am careful about anything in this style is the very high sodium content.  My heart starts racing just thinking about it.  Number 3 features the fresh food river chefs.  I start in this category but towards the end of the trip I begin to wander towards packet boiler status as I get tired.  The fresh foodies bring veggies, eggs, meats, bread, etc. to fill out the menu.  The benefits are obvious:  the food is good, and you can adjust and create different meals by adjusting contents.  The downsides are: longer cook times, more dirty dishes, and a heavier boat.  I wrote the categories so I get to break the rules;  I consider myself a mix of all three.  I bring some fresh foods, a dozen eggs, a cooked ham, giant cheese block, onions, fruit, etc. but I also have a base of easy to cook pastas, rice, and grains, and I also carry a couple bags of dehydrated veggies that I soak into meals.  I add ready made sauces, meats, and spices from my spice box for variation.  There are lots of ways to attack the food thing, but it does take a little planning.


Here is a link to all of the photos from Day 8 in the Canyon.
Its good to have fire.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 7 in the Grand Canyon: The Hike to Hardy's Boys Crack

Just hanging out with the cactus.
The hike up to Hardy Boys Crack
We started from Black Tail Canyon (Mile 120) fairly early on Day 7 so we could cover the 12 miles of river to Stone Creek camp (Mile 132) before lunch, which gave us plenty of time to join Mike on another special adventure.  I will remember this hike for the rest of my life.  I also love the story about the people who found this crazy up-and-over loop hike from Stone Creek to Gallaway Creek and back to camp, which includes this awesome down climb through the tapeats sandstone known as The Hardy Boys' Crack.  The rumor that I heard goes that in the 80s, a couple old time river guides spent their winters on the longest permitted trips possible drifting through the canyon and wandering up onto the rocky shelves and crumbling talus slopes of the side canyons and peaks of the Canyon.  When their permit ended, they would take out, head back to Flagstaff to replenish their supplies, and then grab the next long term permit available, pretty much living off their guide wages from the summer season and remaining down in the gorge all the year round.

The hike started off like so many down there, scrambling up a rocky wash working around big boulders and along the eroding edges of the terrain.  At this moment we had our first "are you serious" moment.  We cleared our way out of the stream bed Mike pointed up at a huge red wall and said, now you want to work your way up this scree slope and along that wall and finish on top of that first level.  I thought to myself "are you serious"?  Up along the wall we went, under boulders, and scrambling.  A few calls of "ROCK!" came down from above but it was all good.
We made it.  Then an amazing traverse on top of the Tapeats Sandstone level.  All the while Mike is giving us the history of the world according to piles of rocks.  It was awesome.  Then I start thinking about how the hell are we going to get down off this cliff and I remember the name of the hike and start expecting a down climb (my favorite) chimney style and there it is! Nothing too crazy but cool none the less.  I thought to myself, "awesome we did the climb"! But there was another level of the same, and then yet another.  Mike walked along the edge of the cliff scoping out a line.  I looked over the edge and thought, "are you f-ing kidding me"?  It was 100 feet down.  Then he found a slot and said, "this is it".  One of the Dutchies said out loud what I was thinking, "ARE YOU SERIOUS"!?  It was a tight climb down a rock choked chimney.  There was a little exposure but the hand holds were plentiful.  The line worked beautifully and we all were sputtering with awesometude.  All that was left was a sketchy traverse to the next side canyon and back to camp.

WHAT AN AMAZING DAY!  Yes that is Mike laughing at us all.

Beaz's Cigars!

Here is a link to all the shots from Day 7 in the Canyon

def.  Awesometude- The attitude adjustment you receive when you get to do something awesome.

Day 6 in the Canyon with Liquidlogic: Big Water in the Remix XP and Stinger XP

Walls above Granite
The annual Liquidlogic trip through the Grand Canyon was a dream of Boyce and Woody's. Boyce loved doing multi-days in his kayak and Woody knew that the best place to test the Remix XP series would be to take them on an extended trip.  What better way to achieve both goals than 12 days in the Canyon?  The first year, they took prototypes and early production models to test how they paddled and carried gear.  They came back knowing that they would do it again.  I couldn't join the XPdition until a couple years later but I kept hearing how great the trip was and how perfectly the boats performed but I felt a little removed from it because I didn't have that experience yet.  I had done some short overnighters on the Chattooga, and other rivers in the Southeast but I hadn't really loaded it down and lived from the XP for an extended time especially not while paddling big whitewater.  When I finally signed on, filled my boat with gear, and paddled it through big water,  I fully realized what an awesome boat it was for that type of trip.  The more weight I added to the boat the more stable it got and yet remained capable of rolling easily and maneuvering through the rapids.  The other big factor that I didn't realize the importance of was the skeg.  At the bottom of most rapids and all along the river big boils, swirls, and reflecting currents can toss you around a bit.  By dropping the skeg, the XP cut through the chaotic water quickly and effortlessly. It's also amazing the holes and breaking waves you can punch through with a boat that weighs nearly 200 lbs.

Granite for Breakfast
I am a lucky person to get to see my work play a part of people having incredible experiences. During the afternoons in the Canyon I love strolling around the beach after a big day on the water, pulling gear out, setting up camp as the evening light slides up the canyon walls, and listening to everyone talk about how amazing the day was.  It's not the boats that make it happen but they are a little part of it.  In one moment this 6th day that I won't forget, I got a little sunburnt with pride when we floated into the sun at Hermit and the entire LL armada was soaking it in, working through the rapid, laughing and yelling for one another, and I got to watch an inexperienced nervous paddler reach into the mountains of water and pull himself through and smile broadly at the bottom of the wave train.

Bram pulling his way through the waves.
As soon as we decided to make the Stinger race boat a real production boat, Woody and I both knew that we wanted to make it as an XP version as well.  It's a perfect complement to the Remix XP series.  For more experienced paddlers, the Stinger XP is fast, playful, and yet still super stable and predictable. The Remix XP's are extremely stable and forgiving for paddlers of all skill levels.  I experienced the speed of the Stinger as one obvious difference.  I could move forward and back in the group quickly and easily.  I felt like I was using less effort to cover our 20 mile days.  When I paddled the Remix XP I almost felt like I couldn't flip over but I could move around very well in the rapids.  At first I thought both boats seemed to carry the same amount of gear but as I got more used to packing the Stinger it seemed to have more room.  They both surf well but it can be tricky to fit the Stinger into tighter waves.  The Remix surfed easily in lots of different waves. I found that by dropping the skeg in either one and I could catch waves more easily.  We had a good mix of both boats on the trip this year making it fun to see the advantages of either design.

Black Tail Canyon
We paddled from Granite (Mile 194) to Black Tail Canyon (Mile 120) this day.  After the big hike and fairly long paddle of this day we were bushed.  Fortunately it was a short hike up into the super tight and sweet Black Tail Canyon to finish off the day.

Here is a link to all the photos from Day 6 in the Canyon.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 5 in the Canyon: The truth about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon

By Day 5 packing the boat is getting pretty easy.
Day 5 in the Canyon contains a bunch of fun whitewater as we drop into the Upper Granite Gorge with some big name rapids like, Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, and Horn Creek. We covered 20 miles from Rattlesnake Camp (mile 74) to Granite (mile 94).  Nothing like camping above a big rapid to make for some slightly restless sleep.

Mike dropping into Hance.
When I was a kid paddling around the Southeast I heard stories about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon and I saw videos of the huge waves and holes flipping giant rafts.  I didn't think I would ever kayak anything like that.  It only took me a few years to realize those thoughts weren't true but still when I first enter the Canyon I have a little bit of concern for the rapids.  I think that nervynous that I feel is tied mostly to the history and lore of the river but I also think the remoteness and size of the water adds to the mystique.  During the winter trips add in the cold dark shadows that the canyon walls cast over the river and it starts to get a little bit of an ominous feel to it some days.

Jeremy Approaching Horn Creek in the Shadows
The truth of the matter, however, is that if you have a bomber roll and can paddle sideways down through waves you are good to kayak the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.  There is no doubt that some of the rapids have serious moves for rafts but almost every single rapid in the Canyon is "hey diddle diddle, right down the middle" for a kayak.  Yes there are a few features to avoid but they are very obvious.  Yes there will be different water levels that may affect this determination but for the most part its all good to go.  Tentative kayakers have highways to avoid the big stuff and solid boaters can paddle right down through the biggest parts of almost every rapid.  There are a couple whirlpools that will bury you for a second and if you are upside down they might torment you enough to make you swim but those are few and very far between.  The one rapid that throws some curve balls at you is Lava.  The easiest line can be hard to hit and the angled curling waves come from different places that can slap you around hard if you are in the wrong place.  My goal by mentioning this isn't to belittle the whitewater, my goal is to clear peoples minds of fear for the whitewater so that anyone may take the opportunity to float through the Grand Canyon.  This is a trip that every paddler should make in some form or another.  The paddling is super fun and I enjoy every riffle whether I am in a tiny playboat or a long loaded missile.

The Team is all there.
Heres a link to see all the photos from Day 5 in the Canyon.

More awesome whitewater tomorrow.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 4 in the Canyon: We are hiking up to where?

Pile O' Rocks
Day 4:  Lava Chuar to Rattlesnake Camp is only 9 or 10 miles on the river so it wasn't the paddling that was daunting.  We got to camp early so we could take part in the yearly tradition of "Mike Hikes".  He pointed up to a peak that looked to be beyond not just the first wall behind camp but over another and then one more.  That was a daunting visual.  I was thinking to myself, really?  A couple years before I was involved in a "Mike Hike" that involved 5.9 climbing up and across a scrabbly, crumbling Talus slope that I turned back on after 5 or 6 rocks ranging from baseball to football size shot past me while I hunkered down behind a shifting boulder.  The group that day went on to finish the hike but as I slid back to the base of the scariest climbing I had ever done without a rope, I could hear them screaming "ROCK!!", followed by nervous laughter.  Lets just say when Mike said bring your headlamp I was hesitant.  It turned out that the hike from Rattlesnake camp up to the Tabernacle was not horribly long or difficult as far as climbing, however there was 1600 feet of elevation gain.  It was a constant uphill grade that kept me huffing and puffing, my legs got a little wobbly afterwards, but it was very doable hike.  We followed Mike up the slope over one ridge, past another, around the back side of the peak, and then up on top for a 360 degree view of the Canyon.  What seemed so far away and kind of unthinkable crumbled away in a couple hours to a simple afternoon hike to one of the few peak hikes in Grand Canyon.  The textures, colors, and landscape kept me entranced the entire time.

The peak is in sight, but there is more climbing to do.
Summit Team
Whoa! Trippy Dude!
Here are all the photos from Day 4 in the Canyon.

We slept well that night.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 3 in the Canyon: Feeling Small in a Big Place

Feeling Small down in the Bottom of the Canyon
Day 3: We started to gel as a group.  I have a feeling our late night party in Yonton's hotel room the night before putting on the river may have set the tone.  The Truth serum brought out the camaraderie in all of us.  It takes a little luck, social flexibility, and empathy for those in your group to come together as easily as ours did.  It seemed the 3rd day was when everyone felt as though they could deal.  Packing the boats was coming a little more easily.  The cold was cold, for lack of a better word, but manageable.  There were still nerves in some of the group about the whitewater but those were more known fears than the big questions that people had before the beginning of the trip.  By day 3 most of us had used the groover so that was behind us.

View From the Granaries
We traveled from Mile 42 at Buck Farm to Mile 65 at Lava Chuar Camp.  Between those points are lots of classic stops, hikes, and photo ops.  The walls are towering.  I always try to get the shot that shows how big it is but obviously its impossible to get that one.  First stop this day was the Nankoweap Granaries.  Its an awesome spot to sit up high on the wall of the Canyon and think about living in that Nankoweap Delta a thousand years ago.  They farmed on the floor of the canyon during the winter and moved up on the rim during the summers to follow the more moderate temps, kind of like nomadic kayakers of our time following the endless Spring.  Supposedly these "Ancestral Puebloans" built fires in the granaries, mudded them in, and then sealed the door with a big rock held in place by vacuum and mud?! and it worked and stored, protected, and preserved the food for long periods of time?!?!  I am blown away.  I have a hard time keeping stuff from rotting in my refrigerator.

Dutchies at the Granaries
The next stop was the Little Colorado River or LCR if you are hip to Canyon terminology.  At this place the water is not the right color. Something about travertine and limestone dissolved in the water makes it that way.  All I know is that everything looks awesomer sitting in it.

Just outside the mouth of the Little Colorado River

Here is a link to all the photos from Day 3 in the Canyon.

The Canyon is awesomer daily.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 2 of the Grand Canyon : BIG RED WALLS

Chuck likes fish.
The first day of the trip i was mostly just overwhelmed with getting all my crap together, getting to know the group a little bit, feeling the boat out with all the weight, and just settling into the idea that I was going to be out there for a while.

Yes that all fits in my boat.
Day two on the other hand I felt completely immersed in the Canyon.  The walls shoot up quickly, high enough that the whole feeling small thing kicks in hard and fast.  The rapids are not difficult but they are fairly consistent and fun through the "Roaring 20s".  Then we entered the Marble Canyon and the walls went vertical. The textures and colors are incredible and the immensity is incomprehensible, so I just tried to take pictures of it.  One of my favorite parts of the entire trip is passing along the stripes in the Marble Canyon walls here where they are smooth and nearly vertical, and running my hands along it as the current picks up speed.  Its that smooth and polished.

Polished smooth walls.
The size and reality of Redwall Cavern is just plain silly.  There is no photo that can show you but I will try with this one.  I have watched a concert, passed a football, and thrown a frisbee in this cavern and not even come close to being able to cover the distance either side to side or front to back with sounds or thrown objects.

Redwall Cavern
We paddled down to Mile 42 to a nice camp tucked into the cliffs called Buck Farm.  Up on the rim we could see snow.  It was a cold camp but the fire in the fire pan, and extra clothes in the sleeping bag made it work.  In the morning there was solid ice on the water buckets where we gather water to let the sediment settle out so drinking and cooking is a little less gritty.

Buck Farm Camp
Here are more photos from Day 2 in the Canyon.
We are in.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 1 of the Liquidlogic Self Support Grand Canyon Trip

The Storm that almost ended the trip. 
 This trip just about didn't happen for several of us this year.  Snow storms were moving across the country in many different regions which delayed, canceled, and forced lots of scrambling to make it to the Put In in time for check in with the Park Rangers.  Chuck had to buy a first class ticket to make the date.  Tom luckily ran into a counter agent who was from Flagstaff and knew all about the desire to make it to the river.  She managed to get him to the Flag airport just in time to meet the shuttle headed directly to the put in.  Woody had electrical problems on the road which left him a day later than he wanted to be but it all worked out we arrived at the Motel 6 in Flag got ourselves organized and loaded the rig headed for Lee's Ferry.

The 16 at the Lee's Ferry Put In

The group of 16 consisted of 8 first timers in the Canyon including a 6 pack from the Netherlands that made the trip just to be a part of it.  A handful with previous experience and a few with 5 or 6 self support trips in the bag.

Tanner's Wash

Standard operating procedure is that you arrive at the Put In the day before launch for inspection from the Rangers, then camp there, and go through orientation the morning of your launch.  Then push off. There are just a hand full of rapids in the first days section and a very cool eddie to catch at Tanner's Wash.  At mile 17 we arrive at House Rock Rapid and our first camp.

Below House Rock Rapid

House Rock Rapid Camp

10 things you do just about every day on a self support Grand Canyon trip.

1. Wake up before dawn because you failed number 10.
2. Pack up some of the things in your tent including something you need later that day.
3. Make some coffee and breakfast.
4. Pack up your tent and kitchen.
5. Use the Groover.
6. Pack your boat and try not to be last off the beach.
7. Run whitewater rapids. "Hey diddle diddle, right down the middle" are the only directions you need.  You might want to paddle a little left or right at some point.
8. Get to camp and set up.
9. Go for a hike.
10. Cook, try to stay up until 9pm, and fail.

My Kitchen for the next 12 Days


Here are all the Photos from Day 1.

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