Hey everyone, I'm back in the world of inter-nets. I've been struggling with a way to summarize our experience last month in a few paragraphs, but here's my best attempt. This is a photo-enhanced set of words to show and describe the trip down the big ditch. The quick details are: 14 people, five 18' oar rafts, two kayaks, 24 days on the river, 280 river miles from Lee's Ferry to Pearce's Ferry, 3 raft flips, high flow experiment (about 37,000cfs) during Hermit, Crystal, Horn and Granite.
We got our boats and gear at the put-in on November 5th at a place called Lee's Ferry which is about seven river miles downstream of the Glen Canyon Dam. The water in the Colorado was crystal clear and the air temperature was mild, probably in the 60s and sunny. We got our gear and food from an excellent outfitter "Ceiba" and spent a few hours learning the ins-and-outs of their kit from a helpful man named Sparky. After Sparky gave us his briefing, I took a photo of each of the boat captains and we packed up our rafts and floated about 100 yards downstream to a nearby beach. We unloaded our whole kit, made a quick dinner and had a group meeting before heading to bed. That night the temperatures dropped below freezing and some things froze. Exciting!
Sunrise from Lee's Ferry
Zak Randall, boat captain, Lee's Ferry, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Stuart Slay, boat captain and trip leader
Mike Mourar, boat captain
Scott Shepard, boat captain
Jeff Weaver, boat captain
Our first morning we learned an important lesson about the daily fluctuations in the releases from the Glen Canyon Dam, our boats were beached in the mud. The river "tide" had fallen in the night and subsequently left our thousand pound (plus) rafts beached in the slippery mud. We had a slow morning, packing up and receiving a briefing from the National Park Ranger named Peggy. Around noon when we had everything rigged and ready to go, the water level was already high enough to avoid major misery pushing the rafts across the mud. We pushed off, heading down river, committing ourselves to this expedition until November 30th. It was a sweet moment, everyone celebrating and getting excited. I went for a voluntary swim shortly after Paria Riffle and realized that 48 degrees is substantially colder than 58, which was the temperature of the Cayuga Lake during my training swims. We floated under the Navajo bridges and ran our first big rapid (Badger) and setup camp right below the rapid. At the Badger scout I had enough time to change into my dry suit setup. Our first night I was a cook and we prepared salmon on the grill. I had never eaten fresh meat products while camping in the back country. Everyone enjoyed the meal and we sat around a campfire and talked about the day. It was an early night and I went to sleep before 9pm.
Floating under the Navajo Bridges Colorado River
Parker rowing near the put-in
Sunrise from Below Badger Creek Camp, Colorado River
Our second day on the river we ran some beautiful water and ended up at a big pile of sand at river mile 19. We were excited to have no flips in House Rock. Our third day on the river we ran the Roaring 20s, which involved a few major rapids. Zak and I ran the class four "Indian Dick" and nearly flipped. I got in the ducky (inflatable kayak) and ran twenty-seven-mile (Tiger Wash) rapid behind Mike in the hard-shelled kayak, which was really exciting, the biggest water I've paddled in my life. Going down over the wave train felt a lot more real up-close and personal and self-powered. Then we had a lay-over day at the Silver Grotto and had a chance to read books, explore the side canyon and enjoy a day off from moving things around.
Jeff Weaver about to practice surfing some smaller waves in 29 mile rapid
Zak and Parker exploring the Silver Grotto, near 29 mile rapid
Looking up into the Silver Grotto, Mile 29
Looking up into the Saddle Canyon, Mile 47
Saddle Canyon Waterfall
After our lay-over day we headed down river and explored Stanton's Cave, Vasey's Paradise and Redwall Cavern. It was an exciting day for mini-hikes on the many non-river attractions. We had an awesome hike up Saddle Canyon and some of us swam in the waterfall. Then we arrived at Nankoweep, which was a nice place to enjoy a sunset and sunrise, and that night the high flow began. That summarizes pretty well our first week on the river. Our second week began the high-flow experiment and the major rapids. Stay tuned in the next few days for an update.
Scott doing Yoga in Redwall Cavern
Inside Redwall Cavern looking out to the Colorado River
Sunset from Nankoweep