Grand Canyon - Day 1 (5/22/2005)
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and took my last hot shower for 6 days. At 6:00 I headed downstairs with my yellow bag filled with stuff for the trip and my left over luggage. They have a room at the Radisson where you can leave luggage while you are on the river. A large bus was downstairs ready to take us to Lees Ferry. So 18 of us loaded the bus and headed out. We had breakfast on the bus and made our water bottles river ready. We took nylon straps and attached them to our water bottles with a bunch of duct tape. This is so we could clip them to the raft. The plastic retainer for the lid of Nalgene bottles is not very strong and will break.
The trip to Lees Ferry is 2 1/2 hours. Along the way we stopped twice for final bathroom breaks. We got our first view of the Colorado river as be passed over this cool bridge. We stopped here for a quick break and were able to look down into the canyon at the river we were going to run.
We arrived at Lees Ferry to the sight of lots of boats waiting for clients. Our guides and rafts were waiting for us. For our trip, we have 3 rafts and 4 oar boats for support. Our lead guide, Larry Hopkins, introduced himself and gave us an orientation on what we needed to do to get going. We off loaded our bags from the bus and loaded them on to the oar boats. Our boots went in the purple bags and our back packs in another set of bags. We got a quick paddle lesson and then got fitted for our PFDs (life-vests). A guide inspected and tightened each PFD to ensure a proper fit.
Our guide team consisted of:
paddle rafts - Larry, Lucca, and Kent
The cool thing about the way they run this trip is that they have no set schedule. Other than having to be at the take out on Saturday morning. Each day Larry decides the schedule. He can tweak it to what interests us, our fitness levels, and river conditions. There are no assigned camp sites. Larry has 2 or 3 locations in mind each day. Where we end up depends on the conditions of the day and if anyone beats us to the site.
Andrew, Kristina, and I rode in Larry's raft today. We loaded up and headed down the river. The start of a great adventure. Larry gave us some more paddling instruction and we tried out a few things. The Colorado river is dam controlled. Thus some days or times the river runs faster or slower depending on power needs. Today is Sunday, so not as much power is needed and thus the river is running lower today.
We went through some baby rapids (okay riffles) and continued down the river.
We pulled in for lunch. We had cold cuts, chips, and cookies. They even had my favorite mustard, Beaver Creek Sweet Hot!
Latter in the day we rafted through several class 3 rapids. We got into a detailed conversation about the Grand Canyon rapid rating system vs. the standard rating systems used on most other rivers.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife today. At the Navajo Bridge we saw two California Condors on the ground. These had been recently released. For a period of time, they hang meat off the side of the canyon to feed them. Other birds we saw were the Great Blue Heron and Peregrine Falcon. We also came across a big fat Billy Goat beside the river. It seems he escaped from the Navajo reservation and somehow made his way down to the river. He is all by himself, so the park service is letting him stay.
They are having record heat for this time of year in the canyon. But on the river, if you get hot, you can cool down with the ever cold 45 degree river water. We had lots of water fights between the boats throughout the day to help cool us down. Larry has an awesome squirt gun/tube that shoots a long stream of water. After ever water battle Larry always yells, "we won!".
The last rapid of the day was House Rock. Our campsite was in the middle of the rapid. We had to shoot through the rapid and pull off to the side for camp. The tricky part was getting the oar boats into the camp. Our raft was downstream to help anyone who did not make it. Ellen's boat did not make it, so we pulled her in downstream and then used a rope to tow her into camp.
We formed lines to move the luggage and camp gear from the boats to shore. The guides set up the kitchen while Swiss gave us a talk of eating procedures. Sanitation is extremely important and they have a good system in place. Before eating or after going to the bathroom you use a wash station with river water and hand soap. After that you use hand sanitizer to kill anything from the river water. One person not following procedures could make everyone sick. After that Swiss went into the poop talk. All poop must be packed out of the canyon. You do your business in something they call "the groover". Basically this is a large ammo can with a toilet seat on top. You do not want to pee in the groover, so there is a yellow bucket next to it, just in case. All urination must be done in the river. If you were to pee on land, the uric acid left behind would stink up the beaches. There is little rain water to flush it out. Following this, two of the guides demonstrated setting up the two man and one man tents. I hope it doesn't rain, the one man tents seem overly complicated to set up.
After the talk we found our camp spots. There is no need for tents (unless it rains). So everyone sleeps under the stars. Each person's camp kit consisted of a tarp, sleep pad, sleeping bag, and a liner.
We then had dinner. Each night we had appetizers, a main course, and dessert. Appetizers tonight were chips and dip. Dinner was spinach and cheese ravioli with salad and garlic bread. For dessert we had a birthday cake for Michal's birthday.
After diner we went on a night hike into Rider Canyon. We had to do a little scrambling along the way. We ended up at the end of this narrow canyon. Everyone relaxed on the rocks and listened to Swiss play the flute. Some frogs got into the action and ended up taking over the concert. We hung out for a while and enjoyed the sounds of nature. Kent took a snooze as was sawing some pretty good logs. Eventually we turned on our head lamps and headed back to camp. Tonight there is a full moon and Larry was hoping it would light our way back. This did not happen, but our head lamps did the job. Guides were positioned at any difficult areas to assist us. Upon returning to camp everyone headed to bed.