Friday, September 10, 2010


Well. What can I say about spending 16 days in of the most beautiful places on the planet.
'BLOODY FREAKIN AWESOME' comes to mind a lot.
I'll do my best to bather on about the many many highlights, the one lowlight and the calm in between.

Mark and Julie, who had the permit had waited 15 years to get it. That how long it can take to get a private trip. And you can only do one trip per year as an individual.
The ages ranged from 30 to 57 on the upper and 37 to 72 on the lower.

The gang first day....note how clean shaven we all are

We all met at a hotel carpark in Flagstaff for the shuttle. Most of the people were strangers and didn't seem too scary on first impressions. Ceiba the company we went with are amazing. All the food for each day was packed in its own large ammo can with the meats and dairy in ice packed coolers. They had boat maps with what box goes where to make it easy to find when needed.
We ate so well, my god. So much tasty tasty food. We were in groups of 4 which cycled through cooking, cleaning, groover and rest.

First nights dinner- salmon steaks and salad. Yummo
We packed up and they drove us to Lees Ferry, just over 2 hrs north. Its named after John Lee, a Mormon who hung out with Joseph Smith. He ran the ferry till he had to flee and was eventually executed for the Mountain Meadow massacre. Lots of history in that area.

Trying not to eddy out

At Lees ferry we unpacked, blew up the 5 rafts and packed them up. So much stuff. Including 55 cases of beer. I was amazed we could fit it all in. It was hot then rained pretty hard in the afternoon which cooled us all off. The water at that point was so cold I could only stand in it for about 20 seconds before it made my feet hurt. It warms up about a degree every 30 miles so after 226 miles it was at least tolerable at the end. The one good thing about it is that it kept the beer in the drag bags perfectly chilled.
That night we ate dinner at Marble Canyon and slept in the campground by the boats.

Life is good

Next day the ranger inspected our ID's. Told us all about the Hanta virus carrying mice, rattlesnake and scorpions that love to lurk about campsites. Everyone has to wee in the river and poop in a ammo can to take back out. You get very quickly used to weeing in front of people. The groover, as the ammo can toilet is known is set up each night somewhere semi private with a good view of the river. If the paddle is next to the hand wash station, then you know its free to use.

So finally after we signed the waver not to sue the Park Service if we died or got carried off by Hanta Virus mice we set off.

16 people, 5 rafts, 1 kayak (2 kayaks on the lower half) and 226 miles ahead of us.

Scouting Badger Rapid while Luke kayaks through

The first night we set up our tent....i think we all had visions of urine soaked tails of Hanta virus mice and their scorpions comrades running across our faces as we slept. After that night we only set the tent up once more on the 4th night because it was raining. Sleeping under the stars and the full moon was perfect. I have a few bug bites on my face but nothing too bad.

Luke waiting for all us slow poke rafters to get ready

90% of the Colorado River is flat water, with a bunch of hair raising rapids to keep us awake.

Cooling off at Upper North Canyon hike

I learnt a lot about what crazy stuff water can do. You can be cruising quite nicely on the current without having to row at all, and then somehow you get sucked into a eddy off the side and the bloody water is flowing up river taking you with it, and its a bastard to row out of. Some of the stuff that happens in rapids is even more bizarre. There is one rapid toward the end Upset (i think) where there is a huge boat eating hole to the right which you really want to avoid. Watching the other boats approach it, it seems inevitable that they will be sucked into this thick frothing, churning maelstrom. When suddenly the raft stops moving right in front of it and slowly slides away to the left. When we did it, we were almost at a dead stop and I was reaching over the front and almost could touch the vortex. I have no idea what makes the water work that way and it still boggles me.

Myk and Rob power through Badger Rapid

So we spend our days chillin through the flat water, drinking beer, taking turns at rowing and watching the amazing scenery go by.
No one moment, not one second did I have the thought of 'I'm bored' or 'I'm done, ready to go home'. I was so content and happy that the real world didn't really get a look in the entire time.

The guide book tells all

I'm really glad and really lucky that I did the whole trip and not just half. I admit I was a little nervous about the whole rapid thing. I haven't had very much experience so I really did not know what to expect. The upper half has a few big scoutable rapids. I think the first few I clung on and really didn't enjoy it that much.

The things you are forced to drink on the river, least it was cold

After a few days I got used to what the water can do and how the boats react. Plus all the boatmen were highly skilled and you totally trust them. The girls boats was fun. Katie and her girlfriends put me at ease over the whole rapid thing plus they had the best cocktails. Katie is a great boatperson. What she may lack in brute strenght she more than makes up for it with a whole lot of finesse and skill.

This rafting life

By the end of the upper half I was standing up holding the bowline whooping and hollering with the best of them.
This meant that I was comfortable enough that the really big rapids on the lower half were a complete hoot and I want to go back and do them again.
Leaning across the front is also a useful way to help the boat punch through the waves and can stop it from flipping if you can highside at the right time.
Even if you do fall out the consequences are fairly mild. Tossed and turned and cold till they drag you back in.
One trip and I'm talking like a pro ;)

Peace out

Next post- A chopper evac, an exchange of passengers, a monster hike, waterfalls and watching Rob being launched