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Rafting The Grand Canyon & SW USA - September 2007
Rafting Through Grand Canyon
We attended the orientation meeting where we received our gear. Amongst the gear was a dry bag for our clothes and cleansing items. That night we packed what we would need on the trip. In the morning we ate at a really good breakfast buffet, gave the luggage we were not taking to the hotel management for storage until we returned, boarded the bus, and headed out to the rafting departure point.
The trip was run by Canyoneers. Their description of the trip:
ALL THE GRAND
7 days, 6 nights on the river
280 miles by powered pontoon boat
Lees Ferry to Lake Mead
Lees Ferry is east of the eastern end of the Grand Canyon (upper right edge of the map). The trip ended at Pierce Ferry on Lake Mead west of the western end of the canyon (upper left edge of the map).
- We had a really great crew: Brandon, Bianca, & Amelia.
- the trip leader
- he has a great knowledge of the history of rafting in the canyon and a natural flair for telling stories about the canyon
- he has a wonderful sense of humor, but when it was needed he was extremely good at getting us through difficult spots on the river and ensuring that we did everything in a safe manner on the raft and ashore.
- second in command, training to be a trip leader she would be the trip leader on her next trip
- her immodesty was a little shocking to some of us, but when needed she was all business
- every morning just before daylight she would announce it was time to start getting ready by calling out "Canyoneers Coffeeeeeeeeeeeeee" reaching an ear-splitting note by the end of the call
- guide in training, this was her first trip as a crew member
- she was given all the mundane duties such as ensuring that all the food and supplies on the shopping list arrived and going to Flagstaff to accompany us on the bus
- We can not imagine having a better crew. (picture)
- We had a great group of fellow passengers. Everyone was good natured all the time and all chipped in to do the chores when we went ashore. There was no bickering nor heavy drinking like we had heard about from people who had gone on other trips. The passengers were:
- Sharon & Dave, our fellow adventurers on this trip.
- Sharon & Dennis, their sons Britt & Ty, and Dennis's brothers Mike & Bruce. This is a very nice family, Ty & Britt had done some rafting previously and were very helpful to other passengers especially some of the ladies that had problems getting into and out of the raft.
- Becky a very brave lady that was doing this trip on her own. We have heard that a couple of years later she took her grandson on the same trip.
- Jane & Arlene two more ladies brave enough to do this type of trip on their own.
- Rhonda & Terry, a couple who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. As is the tendency with many people a lot of the passengers sat in the same place each time they got on the raft, this lead to this couple sitting on the front of one of the pontoons most of the time. On the sixth day they finally asked if someone would switch places with them because they were getting too cold from being wet all the time.
- A young couple Erica & Chip and Erica's dad, Jim.
- And us, Dale & Ernie.
The "raft" was actually a motorized pontoon boat. It could carry a crew of 3 and 19 passengers, so we were 1 passenger short of being at capacity. There are two sections, the front has a depressed area with benches, so people sitting on the benches sit with there legs bent and their feet on the floor as when sitting in a chair. The back was a flat floor slightly higher than the seat of the benches. It was hinged between the sections to enable riding over high rapids, when we went over one really turbulent set of rapids Dale and Ernie were sitting in the front section and Sharon was sitting in the back section. Sharon told us that at one point the front of the raft was pointing straight up, unfortunately she did not get a picture of this. Along the sides are benches on which to sit when the water was not bad enough to be instructed to get "down & in". Pontoons run down each side of the raft where we could also sit, this is the most comfortable place to sit because you can lean back on the dry bags which are stored in the crevice where the side of the raft meets the pontoons. (picture)
From the time we planned this trip, Dale said that she was going to sit in the back of the raft she did not want to sit up front. When we got on the raft Dale immediately sat down so Ernie sat next to her wondering why she sat there. When the raft pulled out it turned around and started heading down the river with Dale sitting as far in front as you can get (She thought that the raft was backed in to shore). We were on our way.
Our first stop was at Redwall Cavern. As we approached it Brandon told us about how big it is, but we are looking at what appears to be a slit that we would need to crawl into. As we got closer we could see it was bigger than it first appeared, but it still seemed really low. It is situated at the top of a sandy beach, so we had been looking at it from below with the beach distorting how tall the cavern is. When we walked up to it we found it to be huge, we were told someone had estimated it could hold 50,000 people we do not know if this is true but it could definitely hold tens of thousands of people.
We were very glad that we decided on the motorized trip instead of a rowing one as it allowed us to lay back and enjoy the scenery while the crew took care of getting us safely through the trip. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful and was consistently so. Whether looking up or down river, across to either shore line, up at the cliffs, or up at the sky the awesomeness of God's creation was everywhere. As well as the awesome scenery we saw an abundance of wildlife including mountain sheep, elk, eagles, hawks, fish, lizards, frogs, and snakes.
Each day we cruised the river, stopped for lunch, then went to an area where we could spend the night. On most days we stopped to take short hikes into the wilderness or to see a particularly interesting feature. When we stopped for lunch we would explore the area while the crew setup a great buffet of fruit, vegetables, and sandwich makings. When we stopped for the night we would form a line to unload the dry bags and food & equipment needed for supper. The suppers were wonderfully prepared meals.
There were tents available, but we did not have to set them up, the weather was so nice that we slept in the open. Another one of God's awesome creations, the sky, was beautifully clear every night with its billions of visible stars, shooting stars, and the milky way. With no lights in the canyon, this awesome display was what we would lie down and look at until we went to sleep.
Along the way we would experience some white water rapids, when they were really treacherous Brandon would tell us to get down and in. Down and in meant to get off the pontoons and side benches and onto the interior benches in the front of the raft or onto the floor in the back of the raft. Ernie wanted to experience the rapids sitting on the very front bench so on the first down and in he made his way to that bench, after that when ever Brandon called down and in everyone would make way so Ernie ended up assigned to the front bench. Ernie suspects that the reason why this happened was because the people on the front bench generally got the wettest, so others took turns on the front bench but Ernie was there for all but two or three sets of rapids. Dale was very nervous about sitting in the front while going through the rapids, but finally decided she would do it on the last set of rapids that would require down and in. Ernie sat on one side with Britt on the other and Dale in the middle. Knowing that it really did not make any difference, but that it would make Dale feel more secure, Ernie asked Britt to place his hand on the rail inside of Dale's hand locking his elbow inside Dale's elbow and Ernie did the same on the other side. When we finished going through the rapids Dale yelled out "Can we do it again!".
Most days we would stop for a short hike to a point of interest. We went to a couple of waterfalls one of which we could get under and let the water come down on us, the other fell with too much pressure to allow getting under it. We stopped at a couple of smaller intersecting rivers which were much warmer than the Colorado River (which has a constant temperature of about 45°). One river we stopped at was the Little Colorado where we walked to a spot where there were some rapids that we could ride down to the calmer river below, Sort of like a natural waterslide. Below these rapids we were able to float through the calmer part of the river for about ¼ mile.
One day we stopped and hiked up about 30-40 feet above the river where there was the remains of a boat. The boat had been traveling the river and crashed, the water in the river at one time had been that much higher than it is now.
Early one morning Ernie was waiting to use "The Duke" (loo, WC) when he noticed that a rock formation looked like a face. Brandon came over and Ernie asked him about the formation. Brandon said he had not previously noticed it nor had he heard anyone mention it. In the brighter light the face was not as pronounced, so when Ernie showed it to Dale she could see where it might look like a person but not as pronounced as Ernie and Brandon had seen it.
The last night on the river a couple of miles before Separation Point where we would camp and await the jet boat that would bring us across Lake Mead we passed a jet boat that had crashed on the opposite shore. There were two people with the boat and they waved to us holding what appeared to be liquor bottles. Brandon made a comment that the jet boats were not suppose to be that far up the river and that they would probably be in serious trouble with their employers. The next morning we helped lift the pontoons onto the raft and deflate them and pack the dry bags on top of the raft. This allows the raft to travel faster through the lake as Brandon & Bianca bring it back while we quickly cross Lake Mead in the jet boat. After getting the raft packed Brandon told us a story about Georgie, a very colorful female Colorado River boatsman. After telling us the story, Brandon decided to call on their two-way radio to find out when the Jet boat was coming. It turned out that the jet boat we had seen wrecked on the shore the previous night was the one that was suppose to pick us up. There were no other jet boats available. Brandon decided to take us across the lake on the raft. We all got on the raft getting as comfortable as we could laying on the deflated pontoons and dry bags. This was a problem for Brandon as there are some extremely shallow areas on the end of the river and with all our weight the raft rode a lot lower than if it had just had two people on it. He got us through there and across the lake without any incidents. The trip took about 3 hours instead of 30 minutes and we all had to find ways to stay hydrated and protected from the sun as best we could on an open deck.
Because the water is rushing down the river the bottom is always churned up so the water looks brown in the river. As we approached the end of the river and beginning of the lake we could see a distinct area where the water changed from brown to a beautiful deep blue. When we crossed over from the river into the lake and looked down at the water, it was as if God had put down a straight rule and painted one side brown and the other blue. There was no discernible fading from brown to blue. This is because though the river is shallow at this spot, the bottom drops off like a cliff in the lake.
As a form of protest that no jet boat was supplied and he had not been notified until he called in, Brandon put on an eye patch and raised the Jolly Roger, so we crossed the lake as mutineering pirates. We safely arrived on the far shore and after visits to the restrooms headed back to Flagstaff.
We are very fortunate that we had the crew that we did and Brandon had the feeling something was not right. Usually, the people taking the raft back leave before the jet boat arrives. We thank God that Brandon was our trip leader otherwise we may have had to spend the night and find a way to provide food for ourselves.
The rule in the canyon is all bodily liquid waste goes in the river, we had "The Duke" for other bodily waste. To accomplish this women had to stand in the river, so for "pit stops" it was women upstream-men downstream. Before we headed back the last day Brandon debriefed us, the most important thing he told us was that when we got back to the hotel "Don't pee in the pool!".
As mentioned earlier the average temperature of the water in the Colorado river is around 45°, this limited the number of baths we could take in the river. We would get in the water about waist deep, dunk under to get our hair wet, suds up the shampoo in our hair, dunk under again quickly rinsing out the shampoo, soap up our body, and one last dunk to rinse off the soap. When we got back to the hotel we all took long showers, when we were done there was so much sand in the bottom of the shower we thought we would have to get a shovel.
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