Summer Whitewater Road Trip 2020

When all my summer hiking plans fell apart due to COVID-19, I decided, along with some nutty paddling friends, that it was time for a summer road trip west to take on some big whitewater paddling fun. Our plan was to basically play on all the rivers we could hit, starting in Colorado and moving on up towards Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Knowing that lodging and other amenities may be difficult to find, our plan was to rough it along the way camping on the river banks or in nearby National Forest campgrounds. The only required stops needed would be for gas, groceries, beer and ice. Everything else we knew we could live without for a couple of weeks.

WHITEWATER HOME COMPANION – Southeastern Rivers Volume I (1981) by William Nealy

Saturday, July 11th – The big plan headed south right from the start. This day was originally set aside for packing and getting the boats loaded on the trailer for our early Sunday morning departure. However, after some limited thought process, we decided unanimously that we should just begin our whitewater adventure by doing a quick lap down our home river here on the Ocoee to get this trip started. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dry out our gear and pack it up for the road trip west.

Sunday, July 12th – We finally hit the road around 9:00 a.m. and drove straight through to Buena Vista, Colorado and the Arkansas River, making only one stop along the way to pick up Larry in Ocoee, TN. That worked out well as Larry took the wheel all the way from Nashville to Buena Vista.

Monday, July 13th – We arrived in Buena Vista in time for morning coffee, so we all decided to purchase a cup from the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe. We paid at the front entrance and walked around to the rear entrance door to pick it up. I wish I could have said it was delicious coffee after driving all night, but unfortunately, noone in our group was very excited about it. In my opinion, McDonald’s has much better tasting coffee for a lot less money. We continued to walk around town for a bit, but quickly realized that due to COVID restrictions doing anything in town was a bit weird to say the least. We decided to head out of town and set up camp for the next several nights on the banks of the Arkansas River at the Railroad Bridge Campground. We met up with Crissy and Jimmy, a kayaking friend who was already in Colorado, later that afternoon to do a lap on the Fractions section to town. It was a super way to end our day.  After the long drive and couple of beers, we were all ready to hit our tents for a good nights’ sleep. 

Tuesday, July 14th – We got a late start, but after breakfast we decided to drive south into Salida, Colorado. I was excited to visit this town since my new Katabatic Gear sleeping quilt, purchased for my CDT hike this year, was made in Salida. I was hoping they would have a small store to visit, but learned after stopping by that they only manufacture the bags there in Salida and have no storefront area to speak of. It was a little disappointing since I think their bags and quilts are top quality for ultralight backpacking gear and would have liked for my friends to see them.

We walked around town for a few minutes and shared a few chuckles and comments over some of the signage we were seeing around town. Obviously, by what we were noticing, the town of Salida really seemed to support Black Lives Matter. (From my point of view, all lives matter and I’m not a supporter of what the BLM organization stands for at all.) A little later we made our way to the Moonlight Pizza & Brewery. It was around noon time so we hung around on the patio there and enjoyed a couple of local brews. They were all excellent beers! As the conversation progressed, we were puzzled by what we’ve noticed in town. We hadn’t seen a single person of color anywhere. We actually spent the next hour and a half in search of anyone who wasn’t white. We had basically given up, until on our way back to Buena Vista, we noticed a black man sitting along the side of the highway with two shopping carts filled with his personal belongings in front of the local Walmart. We all asked ourselves, how does the only African American that we’ve seen become homeless in this town that is filled with BLM signs? Just wow…

By the way, the racial make up for Salida, which is also the largest city in Chaffee County, Colorado is: 92.66% White, 0.05% African American (which may be 2 people), 1.44% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.29% from other races, and 2.16% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.76%. Wikipedia~

That afternoon we headed back to our base camp, picked up our kayaks and headed up the Arkansas River to tackle the Numbers section. What a fun and beautiful section of river that was! A great time was had by all! We finished our day with a great gang at the Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista.

Wednesday, July 15th – It was a busy whitewater day for sure. Jimmy and Larry wanted to do a morning lap on the Numbers section and that afternoon the three of us kayaked Browns Canyon while Clay, Crissy and Kevin enjoyed some wild whitewater rafting.

Thursday, July 16th – This was a travel day north to Pinedale, Wyoming. While camping along the Arkansas River, we noticed that my Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter had been damaged by the strong winds in Colorado. So, on our way up to Wyoming, we stopped by the Big Agnes store in Steamboat Springs to drop off my shelter for some badly needed repair work. 🙂

Friday, July 17th – We enjoyed a good breakfast in Pinedale and continued north hoping that we would arrive at the East Table Campground on the banks of the Snake River in time to grab a campsite as folks were leaving. We lucked out and found the last available site and claimed it for the next three nights. We set up camp quickly and were able to get two laps through the canyon completed by late afternoon. What a great feeling to be back on one of my favorite rivers!

Saturday, July 18th – This was a bit of a slow moving day. After breakfast at camp, we drove into Jackson and messed around for a bit in town. However, with the COVID pandemic going on, the town was not a very appealing place to spend any time. We decided to drive out and take a look at the water level in the Gros Ventre River and to my surprise, it had plenty of water to kayak. It wouldn’t be super exciting like the early springs flows, but it would be fun and a beautiful paddle. So we made plans to run the Gros Ventre on Sunday morning. We returned to camp that afternoon, grabbed our gear, and took another fun lap down the Snake River.

Sunday, July 19th – We met up with Bob “Bernie”, Paul and Sheryl in Kelly, Wyoming to run two laps down the Gros Ventre River just outside of Grand Teton National Park. It’s an awesome run with great view of the Tetons. Afterwards we stopped in Jackson for some BBQ at Bubba’s and then headed back south to the Snake River for another late afternoon paddle through the canyon.

Monday, July 20th – We left the East Table Campground and headed north through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks site seeing for the day. It was all going great until Paul and Sheryl’s rental car decided to give out. They called my old park employer, YPSS, and got a wrecker to the Fishing Bridge Repair Shop. After a couple of hours, we were on our way again. The car’s computer just simply needed a reboot. Basically they turned it off, disconnected the battery, reconnected the battery, turned the ignition and it was ready to go. That evening we decided to stop for pizza at one of my old hangouts, the K-Bar in Gardiner, before heading on to Bozeman, Montana for the night.

Tuesday, July 21st – After dropping Kevin off at the airport, we stopped by for a quick visit with Dawn and Les, some old friends from my younger years working in Yellowstone. We had a great visit with them even with the COVID pandemic going on. After our visit, we drove out to the Gallatin River, found an open campsite, set up camp, grabbed our kayaking gear and headed towards the river putting in just behind where we set up our tents. It was a great afternoon on the water. Afterwards, we drove to Big Sky for some dinner and drinks. Another awesome day!

Wednesday, July 22nd – We spent a large part of the day traveling back through Yellowstone and out of the North gate to the Gardiner area and the Yellowstone River. We put on late in the day, but accomplished a beautiful 20 mile sunset paddle through the Gallatin National Forest and Yankee Jim’s Canyon. I took no photos that day, but I managed to steal this one from Sheryl’s Facebook page.

Thursday, July 23rd – Clay and I decided that we would pack up and begin our journey home by way of the Beartooth Highway. We figured just getting across the pass would take up most of the day, so our plan was to have some fun and find a couple of local breweries along the way. Red Lodge was a great place to just hang out and take a break that afternoon. Our stops included Red Lodge Ales, Snow Creek Saloon and the Lost Cabin Beer Co. After staying in Billings, Montana for the night, we hit the road for home the next morning.

Friday, July 24th thru Saturday, July 25th – Clay and I drove straight through the day and night from Billings, Montana in time for happy hour on Saturday evening with our friends at Buck Bald Brewing in Copperhill, Tennessee. Those double IPA’s “As the Cro’s Fly” were deadly for two tired travelers!

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Bad Timing for A Long Distance Hike!

Covid-19 UpdateFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been hanging on to all of my hopes that I’d still be able to pull off my CDT NOBO hike with this Coronavirus sweeping across the country and the world. After several attempts of trying to keep my April 16th launch date on go, the current variables, that change daily, are just too many. Just yesterday, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department in Colorado issued a statement prohibiting recreationalists from backcountry activities in the county due to the limited Medical, Emergency and Search and Rescue Services currently available due to the virus crisis.  On top of that, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) all have recommended that hikers postpone or cancel their immediate thru-hiking plans due to the Coronavirus. As you can only imagine, humans seem love those debates on social media.

The big topic out there on social media today is, wouldn’t a thru-hiker be safer out on the trail? I would say on a trail, absolutely. Social distancing would be fairly easy to accomplish when in the wilderness. However, much of a thru-hike journey involves both fellow hikers, better known as “hiker trash”, and visiting the many small towns along the way for resupplying, a good meal and of course a cold beer or two.

Thru-hikers often rely on Trail Angels and the locals for a hitchhike to and from these small communities and back to the trail. Some of these folks even open their homes to hikers and treat them like true family. The help and assistance from these small towns is really an amazing thing to experience on a thru-hike. So I would really hate to miss that part of the trail life during this Coronavirus crisis. Second, I would hate for the hikers to bring the virus into a small community for sure. The risks here just out weigh any reward. That’s been very hard for me to digest to say the least.

However, I’m not totally knocked out yet for a long distance hike in 2020. I’ve already made a new or revised hike plan which will give me a couple of months to see where all this Coronavirus crisis takes us. My adjusted plan would be to do a Southbound (SOBO) thru-hike in lieu of a northbound (NOBO) hike. As mentioned in my previous blog post, most NOBO hikers start +/-mid April from the Mexico border, while SOBO hikers typically start from the Canadian border +/- mid June.

As hard as this has been for me, I know I’m not alone in having all my plans blow up in front of me in a very short period of time. The silver lining for now is, all my family and friends have remained healthy in this crisis thus far. Hopefully, there’s another day for me to complete the CDT and my Triple Crown. Not taking away from the seriousness of the Coronavirus, but I truly feel sorry for so many hikers here and abroad that have planned for this moment to do a long distance hike for many years. Many of these hikers have already quit their real jobs, sold or given away most of what they own and have given up their apartments or current housing. That’s pretty tough when you don’t have a place to land. The good thing is for most of these hikers it’s not their first long trail rodeo, so adapting to a bad situation is probably where they shine the most, besides the trail. Hopefully, we will all see the end to this virus soon and can move forward in the future with those plans, commitments and dreams previously made.

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CDT Gear Changes and Final Preparations

My plans are now set for my departure for New Mexico and my shuttle ride to southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The Southern Terminus “Crazy Cook” is located on the border of New Mexico and Mexico in the Big Hatchet Mountains on Bureau of Land Management federal lands in a fairly remote desert area of New Mexico. Crazy Cook MonumentThe cool thing is that the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) along with volunteers and independent contractors operate a shuttle service for hikers from late March to mid May. They typically schedule no more than ten hikers per day, so your shuttle spot becomes a very important key in setting up your total travel plans. I will be flying into Tucson, AZ from Chattanooga, TN, boarding a Greyhound bus over to Lordsberg, NM and the CDTC shuttle service will pick me up from there. So my tentative hike is pretty well planned at this point. I know many hikers don’t care to plan, but I enjoy semi knowing where and when I plan to be somewhere along the trail. This makes it much easier for family and friends who may want to fly west and schedule a trip to the Rocky Mountains for a visit during the summer which I will appreciate and enjoy greatly!!

Being a little bit of a gear junky, it’s been fun going through my gear and making some changes for this year’s CDT hike. One of the biggest changes I’m doing is in my sleeping system. I going with a Katabatic Gear Flex15 sleeping quilt in lieu of a sleeping bag.

Many thru hikers are using quilts these days, mainly to reduce weight and increase comfort. The Flex15 is should be good down to 15 degrees. The Flex does have a zippered foot box and closure guard for those really cold nights, but on the milder nights it can  completely open up to a blanket. It’s truly a very flexible sleep system and that’s what I’m hoping for on my hike.Quilt System

What makes a quilt different from a conventional sleeping bag? A quilt style sleep system eliminates the insulation that is on the bottom of a conventional sleeping bag. With a conventional sleeping bag, any insulation under your body is crushed. Since insulation must have loft and trap air to be effective, the crushed insulation under your body is wasted. So a quilt leaves the insulation out of the bottom of the bag. One other major difference is that no hoods exists on quilts. The Katabatic quilt features an overstuffed down collar around the neck opening. This becomes a critical area to seal the warmth inside your sleeping system or bag. This collar should fit comfortably around the neck, and will keep the warm air where it belongs. So, what happens on those really cold nights when you need your head to be warm as well?Windom Hood You use a separate hood. I purchased a Windom Hood which is basically an ultralight balaclava. The idea here is that your sleeping bag will stay in place on top of your pad and your hood will stay in place on top of your head. I know in my days of using a conventional sleeping bag that I’ve woken up on many nights wet from condensation with my head stuck way down in my sleeping bag and trying to figure out where I am with the bag tangled up around me.

Garmin InReach MiniAnother important device that I’ve purchased and have chosen to bring with me this year is a Garmin inReach Mini. It’s a palm-sized satellite communicator and weighs only 3.5 ounces. Knowing how I can be 100 miles from nowhere, the inReach Mini will allow me to send and receive text messages, track and share my journey, and if necessary, will trigger an SOS alert to contact a GEOS 24/7 emergency response team. By carrying this inReach device, my family and friends will know they can stay in touch with me along the trail. To me, it’s a great investment  for everyone’s peace of mind.

I will also be sending myself some additional snow gear and clothing around Chama, NM for hiking through the San Juan Mountains and farther north in Colorado in the early spring. These items will include a ice axe, microspikes and snowshoes.

BD RavenproBottom-of-MICRO-for-webMSR Revo Snowshoes

Why all the snow gear? Check out Mitch Lenington video from his 2019 hike last year. 🙂

I’m also going to start the trail with a new sleeping pad this year. I’m just a little afraid that my old Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite pad that I’ve had since my 2012 Appalachian Trail thru hike may decide to give out on me at some point.Thermarest Neoair Uberlite So I plan to go with a new one and keep my old sleeping pad ready to mail out to me in case of a problem. My new pad will be a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad. It’s basically the newer and lighter version of my current NeoAir XLite pad.

It’s definitely been a while, but I will try to update my gear page soon to reflect more of what I’m planning to use on my CDT hike. If anyone is interested, I have also put a link over on the right had side of this blog to view my current hike plan.

More About The Continental Divide Trail

Below is a very good overview of the CDT by Chris Cage @ http://www.greenbelly.com

Length: 2700 – 3150 miles (depending on route)
Time to hike: 5-6 months
Start and end points:
Southern terminus: Crazy Cook Monument
Northern terminus: Waterton Lake
Highest Elevation: 14,278 ft (Grays Peak CO)
Lowest Elevation: 4,200 ft

The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is a long-distance trail that runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. The CDT, alongside the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail make up the triple crown of hiking. The CDT is by far the most rugged of the three, being only 70% fully completed with many portions of road walking and off-trail travel.

The trail is most commonly hiked from South to North starting at the Mexican border.
The trail passes through five states – New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana – and ends at the Canadian border in Glacier National Park.

Although not strictly “completed”, the trail came into existence in the seventies with the first person recording a thru-hike in 1977. It was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1978. Very few people still hike the trail to this day with an estimated 200 people starting the trail per year. This makes the whole experience on the CDT a much more lonesome and solitary experience compared with the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail. It also passes through much more remote and rugged terrain than the other two trails.

Because of the incomplete nature of the Continental Divide Trail, the route is somewhat open to interpretation. Overall mileage can vary from 2600 up to 3100 miles. There are a few different alternates that can be taken on the trail although there is a generally accepted official route.

To Print PDF: Step 1) Expand to full screen view (click box in top right hand corner of map). Step 2) Zoom in to your desired map section view. Step 3) Click on the three white vertical dots and then “Print Map” from that drop down menu.

Typical Trail Timing, Weather and Seasons

April to October for northbounders.

June to November for southbounders.

Whether headed Northbound or Southbound, snow is the major deciding factor in planning your departure time.

Southbounders may deal with snow in Glacier National Park at the start and therefore start around June. They may also face snow in Colorado in the San Juan Mountains, so they need to arrive there in September.

Northbounders will usually start towards the end of April so as to not arrive too early in the San Juan mountains and deal with heavy snow. They must also reach the end of the trail up in Glacier National Park before winter storms set in.

Hikers on the CDT will deal with an array of different weather scenarios, from harsh sun exposure to freezing cold temperatures. Rain, snow and frequent summer thunderstorms are all possible. Mosquitoes and other flying bugs also definitely exist. Lastly, you’ll have to take normal precautions against rattlesnakes and other wildlife.

Featured Photo Credit (for this blog post): Daniel Johnson-Utsogn “Mammoth” 

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Life after the Grand Canyon – (Wyoming, Oregon, Ecuador and More)

Times have been busy since returning from the Grand Canyon trip in late summer. Shortly after returning home, I traveled to the 88 Ranch in Wyoming with my brother and a couple of friends from the North Georgia mountains to go on a antelope hunt. We had a super time in Casper and a very successful hunt on top of that.

After Casper, Mary and I left for a Yellowstone “Dew Crew” Reunion at Belknap Hot Springs on the McKenzie River in Oregon. What a fun time we had visiting with our old friends from Yellowstone National Park. Some of these friendships go back as far as 1979. Oregon is a definitely a beautiful state to visit. We hiked, rafted and played hard. I even got a chance to re-visit the PCT at McKenzie Pass. What a great “Dew Crew” reunion it was!

Since about 2012, I’ve been doing a backpacking trip somewhere between Christmas and New Years. This year Douglas Tew “Chainsaw” and I did a 36 mile section of the Benton MacKaye Trail between Cherry Log, Georgia and the Ocoee River in Tennessee. It was a great hike with approximately 8,500 feet of uphill and 8,500 feet of downhill elevation change. Man, I sure missed my trail legs, but look forward to this April, as I plan to head out to thru hike the CDT and hopefully complete my Triple Crown.

I was also fortunate enough to get several days of kayaking in over on the Tellico River with some good local friends.

Endless River AdventuresThis past summer I was invited to join a group going back to Ecuador for some winter whitewater kayaking and of course I couldn’t turn that down. This year the trip was with Endless River Adventures which turned out to be another awesome and exciting trip on the equator! I would like to thank Juliet and her team at ERA for making this journey a very special adventure. Juliet is credited for many of the photos below as well. Thank you!

Our group all turned out to be super fun and a talented group of paddlers! It was truly a blessing and a honor to paddle with such a fine group of boaters! However, I’m not sure I can include Netflix Kevin there. 🙂

IMG_0921

The rivers we paddled included the Rio Quijos, Cosanga, Jondachi, Misahualli and Jatunyacu Rivers.

A great week of paddling in Ecuador!

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Grand Canyon / Colorado River Adventure 2019

From all of our group on this river trip, many thanks again to the staff and guides at AZRA and Current Adventures for making our trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon a lifetime experience and a very special memory for us all. I’m completely aware that a trip like this is not for everyone, but I do wish that those who choose not to do outdoor adventures could just see through my eyes for a brief moment and experience all the beauty this world offers. We’re truly blessed with a planet full of spectacular scenery!

Just a quick note on the painting above by Dawn Sutherland. I love this painting and to me it’s able to capture all the beauty of the canyon far beyond that of a photo. I asked Dawn for permission to use a copy of her painting in my blog and she was fine with that. Dawn ended up sharing with me the full background about the painting as well. Thank you Dawn!

As usual, we didn’t stop on the river banks to take photos running the rapids along the way. However, several of us did have helmet cams through a number of the whitewater sections. It’s sad, but true, I have not taken the time to put together a trip video yet except for this short clip below of running Lava Falls. Hopefully, someday I’ll get a chance to go through all the video clips taken and be able to put the best of the best together in one video. A few old whitewater videos from a 2013 trip down the Colorado River can be found here.

UPDATE 11/4/20: A new Grand Canyon / Colorado River 2019 video is linked here. Enjoy!

The following blog update was prepared and written by Bob Sarratt and was taken from his journal entries that he kept along the way. Thank you for sharing, Bob!

Grand Canyon August 28th to September 10, 2019

AZRA Logo

Well, at least I didn’t swim today! Day 2 on the Colorado River has lined up to beat all expectations! BIG WATER, exploding waves, eddies in the middle of the rapids, insane whirlpools at the bottom of the Rapids – it’s all here along with the most amazing scenery on the planet. It’s on this second day that I start writing this journal. Here goes…

Day 1, Wednesday 8-28-19, mile 0 to 16.5
The drive from Flagstaff was amazing! Bill was our AZRA bus driver who looked a lot like Sandra’s cousin Gus Lott. On the way to Lees ferry, we stopped in Cameron Arizona for a bathroom break and to see the Little Colorado River. What we saw was a dry riverbed. We all enjoyed browsing through the Native American gift shop and then piling back onto our bus for the last 45 minutes to Lees ferry. We are all very excited. We did learn in the parking lot in Cameron the value of shade. This lesson would be continued for the next two weeks. While in the parking lot our trip leader, Robby, was asking how much hiking we wanted to do on the trip. We did all of this from the shade of the bus because being in the direct sunlight was a tad bit Hot, to say the least. The group said we want to hike everywhere possible! Our plans were set, and off towards the put in we went. Just before Lees ferry we stopped at Navajo Bridge. This arch steel bridge spans the entire Colorado River. Our first view of the Colorado 500 feet below – it was a clear mountain stream. You could even see the bottom for a good ways from the bank. We were all really excited to see this awesome view and enjoyed walking across the bridge as Bill drove the bus to the far side. Our first adventure on the Colorado was on foot, walking 500 feet above its surface. What a way to start our journey.

We then pulled off the highway and drove to Lees ferry on the access road. At the end of the road we saw two of the largest rafts I had ever seen. One a “J” rig with 4, 3’ diameter pontoons around an aluminum hull with gear boxes on the deck. The other was an “S” rig that looked more like a traditional raft with extra pontoons lashed to each side. Each powered by a 30hp Honda 4 stroke outboard. Beside the rafts on the shore were our personal kayaks and gear ready to go – all laid out in a row, just waiting for us to launch. The guides had been working hard the day before and this morning getting everything squared away. We also met our guides from AZRA and Current Adventures:

Robbie ReChord – Trip leader kayak guide, Jasper – swamper guide, Randy Tucker – motor guide, Chelsea Arndt – motor guide and Chad Tucker (Randy’s son) – swamper guide & head cook.  Current Adventures kayak guides, Thomas Baumann and Kimba Sprague.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobby did a trip safety talk and then we got started on the Colorado. Crystal clear water. Small waves to start off and then got big to the first rapid, Badger at mile 8. Yes, got flipped about half way down on a big wave, rolled up and went thru the rest of the very busy water. Big big waves and eddy lines, like nothing at home. Then on to Soap Creek, another big drop. After a few more miles of fun water we stopped at Hot Na Na to camp. Mile 16.5 . It was a tight campsite area but we all found a good spot for the evening. Dinner this first night was salmon and couscous – it was delicious after a long day on the river. Slept fairly well that night on top of the sleeping bag but it was HOT until about 2am, but the stars were magnificent! A shooting star was the last thing I saw as I fell asleep that night. Excitement from the night was ring tail cat walking over David while he laid on his paco pad sleeping mat!

Day 2, Thursday 8-29-19, mile 16.5 to 29.5
BIG WATER DAY started with a bang at House Rock rapid at mile 17. It is rated a seven on the Colorado river scale (1-10) and yes I flipped. Big right hand turn rapid with a beautiful glossy front wave and then insanity to the left. I flipped on the second wave that came in hard from the left. I executed a weak brace and over I went. Double roll but I got up. “Keep that head down!” Kimba reminded me as I got back upright! 200 yards of whirlpool eddy lines below. What a rapid! We then got into the roaring 20s – a section of fairly continuous white water. At mile 20.5 we stopped at North Canyon for a hike. Walked up a beautiful canyon on river right of swirling rock formations that look like broken glass in layers – sandstone, silica, glass – it’s all similar according to Jasper …awesome unique place. we walked further up in the dry creek bed of this most interesting fractured rock cracked and broken in a circular formation in multiple layers. We arrived at a deep stagnant pool covered in green algae – end of the road, except the guide Thomas Baumann waded thru it and continued up the canyon. Not willing to follow Thomas through the green slime, we soaked up the feeling of being in this place, snacking and napping on the rock.

Thomas then played his wooden recorder (baroque flute) while we napped. Awesome experience. Upon return to the rafts, we had lunch next to the river of turkey sandwiches and all the fixings. After lunch we jumped back into the river and into the roaring 20s. I started to get into the game of riding the big waves and did better with only a few rolls. Everyone did well most of the way through. At mile 26 near Tiger Wash we had three swimmers, including the organizer of this trip! David was spun around on top of a wave – looked like a helicopter and then upside down and into a weird eddy. I was tending to Bill who had already swam – while working with him to get him to shore, he got sucked down into a whirlpool. He was under several seconds and came up like a submarine on emergency ballast surface! He was fine and after a big laugh and towing David’s boat back to him (who was now safe in the raft) we got down to our camp at Silver Grotto. We camped in a dry wash and put up the Eno tarp for some shade. Dinner of chicken rice and bean burritos. After dinner, we read aloud a chapter from Up Shit Creek, Joe Lindsey’s book that we discovered from our trip to the middle fork of the Salmon in Idaho. Joe was one of our guides on that trip and a great author and trumpet player. Boatman Randy really enjoyed the reading! After some big laughs, I then came back to the tent, sat in the ENO chairs next to the tent, watch some stars, then took a bath in the river next to some rocks, and then on to bed. What a great day. And it’s only day 2.

Day3, Friday 8-30-19, mile 29.5 to 47.5
Chill day. Flat water with two named rapids. the ducky boat came out with Jen and Vicky using it first. Small riffles than a big rapid which sucked them down in a whirlpool. Two more swimmers in the club! Further downstream we stopped at Red Wall Caverns. A huge room in the canyon wall on river left – gigantic room for a break. Paced it off at 87 paces by 69 paces . We hung out, some threw the frisbee and napped. That was mile 33.

We then drifted a little ways to lunch at the Marble Canyon dam site. We explored the test holes that were 400 feet deep into the rock. The test holes were impressive with their meticulous marking and the size of them. Impressive engineering and grit. Amazing in its own right, but so thankful the dam plans were scuttled in the 50’s at the persuasion of Martin Litton.

After getting back on the river the ducky was piloted by Joe and Stan. They did great. Our current adventure guides Thomas and Kimba are from California. Thomas was born in Germany and does the best raven call since he is an ornithologist. He also has the nickname of “raven” because he will steal your food if you’re not looking! Kimba is great and takes the easier lines. He is a lot of fun to follow. At President Harding rapid I didn’t follow Kim and flipped on wave number three. I waited three or four waves to roll and then I hit it. Later Kim and Thomas shook my hand for the iron lung award. I had a good big breath on that one. We paddled an S-curve part of the river and ended up at saddle Canyon for camp. That’s where I am now writing this entry to the journal – right by the river. Nancy and Sandra in ENO chairs as we cool off in the water. Solar charging phones and having a beer or two. We had dinner of chicken pasta. We camped up on a knoll away from the river and it was very hot. Slept on the sand mat that night to try to stay cool to no avail. Tomorrow we see the Little Colorado River!

Day 4, Saturday 8-31-19, mile 47.5 to 63.5
Writing this entry with red headlamp overhearing Joe and Stan laugh and talk. What a great sound with the river and crickets as we wind down from another chill day on the river. We got up this morning to breakfast burritos and coffee after a very hot night at Saddle Canyon. Saddle canyon is across from a large red wall that holds a lot of heat. I slept on the sand mat and then in the tent after feeling bugs walking on me. Anyway it was a fun day on small Rapids except one named rapid near mile 58. We stopped at Nankoweap for a hike up to the ancient grainery and a great view of the river – a famous shot of a long, fairly straight stretch of river. Very different from the S curve at saddle canyon just a day ago. The hike up was very steep but the view was worth it. I wore Buddy’s AU NROTC cap this day. The Colorado River was on his bucket list, so I wore his hat today and had him with us on the trip.

We then continued onto the confluence of the little Colorado after a wonderful lunch of taco salad at Nankoweap. We stopped at confluence and hiked up to the Little Colorado to find it was solid red instead of clear blue we had hoped for. The water is very red and carries a lot of silt. The Little Colorado gives the main Colorado most of its muddy water. I got back in the water and paddled below the confluence water and sure enough it turned the entire river muddy. John Bagby (Bod) and I started measuring turbidity by seeing how deep we could sink our paddles before the blade label disappeared in the water. After the confluence we could go no deeper than blade deep on our measurement. We now were on the classic muddy Colorado. We then had a few small rapids while Carl and Michelle took the duckie. We then stopped at Fishcamp as it was called by Chelsea the guide. She stops here with her USGS fish survey trips and likes it, so here we are!
Chelsea‘s stepmother is Kenton Grua’s first wife. Kenton, also known as “the factor”, is the one of the guides in the book the Emerald Mile and was a legend of the guiding community.

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Anyway, it was a great campsite and we had steaks, potatoes and broccoli for dinner. It was great and all had fun playing Internet medicine with Dr. Andrew where a person describes their ailment and everyone chimes in on cures. Hilarious!
Tomorrow starts with a hike and then then back into big Rapids with Uncar and others! Can’t wait. Oh yeah, War Eagle – Auburn came from behind to beat Oregon 27-21 tonight. It was also John and Hannah‘s and Paul and Sheryl’s anniversaries .
Paul and Sheryl 10 years
John and Hannah 17 years
Great celebration day in the canyon!

Day 5, Sunday 9-1-19, mile 63.5 to 76
Got up to coffee and Mediterranean scramble with hot sauce selection at our camp near mile 63. You know I loved that. Short paddle this morning to Carbon Canyon where we did an amazing hike. Put on water boots (for the first time) and walked up an awesome dry wash amongst Tapeats sandstone and bright angel shale – some of my favorite rock so far. The bright angel shale is full of lines and colors. Stunning. We walked up a mile or so and Sandra decided to stay there as it was getting more rock climb-y than hike-y. She stayed in some deep shade and Chelsea and I said we would come back. The group was going to do a one way hike up Carbon canyon and down the next canyon while the boatmen took the rafts to meet them. The other guides were going to wait on us “up and backers”, as I wanted to have paddled the entire canyon. So we left Sandra in shade and continued up the wash which went fairly steep up. By the way, my wife is the best. Such a trooper and making the best of what she is presented – always has done that. This really is the trip of a lifetime – so blessed to do it with friends and my BEST friend. The carbon canyon walk was amazing. Swirled rock formations in a grotto. We walked to the top and it was like standing at the top of a funnel of rock. Swirling lines in the shale and sandstone. We then followed Thomas on a ninja move and viola, we were in another wash going up even further, but much wider and taller. Got to the very top where we saw out of that level of the canyon and gazed upon a gentle yet desert valley out and away from the river. The top of the canyon the rock went from horizontal lines to vertical, like it were going skyward at the end. Amazing.

9-9-19 5 BWe took pictures and then it was time for Cheslsea and me to head back down Carbon canyon to Sandra and the boats. So hand in hand we skipped away from the group humming wizard of oz, if I only had brain! We head a great hike/climb down the canyon where Chelsea told me about her time with Kenton Grua and even Julia Dreyfus of Seinfeld who came on one of her trips and was so awesome and genuine and funny. Dreyfus talked about her trip on Fallon and said Jimmy couldn’t handle it, she spoke of the beauty and the wildness and the guides caring and hardwork. All we have experienced ourselves!

We walked to Sandra’s spot and found she was not there. Robby was nearby and he told us she had walked on her own back to the boats. Continuing down we found her waiting for us and quite proud of herself for walking back solo. What a trooper!

Chelsea and Randy at the tillers, and Robby and I in kayaks, we took off down river to the next canyon, only a few hundred yards, but a great little wave train with fun surfing was the treat for us river runners. We picked up the hikers and went down to the next stop at Uncar ruins – one of the largest archeological sites in the US. Everywhere we walked we were a on old pot shards and relics. Chad showed us an ancient piece of basket woven from river reeds. We walked all around the area in the open – very hot and dry.

We soaked our bandanas and drapped them on our heads to stay cool. Drank all the water and then went back to the boats. Unkar rapid just below. Lots of big fun water. Left side was Mr Toad’s wild ride with Thomas, right side was easier. After some other big splashy rapids, we wound up at our camp near Neville Rapid. Big Sandy beach camp at mile 76. While pulling into the beach and moor the raft, Chad was starting to tie the S rig to a bush when he jumped back 3’. A small rattlesnake was wound around the bottom of the bush that he didn’t notice until he was starting to tie it off. He said, I think I’ll find another bush! And so he did.DSC_0072 II It was a sand beach with great views of the canyon and rapid in front of us. We had a wonderful dinner of grilled ravioli with marinara sauce along with green salad and grilled bread. Yum yum. Very windy though. Sand went everywhere including in the tents and bags. Good drinks help get us through the evening. Vodka and fruit juice! At least we had a breeze even though a hot one. More from Joe Lindsey’s book and off to bed after another amazing day.

Day 6, Monday 9-2-19, mile 76 to 94
BIGGER, BIGGER, BIGGER
Labor Day breakfast of ham and deviled eggs. What more could I ask for. We packed up and went to scout Hance Rapid. 9 of 10 on the scale. Big stuff for a long bit. We all did great, and then onto Sockdolager (9) and Grapevine (8). The whitewater was just plain big fun. Straightforward lines with gigantic water. Big holes that were avoidable. Thomas set some wilder lines. I followed Kim and Robby with more tame routes. The vertical feeling in those waves was astounding. Then onto Phantom Ranch to look for the pirate stash bourbon I had left back in March while on our hiking trip.

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The March Pirate Stash Hole

I found that I’m a bad pirate, the Woodfords Reserve and bearded iris beer I left was gone. The hole evident, but the booty was gone. Someone has the curse of the dread pirate Bob!

We walked to Phantom Ranch commissary, sent post cards, soaked up some air conditioning and drank lemonade with ice. Nice break of civilization. We then headed back to the rafts to see the guides had filled most of our water cans from the water spigot near boater beach. Launched, went under the silver bridge and onto Horn Creek Rapid. From Phantom ranch I felt we were going into even wilder country. Many half trips take out at PR, like Paul had done years before. The next part of the river is what Kevin Fedarko calls God’s Country. Over the next week, we would find just that.

Horn creek rapid was another 8. Bill had a great roll as a rain started. Only big rain of the trip! In three more miles we pulled into Monument Creek Camp in a hard rain. Set up the tarp at our tent camp in amongst the Tamarisk trees and shrubs. A spiny back lizard greeted Stan on one of Joes shirts that was laid out on a rock, and then later chased Stan around inside his tent!

That evening we had Mediterranean lamb, tabouleh, and zucchini. Amazing dinner. Then enjoyed guitar playing from Thomas and Andrew while I tried to join in with harmonica. Bath that night in the clay filled river – cleanest I’ve ever felt. Another great day in the canyon!

Day 7, Tuesday 9-3-19, mile 94 to 109
EPIC rapid day.
Stans birthday, best 6 hrs of boating ever, 2 great hikes in the GC.

We camped last night at Granite Rapid, well actually Monument Creek campsite. We woke up to hot coffee and blueberry pancakes by Randy Tucker. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARandy is awesome, he lives in Green River UT, guides rafts, drives trucks, skis – a real renaissance man. His son Chad is also amazing and works at Brighton Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City.

We hiked up Monument Creek through an interesting chasm – water running thru and then up to a great view of the stone monument, a 100’ tall tower of rock – showing the great non-conformity, a part of the GC that appears in several areas where 800 million year old Tapeats Sandstone sits directly on top of 1.8 billion year old Vishnu Schist. How did a billion year gap happen? We hiked up to one of the parks main trails and saw some hikers and even a back country toilet, but no ordinary toilet according to Randy, it was a Phoenix 3000 solar composting toilet.

We then headed to the river and found the water turned clear overnight and turned out to be the greatest day of whitewater paddling I’ve had to date. Classic drops that I’ve heard of all my life, Granite (9), Hermit (9), Boucher (5) (pronounced Boo shay- like the Waterboy!) Then onto Crystal (10), biggest water yet. We all did great – followed Kim down the right sneak of Crystal – he called it beer right. So close to the right bank, someone can hand you a beer. Thomas ran left to right threading the needle between two huge wave holes and onto the bottom. We then had a boat lunch snack of peanut butter crackers and headed into the rest of the jewel rapids. A way to remember them, TASTRS Tuna 1&2, Aggate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby, Serpentine – which was my favorite. I had to stop and drain my boat and the group went ahead of me, I did the class 8 on my own line solo, amazing experience – huge exploding waves, haystacks and standing waves. BIG,BIG,BIG. We then continued to Bass Rapid and then a short paddle to our camp just upstream of Shinumo Creek. After unloading gear, we all pilled in the rafts and motored about 200 yds down stream to Shinumo Creek and walked up to another waterfall. Swimming, creek floating and naps all around. What a fun AMAZING day! Writing this in camp looking at a great sunset, sipping bourbon with ICE – a treat from AZRA. Getting ready for Chicken Curry dinner. Super day!

Day 8, Wednesday 9-4-19, mile 109 to 126
We left Bass camp at Shinumo Creek after a breakfast of made to order eggs with bacon and English muffins.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We celebrated Stan‘s birthday last night with cake, crepe paper wrapped /draped on him, glow sticks, and paper umbrellas for drinks . We sat around the river edge and made time lapse pictures via Dr. Dave of “Stan“ and “AZRA“ with a flashlight. Lots of fun with the glow sticks and a flashlight! After breakfast, we launched and went through several great rapids including Wallenberg (9) which seem to be the biggest waves yet. We stopped at Elves Chasm and did a hike to a slot canyon waterfall.

Several folks got to cliff jump the 10 fall by walking behind the waterfall and up a rock staircase of sorts . Back to the river and through several other rapids. We had lunch at Blacktail Canyon where we then ferried across the river after eating on the left bank. On the right bank, we hiked into a beautiful Tapeats/Schist stone canyon where we had a post lunch nap and listened to guitar from Thomas and Andrew.

Then back to the river where Andrew and Dave got into Bill and David Langford’s kayaks and did great through several rapids. We’ve been pulled over to camp where I am writing this entry now after a dinner of hamburgers and brats. NASCAR night decorations from the guides. I helped Chelsea cook burgers and learned several guide cooking secrets. Gar pow on the burgers while cooking, to toast a bun on the grille, do it butt down to the grill so it doesn’t burn, and don’t shake pepper while cooking, it just burns up. And most importantly, that beer washes a dropped burger off just fine. Very hot evening. After a cool bath in the river, I came back and slept on the sand mat for a while and then to the tent. Had to get up in the middle of the night and put on the fly because of a light rain that turned out to be short lived. But it did cool off a bit and make for a sweet night of sleep..

Day 9, Thursday 9-5-19, mile 126 to 145.5
Waterfalls, fun and ducky mastery ….
We started with a great breakfast of eggs scrambled with veggies, taters and hot sauce. Randy Tucker goes to Belize each year and brings back a good load of Marie Sharp’s habanero sauce. Very fortunate for him to share it with all of us! Loaded up and did several great rapids. Dr. Mark and Dr. Dave were in the ducky and rocked it! We started with Randy’s rock, then on to Specter Rapid(8). Next was another 8, Bed Rock Rapid, a large pillowed rock with weird eddies below. Chelsea‘s raft got stuck on river right in a horseshoe rock formation just below the rock. We watched from the eddy behind Bedrock as she did a great job getting it going again. Showed off her mastery as a boatman working the raft up and over the eddy fence. We then went on to Stone Creek for a hike – short beautiful waterfall where we all stepped in and soaked up the warmer water. Thomas read us all a story about it by Terry Tempest Williams – in the book Grand Canyon Reader. We then paddled on down to Deer Creek Falls. Wow! Tall waterfall with fish in the clear water below. We swam with Thomas’ goggles under the falls. Back on the river, Andrew gets in David’s boat and does great! We paddle through the narrowest point of the Grand Canyon on the river, 76 feet wide, and seemed very deep! Continuing down the river we floated past tall rock walls in what is called the Granite Narrows, drifting in circles looking at the rock above us. Very relaxing and beautiful. Down through more rapids to Hell’s kitchen campsite near Olo Canyon, where I’m writing this now. Great day on the river again!

Day 10, Friday 9-6-19, mile 145.5 to 165
They don’t call it day 10 for nothing! SPECTACULAR scenery! The canyon walls came down vertically all the way to the water, the colors and the water were exceptional. By the way, the Colorado has been pretty much clear green for our entire trip, except for 2 days after the confluence of the little C. After being greeted by two young bighorn sheep at the rim above our campsite, we pushed onto the river and floated through several rapids before Upset (9). Roger and Andrew were in the ducky, they flipped in the middle of Upset and swam the lower half. Big wave/hole in the middle, I drove right of it and did OK, Bill had a good roll as well as Paul. Sheryl got caught and swam. Quick recovery and all were OK in this fine big rapid. Then on to more scenic floating along fine bouncy rapids. We then came to one that Thomas wrote a poem about. The rampart and the sentry, two huge rock pillars on the north side of the canyon. Thomas called them the overseers of the side canyon and gates to a fabulous front surfing wave in the rapid below. We paddled to it, Jimmy, John (Bod), Thomas and I enjoyed several surfs on a perfect glossy wave. Bliss – as Thomas says in his poem.

We had packed a lunch before we left that morning and when we came to Havasu Creek, we unloaded the day bags and packs. Many other rafts making the same excursion – really the first time we’ve seen other rafts in numbers since we started . The walk up the turquoise blue waters of Havasu Creek was amazing. Gorgeous scenery. The clear BLUE water is from the silicates and calcium it gathers as it comes down the creek . Naps, swimming and lunch – next to a small waterfall nicknamed Maytag. It was very deep and would turn you upside down when you would swim into it. Mark had a scare further upstream at another small rapid when he kept getting recirculated. Jasper gave him a hand when he reached out for help. That certainly got his attention. After more Havasu exploring, we headed back to the boats for more scenic floating with fun rapids interspersed all along the way. We pulled into Tuckup camp and had dinner of pork carnitas. Then stargazing with Thomas’ Leica spotting scope. Great views of the moon and its craters . He also focused in on Jupiter and we saw four of its moons in a perfectly straight line. After the moon went behind the north rim, Sandra and I walked down to the river to take a bath in the cold river. It’s the cleanest bath you’ll ever take, just can’t stay in long!

Day 11, Saturday 9-7-19, zero day
Tuckup Canyon Hike
On this day we took a zero day as we stayed in camp at TUCKUP. After breakfast we made sack lunches and walked/Climbed Tuckup Canyon . There were many rock climbing type moves to be made going up the canyon, over boulders that clogged the floor of the canyon. Wonderful colors and interesting rock, including Consolodation stone that looks like dirt mixed with rounded river rock but it is hard as stone. The dirt looking material is rock holding the other stones in place. Felt like you couldn’t chip it with a hammer it was so hard. We hiked up a ways to a natural arch made of this consolodation stone. We ate our lunch, had naps, and hung out where I’m now updating this journal. What a wonderful place to rest and soak in the wildness and peacefulness of this part of the canyon.

9:30 pm back at camp as I write this. A great nap it was at the arch! The hike down was fun, scrambling over rocks in the mostly dry creek bed. We did get our feet wet in a few pools, as well as soak our bandanas and shirts to stay cool. Great lesson in seeking shade as we walked. Back at camp we met back up with Sandra, Nancy, Stan and Roger. Roger had found an awesome rock chair in the canyon that looked like a chaise lounge 10 feet off the ground! He looked rather regal on his perch overlooking us as we returned to the bottom of Tuckup Canyon. Had we hiked another 20 or so miles from our lunch spot up the canyon, we would have wound up in Fredonia AZ. Randy has done the hike before. Seems pretty tough. While in camp that afternoon, Kimba brought out a sack full of wooden flutes, all hand made and very fun to play. Just like a recorder from elementary school. Dinner that night was salad, spaghetti with meat sauce and bread. Chocolate cake for dessert. What a day!

Day12, Sunday 9-8-19, mile 165 to 190.5
LAVA
We woke up this morning to Robbie with his usual call of coooofffffeeeeeee, then in that same tone Laaavvaaaaaaaa ! With a quick camp take down, we were then treated to pancakes and sausage for breakfast. We then paddled on to a few small rapids, a few surfs and great pointers from Thomas and Kim . In 10 miles we were there, the top of Lava Falls. We had entered the lava rock section of the canyon 3 or 4 miles before hand. Huge black flows of lava, hardened into basalt . Near the water we noticed much of the basalt polished by the river and wind. Beautiful rock with smooth surface and weirdly soft feeling to touch. There was other lava rock in polished that was sharp and jagged as well.

The top of Lava Rapid is a blind horizon. You can’t really see it until you’re on it. Up stream there is pull out. We pulled over there on river right for a scout. After walking up a hill and over a small hump, there it was – a roaring cascade with building and crashing waves and a huge hole in the center stream called Ledge Hole – you have to avoid it , in the words of Thomas, “it’s lethal”. Below and to the right are other holes and boiling eddy lines – have to avoid those too. There is a line just right of the ledge hole, once past the ledge hole, drive hard left to avoid the right bank stuff. Thomas and Kim paddled down and showed us the line while we were still on the hill at the scout spot. Thomas was right on, Kim was just a tad bit right and got pushed into some big wave/ holes then went left and did fine. We then watched the S rig raft through, and then it was our turn. Robbie led us followed by Bill, David, Paul, me, Jimmy and lastly John. We all hit the line perfectly, just right of the ledge hole and drove left through HUGE waves, twice as tall as my boat. The feeling going through that rapid is awesome – focus, exhilaration, caution and excitement – all at once. So much fun! Bill rolled twice, but then swam, the only one we had. Thomas, David and Kim got him out quickly. Lava is the biggest rapid I’d ever done, and with clear green water! Glad to have done it with this particular group.

We continued downstream to Lower Lava rapid. I caught a brief big surf on one of Lava’s tail waves. Pure blissful excitement if that makes sense! Just below Lower Lava, we pulled over on river right at Tequila beach and had lunch after several high fives, a little of Robby ’s bourbon passed in a circle and beers for all. Then 10 more miles to camp. Dinner of salad and beef stroganoff. The food continues to be excellent! Thomas got the spotting scope back out and we were entertained by Saturn and its rings! Thomas told us the Iridium communication satellites have solar collectors the size of a football field. If you see one floating across the night sky, watch it and you may see it flare as the panels reflect the sun. We read another groover story from Joe’s book and then off to bed to write this entry. Another great day in the canyon. PS – saw a satellite flare while I was laying on my paco pad – just like Thomas had talked about!

Day 13, Monday 9-9-19, mile 190.5 to 217
Audubon day – Birds, birds, birds
We saw so many different ones today. Osprey, Blue Herron, Black Crowned Night Herron, Golden Eagle, Green Wing Teal, Great Egret, Roadrunner, and others. After getting on the river we crossed the 200 mile mark. We stopped for lunch near mile 205 rapid which is in the book, There’s This River. One of the stories about a kayaker getting stuck in the hole we were looking at called “Striking Cobra” was read while we enjoyed a lunch of tuna salad tortilla wraps. The place we tied up was famous for a cottonwood tree stump that was a mooring of the Powell expedition and is protected with a fence. Then a short way down river to Little Pumpkin or Pumpkin Springs. Little Pumpkin is an orange colored old calcium terrace like mammoth in Yellowstone. No longer active, it’s full of algae stagnant water. We took a short hike on the flat rocks on the left bank. It was a mixture of the rocks we had encountered, basalt, limestone, and granite. We then came to a hole in the rock, about 2’ in diameter. We climbed down into the hole about 8’ down to a ledge that overlooked the river from 20’ above the surface. Chelsea told a story about a swamper who got the nick name Sean Juan after taking a customers daughter on a date to this ledge and managed to have their raft come untied while at the ledge and got back to camp very late. The customer was not happy to say the least. Hence the nickname Sean Juan. On the way back to the rafts we went cliff jumping near Little Pumpkin. Chad, Andrew, and Chelsea did backflips into the river. We continued down to our last campsite at mile 217. Right next to 217 mile rapid, Chad led several on a Paco pad float in the side current eddy that was a merry go round lazy river ride. After a wonderful dinner of Mexican Chile casserole baked in a Dutch oven we sat around in a circle and sang Willie Watson’s “Keep It Clean” and made up verses for each guide. Lots of fun recounting the trip and laughing into the wee hours with yet another groover story.

Day 14, Tuesday 9-10-19, mile 217 to 226
LAST DAY
Woke up this morning on the sand mat to Mark saying, “Don’t roll over”. We shared the sand mat last night and apparently during the night he swatted something crawling up his leg and into his shorts. When the sun came up, he found it was a brown tarantula. It landed between the two of our paco pads.DSC_0261 Everyone had look at the dead spider, then I placed her to rest on a lava rock nearby. Heading to breakfast now after writing this entry. 9 miles to go of this excellent adventure. We had several fun rapids before getting to Diamond Creek. We unloaded and I said I was ready for lap two! But really looking forward to get back to Jani and Fin, the dogs and Kaye. It has been all we expected and so much more thanks to this group, the guides, and my wonderful wife. Can’t wait until next time!

Bob, thanks again for sharing your Colorado River journal with us.

Everyday and most evenings some time was set aside to share a short story or a chapter in a book. Robbie picked this writing from Edward Abbey below one morning and I thought it was very good and an appropriate way to end this blog post.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
― Edward Abbey

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Ecuador 2019 “What’s Wrong With Just Fun?”

Many thanks again to the fine folks at Small World Adventures for making our trip to Ecuador another awesome trip. The following blog update was prepared and written by Mary Langford from her notes that she kept along the way in Ecuador. We would also like to thank everyone on the trip who shared their photos and videos with us.Small World Adventures Logo

Below is a short video of what it was like paddling in Ecuador for the week. It’s best viewed if you change the YouTube setting to 1080p HD quality.

January 17th
“What’s wrong with just fun?” This is the bumper sticker slogan of Small World Adventures. Our answer to that question always includes some kind of adventure. Our South American trip began in the late afternoon at the Atlanta airport where we boarded a Delta non-stop flight to Quito, Ecuador arriving there about 12:30 a.m. After waiting in a long line to clear customs, we were greeted warmly by the Eb Hotel representatives and transported to our hotel in less than 10 minutes. Our king room was upgraded to a suite which was extremely nice with a great view of the surrounding hills.

January 18th
The next morning we took advantage of the included breakfast in the hotel dining room. The breakfast bar included all kinds of breads, cheese, meats, fruits, coffee, teas, juices, yogurts & cereals. There were also eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes, and a chef preparing eggs or omelets to order. Not only was the food delicious, but also the staff was very friendly and courteous.

After breakfast, we met up with Giovanni, the driver the hotel located for us and we headed to the equator which crosses through the northern part of Ecuador. The Spanish word “ecuador ” means “equator”. The four lane highway we took was just a few years old and in excellent condition, not at all like the gravel and muddy roads that David remembered from his visit in 1996. We first stopped at Inti Nan Museum, the GPS located site of 0 degrees latitude and longitude. Here we enjoyed a tour which featured several scientific experiments showing how the sun’s shadows, water drainage, spinning of a globe, and balance are affected at the equator line. Our young tour guide was very enthusiastic and entertaining. We also saw models of homes made of volcanic rock, mud, and thatched roofs modeled after those of the indigenous people who originally lived in that part of Ecuador. One home included a pen of guinea pigs, called “cuy” in Ecuador due to the sounds they make. Guinea pigs are also a food staple for many tribes in Ecuador. The idea of eating a guinea pig was definitely not a consideration for me since my first pet was a guinea pig! Next, we went around the corner about 250 yards away and photographed the historical sight, La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World), which is where original equator line was marked by a French expedition in 1736.

We then headed back toward Quito and caught a ride on the Teleferi’ Qo, a cable car that travels from a platform on the outskirts of the city at about 10,000 feet to Mt. Pichincha at around 12,950 feet. The views were beautiful and we could definitely feel the altitude change not only in the cool wind blowing but also in our breathing as we walked up the hill on top. It is advertised as “toca el cielo” (touch the sky) and is a beautiful spot to view the city and countryside surrounding Quito. It is said that you can see the Cotopaxi Volcano on a clear day. However, I have to say we did not see many cloudless days in Ecuador! 🙂

After that, Giovanni took us to Old Quito where we walked down ancient cobblestone streets past museums, apartments, hotels, and small stores and arrived at the Plaza de Grande. This large park is located at the center of Old Quito and showcases the statue celebrating Ecuador’s independence from Spain in 1809. Nearby, we sampled some unique liquor filled candies and enjoyed lunch in a open air café. Giovanni pointed out a frozen juice mix of strawberry and guanabana fruit. Yum! It was the first taste of many delicious fruits that grow in Ecuador. After eating, we continued on down the street and toured the Compania de Jesus Cathedral. This beautiful church took 160 years to build using only three materials- wood, rock, and gold. Our lovely young tour guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and told us at the end of the tour that we were the first tour that she had given speaking only English. She was terrific! We strolled back through the cobblestone streets, stopping for some homemade ice cream and a package of tequila filled candies and then headed back to our hotel. It was a fun first day!

January 19th
On this cloudy morning, our driver for the day, Gabriel, picked us up at the Eb and we headed north through the town of Tabacundo. This tiny town and surrounding fields and hillsides are covered with dozens of greenhouses full of roses. We had noticed earlier that our hotel lobby had vases of gorgeous roses on almost every surface and we learned that Ecuador is one of the largest producers and exporters of roses in the world. Our first stop was Puerto Logo, a beautiful hacienda on Lake San Pablo. Here we walked around and photographed the immaculately landscaped grounds, enjoyed views of the lake, and drank cappuccino in their dining room lounge. We even got to see a few llamas up close and personal.

By the time we arrived in the city of Otavalo, the sun was out and the streets were crowded with booths full of people selling all kinds of foods, wooden handicrafts, musical instruments, paintings, woven tapestries and bags, and alpaca sweaters, hats, scarves, and gloves.  I was surprised to see lots of western clothing too. At first it seemed that we were seeing unique artwork, but as we weaved up and down the streets, we noticed many duplicates of linens, artwork, and clothing. Our favorite part of the market was the display of hundreds of fresh vegetables, fruits, and spices and the tents where people were cooking and selling prepared food. Many families were eating fresh pork cut right off the back of roasted pigs, grilled plantains and corn, chicken, fish, soups, rice, and vegetable dishes. As we passed a small bakery, David caught of whiff of freshly baked bread and couldn’t resist purchasing several hot delicious rolls.

From Otavalo, we traveled on to visit the Cascada de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall). Here we walked through a gate and up small street bordered by vendors selling local goods and dogs sniffing around everywhere. At the entrance, we followed an old rock path, passed by a pretty swimming area fed by the river and then continued to the waterfall. A little further around the path, a young man was encouraging tourists to pose with a couple of brightly dressed llamas. After stopping for a drink, we continued around the loop trail across a suspension bridge and back to the gate. The whole area was beautiful and we enjoyed getting to know our driver Gabriel, who had spent several years living in Connecticut and spoke English very well. After another fun day of sightseeing, we headed back south to Quito and our hotel.

January 20th
The Small World Adventures bus pulled up at the hotel entrance promptly at 9:30 a.m.. DonDon Beveridge, one of the owners, greeted us and introduced us to our driver, Lobo, who helped load our luggage onto the bus. We met our group for the week which included Jared, an young intern river guide originally from Montana, Mark from Oregon, Rick from New Mexico, and Tiffany and Tony from nearby Cleveland, Tennessee. Soon, we began the two hour journey over the 13,000 foot Andes Mountain pass and southeast to Quijos Valley to the town of Borja. Due to heavy rain, we weren’t able to see much on the way besides lots of green hills and clouds.

We arrived at the El Luxor Hotel, Small World’s home base and the nicest lodging in Borja. Darcy IIWe checked into our rooms, met Darcy Gaechter, the other owner of Small World, and reunited with our old friend Liam Kirkham who had recently arrived from the UK to guide for a few weeks. We were introduced to the Small World local cooks, ate lunch in the open air dining area above the hotel pool and then headed a few blocks over to the “bodega” (kayak and gear storage warehouse). After David got past being amazed by the number and selection of boats, the kayakers outfitted and loaded their boats and we took off to check out the upper section of the Cosanga River. Being warned by Don and Darcy that due to the recent rains, the Cosanga might possibly be too high to paddle, we weren’t surprised to see the gray, murky water lapping right up against the river banks. The decision was made to take about an hour drive up to the Cabanas San Isidro, a bird watching lodge on the eastern slope of the Andes in the Quijos Valley. The rain had dissipated a bit when we arrived, so I decided to take advantage of the rubber boots available and walk along the trail surrounding the cabanas. About halfway through my walk, the bottom dropped out and I discovered what being in a rainforest really meant! It was incredibly beautiful with every green tree hosting moss, ferns, and vines of all kinds. The only birds we saw there were hummingbirds at the feeders, but they were unusual and different from the ones we have here in Georgia. The lodge is a prime destination for serious bird watchers as Ecuador is home to over 1600 species of birds and over 130 different species of hummingbirds.

The group enjoyed drinks at the San Isidro and then headed back to the El Luxor. The cooks had prepared an excellent dinner of hot corn chowder, homemade rolls, giant chicken burritos, and bananas dipped in chocolate for dessert. Don told the group that we would be heading south to the town of Tena the next morning and paddle in the surrounding Napo Valley for the next few days. We chatted with the group and headed up to our room to pack for the morning trip. It wasn’t the day we had originally expected, but it was still fun.

January 21st
We loaded up the bus and headed over an 8000 foot mountain pass down toward the Napo Valley to city of Tena which sits a little less than 2000 feet above sea level and is located on the Oriente (east) side of Ecuador. Our first stop was at a bridge over the middle section of the Misahualli River. The kayakers unloaded here to run this section of river. After the run, they took their boats out, reloaded, drove back north and ran the upper El Reten section and the middle section again in the afternoon.

Darcy and I hopped in a taxi and traveled to a dirt road that tunneled through some giant bamboo grasses. We stopped and took a wet, muddy walk to a small cascada (waterfall). After that, we headed to an outdoor cafe in the town of Archidona where I sampled my first and only bite of grilled chontacuro (large beetle larva!). Chontacuro is a common source of protein in Ecuador and said to be helpful in curing asthma. I am certain that after that one chewy and crunchy bite, I won’t have any issues with asthma for the rest of my life! At least, mine was grilled. Some Ecuadorians like to eat the larvae alive and still wriggling!

We drove out near Archidona and visited another waterfall and climbed up on the rocks behind it. Later, we stopped at a large outdoor market with booths selling everything from fruits and vegetables to clothing, shoes, and toys. A friendly older couple shared some giant seeded grapes with us. On the way back to Tena to meet up with the kayakers, we stopped by a roadside tent and bought fresh coconut water. The storekeeper chopped off the top of the coconut with a machete, used the tip to carve out a tiny hole, and poked a straw in the top. It was delicious!