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. 🙂

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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.

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!

We stopped by The Yutzos, our Tena at our hotel on the river, and then walked across the bridge to the small Amazonia Island looking for monkeys. We walked around the boardwalk, climbed to the top of a tower to view the countryside, saw and later petted a tapir (a dark gray pig looking animal with an anteater type mouth) and spent a long time watching a group of marmosets (tiny black monkeys with long tails) playing and jumping around in the trees. Later, we reunited with the kayakers, explored the town and enjoyed a dinner of typical Ecuadorian food (chicken, fish, rice, avocados, vegetables and beans) in a local restaurant. The kayakers has a great first paddling day on the Misahualli and I loved having the chance to explore and see some unique animals!

January 22nd
After breakfast in the riverside dining room at the Yutzos, we boarded the bus and headed to the put in for the lower Jondachi River. On the road to the put in, we picked up local young women and men whose families are willing to let kayakers use their road if they hire them as porters to carry the boats down the trail to the river. As we slipped and slid down the muddy trail to the put in, no one regretted paying $6 to the local entrepreneurs.

I was happy to get to help paddle the Shredder (a small inflatable craft with two attached pontoons) with Don guiding, steering, and basically directing my every move. The Jondachi River was everything one would imagine an Amazonian river to be: whitewater rushing through boulders of all sizes, lush green riverbanks covered with tropical plants and trees, and waterfalls cascading down the hills and into the river. We paddled through many boulder gardens, drop offs, and on down river to where the Jondachi merged with the Hollin River. Not far past the merge, we encountered a HUGE, muddy waterfall spilling from the hillside over into the river. Don informed us that just the week before it had been much smaller and they had enjoyed kayaking under and behind it. The whole run was full of rapids, technical maneuvers around boulders and lots of fun. It was another terrific day in Ecuador!

January 23rd
David and the other kayakers headed out to the Middle Napo Valley to paddle the Piatua River, a creeky, river full of boulder gardens and many challenging drops. Liam, ByronByron (one of Small World’s local guides) and I took off for the Jatunyacu River in the Upper Napo Valley. At the beginning of the run, the Jatunyacu was surrounded by tall canyon walls, but soon widened and opened up to rolling green hills and flatlands on either side. As we portaged the first rapid, we stopped and watched an indigenous woman panning for gold. The legend is that the local residents hid a large stash of gold high up in the hills to keep it from the Spaniards and because it was never found, it is still washing down the river. She showed us her flat wooden panning bowl and several tiny flecks of gold she had already discovered.
Further down the river after rolling through many big water wave trains, we stopped at an island village called Shandia where the indigenous Kichwa people still live. Here the local women were selling handicrafts, jewelry, carvings, and chocolate. We met an older gentleman who took us on a tour of the island. He first told us that the people still lived nearby, but this island was used to educate the children and visitors about the traditions and customs of the Kichwa tribe. He pointed out the palms that are separated and woven to make Panama hats. We continued our tour by pulling the outside covering off of a termite nest, crunching it up in our hands and rubbing it on our arms to use as insect repellant. We also tasted guava fruit, a sweet white fruit sometimes called “monkey’s tail” because it is enclosed in a long, hard, brownish crusty pod. Our Kichwa guide demonstrated armadillo and bird traps, and told us how the skin of poisonous frogs cannot be touched, but they can be cooked and their insides consumed. He pointed out the yuca trees growing on the beach and explained how the yuca (yoo-ka) roots grow underground producing about 4 yucas per plant. They are similar to a potato, but larger with a purplish skin that must be peeled off. We also tasted the red sap of the dragon blood tree, Sangre de Drago. It is used to heal insect bites and wounds and a drop taken orally is said to cure an upset stomach. We also saw a cacao tree and fruit with the cacao beans used to make chocolate. Near the beach were buildings made in the traditional Kichwa fashion with thatched roofs smoked with soot to help make them water and bug proof. I loved the whole island tour and learned so much!

As we traveled on down the Jatunyacu, we passed by many rock walls covered with green mosses, and many varieties of plants and vines. Byron pointed out the wild orchids growing on the rock walls and picked a tiny beautiful “baby shoe” orchid right off the wall as we floated by. Over 4000 species of orchids grow in Ecuador due to its tropical climate. Several miles downriver, the warmer Anzu River, converged with the Jatunyacu and together they form the Napo River, which leads to the Misahualli, on to the Amazon and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. All of the rivers in Ecuador are tributaries to the mighty Amazon.

When the kayakers joined us again at our hotel, we discovered that Tiffany had taken a swim during their trip, injured her ankle on the rocks, and was at the local hospital getting an xray. It turned out that although she was able to complete the river run, her ankle was fractured and that was the end of kayaking for her. Later that evening, we enjoyed a fine dining experience complete with a white tablecloth, red wine, delicious steak and chicken, and the resident pet sloth sleeping on the ceiling rafters right above and behind our table. Just another day in paradise…

January 24th
On this morning, David and the kayakers headed to the Jatunyacu River and were entertained by a pet monkey at the put in. Marco, the local taxi driver, picked up Darcy and me and took us to the town of Porto Misahualli. Here we hopped on a long skinny motorized wooden canoe, traveled a short distance upstream and headed uphill to another waterfall. From here, we began our search for a large ceiba (kapok) tree. After a checking out a few trails, we discovered one of the biggest trees we had ever seen complete with roots rising up out of the ground all around it. Along the way, we saw all kinds of vegetation, crazy sizes and shapes of mushrooms, and several huge termite nests. We reunited with Marco who drove us back to town where we watched tmonkeys play, ate lunch, and shopped for fruits. On the way back to Tena, all three of us took a wet, muddy adventure hike through the rain forest to view three more pretty waterfalls.
Later that afternoon, the whole group all boarded the bus and headed back to Borja and the El Luxor Hotel. We munched on an appetizer of chifles (really good sliced, fried, and salted plantain chips) and were served an excellent dinner of vegetable lasagna, homemade rolls, and strawberries with cream prepared by the Small World cooks.

January 25th
Once again, we loaded onto the bus for about an hour drive to the town of Cosanga in the Quijos Valley. Here we stopped at the same spot by the bridge where we had viewed the river on Sunday afternoon and were happy to see that the level was much better for paddling.  On this day, Darcy and I joined the kayakers and paddled the Shredder down the upper section of the Cosanga River.  After portaging the Chibolo (lump on the head) Rapid with the Shredder, we watched a group of local kayak guides run it and our kayakers follow Don’s line and sneak it to river left. No one really wanted a lump on the head! The Consanga was a beautiful run once again with many shallow boulder fields, rapids, and challenging drops. I was so happy to get to come along and experience this fun river run!

January 26
On our final day with Small World, we took a short bus ride to the Quijos River to run the section from near Baeza to the Rio Sardinas Grande area near Borja. It was once again an exciting boulder filled run with quite a few drop pools and I was thrilled that Don was willing to bring the Shredder along one last time. After a terrific last river run, we returned to the El Luxor for lunch, packed up, said goodbye to Don, Darcy, and Jared and boarded the bus to return to Quito. We dropped Rick and Mark off at the Papallacta Hot Springs for the afternoon and continued on back to the EB Hotel where we said our goodbyes to Lobo and Liam. We checked in, dried out gear, and enjoyed talking with Angel, the barman, while we waited for Rick and Mark to join us for dinner. After eating, they headed to the airport to catch their flights home and we enjoyed one more night in a super nice EB suite.

A mix bag of kayaking photos from the week below:

January 27
For our last day in Ecuador, we hopped in the Hyundai van with Gabriel again for the drive to Old Quito and to see the El Panecillo, the famous statue of the Virgin Mary, at the top of the hill above the city. There were all kinds of tourists there watching the local dancers & musicians, having picnics, and just enjoying the beautiful, sunny day. From here we went on to the Basilica del Voto National (the national cathedral). We weren’t able to walk around on the ground floor because Sunday mass was in session so we climbed the stairs to view it from the balcony. Next, we took the elevator to the 3rd floor, walked across a narrow wooden plank above the cathedral ceiling, and climbed up a steep ladder to see the views from an outside tower. We learned that the cathedral was designed by a French architect in the late 1800’s and has taken many years to build. It is technically unfinished and the legend in Ecuador is that if the basilica is ever completed, that will signify the end of the world.

After that, we walked around the very crowded the Plaza Grande filled with choirs singing, gymnasts performing, families sightseeing and many people just sitting on the benches hanging out. Gabriel took us to a new chocolate shop and museum, Republic Del Cacao. We each enjoyed a delicious chocolate dessert, toured the museum, tasted many kinds of chocolate and of course, bought some to bring home. It was incredibly well done. We spent a little more time in Old Quito walking by President’s, the Vice President’s, and the Mayor’s offices and touring the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (church and monastery of St. Francis). It was built by the Roman Catholics between 1534 and 1680 and has survived many earthquakes. The huge stone plaza in front of it used to be a market center for the indigenous people, but now is a gathering place for locals and tourists. We ended the day with dinner back at the EB and headed to the airport to catch our 12:30 a.m. flight. We arrived back in Atlanta very early the next morning. The ease of traveling on nonstop flights, the fine EB hotel with friendly staff, the beauty of the Andes, the lush tropical rain and cloud forests, the fun kayakers and guides with Small World, the grand architecture of Old Quito, the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, and most of all the endless number of amazing whitewater rivers made our trip to Ecuador an terrific and unforgettable experience. After all, “what’s wrong with just fun?”

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Paddling, Paddling and More Paddling!

Life can certainly be busy and situations can always arise that will keep you off a trail. That definitely happened to me this year, so I made the best of it and stayed focused on both my business and leisure time enjoying every minute of it. Work is going great and we’ve been involved in some super interesting construction projects during the past year. On the hiking, paddling and fun front, I’m pretty sure that I’ve broken all my past records for total number of days spent on a river in a year, and we still have plenty of days left in 2018! It’s been another great Ocoee River season close to our home in the North Georgia mountains. We truly love the visits and the gathering of all our friends who come up and join us for some weekend fun on the water.

I also got a chance to sneak away for a week to enjoy one of my favorite places on the earth, Wyoming. During our week there, I was able to get wet and make a couple of laps kayaking down the Snake River. I also got in two days of mountaineering school and climbed the Grand Teton while Mary hiked on the Teton Crest trail.  We also enjoyed being with some Yellowstone Dew Crew friends and reminiscing about old times at the Old Faithful Inn one evening. It was a truly awesome week, filled with beautiful outdoor adventures!

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When I did my first long distance thru hike back in 2012 on the Appalachian Trail, I had no plans then of becoming a Triple Crown Hiker. At this point I feel like it’s something I really want to do and accomplish some day. I’m just glad to know that the CDT will still be there when I’m able and ready to go.  For now, I’m planning towards a 2020 CDT thru hike.

Why 2020? Paddling and more paddling, that’s why! This coming calendar year is once again filled with some truly awesome river adventures. In January, Mary and I will be headed down to Ecuador for some sight-seeing and whitewater paddling fun in the jungles of the Amazon region with Small World Adventures. I can’t wait to visit Ecuador again and I’m super excited that Mary will be coming along with me this time to experience this beautiful country as well.

In August of 2019, we will once again head back to the Colorado River for another two-week journey through the Grand Canyon with some great and long time paddling friends. It should make for another awesome trip through the canyon!

So, even though I missed another year living the hiker trash lifestyle, know that my adventures continue to roll along, just in a liquid format.

Posted in Post-Hike | 2 Comments

Sun Kosi, Nepal 2017

From both Mary and me, many thanks again to Liam Kirkham, a British friend, who put this trip together GRG_LOGO_150pxfor everyone, and the staff at GRG’s Kayaking Adventures for making our trip down the Sun Kosi River another outstanding and rewarding river adventure. The following blog update was, once again, prepared and written by Mary. Yea…

Below is a short video that I put together that illustrates some of what it’s like to kayak and raft down the Sun Kosi River in Nepal. It can be best viewed if you change the YouTube setting to 720p or 1080p HD quality. Enjoy!

Filled with excitement about our adventure and a bit of dread anticipating two very long flights, we boarded the Turkish Airlines direct to Istanbul on the night of October 11th. Eleven hours, two meals, three movies, and several stretch and restroom breaks later, we arrived at the Istanbul airport about 4:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EST). After exploring the airport, we found a row of chairs to stretch out on and catnapped until it was time to head to the gate for our flight to Kathmandu. After approximately 7 more hours of flying time, our pilot announced, “Ladies, gentlemen, and dear children we have arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal.” It was now about 6:30 a.m. October 13th (4:15 p.m. EST October 12th).

Turkish Airlines Flight

We purchased our visas, passed through customs and met the friendly driver of our hotel van outside. After a suspenseful drive through the streets of Kathmandu, where cars drive on the left side of the road with no lanes, stop lights, passing laws, yield signs with many buses, vans, small cars and motorcycles honking horns and zipping around each other, we arrived at the International Guest House in Thamel. The hotel is surrounded by a tall brick wall with a beautiful garden in the center filled with fruit trees, tropical flowering plants, and intricate carvings: a peaceful, green oasis in the midst of a loud, dusty city. We checked in and followed a strong Nepali gentleman who carried all 3 of our very large bags up 6 flights of stairs to our room. We settled in, had breakfast in the garden dining area, and ventured out to explore Thamel.

Needless to say, it was a unique experience. The streets were quite narrow and bustling with traffic: mostly motorcycles, taxis, rickshaws and pedestrians. We passed shops of all kinds from raw poultry and fish, hemp backpacks, yak wool creations, cotton clothing, and “fake” North Face and other outdoor gear. There were restaurants tucked back in alleys with gardens and trees, hotels with gates and guards, stray dogs, and people of all ages and races walking through town. After wandering around soaking in the culture for a while, exchanging some US dollars for Nepalese rupees, we climbed the stairs up to Alchemy Pizza where we sat on the balcony and enjoyed lunch, a few Nepali Ice beers and people watching on the street below. Later, we returned to our hotel for a nap, dinner, and early bedtime.

Our second day in Kathmandu was Saturday which is the Hindu/Buddhist holy day, so the streets were quieter, and many shops were closed. We did a little shopping and then took a rickshaw ride with a kind Nepali gentleman to the Rum Doodle Bar, keeping our promise to our friend, Bob Sarratt, that we would visit there if at all possible. The book, The Ascent of Rum Doodle (written by W.E. Bowman and published in the UK in 1956) is a parody about a group of mountaineers who set out to climb the world’s highest peak “Rum Doodle” (elevation 40,000 1/2 feet), in the snowy Himalayan mountains. Rum Doodle Bar is a meeting place for Himalayan climbers who used to come and autograph the walls. Later they created large cardboard footprints for climbers to sign with details of their expeditions.

It was only about 10:30 a.m. so the bar was not open yet. While we hesitated outside for a few minutes deciding what to do, a young man approached and invited us in. He greeted us warmly and told us we were welcome to stay until 1:00 pm when they had a private party coming in. Another English-speaking young man gave us a tour, told us how the original bar had been destroyed in the earthquake of 2015, but they managed to save many of the famous signatures on the wall. We sat outside under streamers of Nepali prayer flags surrounded by tropical plants and trees and enjoyed an early lunch of homemade tortilla chips and delicious salsa, fish fingers and Everest beer. Another cool oasis in dusty Kathmandu. Our easy-going rickshaw driver waited and returned us to our hotel by a much quicker route than we possibly could have found by ourselves.

After another nap to recover from jet lag, we met our river adventure group, led by Liam Kirkham (a kayaking guide we met on our trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in 2013), and Maila, the owner of GRG’s Adventure Guides. After a brief orientation, we all walked down the Thamel streets to Electric Pagoda, a trendy restaurant that served Asian, Nepali, and International food. After a few introductions, we discovered that our group consisted of 2 Americans (us), Aris from Hong Kong, and 10 others (including Liam) all from the UK.

The next morning our group boarded a van and traveled through town to the top of a hill in Kathmandu Valley to the ancient Buddhist temple, Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey Temple). As soon as we walked up the steps, there were monkeys running around all over the place. The reason that all the monkeys live there is that they are considered holy. The legend is that when Manjushri, the Buddhist god of wisdom and learning, was raising the hill which the stupa stands, he made his hair grow long, then head lice grew in it and later transformed into these monkeys. The stupa is the large white dome at the top of the temple which represents the entire world. The gold structure above the dome is painted with the eyes looking in all four directions representing the wisdom and compassion of Buddha as he awakened from the bonds of the world and reached enlightenment. The temple area was crowded with tourists, Hindu and Buddhist worshippers, and vendors selling all kinds of local trinkets. It was a fascinating place, but also very disheartening to see so much trash scattered around. It was difficult to understand why cleaning up daily trash and debris from the earthquake isn’t a priority in a religious temple and a popular tourist attraction.