Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Winter Grand Canyon of the Colorado Trip

A Typical Day:

You know what you’re going to do tomorrow, sort of… First you’ll wake up. Crawl out of your warm cocoon of a bed/nest. Get dressed in the first of multiple costumes for the day. This attire will undoubtedly include a warm hat, extra layers, and at minimum one article of down clothing. Rowan took this to extremes on our trip with a down jacket, pants, and slippers! Create a delicious, filling, and hot breakfast. These meals usually contain either bacon, sausage, or chorizo! On the truly magical mornings, all three of these delightful breakfast meats can be combined. This combination feels like winning the lottery while having a heart attack! There will certainly be Baileys on the coffee table and no one will even blink when you add a glug or two to your coffee.

grand canyon, river colors green and blue little colorado rafting beautiful red rocks
water colors colliding, Little and Big Colorado
ladies in dry suits climbing through slot canyon Matkatimiba grand canyon of the colorado

A lackadaisical launch hour is the norm, say noonish, and usually coincides with the sun hitting the beach. Sometimes it starts snowing and you just blow it off for a day or two. Direct sunlight is precious on winter trips, and groups always seem to desire to spend as many of the sunlit hours as possible on the water to combat the chilly winter temps.

big horn sheep grand canyon of the colorado close up of head
critters both large and small

deer creek, looking down on the colorado river grand canyon of the colorado rafting whereisbaer chris baer
above Deer Creek

Mileage on the water can be less than ten a day. Sometimes getting on the water is just an excuse to change camp locations. Other days you push for thirty-plus miles, tackling countless rapids.

rowan stewart, blue nrs dry suit little colorado blue river red rocks beautiful
Rowan trying to be a chameleon and match her dry suit to the Little Colorado

Social Norms:

Interactions with other groups can be odd, because it seems like every trip on the river has a significantly different goal. Some groups are actually on scientific work details. Other parties are exactly that… massive parties. Still others are on soul-searching missions. Interactions between these different groups are usually welcoming and ecstatic, with people more than happy to lend a hand in any way possible. On our last trip, we were forced to acquire a couple of items from other groups. At mile 150, Upset Rapid created both an exciting line and an excessively damp bread-box for Mike Crook. Thankfully, a very heavily-stocked science trip was so kind as to ration out some bread. However, there were some things we searched for during the trip that no one sold come up with: Kool-Aid for a hair dyeing experiment, and the top for a percolator. It seems like those little glass percolator tops break at least once a trip. If you’re ever in need of an emergency cap replacement, we’ve discovered that the cap off of a handle of Evan Williams whisky will suffice. Better yet the top to an Absolute Vodka bottle will actually match the chrome exterior of the percolator.

avery potter deer creek looking into grand canyon of the colorado
Deer Creek
Other groups get used like we use Google back in the techno world: settling arguments over irrelevant statistics, gaining an edge for the funniest sand Pictionary word, or obscure facts that someone in the group ought to know but can’t come up with. It’s interesting how we have become overly reliant on technology to tell us what is correct. Sometimes unresolved theories can turn into comical debates. Other times the banter becomes so fueled that it sparks your first interaction with a new group. “What’s the Italian word for thank you?!” “Prego!” It only took communicating with three different groups for us to get this answer.

red wall cavern grand canyon colorado green water sand beach whereisbaer chris baer
Red Wall Cavern

Camp Life:

When pulling into camp, make sure it’s a suitable location. Things to consider: Is it large enough for a horseshoes arena? Is there wind protection for the kitchen? Is there morning sun, or any sun at all? Is there rain protection? Plenty of camps have overhanging walls that make for epic escapes if the weather turns for the worse. Are there flat tent sites? Is there enough room to sprawl out? Are there options for side hikes? There are plenty of perks and downfalls to every location, and camp selection is often the most contested portion of a Grand Canyon trip.

overhanging raft camp grand canyon colorado red rock whereisbaer chris baer
overhanging rock wall for rain protection

rafts, sunset grand canyon colorado, whereisbaer colors
rafts trying to dry out as water levels fall

Once a camp location is agreed upon, tie down the boats! This sounds simple but can go epically wrong. Remember, there can be massive flow variations throughout the day and the trip. https://rrfw.org/RaftingGrandCanyon/Tide_Tables Sand stakes work great but will pull loose if your 2,000-pound raft starts jerking on the line in the middle of the night. On the other hand, you don’t want to pull the rafts up too high as they may be left high-and-dry if water levels drop in the morning. I prefer the buddy system: you tie your boat off to a tree or a sand-stake, and I’ll do the same. Then we tie our boats together. Note: Some camps don’t have good tie-up locations. Ledges Camp is the one that comes to my mind. It is a good idea to bring some rock climbing hardware just in case.

stark grand canyon sun set rafting colorado, rafts blue
evening sunsets

kitchen set up on the grand canyon of the colorado rafting red rocks sunset, whereisbaer.com chris baer
kitchen location

Unloading the kitchen can be hard on the body. A pack for everything kitchen will be excessively heavy and can easily weigh north of one hundred and fifty pounds. The dry-boxes in which the kitchen usually resides are cumbersome beasts. They almost always require two people to maneuver out of the raft and up the mountain of sand to the designated kitchen location. This action, even when done with a competent partner, can be awkward or dangerous and include more than a few curse words.

syunning scenery rafts floating grandcanyon of the colorado rafting whereisbaer.com chris Baer
it's not all whitewater

Once you’ve dialed in all of the amenities of camp, get the fire started. Then pick out the ultimate groover location. It’s a curtesy to have some privacy for your bathroom location, but not at the expense of having an epic view. The last group tasks are to set up the hand wash station and can crush location, aka the “snake pit.”

best groover location on the grand canyon leges cam scenery best view colorado river rafting WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer
groover with a view

Personal camp:

I try to make this one of the easiest and least time-consuming parts of the trip. I like a basic, 6x8 tarp on the ground with a thick Paco Pad smack in the middle. The tarp allows a bit of a buffer between the sand and the bed. On top of the Paco Pad, I put my Watershed bag which contains my headlamp, sleeping bag and pillow. That bag stays closed until bedtime, which helps keep sand out of my personal gear.

Nankoweap Granaries WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer Grand Canyon of the Colorado river arizona view green river
Nankoweap Granaries

Now it’s time to produce an elaborate dinner! We’re not roughing it out here. Add a healthy dollop of solar-powered music, cocktail hour and hors d'oeuvres, and a constant stream of humorous and misguided conversation, exacerbated by a lack of screen time. These communal meals are a highlight on any trip.

Matkatamiba, rafters hiking up dry suits kokatat Avery Potter WhwereIsBaer.com Chris Baer
Matkatamiba canyon

Time spent floating on the water during a winter twenty-eight day Grand Canyon of the Colorado trip is limited to maybe two hours a day. That is only one-twelfth of the entire trip. Find joy in the rest of it! Camp should be elaborate, and your company should be gregarious. I found my cheeks sore from laughter on a daily basis.

Rowan Stuart mustash march Grand canyon of the colorado comedy WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer
Rowan Stuart
WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer Grand Canyon of the Colorado AZ Arizona Avery Potter pipe mustache
Avery Potter
Chris Baer
WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer Grand Canyon of the Colorado AZ Arizona, mike crook mustache comedy
Mike Crook
WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer Grand Canyon of the Colorado AZ Arizona, Brad McMillian , mustache funny shirtless
Brad Mcmillan

Twenty-eight days go by in a blur in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and I can’t wait to get back to the “real world” that exists there.

WhereIsBaer.com Chris Baer Grand Canyon of the Colorado AZ Arizona, rafting kokatat wrsi helmet smile
 Anyone got a trip coming up I could get on?

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