Grand Canyon 2011 – Day 1: What’s Special About Today?
Commodore’s Log, River Day 1. There are 3 Davids in the group. To make things easy, they’re calling me Commodore, leader of the fleet.
On the river at last! Quite a special day. Last night it actually started to rain around 2:30 AM. I woke up and put the rain fly on the tent and then it stopped raining. I couldn’t get to sleep after that. Excited about the morning. I still got up by 6:00 AM without an alarm clock. Bryant from PRO Outfitters, showed up at 7:00 AM as planned. After a simple breakfast of cereal and cinnamon rolls, we sat under the pavilion and Bryant went over more details about
the gear, things like how to manage the trash, the organization of the coolers and food boxes, draining the water from the coolers so they stay colder. Everything in the coolers is frozen extra cold and packed on special ice that has no air bubbles so it lasts longer and to pull out the dinner meat in the morning so it will have time to thaw. He explained the 3-bucket dishwashing method (which is required by the park service.) He talked for over an hour. Is everyone going to remember all of this? He says it’s all documented in the menu plan binder, so we can read it if we forget. Kika, Natalia, and Captain Shu aren’t here yet. Shu has been down the river 9 times before, but I don’t think Kika and Natalia have been before. I guess they’ll have some reading to do at camp tonight. Bryant finished with a demonstration of using the satellite phone, water filter, and groover setup.
Right after he finished, the park ranger showed up to check photo IDs and give us the park service talk before we head downstream. That lasted another hour. He told us about the hazards: scorpions, rattlesnakes, falling into the river in the middle of the night, slips and falls. Apparently people mostly get hurt when they are NOT on the river. Other noteworthy wildlife are the ravens and the California condors. The ravens are thieves. These birds will steal anything they can, but they especially like food and shiny objects. One guy reported that they stole his Rolex watch. They can carry off anything under a pound. Condors are endangered species that are being reintroduced to this area. If they are at a camp, don’t stop. If they come to your camp, scare them off. The concern is they will become habituated to people. I’m wondering if a raven with a 2′ wingspan can carry off 1 pound, what can a 9′ condor carry off? (Note: See the NPS website for more info on the condors in Grand Canyon.)
The ranger explained that emergency airlifts out of the Canyon are free, but if someone is lifted out, make sure they take a small pack with clothes, ID and money or they will be homeless and broke while they wait days or weeks for the group to get off the river with their stuff.
(Note: You can learn more about these details on running the river by watching the orientation videos made by the park service. All river runners are required to view these videos before running the river. You can see these video segments on youtube
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 1 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 2 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 3 of 4
NPS Grand Canyon River Runner Orientation video Part 4 of 4
By the time the ranger finished, it was 10:00 AM. We finished packing camp and were ready to push off by 11:00. It’s sunny and about 75 degrees. Perfect! I remember it was 55 and raining when we left Seattle a few days ago.
One final brief talk before we push off from shore. I talked to the group about what is happening on the river today. We are planning on camping at Soap Creek at river mile 11. There is one big rapid today: Badger. It’s a 5 (on the GC scale 1-10). I plan to have a quick talk every day before we launch so everyone knows what is happening before we start.
Brother Craig and daughter Ariel are riding in my raft. My first time rowing such a big raft on such big water. I’m just a bit anxious with Ariel onboard. Fortunately the rapids start out easy the first few days and get steadily bigger, so I have time to get familiar with handling this boat.
We stopped for lunch at river mile 4.5, just past the bridges. I was on cooking duty for lunch and with everything so busy this morning, we didn’t thaw the sandwich meat. No problem. There was plenty of other food for the lunch. Lesson learned.
It rained twice today; briefly, but hard, like a Florida rain. With the rain came a strong headwind of about 20 mph. I had Ariel put on her dry suit. She wanted to go swimming. The current was slow, but when she let go of the boat, we were blown away from her quickly. Craig threw her a rope and pulled her back. Good practice for rescuing.
We got to Badger rapid. Capt Shu led because he has the most experience on this river. He explained the line was left of center, but then it looked like he went right of center. Chris followed and they both made it through, so I followed. YIKES! They all went right over the pourover! We made it, but lesson learned: don’t follow blindly. It was already late in the afternoon, so we decided to camp at Jackass Camp, river mile 8.1 on river left, just below Badger. The cooking crew started at 5:00 PM. They made stir fry. It took awhile, but it was good! I will ask the cook crew to start earlier tomorrow so we don’t have to eat or clean up in the dark.
Ariel was eager to play her cello. It was a bit out of tune. Two pegs kept slipping. The dry air will do that.
After cooking was done, we had a meeting to organize and plan for tomorrow. I am enjoying leading this group. they’re great! At the evening meeting I noticed the lightning in the distance and said to expect rain tonight. The 5-day forecast warned to expect rain and much colder weather (25 degrees cooler!) later in the week. Not sure they believed me since the skies were clear and stars were bright. At least Chris decided to use his tent. We shall see. It’s 9:00. Time to sleep now. It’s been a long day.