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Grand Canyon Expedition Day 7 Part I: What it means to be living on Canyon Time


Previous Post: Day 6 – Little Colorado R and a birthday
First Post: The Story Begins…

Morning of Day 7.  This is the earliest I have gotten up so far.  It’s 5:30 AM and still dark, a good time to do some writing by headlamp and watch the sunrise.
TRIP TIP:  If you go camping, get a headlamp with a red light.  It uses much less battery power and it doesn’t affect your night vision or disturb others.

Quiet time in the morning

Quiet time in the morning

I had a lot of vivid dreams again last night as I have nearly every night on the trip.  I never have such dreams at home, or at least I don’t remember having them when I wake up.  I don’t sleep as deeply here as at home in bed, but I feel very well rested in the morning.  It was the same on my first trip to the Canyon as well.  Is it from going to bed so early?  Is it all the physical and mental exercise I get all day long? [Yes, it is very mentally stimulating to row as you are always giving a bit of attention to where your raft is heading and making minor adjustments to stay in the current.  Even in the flat water when you kick back and relax, you have to keep aware of where you are or you’ll get caught in an eddy and find yourself drifting in circles as the rest of the group floats on by.]  Or maybe the dreaming comes from sleeping on a 2″ thick sleeping pad in the fresh, cool Canyon air instead of on a big mattress indoors.  Or is it just that all the worries and stresses of a busy life back home don’t exist here leaving the mind clear?  The wilderness is so remote and the surroundings so distracting that I’m too busy living in the present to be thinking of what is going on outside the Canyon. It’s like meditation 24 hours/day for 21 days straight.

Here in The Canyon, all man-made boundaries and measures fade.  Without electricity, lights, television, or alarm clocks, the artificial measures of time disappear making it easy to adapt to the natural rhythms of the day, going to bed soon after dark and rising at dawn’s first light if not earlier.  The calendar loses meaning.  Days of the week are soon forgotten.  The phases of the moon become the units of measure for the calendar.

Halloween Moon in the Grand Canyon

Halloween Moon in the Grand Canyon

Days are only tracked by the number of nights camping since we started.  Even the notebook with the menu plan identifies the meals for each day by the camp number, not the date.  Today we will be sleeping at Camp 7.  I can recall the date of the month only because I have a paper listing our planned itinerary for each day’s camp and on it also are the dates.  The absence of man-made labels marking time feels like a map of the world devoid of the lines and colors marking cities, countries and other imaginary political features.  Just the real, natural features of the earth and time.    My schedule indicates Camp 7 is October 31st, All Hallows Eve.  Cool!  Glad we brought costumes to celebrate the holiday.  Trips run all year long.  I can only imagine what it’s like to be here for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

My Grand Canyon itinerary

Trip itinerary I carried along with my journal. Note the revisions made during the trip. (click to zoom)

Menu binder provided by PRO River Outfitters

Menu binder provided by PRO River Outfitters. Work teams written on left page. Note the camp # on the page and the tabs.

Clouds are starting to move in from the west.  It’s hard to tell yet if it will bring rain, but I expect cooler weather.  On Day 4 we had high clouds that were a warm front.  Not this time.  Lower, thicker clouds and the wind is starting from the North, straight down the Canyon.  Understanding weather is useful knowledge on extended trips in the wilderness.  The weather here is very different from the Pacific Northwest, but it is much like Florida’s weather which I know well.

Ariel mentioned to me last night that she keeps hearing people say “When Ariel is gone…” or “after Phantom Ranch…”  [Ariel will be hiking out at the half way point at Phantom Ranch.] She is wondering if people don’t want her here. That was *my* mistake.  I made it very clear before the trip that everyone shall be mindful of their behavior until after she has left the trip.  I know they didn’t mean it the way it sounded and she understood it once I explained it.  I have heard many times how everyone is enjoying having her along.

Hula hoops in the Grand Canyon

Hula hoops are a great way to warm up in the morning!

Today we will be doing a loop hike starting from right here, going up Carbon Creek Canyon and then follow Lava Canyon back down to the river a mile downstream.  A few people will row most of the rafts down to confluence of Lava Canyon, park the rafts there and hike the same loop in the opposite direction.  When they get back here to camp they will get in the remaining raft and row it down to rejoin the group at Lava Canyon.  From there we will continue down river to the next camp.  We will be  heading to Upper Rattlesnake camp at river mile 74.5.  There is a hike there too.

Pirate Raft in the Grand Canyon on Halloween

My raft is ready for Halloween!

Craig is dressed for Halloween too

Craig is dressed for Halloween too

OK, time to pack up and get ready for the hike!

Hiking up Carbon Creek Canyon

Hiking up Carbon Creek Canyon

Footprints in the mud-turned-concrete in Carbon Creek Canyon

Footprints in the mud-turned-concrete in Carbon Creek Canyon. It's been awhile since this creek flashflooded.

Brief video of the top end of Carbon Creek Canyon before climbing left and going down Lava Creek

Hiking down Lava Creek Canyon

Hiking down Lava Creek Canyon

Colorful layers in Lava Creek Canyon

Colorful layers in Lava Creek Canyon

Raft shuttle arrives after hiking Carbon-Lava canyons

Raft shuttle arrives after hiking Carbon-Lava canyons.

I’m really wondering if “Canyon time” is so unique to the extended time spent in a remote setting or if it is possible to achieve this “living in the present” feeling at home amidst all the noise of the world.  What do you think?

[Author’s note: The photos posted throughout this series were contributed from many photographers in the group.  With over 10,000 images taken by 12 different people, I lost track of who took what.  My apologies to everyone that I can’t give proper credit to each photographer.]

Previous Post: Day 6 – Little Colorado R and a birthday
First Post: The Story Begins…

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Grand Canyon Day 2: Jackass Creek to North Canyon


Next Post: Day 3
Previous Post: Day 1

(If you’re just checking in for the first time, I am posting my daily journal entries from my month-long rafting trip leading 16 friends down the Grand Canyon.  You may want to go back and start at the first post of the series and work your way forward.)

An exciting day!  I got up around 5:30 AM, just before sunrise.  Around 6:30 AM the wind suddenly picked up, gusting over 20 mph.  Then the rain came and it poured.  Ariel put on her drysuit before she even got out of the tent.  Best rain gear you could have!  It’s a good thing I had packed the gear back in the drybags before going to bed.  A few people left stuff outside and it’s soaked.  David C. didn’t fair so well.  Yesterday evening his tent blew down the hill in a wind gust like a tumbleweed.  Someone recovered it just before it went into the river, but it got torn up a bit.  He’s gonna get wet if we get more rain on this trip.  It’s a good thing everything dries so quickly in the Canyon.

We packed up camp in the wind and rain and were ready to go by 9:00.  Then the rain and wind suddenly stopped.  This is so much like those Florida summer rain showers.  The big difference is you can’t see what’s coming because the Canyon walls block the view of most of the sky.  You don’t know what’s coming until it is right over you. Then just as we prepared to push off from shore, red-brown water started flowing down the far bank of the river in the main current.

Watching the river turn brown as we prepare to depart Jackass Camp

Watching the river turn brown as we prepare to depart Jackass Camp

It gradually started filling in the eddy where we were parked, then finally filling in the middle of the river until it all ran brown.  A flash flood had come pouring down the Badger Canyon just across the river from us.  Amazing how the muddy water shows how the water flows within the river like smoke does in a wind tunnel.

Muddy water coming in from the Badger Canyon

Muddy water coming in from the Badger Canyon

Fortunately breakfast didn’t require any cooking.  I stuffed myself last night on stir-fry dinner, so I just had a bagel.  We skipped lunch because we were so close to the intended camp that we thought we would just push on and do lunch at camp.

This afternoon we ran our first class 7 rapid of the trip: House Rock.

Scouting House Rock Rapid at river mile 17

Scouting House Rock Rapid at river mile 17

I thought I was far enough right as I entered at the top, but I still got drawn into the big wave-hole at the bottom on the left.  the current really pushes hard into the left wall.  As I hit the last wave just before the wave-hole, I lost my grip on one oar and ended up hitting it sideways!  As vertical as we got, I’m not sure how we didn’t flip.

Commodore running House Rock Rapid

Commodore running House Rock Rapid

The grips on these oars are just a bit too fat.  I’ll try rowing without the gloves and see how that goes.  We reached our target camp at Upper North Canyon by 2:30 PM, River mile 20.8.  Some people rushed off to set up their own gear before the rafts were unloaded.  In the end it worked out OK.  I know they were anxious to get things dried out from the rain this morning.  Before dinner we all hiked up the side canyon.  I remember doing this hike at lunchtime last time I was here.  A big group of us did the hike.  I got a group photo at the upper end.

Hiking North Canyon - r to l: Lucy, Gary, Craig, Kika, Kevin, Captain Natalia, Ariel, & Commodore Dave

Hiking North Canyon - r to l: Lucy, Gary, Craig, Kika, Kevin, Captain Natalia, Ariel, & Commodore Dave

North Canyon

North Canyon

Dinner was at 6:00 PM, just as it got dark.  I want to eat earlier so we aren’t eating and cleaning up in the dark.  After a dinner of salmon and salad, we had a campfire and some guitar music.  I have been having a meeting in the evening for everyone to share stories about the day and talk about what we want to do the next day.  The veterans tell me they like the AM & PM meetings.  Good to know.  I am finding my Toastmasters skills quite useful too.

Last night I woke up when it rained briefly around 3:30 AM.  Never really got to sleep after that.  It’s not quite 9:00 PM and I’m falling asleep while writing.  Good night.

Next Post: Day 3
Previous Post: Day 1

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