/ˈzēˌrō/
(noun)
  1. No quantity or number; naught; the figure 0.
  2. A day in which no miles are hiked.

Takeout Day

written Mar 10, 2018 @ 06:44 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was a race to the finish: the takeout beach is small, and we have 17 boats (between 3 groups) that all need to be there. Thankfully, our group was a) closer and b) faster, so we should have good odds at getting there first.

We had breakfast at 6am and pushed off as soon as people had eaten. We wound up hitting the boat beach at 7:30am (for reference, the outfitter is supposed to meet us there at 9:00am)

And we were the only ones there. Let the derigging commence!

Believe it or not, Nick is providing a valuable service

Rolling up the boats

A tight bundle

Onto the next one

Our piles of gear, ready to be thrown on the truck when it gets here

We were fully derigged and ready to load at 8:07 -- that has be to some kind of record.

Unfortunately, the gear truck didn't show up until 10:00am (they said the Indians weren't letting people down the road yet).

Oh well, we got everything loaded super fast and began the 22-mile slog up the road to the picnic area at the top for lunch.

While we were having lunch and sharing stories and enjoying cell service again, the cutest stray puppy ever came up and said hello.

Licking his chops

<3 <3 <3 <3

What an awesome adventure.

To answer the question I get all the time: yes, I'll be going again as soon as I win another permit -- for the fourth time.

Camp 222

written Mar 9, 2018 @ 02:05 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

While we were on the hike yesterday, we got leapfrogged by two trips -- both of whom are taking out at the same place we are, on the same day we are. Blegh, we'll worry about that tomorrow.

For now, we had a pretty relaxed river day, so we pushed off whenever your boat was loaded and rigged, and just floated.

One highlight was stopping at the jumping rock -- an overhanging rock about 25 feet up that stick out into the deep channel. It's obvious that you gotta jump in.

Jon flashing the camera some style on the way down

Feet first!

Nick getting cold.

Nick didn't want to put on his drysuit today, so for this jump, he stripped down to his boxers and let fly. Brrr. (For reference, the river is about 45°F)

Oh well, it's all in good fun.

We pushed on to our desired camp, and found out that both groups had decided to camp there. Okay, we'll keep going. We found another good camp 2 miles farther downstream, and decided to camp there. This was great because then we're even closer to the takeout spot, and we can be the first group there.

Jon maxin' and relaxin'

I added a new activity to my evening routine today, though: I went through my entire boat and derigged everything that was absolutely not necessary. All extraneous straps were removed and placed back in the bags for the outfitters. I also made sure that my gear was not intermingled with the outfitter's gear, and so on and so forth.

Anything I can do to remove stress from tomorrow will be pay dividends many times over.

Layover #5: Mesa Hike

written Mar 8, 2018 @ 02:58 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Another layover day, another day of hiking. This time, JB and I hiked to the top of this mesa that was near camp, about 2,000 feet up. Let the pictures roll!

About a third of the way up, JB turns to look back at the river

I saw this plant with these crazy leaves and I really liked them

Looking out over the landscape (almost to the top)

We made it!

At the top, it was as expected: a big mesa with sheer drops down to the river (more or less) and really great views across the interior of the Canyon

Don't look down!

Looking downriver

After a bit, JB and I headed back, hoping to get back in time for showers (while the sun was up) and some games of Spades.

Look at this perfect "nil" hand, totally ruined by that damn Ace

After an unbelievable game of Spades (which Jon & I won), the evening routine kicked in.

Yep, gotta have a fire.

Granite Park

written Mar 7, 2018 @ 03:22 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was just a matter of putting in the miles. No noteworthy rapids, no noteworthy stops, just rowing until you're at camp.

Nick and I stayed close together and passed the time by drinking beers and solving the problems of the world. Jess tried rowing the inflatable kayak today, so I had to row it all (which is fine).

Check out that moon!

Boats in the water

More boats, under some dramatic clouds

Jess in the IK

Eventually we got to Granite Park Camp, which might be the best winter camp in the Canyon. It's spacious, get tons of sun, and has tons of hiking. We really wanted this camp because we're doing a layover tomorrow, and we want the hiking options (and sun and comfort)

I'm also a sucker for boats at sundown

JB analyzes the fire.

Layover #4: Whitmore Wash

written Mar 6, 2018 @ 02:18 AM after hiking 4.00 miles

After the delightful evening last night, I let myself sleep in as late as I wanted -- I didn't get up until 6:30!

Once some other people were awake and we were fed, Nick, Amanda, JB, and I hiked up to "the rim". Now, it's technically the rim because there's a road there and a sign claiming that it's the rim, but it's only 1000 feet above the river. I guess it's more of an indication that the Canyon is fading away than anything. Boo.

On the way up, we passed some neat columnar basalt formations from when the Canyon was filled with lava here, damming the river for 20,000 years.

So many hexagons

Note the lava rocks littered everywhere

Once we got to the top, it was just as disappointing as our last rim hike: there was just a road and a parking area -- with trash everywhere. It's amazing that we floated for some 200 miles and you don't see trash anywhere, but as soon as you get to a spot that's easily-accessible, you find broken bottles, bottle caps, chip bags, candy bar wrappers, cigarette butts, and all kinds of crap.

Sigh.

A road!

After hanging out up there for a while, we headed back to camp for our afternoon rituals -- including river-showers! It feels good to be somewhat clean, especially when there's tons of sun to warm and dry you.

Look at those dynamic clouds!

Lava Day

written Mar 5, 2018 @ 02:15 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today is the day: Lava day. Lava is the biggest rapid of the Canyon, rated a 9 on the Grand Canyon scale (max of 10). So naturally, this morning everything was rigged securely and nothing was left to chance.

I needed to be up early because I was on breakfast crew, so I got up extra early so that I wouldn't be rushed and stressed.

Let the rigging begin

By the time breakfast was served (7:15am), I already had all of my personal gear packed and on the boat. It wasn't rigged yet because Jess was still (understandably) packing up her stuff and getting ready, but at least I was ready and stress-free. This gave me ample time to double-check all of our straps and make sure they were all in good shape and secure and would do their duty.

Then breakfast finished, Jon and I packed up the kitchen, and I joined everyone at the beach for the rigging festivities.

JB checks over his boat

Eventually, we were all satisfied with our respective boats and off we went, down to scout the rapid.

Hiking to the scouting point

We have had pretty high water this trip, which meant the waves (and holes) tended to be bigger, but it also gives you more room to work with. Lava was no exception today -- the line that you needed to hit was wide open and as long as you were pointed straight at the waves (Teed up), you should be fine.

Nick discussing his intended line with Amanda

A group shot with the massive hole behind us

I opted to run last because I wanted to hike down to river level and take pictures of everyone going through. So that's what I did, and Jess got the added benefit of being able to watch 6 other boats run the rapid before us.

JB's boat flexing like crazy in the Big Kahuna wave

Nick and Amanda getting buried in the V wave

Naturally, this meant that I didn't have pictures of my run, which is really unfortunate because mine was the most exciting one (in my opinion).

I had a great run, and I missed most of the huge waves, but right at the end you crest the biggest wave of the rapid, the Big Kahuna wave. Jess and I got unlucky and right as we started the climb, the wave broke -- not on my boat, but directly into Jess. Or, would have if her reflexes hadn't kicked in and she ducked. This meant that the wall of water went straight over her, and right into me. Which meant I got power-washed straight out the back of the boat. Damn.

I came up underneath the boat twice, knowing what happened and knowing I just needed to wait it out. The third time I came up, I got a quick breath and the buried under another wave. That quick second let me know that we were in the tailwaves though -- I wasn't stuck in a hole or anything (I didn't think I would be, but it was still reassuring). The next time I came up, I was in calmer water and saw that Jess (and the boat) were in an eddy, and she was scrambling for the oars. So I just floated downstream and let Ed row out to catch me.

After that, we all rendezvoused at Tequila Beach for the mandatory celebration -- Lava is not only the biggest rapid of the Canyon, but also the last major one. As such, it calls for some toasts and story-telling before you push back down the river.

After a while, we took our drinks back to the boats, shoved off, and continued to ride the high as we floated to camp. Once at camp, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so we all relaxed in the sun and just kept BSing late into the evening.

Once the sun went down and we were all around the fire, eating dinner, Gary and Ed put on a small concert for us, singing and playing their guitars for about an hour.

Today was a spectacular day.

Gary and Ed are behind the fire, but you can't see them

I couldn't decide which picture I liked more, so here are both.

Upper Cove

written Mar 4, 2018 @ 02:43 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

There was some excitement last night: at 3:23am, something woke me up. Specifically, raindrops on my face. Ugh, damn it. My tent didn't even leave the boat because I didn't intend on using it. So I woke up Nick and Amanda to let them know it was raining, hurried to the boat, got my tent, set it up, and was bedding down again at like 3:40. Not too bad!

Once we hit the river, it was pretty boring flat water with lots of wind and a little rain. Some of the group peeled off to do a hike, but Jess and I weren't really in the mood, so we just pushed on to camp (this is why there aren't too many pictures from today).

At 10:00am (a new record?) we arrived to camp, and I set up my tent so it could dry off in the sun (the weather had cleared by now).

A beautiful view up-river from camp

With all of this time to kill, JB and I went on a short hike to go look at this side canyon.

It ended at this really neat thing that I can't really describe as anything other than a living wall. But hey, at least I got a crummy picture of it for you to use your imagination:

Some neat living wall thing that JB and I hiked to from camp

After that, it was about noon, so I went and took a nap, write some of these blog entries, and just kill time. Eventually everyone else showed up and the usual afternoon/evening festivities happened, with one tiny change: Jon and I were on cook crew again.

Then it's off to bed early because tomorrow is a big day.

Tuckup

written Mar 3, 2018 @ 03:02 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was Havasu Day. Havasu is a side canyon with stunning blue water and it's an extremely popular destination for hikers. We naturally have to stop and spend some time floating in the water and enjoying the red rocks and whatnot.

We also ran into one of those other groups there, and got to chat with them. They were a big group (16 people) and seemed like reasonable people. (All the same, I wish we had the Canyon to ourselves)

Trips merge

Jess floating in the travertine-laden waters

Amanda climbing through a cave-tunnel in Havasu

After our time there, we pushed on to a wonderful camp, Tuckup. This has a great side canyon to hike in, and tons of afternoon sun.

So, we set up camp and then went for a short hike, climbing around on rocks and whatnot before returning to camp for our normal evening routine.

Sleeping under the stars tonight.

Ledges

written Mar 2, 2018 @ 02:57 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

On our way downriver this morning, we stopped by where the Patio is. At river level, you can't see the slot canyon that talked about in yesterday's post, but you can see stream turning into a giant waterfall.

Jon and Carol look at the falls

So naturally, let's go swimming. (I mean, hey we're wearing drysuits for a reason)

This might count as a shower

After that, we went downstream to another side canyon that I love: Matkat. It's just a limestone slot canyon that you have to work your way up and then opens into this big amphitheatre area. I don't know why, but I really like it.

The amphitheatre

JB looking down the slot

It's limestone, with flowing water, so it's pretty slippery and can be tricky to go back down. Everyone let me go first so I could get pictures of this -- thanks guys! :-)

One step at a time

Jon doesn't want to get his feet wet

Here's why it's so tricky to just walk down

Jon still doesn't want to get wet

After that, we pushed on to our next major (scout-worthy) rapid: Upset Rapid.

Upset has a giant hole right in the middle, that you really should try to avoid (or at least hit it straight on). Last year, everyone tried to miss it and ran straight into the hole, except me. I found a cheat line that let me stay far right of it and had a totally dry line.

This year, Nick & JB also ran this line, much to Nick's delight. (You can see it in the picture below)

Not this year, hole.

Jess wanted to row Upset, so I let her. We didn't quite have the momentum we needed to avoid the hole, so we wound up plowing into it. She got us teed up before we entered, so it wasn't a big deal, but it shows that while other people make it look easy, it definitely isn't.

After that, we got to camp and, naturally, played some Hearts.

Nick wanted to show off his shoot-the-moon hand

Ledges is such a cool camp.

Layover #3: Surprise Valley

written Mar 1, 2018 @ 02:55 AM after hiking 12.00 miles

Woohoo! Another layover day! So let's get hiking, shall we?

But first, let's look at the boats and the sunrise

Nick, Amanda, and I did the 12-mile loop from camp, down to the Patio, and then through Surprise Valley, and finally back to camp.

Short scramble not too far after leaving camp

Hiking the 3 miles down river to the Patio

Don't forget to look upstream once in a while

Little people, big landscape

An hour and a half later, we arrived at the Patio. This is a sacred place to many native tribes, and for good reason. It's a wonderful green oasis slot canyon, with trees and waterfalls and beautiful water, all winding its way through a stunning side canyon.

Find Nick for a sense of scale

After that, we left and hiked the remaining 9 miles back to camp, going through Surprise Valley.

Once again, try to spot Nick.

Amanda's about to enter Surprise Valley

Surprise!

After that, we poked around Thunder River and Tapeats Creek on the way back to camp, but eventually just called it and got back to camp while there was still directly sunlight.

Hiking back to camp along Tapeats Creek

Back at camp

Once back at camp, we played cards and ate dutch oven pizza

Fun times

Late into the night.

Hanabi works well for this, because then everyone's cards face the light.

Racetrack

written Feb 28, 2018 @ 02:34 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was a short river day -- we only had a few noteworthy rapids.

This trip is all about stunning backdrops

One major rapid we ran was Bedrock Rapid. This is a pretty straightforward rapid -- assuming you make the move you need to make before you enter the rapid. If you don't, it's almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Jess was pretty confident on the oars at this point, so I had her row it, just because why not. Additionally, Amanda rowed her and Nick down safely. This was significant because on our first trip, they didn't make the move and it was a terrible experience for all. Ask her about it sometime.

Amanda making the move she needs to make

We reached camp at 11:07 -- a whole day of cloud-free skies ahead of us. So, our usual afternoon kicked off and we filtered water, drank beers, and played cards.

Nick got a little lazy with tying up his boat

The cliff wall gave us a dazzling sight most of the evening

All in all, a tough day.

Fossil

written Feb 27, 2018 @ 02:41 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today we got to see two of my favorite places on the river: Elves Chasm and Blacktail Canyon

Yet another picture of boats in the water.

The stop at Blacktail was brief, but that's okay. It's just such a striking canyon to walk through -- the light is so pretty and the acoustics are all over the place. It's also home to the Great Unconformity, which is where there's a 1.4-billion year unconformity in the rocks.

Blacktail Canyon is so pretty with the light

JB looks at rocks.

We also stopped at Elves Chasm, which is a beautiful little oasis back in a side canyon. There's a waterfall pouring into a crystal clear pool of water, and you can scramble up the back of the waterfall and jump in, which I did.

Blurry!

After that, we pushed on to camp, where we just generally hung out.

Boats on the beach

Layover #3: Bass

written Feb 26, 2018 @ 03:10 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was another layover day, which means hiking, sun, hanging out, etc. I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking again.

JB and Amanda again dwarfed by the landscape

JB doing his spider monkey thing

It was all worth it though

Nick seeing what the fuss is all about

Amanda showing the Canyon who is boss

Relaxing in the backcountry

Amanda, Nick, and JB walk up a side canyon

JB heads back toward camp

A round of Hanabi with JB, Nick, and Amanda

Ed talks in front of the fire

One thing that happened today was that we got passed by two other river trips! This was entirely unexpected, and really complicated things -- one is taking out the same day we are, and at the same place. The other was taking out a few days later, but down river. This means we're gonna be fighting for camps with these other groups for the rest of the trip.

Damn.

Lower Bass

written Feb 25, 2018 @ 03:23 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Since we camped at Granite Camp, it's only logical that the first rapid we ran was Granite Rapid. This rapid is one of the bigger ones on the river, but is also complicated by not having any clean lines. You basically just point downriver and try to tee up to everything that comes your way and hope for the best.

The river gods were happy with us today and we all had pretty easy lines (maybe it's because of the high water)

After that was my favorite rapid of the whole river: Hermit. Hermit Rapid is just a wavetrain with huge waves. It's like a giant rollercoaster that is just a total blast. I convinced Jess that she should row it, which meant I got to ride in the bow and it was just as much from there as it is on the oars.

After we ran, we tied up as soon as we could because JB wanted to hike back up and take the inflatable kayak down again. And I wanted to get pictures of this.

Jess watching from high up on the rocks, with the boats tied up below

The other boats ran through but stayed in the water -- we all figured that there would be at least 1 swimmer (Tim was also hiking back up to run it in his hardshell kayak)

Safety team, standing by

JB did okay -- he took a swim but that is pretty unavoidable. He intentionally ran straight down the waves, and inflatable kayaks aren't the most stable of water crafts.

JB + boat ...

Where's JB?

He was picked up by the safety crew and had a great time. After that, Nick and Amanda rowed it in the boat.

Nick and Amanda blasting through a wave

Hermit is always a good time.

Afterward, I rowed JB's boat back to him (Jess took mine) and we all pushed on downriver. It was a fast section of the river, with a lot of medium rapids all close together, so we arrived at camp in time for lunch.

Amanda rowing Nick downstream to catch everyone else

The afternoon was spent drying things out, setting up solar chargers, showering in the river (brrrrr!), playing cards, napping, etc.

What a day.

I can't resist taking pictures of campfires.

Layover #2: Rim!

written Feb 24, 2018 @ 02:25 AM after hiking 19.50 miles

Early start today -- we have 19+ miles to cover, with 4,200+ feet of elevation gain, and only one day to do it.

After wolfing down some breakfast, grabbing some snacks and water, Nick and I were out of camp at 7:30am, with a promise to be back by 4:00pm.

There isn't really much to say about the hike, so I'm gonna let the pictures do the talking.

Bright and early

And we're off!

Heading up the wash, away from the river

Walking past the monument -- this sorta starts the trail

Climbing ever higher

About a third of the way up, we did stop at an outcropping to take some pictures, though.

A rare picture of me

Snow as we climb higher and higher

Getting to the top is MANDATORY

Around noon, we reached the rim and found ... a parking lot :-(

There were tourists around, looking at us like we were aliens, and they started asking us about the river, etc. It was a good time, but Nick and I had to scarf down some lunch, drink our beers, and start heading back down to the river.

We did take a few minutes to look for cell service, but came up more or less dry. Nick was able to get a call out, but we never had any data service. Alas.

Back near the monument -- almost back to camp!

We wound up reaching camp later than we promised: 4:05pm. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

The boats are where we left them

I don't really know what everyone else did during the day, but I really enjoyed the hike. It was awesome to push myself again and know that I've still got it :-)

Granite

written Feb 23, 2018 @ 02:57 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

My sand defense system worked great! I woke up looking at a layer of sand, on the top side of the plastic sheeting. Yay! I'll have to keep that in my pocket for future reference.

Another thing that helped is that it started raining around 4:30am, and it turned to snow around 6am. Then when it was time to rig, the weather cleared up!

No rigging in the snow for us!

Our major rapid today was Horn Creek. We have pretty high water this year, so the easy line was open and we ran it without incident.

We also stopped by Phantom Ranch -- the only source of outside contact for the whole trip. We hung out in the general store for a bit while Jon's satellite phone recharged, and people bought tea and coffee. Eventually though, the magic wore off and we were ready to be back in the wilderness.

Everything at Phantom is delivered by mule

We got to camp (Granite Camp) early, so Nick and I went on a quick hike to see what's around there. We're hiking to the rim tomorrow (or, trying to) so we wanted to see what the trail looked like.

The trail was pretty, at least

There was some wind when we got to camp, but it died down by the time we went to bed, so it's looking like we'll have great weather.

Grapevine

written Feb 22, 2018 @ 01:59 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today was a fun river day -- a few big rapids, and one of the more complicated rapids in the Canyon: Hance Rapid.

Most of the rapids are pretty much all in the setup: all of the work needs to be done before you enter the rapid. If you do that right, then the rapid will go well. If you don't, well, it'll go another way.

However, Hance is one of the few rapids where you have to actively make a move or two in the rapid itself, which isn't easy.

But first we gotta get there.

Starting the day with rigging.

I was very pleased with my run through Hance -- it wasn't perfect, but it was good, and there were some really big tailwaves this year, which were a lot of fun.

After that, we ran Sockdolager, which is fun because it's a big wave you just crash through.

JB just floating downstream

We got to camp around 11am, and that wasn't a great thing. This section of the river has pretty sheer walls, so there aren't many options for camping. This camp was chosen for its location, not because it's a nice camp.

This is pretty much the entire camp

It was sand with no protection from the up- or down-canyon winds, which picked up about the time we hit the beach. I set up my tent and, trying to avoid choking on sand all night again, devised a better system. I hung some plastic sheeting inside my tent to catch the sand that might enter, and piled some gear around the base of my tent as a barrier.

Looking down the Canyon will get me every time

We had ambitions to hang out and play cards, but the sand and wind put a stop to that. Shortly after a windy and sandy dinner, we all just retired to our tents to do whatever to pass the time.

Not much activity tonight.

By the time I went to bed, the wind had been blowing for a few hours, so I got a preview of my sand defense system. There was minimal sand on things, so maybe it'll work?

Let's see how she fares the night

Rattlesnake

written Feb 21, 2018 @ 02:20 AM after hiking 3.00 miles

Another cold night last night -- the lowest I saw my thermometer was 23°F, around 2am. My gear is all rated for colder than that, so I was plenty warm, but the hand-washing water froze again last night. Combine that with a cold breakfast of cereal, bagels, and cut fruit, and it was a chilly morning.

Despite cold spirits, we were rigged and floating by 8:40am.

A pretty, but cold, morning

A few miles downstream is the confluence of the Colorado River (which runs down the Grand Canyon) and the Little Colorado River (which comes from a side canyon). The LCR confluence is a sacred place to many native peoples, and if you're lucky, can be a magical place.

Typically, the LCR is the color of chocolate milk, due to all of the sediment in it. This massive amount of silt gets dumped into the Colorado River, and the river goes from green to brown from there to the end. I still don't understand how one fairly small tributary can so thoroughly pollute the massive Colorado River.

We got lucky this year.

The magical blue water of the LCR

The LCR was running blue -- likely because Arizona had such a dry winter. Bad for them, but great for us. The water is an absolutely stunning blue, which meant that -- for now -- the Colorado River is going to remain green and clear. If the drought continues, then the river should stay that way for the rest of the trip.

We uneventfully ran some medium and large rapids and arrived at camp (Rattlesnake Camp) in the early afternoon. Naturally, some of us went for a hike. We were aiming for this large peak called the Tabernacle about three miles away.

Amanda is a speck in this landscape

There's still snow on the rim!

Spying down on camp from above

Nick leading the way along the ridge

After a while, we were well above the river and we reached an outcropping where we took a break for a few minutes. While doing so, we saw a big dark ominous thunderstorm coming across the desert at us, directly from the Tabernacle. Crap. Then we started getting hit with some rain. Double crap.

We called it and headed back to camp in a hurry -- you don't want to be exposed for a desert thunderstorm.

We got some pictures before we left, though.

By the time we reached camp, the sky had cleared and the rain was nowhere to be seen. Such is the weather in the desert, I guess.

Oh well, it gave us more time for the usual: cards, fires, dinner, and an early bed.

Kwagunt

written Feb 20, 2018 @ 02:51 AM after hiking 11.00 miles

Brr, last night was a cold night. It started snowing when I was reading in my tent, and there was ice in the water buckets this morning. Washing your hands in literally frozen water is miserable. But, hey, you're in the Grand Canyon, so there's a limit to how bad it can actually be.

Fresh snow on the walls!

After we shoved off, we rafted the beautiful water down to Nankoweap, where we stopped to hike up to the granaries. Not only are these some neat structures built by long-gone native peoples, but you get an amazing view of the gorge.

Calm waters

Starting the hike

Chilly cacti

This view is always jaw-dropping

Some of the crew who hiked up to the granaries

After the granaries, we hit the river again and arrived at camp, in the tailwaves of Kwagunt Rapid. Since it was now sunny and we had lots of time, we hiked an inflatable kayak and a hard-shell kayak back up to the top of the river and ran it again.

Nick and JB were in the IK and had a good -- if boring -- run. Then Tim hopped in his kayak and ran the Hero Line -- see straight down the middle through the big hole. He obviously flipped and came back up after his roll, but then another wave pushed him over again. He couldn't get back upright in the waves, so he ejected and went for a swim. You can't win 'em all, but at least it was fun for everyone.

Tim going over

After that excitement, we went for a hike up the wash just to find some more pretty things to look at.

Found 'em

Then it was the normal hanging out, playing cards, eating dinner (Jon and I cooked burgers and dogs), having a fire, and then off to bed.

What a life.

Layover #1: rim attempt

written Feb 19, 2018 @ 01:36 AM after hiking 3.10 miles

Oof, what a night last night. When we all went to bed, the wind was kicking up, so I finally decided to give in and set up my tent -- this may have been a big mistake. The wind continued to get much, much worse throughout the night, peaking somewhere around 2am.

My tent baffling in the wind was annoying enough (it was noisy but also flattening on top of me with the strong gusts), but the worst part was all of the sand that came with the wind. You might think "but Evan, you had a tent -- how bad could it be?" but what you're failing to understand is just how much sand there was. The wind was carrying sand through every bit of mesh in my tent, and depositing it on the inside. I literally "slept" (I use that word loosely) with a towel on my face because I kept inhaling sand and I could feel it literally piling up on my face.

Thankfully, it started raining around 5am, which wet the sand and kept it on the ground instead of in the air. In the morning, there was a 1mm-thick coating of sand on everything. Blegh.

Gloomy morning.

Oh well, no time to cry about it -- we're hiking to the rim today.

Nick and Amanda do some last-minute gear-fiddling.

Another look downriver, from about 1000' up.

It was a pretty incredible hike -- since the terrain was so steep, you went through the various layers of rock very quickly. All of the sudden, we had a totally different view of the surroundings than we did from the river. The giant, huge bend of the river that we were camped on suddenly looked like a tight horseshoe.

Nick and Amanda say cheese

The downside to it being such a steep climb is just that: it's a steep climb. Not really a hike, per se. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't exactly a walk. There were some exposed sections where you really wouldn't want to fall, which didn't fill us with feelings of safety.

Like this one, for example.

After one of these climbs, we took stock of our situation and weighed the options. It had been snowing all day, but as we climbed higher and higher, the snow was starting to stick more and more. If it kept getting worse, down-climbing these sections could be really sketchy. After some soul-searching, we decided to turn back, even though we were so close to the top -- it was right there!

Where we decided to turn back.

On the way back down, we popped over and checked out the Eminence Break side canyon, though only from above. On our last trip, we had some canyoneers that really wanted to explore it, but there wasn't room in the schedule for it. However, I would definitely make room for this next time -- it looks pretty awesome.

Nick peering down into the abyss.

Terrible night last night -- windy, sand everywhere. Started raining at like 5am Got up at 6:30 or so, had some breakfast (pancakes) Started the rim attempt with Nick and Amanda Rain turned to sleet about halfway up, right where the trail got kind of dicey. Decided to turn back. Reached camp at noon; had our packed lunches Moved my tent from the bluff to the woods Took a nap until 4:15pm Had dinner (chicken and cornbread) Then the weather turned again and the cold rolled in Once it started snowing, I just gave up and went to my tent to get warm and maybe actually get some sleep tonight.

Once back at camp, I relocated my tent from the exposed beach to a thicket of shrubs -- if the wind kicks up again tonight, it'll be some sort of cover. I hope.

I also put all of my extra bags near the bottom of my rain fly to stop the sand-laden wind from entering. I hope.

Oh, and we looked it up when we got back to camp: we were maybe halfway to the rim. If that.

Redwall Cavern

written Feb 18, 2018 @ 03:37 AM after hiking 2.00 miles

We postponed breakfast this morning -- instead of having breakfast in camp as we normally do, we rigged and launched so that we could eat breakfast at Redwall Cavern, just a few miles downriver.

Let's get rigged and get outta here!

I gave Jess the oars to row this gorgeous section. She wanted to row, and I didn't mind just looking and getting lost in my thoughts.

I warned her that the eddy for Redwall Cavern was huge and pretty strong, so we'll have to catch it late. She did a great job and we wound up pretty much where we wanted to be.

On the approach

Inside the cavern!

Once in the absolutely massive cavern, we set up a quick breakfast and wandered around, taking in the space. After a while, we loaded up and pushed on again.

Amanda rowing Nick down the river

In the early afternoon, we arrive at camp (Eminence Break) with lots of sun left. After our chores were done, Nick and I went for a hike just to see what's up there.

Boats on the beach, looking downriver

We found a spectacular view of the river and camp, after some serious scrambling and climbing. Once we reached a plateau, we found a very obvious trail all the way back to camp. Oops.

Looking down at camp

After that, it was time for dinner, a fire, and then off to bed -- it was getting chilly and I wanted to get snuggled in my quilt.

Roaring Twenties, part 2

written Feb 17, 2018 @ 03:05 AM after hiking 11.00 miles

We did something unusual this morning: tried to have a slow morning. The river today was going to be fast, so we decided to have a later start and take it easy.

We still left the beach at 8:45, since everyone was ready and just sorta standing around.

A leisurely breakfast while we wait for the sun

Once we were in the river, we just had to finish the Roaring Twenties. Jess rowed these too, which included three rapids rated 6 (out of a maximum of 10), so that was some very good experience. (She did great, by the way)

Between the rapids, there were some stretches of water that were just spectacularly beautiful, so I couldn't resist taking some pictures.

JB and his Yertle

We got to camp around noon, so we had plenty of time to kill. A bunch of us went hiking in South Canyon, and others did whatever around camp.

Nick and Amanda pose for me

A bighorn sheep!

Tom goes fishing

After that, it was time for hanging out around camp, reading, chatting, listening to Gary and Ed play their guitars, then a taco dinner and bed around 8.

And a campfire, of course.

It really ties the camp together

House Rock rapid

written Feb 16, 2018 @ 03:20 AM after hiking 12.80 miles

Today started with some excitement: the first major rapid of the Canyon, named House Rock. It has a giant hole on the left side of the river, which you need to work to stay right of, despite the river trying to push you into it.

After scouting, Jess and I hopped in the boat and off we went. I had a decent run through, though I wasn't as far right as I wanted to be. However, since I was one of the first ones through, I was able to get pictures of some people going through.

JB sneaking right of the first hole.

After that, we started a section of the river called The Roaring Twenties -- a series of mid-size rapids in quick succession. It's a really fun stretch of river, so I handed the oars to Jess and let her row them to get some practice.

After that, we arrived in camp, where we played some cards, took some naps, ate some dinner, built a fire, and and went to bed when the sun went down.

Boats on the beach

I always love campfires.

Launch day

written Feb 15, 2018 @ 03:49 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Today started early, with an alarm at 5:30 -- lots to do, and I don't want to be the one holding up the group!

Thankfully, I'm pretty good at packing up my gear, so I was ready to go bright and early. Well, not bright, since the sun wasn't up yet, but you get the idea. And with that, Nick and I headed off to get breakfast ready.

Setting up the breakfast table

While people descended on breakfast, I headed over to the boats to rig all of my gear onto it -- this always takes a while the first time.

It's not beautiful weather, but it's a beautiful scene

Eventually, everyone was fed, packed, dressed, and rigged. We were all antsy to hit the river, but we took a second to put my camera on a rock, set a timer, and take a group picture.

Say cheese!

The first day is pretty uneventful, aside from a medium-sized rapid known as Badger Rapid. Jess expressed an interest in rowing so what the hell -- I gave her the oars from the get-go. Hey, it allowed me to take pictures along the way.

Into the Canyon we go!

We arrived at camp around 1pm, and some of us took this opportunity to hike around a bit and explore our surroundings.

... and what surroundings they were!

After that, it was time for dinner (steak & salmon), a campfire, and then bed.

It's gonna be a fun trip.

Not a bad first kitchen.

Rig day

written Feb 14, 2018 @ 03:32 AM after hiking 0.00 miles

Every trip down the Canyon starts the same way: rig day. The day before launch, you and your gear get to Lees Ferry, and you blow up your boats, load your gear, and get an initial inspection from a park ranger.

Our trip was no exception.

A chaotic scene, that's strangely orderly.

We did have one exception this time, though. Normally, you get the initial inspection on rig day, where they sign off that you have all of the requisite gear (first aid kits, extra life jackets, etc) and then come back in the morning to check IDs and give you a nice long two-hour talk about Park rules and regulations.

Our ranger had better things to do the next morning, so she came back in the afternoon and gave us the Talk early! This was fantastic because then we can launch first thing in the morning, instead of at 11am.

Taking the very short float from the ramp to Boatman's Camp

After that was all done, we headed up to Marble Canyon Lodge for our last cooked meal for a while. It was nice to eat with the team and get to know people.

Nick and some of the crew

After that it was back to camp -- big day tomorrow!