Hilde was putting together a Grand Canyon trip. She guides for Outdoors Unlimited, and the trip would be a commercial trip run by them, but she was putting together a trip of mostly Northern California boaters, sort of a special trip. Kayaking the Grand Canyon has long been a dream of mine, on my list of things to do in my life. Private permits are tough to get and put together, and commercial trips are expensive and mostly done on rafts, so it hadn't happened yet. To have a commercial supported trip of kayakers was exciting, but I knew there was no way I could afford it. I mentioned it to Kim, and being the wonderful and generous person she is, she offered to buy me the trip as a present, to celebrate our engagement. I was thrilled, and before long, the trip was upon us.
The week before the trip was crazy hectic, moving and getting things in order before school. I ended up skipping sleep the night before I left, and drove over to Brent's house where I met up with him and Bruce, and we loaded his large and comfortable van for the drive to bakersfield, where we were meeting my friend Kristi and her boyfriend Eric. It was a long hual to Marble Canyon, but we made it in time to have dinner, and then met up with our group. Kayakers were Bob, Janet, Suzan, Bruce, Brent, Myself, Chris, Michael, Nini, Jonas, Albert, and Kristi. Rosza and Eric were on the rafts, and we had Hilde, Bobby and Landon acting as guides and safety boaters. Rowing the rafts were Bert, Valerie, Jenny, Matt and Fred.
The trip went stunningly well. Much of the credit goes to Outdoors Unlimited and their excellent guides/support people. I've been on the the guide end of that relationship for most trips I've done, and I was blown away by their efficiency, their ability to get things done, get 14 customers down the river on time everday, all the while maintaining great cheer and enthusiasm, never making anything seem like it was a chore. Each brought their own personality to the task, I don't think I've laughed as hard as I did during Fred's freestyle songs, and I appreciated Jenny's geology and rowing lessons. All were great. The food was awesome. I truly don't think I've eaten that well for 13 days ina row in my entire life, fresh fruit, hot pancakes, steak, chocolate cakes, etc. It was great. If anyone reading this is thinking of doing a Canyon Trip, I can recommend Outdoors Unlimited without hesitation.
Our days were similar, each morning we'd be woken early by the sound of a conch shell blown. Coffee, fruit and tea were served, and people would start getting their gear together. Just a bit later, breakfast would be served, we'd eat heartily, and then help break down camp and load the rafts. We'd get into our kayaks and head downstream. Most days we'd paddle around 20 miles, with a few longer and a few shorter. The paddling was neat, lots of flatwater punctuated by rapids that were straightforward, with little manuevering required, but HUGE. Just big waves and big holes, but really, not very difficult at all. The eddies and push of the water could catch you by suprise, but pretty much any whitewater paddle with a solid roll and a head to not get freaked by big waves should be able to paddle this river.
To be honest, anyone who goes to the Grand Canyon strictly for the paddling might be dissapointed, that's not the reason to go. It's the scenery, the wilderness, the hikes. Simply the experience of being "out" for 13 days. There is a wonderful comfort in being removed from the real world for a few weeks. Paddle, hike, eat, sleep becomes your routine. The biggest concern is making sure you don't miss your turn at the groover.
I did have a great time learning to row an oar raft. It's a fun and interesting challange, a little different than paddling a kayak. I spent a few afternoons rowing, mostly to give my legs a break from being in the kayak, but also just because it was fun.
Sort of a short story for 2 weeks of paddling. The trip went smooth, and I
can't figure out the words to describe the feeling of floating down the river looking up at the towering walls above me. The trip was wonderful, the company was excellent, and I thank all my trip mates and guides for making the experience wonderful, and a huge thank you to Kim for making it possible for me to be there.
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