Friday, October 24, 2014

Camp Life–Learning the Routine

Note- I want to give credit up front to our friend Becky for using some of her photos and to Jeff and Dawn and others on the trip who so generously shared their photos on Shutterfly. There were parts of the trip that I was so busy experiencing that I forgot to take pictures!   : ) You can follow also Becky’s posts and pictures about this ‘Grand Adventure’ on her blog at Kinexxions.

When we first started out, we felt like everything was unhandy and that we would never get comfortable with the routine. It did not take long, however, before we settled right in.


On this trip, with Outdoors Unlimited, we were asked to pitch in and help with some of the camp chores. Every afternoon when the rafts would land at our camp spot for the night, we would help to unload the gear.


We would form a ‘bag line’ for unloading all the dry bags with our personal gear (each person had 2 bags, one for clothes, etc, and one for our sleeping gear) and the yellow ‘pocco pads’, as well as the kitchen gear and misc other stuff.


Sometimes the bag line would have to stretch quite a ways, as the rafts were some distance from the flatter camping area. Everyone pitched in, and it was good fun as well as a way to be useful.


Much of this gear would be unloaded to the blue tarp. This tarp was put out first thing in the afternoon and picked up last thing in the morning. All of our gear would be picked up from this tarp for the evening and brought back to the tarp in the morning where the bag line was reversed as we helped to load up the rafts.


The guides were responsible for loading the gear on the rafts. Everything had an assigned place. Lots of smaller gear was stowed in rectangular ammo boxes which were watertight. All of the equipment was incorporated on the raft…….tables over the storage area became a bench seat and our sleeping pads were used as seat cushions. Our dry bags and most of the other gear was stowed on two gear boats that did not carry passengers. All of the food for the 2 weeks was packed at the start of the trip and stored in large ice chests. It was truly a marvel of organization! And we always had fresh food and great meals.


Our day would start with a blast on the conch shell horn and a call to coffee around 6 am or first light. The guides had already been up for about 20 minutes or so. A table was set up with coffee and juice and fruit to enjoy while breakfast was being fixed.

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First we would wash our hands…….We used a two bucket system where bleach treated river water was pumped by a foot pump into a dirty water collection bucket (these guys had a whole stack of buckets used for so many different things!) I really appreciated the attention towards sanitation. We were instructed to wash our hands before ever going to the food tables, then to use utensils to serve the food, not our hands. In a group of this size (there were 17 passengers and 6 guides) a stomach bug could spread through the group like wild fire.

Breakfast was my favorite meal. We had pancakes or French toast,  sausage or bacon. Some mornings we had eggs or a breakfast casserole. A couple of mornings, when things were a bit hurried, we had toasted  bagels and cream cheese. There was always cereal for an option, too.

After breakfast, we would load the rafts and decide which guide and raft we might want to ride with for the day. Our personal gear and clothing  was stowed in a gear raft where we could not get to it during the day, but we could keep some stuff in a day bag on the raft where we were riding.

Our days varied with time on the river interspersed with short stops for a quick hike up to a point of interest, or a longer hike of a couple of hours. The water also varied with sections of calm that may last an hour or more, then a section of rapids where we had to really hang on. (More on that in another post)

Lunch time came about 12:30 pm where we would pull up to a beach ……..


The crew would hop out and quickly set up a table full of deli meats, cheeses, breads and other sandwich fixings. We would each make our lunch….though we were surprised on the first day that we were supposed to just fix a sandwich in our hands… plates or napkins. It did cut down on dirty dishes!


One lunch break, we took advantage of the relatively clearer water and the sunshine to soap up and wash off in the river. Oh – that was a different thought to get used to…..the Colorado River flows with such a volume that you can use soap or throw out sudsy water into the river. and it will just be diluted and dispersed.

The afternoon would hold much the same activities as the morning……rafting and maybe a  hiking opportunity. By about 4:30 – 5:30 pm we would be off the river at our camp spot for the night.


After the raft was unloaded, we would gather our gear, pick out our personal campsite, and start setting up our ‘nest’. The blue tarps were laid out with our sleeping pads on top. Our wet clothes and rain gear would be hung on the handiest limb or rock to dry.


Each spot was different and each person or couple had their own system of making ‘home’.In this picture, Sarah and Jason are setting up camp.


Our tarp became our personal space where we could sit and relax…..


Or stretch out, perhaps……: )


Fred would take an opportunity each afternoon to record the river miles that we had covered and note the hikes that we took and the beaches that we had camped at.


Before too long, the conch shell horn sounded the call that let us know that the afternoon appetizers were set out. Usually we had cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, maybe some chips and salsa, but one day they had cooked egg rolls . Yum!  In this picture are Sue and Jeff, a couple from Pennsylvania and Pricilla who was there with her daughter, Elana (not pictured).


Each afternoon, the ‘chair bags’ were unloaded and chairs were set up in a circle near the kitchen area.  This was social time where we got to know and visit with each other.


Pictured here - Becky who traveled with us, and Nancy and Tom – a 78year old couple from California.. And ‘the girls’, Susan, Ashley, and Dawn – nurse friends who work together and began taking adventure trips together. Susan, we found out, was on a roller derby team!


Dawn is sitting next to one of the guides, KJ, who was reading to us from a book about some of the livelier characters who were a part of the Grand Canyon history. Then Jacque and Dave, who were traveling with their friends, Jeff and Sue.


On the second half of the trip….Sarah and Jason joined us. I did not get pictures of everyone in both groups…..but it surely was an interesting group of people, which I will try to describe in a later post.

Back to camp life……..


Supper was always a fairly elaborate affair. The kitchen was set up using 3 tables and any number of buckets and cooking equipment.


Sometimes the guests were allowed to help out. Here Patrick ( a Frenchman working in Virginia for the NATO offices) helps Allison make a fruit salad. Note – the ‘apron’ hung in front of the table was where we placed our washed plates and eating utensils to drip dry.


Dinners were always pretty yummy……We had steaks, Ahi tuna, pork burritos, grilled chicken,  hamburgers, grilled fish, spaghetti and lasagna  and other amazing entrees. Each night we had fresh vegetables and a salad and every night we looked forward to cookies, or brownies or a cake for dessert that had been baked in a Dutch oven.

The only complaint that we had about dinner was that it was served a bit late for our liking……usually around 7 – 7:30 but occasionally as late as 8 pm. Almost every dinner was eaten in the dark using a headlamp for light. Our headlamps, with their white lights attracted bugs (moths?) which would drive us crazy! Some people had a red light on their headlamps which worked better.

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After dinner, each person washed their own plates and utensils using a 4 wash pan system to rinse, wash, rinse and sanitize.

Pretty quickly after dinner, Fred and I would get up and get ready for the night with teeth brushing, etc., then just enjoy the quiet time, watching the stars before we fell asleep.


Each camp site was different, but our set up was similar….tarp, pads, dry bags, etc. Our trip leader, Matt, would try to pick a site that was large enough for all of us to spread out, but there were several private trips on the river, so there was competition for good campsites. One evening we settled on a small beach which had a cave. The beach was small, but there was plenty of room just within the cave opening for all of us to get ‘cozy’. I think that it was one of the most unique sites that we had.



Most nights we did not bother to set up a tent…..just sleeping open air under the stars was really magical!


The stars were so bright that I tried to take a picture of them. If you expand this picture, you can actually see the stars. Without the light pollution from cities, we could see the hazy Milky Way. It was an awesome experience! and we slept much more comfortably than we had anticipated.


On a few occasions, when we were afraid of rain, we set up a tent. Sleeping inside the tent could be pretty hot, so we would set up our sleeping area outside of the tent, with a plan to  just crawl into the tent if it started to rain. One night, we did just that….and it rained….and THUNDERED! The thunder echoed through the canyon with a ROAR! The next night, we slept inside the tent to keep warm, as the rain had brought a cold front with it.


A third night, we crawled into the tent when we felt a sprinkle of rain, but the rain never really materialized, and neither did the cooler temperatures. Instead, we spent a stiflingly hot night being pelted with sand as the wind blew through the open tent flaps. On this particular night, several tents had to be relocated to this grouping because they had been set up in a wash area that had the potential to flash flood if it rained hard enough.


Fred and I would only set up our tent when we felt the threat of rain, but others set their tent up each night. It did give one a place for changing clothes, etc..


Here are Sarah and Jason  with their tent…..

After a night’s sleep….we would wake to the sound of the conch announcing coffee, and start another day on the river.

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