Sunday, October 26, 2014

On The River……Rafts, Guests and Guides

Much of our days were spent on the River. This was, after all, a rafting trip…..280 miles down the Colorado River from just below the Glen Canyon Dam at Lees Ferry to our take out point at Lake Mead, just above the Hoover Dam. 240 of these miles would be traveled by raft, with the final 40 miles on Lake Mead by motor boat.

We were a group of 23 – 17 guests and 6 guides.

We traveled in a total of 6 rafts – 3 oared rafts which the guides would row, 2 cargo rafts, each rowed by a single guide with no passengers, and a paddle raft with 6 guests and a guide, each paddling. Two of the oared rafts would hold 4 persons each, while the third would only hold 3 people.
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The time on the river would vary each day, but we would average 20 miles or so over 4-5 hours each day. Though all the rafts might occasionally group up, most often we traveled down the river in single file. 
That first day  at Lees Ferry, we tentatively chose a guide to travel with and a raft to load up in. Everything seemed foreign…..unfamiliar at best. Which dry bag for our day stuff belonged to which raft? Who was going to ride with whom? Where do we want to sit? front or back?
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We quickly sorted out these things and jumped in……..Within a day or two, we slipped into a pattern.
Fred and I always rode together. We tried to change up each day so that we were with a different guide or a different group of people so that we could better get to know each other. We swapped up riding front or back…….The front got wetter on most rapids. The back could offer a bit of a ‘kick’ when going through a big rapid.
Pictured above is us with Matt, the trip leader. Matt is 44 years old, very experienced with guiding on the Colorado River, and works with a kayak guiding service in Florida in the off season.
This is KJ or Kevin Johnson – our most experienced guide at 60 years old. He has done over 100 trips through the Grand Canyon. KJ’s boat could only take 3 passengers, all riding on the front seat.
KJ kicked back ……the only guide who I have even seen who could row with his feet!.
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This is Tom, who alternated guiding the paddle raft with Allison or rowing a 4 person oared raft. Tom was always full of stories and very, very long jokes…..
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And Allison, with Sarah and Jason in the raft. Allison, a very capable 29  year old young woman, had been our guide 2 years before on the Copper River in Alaska. She had recommended this rafting company, and we had requested that she join us as a guide on the trip. Allison comes from a family of guides. Both her mother and her father have worked as guides on the Grand Canyon trip. Allison had spent the summer guiding rafting trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. In the off season, she works at a ski resort in Jackson Hole.
We had an opportunity to ride several times with each of these 4 guides. Shelly and Justin, who were rowing the baggage rafts, did not take passengers.
We found out that the guides who rowed baggage were not paid. They did this for the trip and the experience (like an internship) though they did split the tips at the end. Shelly was a nurse who also has a degree in geology. She used to work for the park service at the Grand Canyon. Now, she splits her time between nursing, guiding, and working with the ski patrol in New Mexico in the winter.
Justin rowed the other baggage raft. He is a young man who first went on a rafting trip as a guest, then has come back for a number of years to row baggage on this river.
The paddle raft group had paid extra for the privilege of paddling down the river (that way, they were really committed!). For the upper half of the trip, the paddle raft was manned by Jeff and Sue, and Dave and Jacque, all friends traveling together from Pennsylvania to help celebrate Sue’s 50th birthday with this rafting trip. Joining them in the paddle raft were Deanna and Peter from California.
On the lower half of the trip, the paddle rafters were a group of 3 couples from California - Russell and Tana, Tony and Carrie, Dave and Mary. All had played volleyball for the same university.  All tall and super athletic. A powerful group in a paddle raft, but all strong minded and independent - meaning….they did not take direction well.   ; )
Our groups tended to mix it up pretty well in the rafts. Becky, who was traveling as a single, often ended up in KJ’s raft. Here she is with Nancy and Tom, a very energetic 78 year old couple. Nancy and Tom, along with Fred and I and Becky and Patrick were the 6 guests who had signed on for the full 15 day trip.
In this picture Becky is filling in on the paddle raft for Deanna who had sprained her ankle. The paddle raft groups were truly committed to the paddle experience. They did not switch up over the course of the trip.
On the upper trip, The ‘three girls’, Susan, Ashley and Dawn joined up with Patrick who was traveling solo. They seemed to get along well! In this picture, Matt is watching as Ashley gives rowing a try.
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On the Lower Canyon, Patrick often joined Becky in a raft.
Our daughter, Sarah and husband, Jason joined the trip for 9 days on the Lower Canyon. After hiking down with 9 other ‘newbies’ they jumped right in!
Before long, both Jason and Sarah tried their hand at the oars.
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On the second half of the trip, we shared a raft with Sarah and Jason for most days, though we did split up a bit so that they could spend time getting to know all the other people. Sarah and Jason decided that they liked riding in the back of the boat so that they could stay a bit drier and not get as chilled.

As you can see from the pictures, the River varied from day to day….even from moment to moment. The first days, the water was clearer and greenish in color. Later, it ran reddish brown with silt. It could be smooth and calm, or turbulent with fairly wild rapids.

 Our days on the river varied, too……sometimes we seemed pressed to cover the miles......and there were several other private rafting groups that we kept leap-frogging. The presence of these groups created a bit of concern for our trip leader, Matt. There was competition  for camp sites as well as hiking opportunities. Some days were about the miles......

Other times, there was time for play.
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The first couple of days, while the rapids were still fairly small, the guides pulled out a standing paddle board. Deanna was the only one who seemed to really take to the paddle board. A surfer from California, she was used to the cold water and had paddle boarded before. Deanna spent 3 hours on the board before falling off in a rapid and spraining her ankle. This pretty much sidelined Deanna from any hikes, as she spent much of the next few days with her ankle immersed in the 55 degree water to decrease the swelling.
The ‘volley ball team’ was up for a little tug of war competition of who could remain standing the longest.
I would like to give a final ‘shout out’ to our guides………from left – Shelly, Matt, Tom, KJ, Allison, and Justin. They did a wonderful job getting us down the river safely and providing an unforgettable experience!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog and great experience! Thank you guys so much for inviting us to share in this adventure with you! It truly was an experience of a lifetime and one we will never forget! We love you! Sarah and Jason