Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Radical Retrospective

With a few days distance from The Year, it's pretty hard to imagine a more spectacular series of events. Last winter feels like a lifetime ago, but flipping through this blog is a great reminder of people, places & experiences – what an exceptional time. 

With work just around the corner, it seems like it's only appropriate to close this blog up (until next time – maybe a few years down the road), but I've enjoyed the practice of chronicling adventures, putting memories and pictures up for later revisiting, so while I won't be posting back here anytime soon, I will be sharing the latest adventuring to #sickdays. Adventures will likely be less grand, and less frequent, but likely will include more friends and cool spots closer to home.

For a little retrospective of the time off, here's a little taste of The Year by the numbers:

                     20,000+      Miles on wheels 
                     16,256        Photos taken
                     737             River miles
                     290             Days away from home
                     75               River days
                     61               Nights under the stars
                     58               Blog posts
                     56               Ski days
                     36               Flight legs
                     35               Powder days
                     29               Largest fish in inches
                     28               Friends on adventures
                     23               Massages
                     15               Warm water surf days
                     12               States traveled
                     10               Countries visited
                     7                 Fishing licenses 
                     2                 Fly rods broken
                     1                 Elephant ridden
                     0                 Days worked         

I can't help but say it again – what an exceptional time.

Drop in any time at #sickdays and for a little more reminiscing, here are some of the highlight vids from the year...

A fun, early season tour on Jakes with Dan & Boz – great way to kick the year off

All things Swiss on my Euro Schrap with Boz

Some of my big moments in AK

Some summer fun at home – thanks Crain for the vid

Late night MTB fun with Steve-O (passcode: nightrider)

Take a dive with me in Anadman

The biggie & Grand Finale


Friday, January 3, 2014

The Grand Finale

It’s hard to distil into one write-up the full 20-day trip down the Grand Canyon – or pair photos down to a manageable amount for that matter. Thumbing through journal entries, and scrolling through pictures, there are so many aspects of a trip like this – a winter expedition down the Colorado River.

::This is a lengthy write-up so grab a cup of coffee/beer, or just scroll down to the pics::

I left Squaw in early December on the heels of a very brutal cold snap in the West. Temps were in the teens as I drove through snow-covered landscape through Nevada, Utah and finally arriving in Arizona – to Lees Ferry the put in for The Canyon float. There, I met up with my friend Blake, and 12 of his friends from various boating experiences in his life. The Ranger who saw us off, commented that we had more boats (by 4) than any group he'd checked in for all of 2013. And on the 15th of December, all 11 boats pushed off for the 280 miles through The Canyon down the Colorado River to Lake Mead. We would be spending the holidays – both Christmas and New Years – on the chilly river.

Days on the river were characterized by an abundance of flat water, punctuated with huge rapids – waves sometimes 10 to 15 ft high. Chilly mornings, packing up frost covered camping gear, made the shots of sun we would get in the North/South facing stretches of river all the more appreciated. Towering walls stood 2,000 ft at times, straight up from the river. Sunsets lit canyon walls and nearby back-eddys up like fire, and gave way to star studded nights, only interrupted by a moon that brightened The Canyon to what felt like daylight – though that would change through the trip to almost no moon by early January. If we pulled into camp early enough we would enjoy the last bits of direct sun, sometimes barefoot and in shorts, before redressing in long johns, several layers of down, gloves and hats as soon as the sun neared the elevated horizons.

The big rapids were just that, BIG. Scouting would get the heart pumping, but the group was strong and supportive, and allowed me to run sportier lines than I may have otherwise not jumped into. Lava and Horn definitely humbled me, but all’s well that ends well, and I ended up right-side-up out of both. Perhaps the offering of a splash of rum from my flask at Vulcans Anvil was the key for safe passage through Lava… On the final day of 2013, I completed the last of 79 named rapids on the stretch of the Colorado River. As I rowed through the tail waves of Gneiss Rapid I couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement and pride in the not just survival of it, but the true success of my trip as well, only receiving a handful of Colorado River smackdowns in the full 280 miles of river.

We celebrated our holidays in true form. For Christmas, we decorated the camp with a makeshift x-mas tree from oars, strung with lights and tinsel, and enjoyed driftwood adorned with candles.

What struck me as one of the most special aspects of the trip was that I got to have the experience to really spend the time enjoying The Canyon in slow motion – in a world that rarely moves at that snails pace. We have high-speed airplanes, fast cars and bullet trains. Getting from point A to B, you tend to miss all the great things in-between. But not the case when you take slow transportation down an ancient river corridor. It is truly an epic experience in an incredibly beautiful and special place.

Coming off the river, I had still never seen the Grand Canyon from the rim, so spent an extra two days backtracking up river, and out a 3 hour dirt road to spend an evening and morning at the beautiful Toroweap Campsite. Set on the edge of the cliffs just above Lava Falls (the largest rapid on the river).

A lengthy but fun vid from our trip

On the road again with some chilly temps

Headed down The Loneliest Road in America

I've arrived – at Lees Ferry, the put-in a few miles below the Glen Canyon Dam

Morning light at put-in

Frosted boats are ready to shove off

The first of the side hikes show the temps we will be dealing with

The cave at Red Wall on the left before the bend

Playing around in the cave at Red Wall

Navigating through one of the first of the major rapids – House

Morning light looking up river from Nautaloid Camp

Riverside lodging for our layover at Nautiloid

Luxury of a layover

Shaking the cobwebs off early in the trip

Finally got a name for this dialed rig – Babar

She's big in the flat water, but nice to have her size in the meatier stuff

The beauty of The Canyon is found around every corner

Keeping Babar straight for some more big hits

Morning light in The Canyon

It is tough to find a better view than at Nankoweap

Where a short hike gets you a few hundred feet above the river

To phenominally preserved Anasazi graineries in the cliff walls

Nankoweap canyon  is one of the largest with great views of snow covered buttes

Reflections in the late afternoon at camp

Mornings were definitely a cold time on the river

Just gorgeous – confluence of The Little Colorado & The Colorado

The water is an unreal shade of light blue caused by dissolved travertine & limestone

Not a bad place to be on cook crew

DO going for some dinner rolls

Sunset after a nice dip in the river at Tanner Camp

Campfire shadows at Tanner

Stars are out and the canyon walls are lit up by the moon

Evening moon is like daylight in our camp

Moon setting in the AM as we push away from camp to find some sun.

Evening campfire reflects off the wall at Grapevine Camp

And some games, of course

Pulled in at Phantom Ranch

Looks more like Autumn than Winter at Phantom

After departing Phantom, the whitewater gets pretty serious, but very fun

And wet

Scouting the big hole at Crystal

Running Crystal left

Caleb & Greta running the right line in Crystal

Melson hits a pretty nice one in Crystal

A nice hike up a clear creek on Christmas Day

Great campfire banter after some big days on the river

Johnny finds one final moment on the john at Galloway

Another fantastic meal from Scott – this time Christmas dinner

Melson showing off his x-mas feast

Which we chased with some liquid libations 

And celebrated by the fire next to the christmas tree

Jim entertained us with music of all kinds

Our festive Christmas decorations

The night proved to be a rather significant one for Santa

Keeping the holiday spirit alive the day after

Group side hike up Mat Kat

Boats tied up at the confluence of Havasu 

Looking up the narrows of Havasu

A few of the crew up Havasu

Harlan heading up National

Waterfall up National Canyon

Sun sets at Cove Camp on our evening before Lava – red sky at night, boaters delight...

The crew gets our first look at the nasty Lava Falls from the scout

Harlan runs it firs and styles it

One of my favorite shots – Johnny's face is just priceless as he hits one of the big waves on Lava

Scotty finishing strong

Me getting a little turned around in the beast

Jim & Katelyn getting the best hit of the group

11 in and 11 out upright

New Years Eve celebrations – here with Blake

2014 started off a bit rough, though in a very serene spot

Pulled in at our last camp on the cusp of the lake

Silt sheds from the tall banks just down from camp

We enjoyed nice balmy temps for our final camp at this nice large beach

And though there wasn't much moon to speak of, we were treated to a nice rise

All de-rigged and ready to head off in our separate ways – 20 days into the trip

Off the river and camped up on the North Rim at Totoweap

Enjoying the day and the views to myself

One last, final sunset up on the river – Lava Falls seen in the river kink center

Beautiful views in all directions and the ribbon of river lit up like fire

And, one final chilly sunrise 

Just spectacular – looking East at Toroweap

Some last moments with The Canyon before the long haul back to CA

Over our 20 days on the river we saw fairly low flows from 9k to 12k

(Many thanks to the friends from the trip for adding to the photos)