Thursday, March 27, 2014

NFMF Willamette - The Lower Gorge (3.23.14)

 

Typically, when I drive up to the NFMF Willamette, it's to run some laps on the Miracle Mile -- one of the best sections of whitewater in the area. However, on this particular day we felt like mixin' it up a bit and continuing down through the lower gorge, after a quick run down the Mile. Since it was spring break and almost everyone was out of town, Pat Welch and I would have the run all to ourselves. We ended up meeting up a little later in the morning than usual, which allowed for some extra sleep, as well as giving the temps a bit more time to warm up. From Eugene, it takes about an hour to reach the river, where we stopped briefly at the take-out to drop off a shuttle bike, before heading to the put-in.

By the time we reached the put-in for the Mile, the sun was shining bright and the temps were near 50 degrees--pretty nice for March in the Cascade foothills! After gearing up, we slid into the water and headed downstream. Our run down the Mile went great, with clean lines by both of us. Some new wood had entered a couple sections of the river (from recent floods), but for the most part, the lines were the same as usual. I must say, even though I've done literally hundreds of laps down the Mile, it never seems to get old!


Pat, somewhere on the Mile

Pat runs one of the last straightaways of the Mile

As we passed underneath the bridge, below the Christy Creek confluence (where we normally take out), we made our way over to river-left, were we picked our way down the bouldery sneak route, around Dragon Slayer. Dragon Slayer is a legitimate class V drop that I've never had the stones to run. The first part heads down a fairly juiced-up runway, with unfortunately placed rocks scattered throughout its length. Basically, as long as you can get left for the final ledge, you're good, but the complicated lead-in makes this a difficult task. If you do end up right at the bottom, you'll drop through a slot against the right wall, which forms a fairly nasty hole. Apparently, there have been some pretty severe beat-downs, but I've not seen anyone fall into it myself. All that said, it's certainly a runnable drop, and I'm sure I'll give it a go at some point, assuming there is good safety set.


The bottom of Dragon Slayer. If you look carefully, you can
see the nasty pocket against the river-right wall, at the bottom.
(taken on a different trip, at a similar flow)

Dragon Slayer, in all its glory. The river-right pocket
is out of view, behind the large rock outcropping.
(taken on a different trip, at a similar flow)

Pat, happily taking the safe route around Dragon Slayer

Once Pat and I had made our way around Dragon Slayer, we headed downstream once again. The next quarter mile or so was filled with fun class III/III+ boulder gardens, although not quite as exciting as the stuff on the Mile.


The fun section of whitewater, just below Dragon Slayer
(taken on a different trip, at a similar flow)

Pat in the middle of one of the better pitches, below Dragon Slayer

Somewhere between drops

Getting close to Spinal Compression

Before long, a headwall came into view, where the river dropped over a horizon line and appeared to run directly into it. This drop is affectionately named Spinal Compression, which I can only assume came about after a painful ride down what is essentially a pile of rocks with water running over it. Although this drop is river-wide, there are only a couple of clean line options. The one I've always taken is center-left, though a narrow chute between a few pin rocks. Pat agreed to go first so that I could get a few photos from above. With that, he hiked back up to his boat and prepared to drop in. His line went just as planned, and after paddling away from the drop, he eddied out and waited for me to take my turn. My line also went really well, and after pulling over to take some more photos of the drop, this time from below, we continued downstream.


Spinal Compression
(taken on a different trip, at a similar flow)

Pat, with a nice line down the center-left of Spinal Compression

Looking back up at Spinal Compression

For the next 3/4 of a mile or so, the river continues through more fun class III boulder drops, with lots of great eddy practice to be had. I really wish that there was a nice take-out below this section, and Dragon Slayer was a little cleaner, as this would be such a great extension to the Mile! Eventually, the water began to mellow out, until it turned into class II riffles, which allowed us to enjoy the warm sun and our amazing surroundings.


Pat waits for me to pack up my camera gear, just below Spinal Compression

Just as we were starting to feel a little lethargic from floating through the mellow section, the river made a hard left bend and dropped underneath another road bridge, where we knew that we had reached the lower gorge. The water in this stretch certainly feels pushier than it does on the Mile, but it's only class III, at least at this point. Soon enough we reached the first significant drop of the gorge, which starts off fairly wide before gradually narrowing down, with most of the flow along the left side of the river, where you want to be. There is actually a really fun eddy to catch on the top-right of the rapid; from there, you can drive back to the left to finish up the drop. This is the line I chose, with Pat entering on the left.


The first section of the gorge, as taken from the road bridge - Super fun stuff!

Pat enters left / drives right, on the first sizable drop of the gorge


Finishing up the first big one

After a small drop that requires a fairly strong move to the right to avoid slamming into a log, the river entered the next sizable drop of the gorge, marked by a log spanning the river overhead. I let Pat know that I was going to take some photos from down below, before dropping in and running it down the left. It should be noted that the bottom-center of this rapid has a pretty retentive hole, which has hammered at least one person that I know of. However, as long as you’re left, it’s a non-issue. Once I had run the drop, I eddied out on river-right and took photos while Pat took his turn, who made it look easy.


Pat eddies out, partway through the second of the larger rapids

Toward the bottom...

...and eddying out

The next rapid on the run was the largest of the gorge, which I've heard referred to as “White Knuckler”. The drop is a big/steep boulder garden, and although the moves are probably only class IV, it definitely has a class V feel to it. This rapid has also changed throughout the years, with the center and right lines becoming much more boulder choked, with high potential for pitons and/or pins. Therefore, I've changed the way I run this drop, which is now down the left through a couple chutes and over a ledge at the bottom. Although this line is fairly clean, it has a couple tricky moves, and should be scouted from river level, on the left, if you’re not familiar with it. We both figured that the best way to approach the drop was to run both chutes and then eddy out above the final ledge, to setup for a better angle off of it -- the move getting into the eddy looked tight but manageable.


Looking down into White Knuckler


White Knuckler, from below

The bottom ledge of the river-left line.

Pat once again agreed to go first, so that I could take photos from above the drop, from a perspective I'd not seen another photo from. His line ended up being perfect, and he easily sailed into the eddy above the final pitch. From there, I gave him some quick verbal beta to line him up properly, before he dropped down the ledge and exited cleanly. Now my turn, I took the same line, but did get thrown a little further left than I wanted, coming out of the first chute. Although I was able to recover and make the eddy, it wasn't my cleanest line of the day. From the final eddy, I lined up and dropped down the bottom ledge, joining Pat above the last big drop of the gorge.

 
Pat, near the top of White Knuckler

Pat lines up for the eddy, just above the final ledge

Dropping down the final ledge of White Knuckler

And paddling away, after a nice line

The final drop is easily identified by a large slab of rock that has fallen into the water, and now leans against the river-left wall. Although this rapid is not particularly difficult, it's hard to see the line(s) until you're already committed, since a large boulder sits at the lip blocking your view. Furthermore, it does have some tricky hydraulics, but it's fairly easy to avoid the slab of rock, which does have some of the flow pushing into it. My preferred line here is to stage from a river-right eddy, then ferry into the eddy behind the large boulder at the lip, and finally turn around for a quick look before dropping in. Both Pat and I had good lines through this one, and met back up below the drop.




The last drop of the gorge, with the fallen rock slab

Pat, staged above the final drop

Finishing up strong!


From here it's only a short distance, through some class II+ boulder drops, to our take-out just above the road bridge. Unfortunately, I locked my bike to a tree and had accidentally left the key in my car, ~4 miles upstream. With no other choice, I stripped out of my gear and started hiking up the road, hoping that someone would pick me up along the way. Sure enough, a local from Oakridge gave me a ride up to my car, albeit a little reluctantly. After driving back down, we loaded up and headed back into Eugene, ending a great day on the water!

Conclusion:
I really do enjoy this section of the NFMF -- Maybe not as much as the Mile, but it's a great extension to that run, especially if you're willing to run Dragon Slayer. This is also a great run for up-and-coming boaters looking to progress into the class IV range. Other than Dragon Slayer and White Knuckler (and maybe Spinal Compression), this section is certainly manageable for strong class III boaters. Although portaging around these drops takes a little effort, they can all be done at river level, and greatly shortened depending on how aggressive of an eddy catcher you are.

As for flows, we had about 3.1' on the Westfir internet gauge (here), which equated to just under a foot on the painted bridge gauge, just below the Christy Creek confluence. This felt like a medium to medium low flow, and more water certainly would have been better, especially for White Knuckler. It should be noted that since the internet gauge is located ~10 miles below the gorge, the actual flow will vary based on the time of year (i.e. rain fed vs. snowmelt).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Grand Canyon (Part 6) - Mile 175 to Diamond Creek

For part one, the Prologue, go here.  
For part two, Lees Ferry to Mile 44, go here.
For part three, Mile 44 to Mile 92, go here.
For part four, Mile 92 to Mile 132, go here.
For part five, Mile 132 to Mile 175, go here.


Day 17:
Waking up at Upper Cove Camp on day 17, we were all a little excited, and a little anxious, about what lay a mere five miles downstream -- Lava Falls, the largest single rapid of our trip. The paddle leading up to Lava was very mellow, and essentially pooled-up into a lake for the last few miles above the rapid. One notable feature along the way was Vulcan's Anvil, a black volcanic plug, which rises out of the water nearly 50'. We paddled around and checked out this ominous landmark, but stayed far enough away, since it is considered a sacred site by the Hualapai tribe, and should be respected as such.


Mark paddles past the Anvil

Vulcan's Anvil

A little over a mile downstream from the anvil, the roar of the river signaled that we had reached Lava. We made sure to eddy out well upstream of the rapid, with about half the crew scouting from river-left, and the other half from river-right. Since I was planning to make my run down the main flow on the right, I had decided to scout from that side. Following a well worn path, we began to climb, until we eventually reached the scouting platform, high above the river. From our vista, there was no mistaking that Lava was big, but we all knew that it would feel even bigger once we were pits deep in the middle of it.


The hard boaters, scouting Lava

From my perspective, there were two main hazards, 1) the massive pour-over ledge at the top-center of the rapid, and 2) the "Cheesegrater" rock jumble on the bottom-right. Being in a kayak, I wasn't concerned at all about the top ledge, since the line to the right of it was generous and you'd basically have to paddle into it intentionally to have a problem there. The Cheesegrater was a different story, and looked like it could definitely pose a problem if you didn't make it through the meat of the rapid upright and in control. Basically, the plan was to head down the V-wave with left angle, to counter the laterals coming in from that side. Then, at the last minute, straighten back out and take the converging waves head-on, hoping for the best. Assuming I was still upright for the second half of the rapid, my plan was to continue down the right side, threading between the bottom "Kahuna" tail wave and the Cheesegrater rock.

Both Brian and Jeremiah opted to go first for the kayakers, and Gabe volunteered to probe for the rafters. Although I was certainly okay with watching someone else go first, I was also glad I would get to take some photos from above the rapid. Brian entered first, and took the same right side line that I was planning to run. Although he was only in a tiny playboat he ended up greasing the line, even busting through the gut of the Kahuna wave without issue. Jeremiah followed soon after, with a really nice cut to the left, about halfway down the V-wave, avoiding the maelstrom down the right.


Brian enters Lava

Punching through the tip of the V-waves

Brian collides with the Kahuna Wave

Jeremiah, with a nice move to the left, at the tip of the V-waves

It was now time for the first raft. With Gabe on the ores, the bright yellow boat lined up for another run down the right. After passing the top pour-over ledge, the raft picked up speed as it headed into the tip of the V-wave, where the chaotic laterals converged. With the precision of a surgeon, he cut through it, exiting on-line and in complete control. The only obstacle between him and a clean run was the Kahuna wave, which he blasted through, all while keeping his full brimmed hat atop his head!


Gabe and Emily lead it off for the rafts

Down the V-wave

About to meet Kahuna

Cowboy Up!

At this point I had gotten anxious to experience Lava for myself. I let the others know that I was taking my turn and quickly made my way back down to my kayak. After snapping on my skirt, I took a couple of deep breaths and paddled into the main current. The approach seemed longer than I had expected, but soon I was picking up speed on the green water that was being drawn into the rapid. I came to the realization that finding your line is much easier from high up on the rocks. I sat up as tall as I could to get a bearing on my entrance point, and I was relieved to discover that I was essentially on-line. Heading down the V-wave, things went pretty fast. I set my left angle to hit the first couple laterals head-on, before digging in my right edge to line back up for the convergence. As I blasted through, I was a little surprised with how easy it was to punch through the chaos, and so I assumed I must have caught a lucky surge or something. Now past the crux, I lined up down the right and easily threaded my way between the Cheesegrater rock and the Kahuna wave. Happy with my line, I jumped out so I could take photos from below, of the rest of the group coming through.

A couple of our rafts opted for the left line, and although it was bit more rocky/technical at this flow, all of their lines were clean. There was also some excitement from the other two kayakers; probably the most humorous came from Scott Meininger, who had his visor pulled down over his eyes after flipping in the first half of the rapid. Luckily, he was able to push it back up just before hitting the gut the tail waves!


Nancy and Justin take the more technical left line

Scott Meininger, adjusting his visor in the middle of Lava

Scott Meininger smashes into the Kahuna Wave

Scott Bridgham enters Lava

Winston pilots his crew (Jeremiah and Melissa) though the top half of Lava

Hitting the tail waves

Celebration!

Although we still wanted to make 20 more river miles that day, we spent a little time in the eddy below Lava, to celebrate making it through without any major issues. Just below Lava was the much smaller Little Lava, which barely registered as a blip, at least at the flow we had. After both Lavas, and almost without warning, an upstream wind started to build between the canyon walls. It eventually got so bad that it was difficult to make downstream progress. At one point, it actually flipped Brian over in his kayak! Looking at shore became completely demoralizing, as it only indicated how little movement we were actually making. The wind was quickly zapping our energy and we eventually stopped for a lunch break to refuel and try and wait out the initial front. However, the wind never died down, and even making something to eat proved to be an adventure, with gear blowing everywhere and sand covering everything.


Somewhere below Lava

You can see how Lava gets its name - there is plenty of black basalt lining the wall of the canyon in this section

This is about the time the wind really stated to kick up

More awesome canyon scenery!

Mark paddles past a cool basalt flow

Another view of the basalt flow, from our lunch spot

With some regained energy, we pushed on, with the wind never really dying down, except maybe to toy with us every now and again. Once it became clear that we would not be able to make our planned mileage for the day, we started to look for an alternate camp, especially if we could find one that had some protection from the elements. Eventually we came to Hualapai Acres Camp, which ended up being perfect for the blowing conditions. The camp consisted of a series of connected rooms, cut within a vast stand of Tamarisk, creating a natural windbreak for both the kitchen and sleeping quarters. After getting some good food in our bellies and getting a break from the wind, our moods started to lighten back up a bit -- we only hoped that we wouldn't face the same conditions the following day...

Day 18:
Waking up at Hualapai Acres, threatening clouds filled the sky, but at least the winds appeared to have died down. It was now our second to last day on the river, and one where we'd be putting down some miles, to ensure we reached Diamond Creek, for our scheduled take-out time the following day. Since we planned to camp at 220 Mile Camp, we'd need to row nearly 25 miles, so we were really hoping the wind wouldn't kick back up. After eating breakfast and loading our gear, we shoved off and started our day on the water.


Luckily, the wind was a little calmer on this day

Just 4 miles downstream, we reached Parashant Canyon, were a few of us decided to stop for a quick hike, to check out the "Book of Worms". The book is actually a piece of Bright Angel Shale, with fossilized worms embedded into its face, which date back 550 million years! The book was a bit tricky to find, but we finally discovered it on the north side of the wash, laying at the base of the cliffs. It was certainly cool to see such ancient fossils, but only worth a few minutes of time -- unless of course, you're a paleontologist or general prehistoric guru.


The Book of Worms

A close-up of the fossilized worms

Below Parashant, we made haste so that we could catch back up with the rest of our crew. This didn't take too long, since the water in the section is pretty mellow and our hard boats were much faster than the rafts. The next major attraction of the day was 205 Mile Rapid (aka Kolb). At this point I was in the lead, and although I knew we had a few bigger rapids to run, I wasn't even sure what it was rated. Since I could see the bottom, and what resembled a decent line, I dropped in without scouting. I quickly realized that it was a little bigger than I had given it credit for. Luckily, I was able to put together a fairly clean line, starting center-left and finishing center-right, through a fairly sizable hole at the bottom. I quickly got out below and waited to take photos of the others coming through, which happened soon after. The drop didn't cause any real problems for the crew, but Mark had a pretty exciting line in his open canoe, gutting the bottom right hole, sideways, and riding out a short surf session.


A cool basalt wall

205 Mile Rapid

Justin and Nancy drop into 205 Mile Rapid

Creative use of a Paco Pad...

The next sizable drop was 209 Mile Rapid, where the river wrapped around a right-hand bend and down an eight foot drop. At this flow, it was pretty benign, but it still had a hole on the right that could flip a raft, as a consequence for a missed line. Everyone in our group decided to sneak the hole, except Brian, who got a little steezy with a wave-wheel right into the gut of it!


The crew, staged above 209 Mile Rapid

Taking the easy route

Taking the hard route, with style!

By this time, everyone in the crew was getting a bit hungry, so we started to search for a nice lunch spot, preferably with some sun. Soon enough, we found a nice sandy beach to spread out on, and although the lingering storm clouds only allowed for spotty sun, the winds were much less severe than the day before, so we didn't have to deal with a sandstorm while we ate. After I had refueled, I decided to head downriver before the others, so that I'd have enough time to take photos at Pumpkin Spring, just a few miles down.

Between the lunch spot and Pumpkin Spring was one named drop, "Little Bastard Rapid". Since it was only rated as a class 3, I wasn't too worried about running it solo. Surprisingly, it ended up being a bit harder than the rating would have suggested, not that it was overly difficult, just more so than some of the drops that were rated a bit higher -- I'm sure water levels had a lot to do with this.

Eventually I did reach Pumpkin Spring, which is pretty hard to miss, since it literally looks like a giant pumpkin, growing out of the side of the rocks. Although this odd mineral formation is cool to look at and take photos of, it was certainly not a place I'd want to take a dip. The water filling the pumpkin has very high levels of arsenic, as well as concentrations of copper, zinc, and lead. Even if this wasn't the case, the water itself is not very inviting, which is both soupy green color, and has chunks of funk floating around in it - blah! Just about the time I had finished with my photo shoot, the rest of the crew came floating past. No one else decided to get out on shore to check it out, but they did paddle up close enough to reach out and touch its orange exterior.


Pumpkin Spring

Gabe and Emily row past Pumpkin Spring

The final highlight of our day's float, was 217 Mile Rapid, which would also be the last sizable rapid of our Grand Canyon trip. Although it was rated as a class 5, once again it was pretty straightforward. I did pull over to take photos of the group, but this was mainly based on it being the last rapid, as opposed to catching some whitewater action. Everyone in our group knew that this was the last hurrah, and made sure to ham it up on the way through.


Arthur and Tait, at 217 Mile Rapid

Winston and crew ham it up for the camera, on the last major rapid of our trip

Mark pilots his open boat though 217 Mile Rapid

As we closed in on our planned camp for the evening, at mile 220, it became clear that this was a very popular final camping area for people that were taking out at Diamond Creek, as we were. There were three total camps at this specific mile marker, and luckily the middle one was still open, allowing us to lay claim. From the water, it didn't look like much, but after climbing up the small beach and through a small opening in the tamarisk, we found a beautiful place to call home for the evening. That night, we ate a ridiculous amount of food and drank the remaining beer, which we had been hording. It was really a bittersweet celebration - Although I was looking forward to a warm shower and an actual bed, I was going to miss both the river, my temporary family, and all of the adventures we had shared. We had overcome so many obstacles just to get on the river, and just like that, it was coming to an end. As I turned in for the evening and laid my head on my pillow, I made sure to take in the starry sky, which would not look the same once I was back in Eugene, where the city lights and fog mute their brightness.



Docked at camp

Day 19:
Waking up on the last day of the trip brought bright sunny skies and cool temperatures, as it had been like for most of our journey. Since we were scheduled to meet PRO (our outfitter) at Diamond Creek at 10am, we didn't have much time to sit around and relax. As we packed up our gear, Mark came across a scorpion, who had climbed into his bag during the night. Of course, I had to come over to take a photo. As I squatted down to do so, I accidentally sat down on a cactus (how ironic), which embedded literally hundreds of hair sized spines into my rear-end, which sent me into the air in pain. Most people that have spent time around cactus know that you should use tape to remove the spines, and even though I lived in Arizona for most of my life, my memory is short and selective; therefore, I figured it would be a good idea to try and pull them out of my pants (now removed) with my teeth... It probably doesn't take a genius to figure out that this only transferred many of the small spines into the soft tissue inside my mouth (tongue, gums, etc.).


Mark's new buddy

After we had packed up and loaded the boats, we shoved off and headed toward the take-out, a mere five miles downstream. Although there wasn't much in the way of whitewater in this section, the scenery continued to amaze, with Diamond Peak as one of the dominant landmarks. All too soon, the boat landing at Diamond Creek came into view, with another group already docked and disassembling there floatilla. There was also a very friendly member of the Hualapai tribe, who confirmed our information to ensure we were scheduled to takeout there. Of course, everything checked out and we were okayed to start the de-rigging process. It still amazes me how much gear is required for a trip like this, as well as the effort to get everything loaded/unloaded. Since I typically do self-support kayaking, it's kind of an overwhelming experience. Before long, PRO showed up with both a massive flatbed truck and a passenger van. After exchanging pleasantries, they helped us load all the gear and people into the vehicles, before we headed up and out of the canyon.


Diamond Peak

Loading up at Diamond Creek

As we drove away from the beach, up the crude dirt road, I stared behind us to see the river, until it eventually fell out of sight. Of course we shared all of our stories with the driver, who seemed almost as excited to hear them as we were to tell them. The road was both long and rough, but eventually it led us out of the canyon and back to civilization. The first sign of human life came at the Hualapai reservation, where less than ideal living conditions presented themselves. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people of this once great society, and a sense of guilt for the history that led to their situation. It was actually a very sobering part of the drive, which set a very somber mood within the confines of our van.

Before leaving the reservation, we stopped at a small park in town, to make lunch - PRO had brought plenty of food to make some gourmet sandwiches with. After eating, I ran over to the visitor's center to go to the bathroom, which was the first time I had seen myself in a mirror, in nearly 3 weeks. All I can say is that you want to ease into this, as I was quite shocked at my appearance... I also made sure to wash my face in the sink to get off as much of the grunge as I could, but to be honest, I was basically just shinin' turds. This was also the part of the trip where we'd separate from the first member of the group, Nancy, who had her car shuttled to the park. After bidding farewell to our sage rower, we started the drive back to Flagstaff.


A cool Monarch butterfly, at our lunch spot

The Grand Canyon Crew!

Once we had made it back to Flagstaff, PRO dropped us off at our cars, which were still parked at the hotel where we had left them. We were all super happy to see that no break-ins had occurred - another victory of our trip! Next, we drove over to PRO to collect our remaining gear, where we also thanked them for the unbelievable service they had provided us - they really went above and beyond. From there, we parted ways with a few more from the group, before Emily and I headed back to our hotel room. We planned to get cleaned up and then meet the remaining members of the crew out for a bite to eat. All I can say is that we put a serious hurtin' on the shower and towels...

That night we once again celebrated the amazing adventure that we had all shared with each other, and of course we were all a little sad that it had finally come to an end. From the stressful beginnings of waiting out the government shutdown, to biking in Flagstaff and Sedona, to finally getting on the river, we had shared lots of lasting memories -- This will truly be an adventure I will never forget.

Lessons learned:
  1. Hire an outfitter - I can not recommend PRO enough. For what you get (gear, food, shuttle service, etc.), it was a true bargain, at around $1,200 per person.
  2. Bring your camera gear, but not too much - Being a enthusiast photographer, I brought a lot of stuff, including two camera bodies and many lenses. In the end, I really only used a few of the lenses, and it was a real battle to keep sand out of all the nooks and crannies; it really took its toll on my gear. If I had to do it all over, I'd bring one camera body, a tripod, and the following three lenses:
    • A super zoom (e.g. 18-200mm) - You really don't need a super fast lens, since you'll have lots of light to work with in most situations. This is a great all around focal range to take river photos with, and you won't have to change lenses.
    • An ultra wide angle prime or zoom (e.g. 10-20mm) - This is a great lens for the side hikes, especially the more narrow canyons. It's also great for camp and star shots.
    • A fisheye lens (e.g. 8mm) - This is great for the same reason as the ultra wide lens, but gives you a little wider view and the field curvature can be used for more creative shots.  
  3. Bring lots of lotion and make sure to start using it early on - Although I had been warned, I still did not stay on top of it like I needed to. Once you start to develop cracks, it's almost impossible to heal them.
  4. If you like beer, bring plenty of it - We had set a ridiculously low limit of 2 per day / per person, assuming we would make up for it with hard alcohol. First off, I think I'm the only one who obeyed the rule (even though I'm not the one who set it), and even then, we all ran out.
  5. Do as much side hiking as you can! Each hike we did was both unique and amazing, and as it's been said many times before, "you don't go on the Grand for the whitewater".
  6. Group dynamics are very challenging, when you have this many people stuck together for this long. Try not to let the little things bother you too much, and make sure to go with a good group of people that you get along with, like we had! Even then, you're bound to have small skirmishes here and there.
  7. Don't fixate on where you want to camp or keeping an exact schedule, it can really take away from the enjoyment on the river. The reality is that there are groups in front and in back of you, and everyone seems to want to grab the most popular spots. In the end, there is plenty of good camping for everyone, and even the lesser known sites will serve you well.
  8. If you have the chance to go on the Grand, but are on the fence, make it happen, it is truly deserving of the saying, a trip of a lifetime!


    Some highlights from the trip:

    Greatest hits from The Grand - 2013 from Nate Pfeifer on Vimeo.