Monday, May 21, 2012

21 Days in the Canyon

I almost titled this post 21 Days in the Big Ditch.  Many boaters refer to the Grand Canyon as such, but I have such a reverence for the place that I couldn't do it.  Everyone who has been down in the GC tells me it is a life changing experience.  As I start to go through my photos and organize my thoughts to share, I am still in awe of the experience.  Was it life changing?  I think so but I don't know that I can articulate it yet.

When asked about our trip - I glaze over, a huge grin takes over my face, and I slip away for a moment back into the canyon, and then respond, "It was AWESOME."  I loved 21 days of - being unplugged and in the wilderness, sleeping out under the stars, being immersed in a natural and geological wonder, and of course - running big, whitewater rapids.

Big Dune Camp.

As a progressing and relatively inexperienced whitewater kayaker, paddling the Grand Canyon was a great test of my mental and physical paddling skills.  I have lots of fun tales of the different rapids to share from my journal and am waiting for some photos of me paddling them to share (Jeff and I ran the rapids first so we didn't get to photograph or video each other in them.  We have lots of great photos and videos of the rafts in our group that we will be sharing).

The rapids on the Colorado were the biggest that I have ever run.  Day 1 when we encountered our first major rapid (Badger), Jeff went first.  Then, I followed his line down the middle - launching off the lips of the big waves and speeding down the backside into the troughs and then flying back up to launch again.  "HECK YEAH!!!" I announced at the bottom of the rapid.  I knew that Badger wasn't the biggest or most technical rapid that we would run on the trip but loved the size and speed and was looking forward to more.

Cate in Lava.  Photo by June Ruckman
Photo by June Ruckman.

I ran everything.  I made my lines with a couple of bumbles here or there and definitely more than a few combat rolls.  In the roaring twenties - I had the song Proud Mary in my mind - "Rolling, Rolling, on the River."  It was actually fun and as we progressed down the river, my skills and confidence progressed.  My roll was perfect and effortless.  Rolling in the big rapids was scary at first but then became fun.  As my confidence built, I capsized less.  The trickiest spots in the river often were at the bottom of the rapids where the slower water and eddy lines created seams, boils, and whirlpools that would tug at your edges and even suck your boat down.

Hiking was another highlight of the trip for me.  I joke that we were on the "Do and See Everything Trip."  We had 4 geologists in our group and a whole group full of adventurous souls who loved hiking and exploring the different canyons and checking out geological wonders.  Traversing through some of the slot canyons was super FUN and has me thinking about getting back into climbing.  Of course when it is 90' outside, playing in waterfalls is fun too.

Behind the waterfall  . . . another.

My best piece of gear on the trip was my Keen Gorge Boots (no I'm not sponsored by Keen).  I wasn't sure what to wear on my feet for the trip and took 5 different pairs of footwear.  I ended up wearing my Keen booties most of the trip on and off the water.  The boots were comfortable in my kayak, rugged for scouting rapids, supportive for hiking, and the traction was perfect for climbing in slot canyons and wading through wet creek beds.

We had great weather on our trip.  The first few days were quite chilly with dust storms, gusty winds, some rain showers, and even hail.  However, there wasn't enough precipitation to affect the water color.  We had clean, green water the whole time, and the Little Colorado and Havasu were beautiful aqua blue.

Little Colorado River

Overall, it was a magical trip and one that I will be thinking about for a long time.  As I sort through my photos and friends post photos, I will share more photos and tales of our adventure through the Grand Canyon.  Until then be sure and check out Tom Ganner's gallery of photos from our trip on his Time & Space Facebook Page.


  1. Cate, sounds like an amazing trip. Looking forward to seeing some of the pictures from it. Loved to hear about your confidence level growing as the trip progressed. That must be an amazing feeling to know that you can run such large rapids.

  2. Hi Cate,

    I enjoy reading your blog from Australia. I read anything LKayaling related. This blobgand Tom's photos have inspired me to get off my A and do this trip. Something I've talked about doing for a while now.

    Was your trip with a guided tour company? if so, would you recommend them?

    1. Do it!!! It is a must do trip.

      We were on a private trip. Are you looking to do a kayak trip or raft trip?

      If you are looking to do a kayak trip, definitely check out Deriemer Adventure Kayaking. They are top-notch instructors and have guided paddlers on the canyon for years.