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The Dream Trip begins: February 23- 26, 2010

Monday, April 5th, 2010

After seven weeks of preparation we left for Lee’s Ferry early on February 23. Driving down I was struck with how much snow there was all over central Utah. We did not get all that much snow from the January storms but from Marysvale south to Flagstaff was hammered by the storms.
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Just south of Marysvale.

Of course we had to stop in Kanab and eat Mexican food at Escobar’s. In Fredonia we stopped to see Dave and Pam at the Tour West warehouse. Tour West (my employer) is who we will charter our next Grand Canyon trip through in June of 2011. Contact us if you are interested. Driving over the Kaibab Plateau I was again struck with the massive snow pack. Even Houserock Valley and the Vermillion Cliffs were covered.
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The snows on the Kaibab.
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Houserock Valley and the Vermillion Cliffs.
We spent two days at Lee’s Ferry. Lee is organizing a Lee/Udall family reunion there in September so we spent a day checking things out and hiking. It will be great event.
We visited Lonely Dell, the Lee family homestead, where Lee’s ancestor John Doyle Lee lived while operating the first ferry. We also hiked Lee’s Lookout, Cathedral Wash and the Spencer Trail. We also spent some time visiting with Ray Bush who led a trip launching two days before us. Ray is the owner of Tuff River Stuff which manufactures an array of remarkable river gear. Being an avid river runner he is able to devise gear that really meets the the day to day needs of river runners.
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Lee Udall Bennion at Lee’s Lookout with Lonely Dell in the background, Lee in Cathedral Wash and Lee’s Ferry from the Spencer Trail.
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More Cathedral Wash. This is a really nice short hike. From the ferry road to the river and back takes a couple of hours and is fairly easy canyoneering.

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Rigging Homer (the boat) went OK on the 25th. It always takes a while to figure out the rig. It is different with every trip. This one was difficult because we are one boat but we still have to carry all the required gear plus our personal stuff. It really wasn’t until day four or five on the river that it started to all fall into place and I didn’t have to scratch my head as I threw the rig together in the morning. Ray Bush’s everything bag really helped with this.
By quitting time on the 25th we were pretty beat. It is mental as well as physical exhaustion. I was feeling frustrated because things had been slowed down by people who wanted to talk with us about our planned trip. A one boat trip through the Grand Canyon, though not unheard of, is a bit unusual and everyone wanted to chew the fat. I about blew the trip as I was getting the boat in the water. We had rigged the boat on shore. My plan was to push it in with our truck. I didn’t communicate the plan very well to Lee. (Bad idea) I was a bit snappy with her, not considerate of her feelings after a long day of hard work. I pushed it in and got out to discover that it was not quite in far enough to float. I was tired and frustrated and hit the boat too hard the second try. To my horror I saw the boat cruising out into the river with the bow line trailing behind it. I jumped out of the truck and without thinking went in after it. I was able to catch the end of the rope while there was still ground to be found under my feet. I got to shore with the boat and felt pretty stupid but the trip was salvaged. I can’t say as much for my cell phone.
After saving the boat I was in a rare mood and spoke roughly to Lee about taking the car up to the long term parking lot for the night. After she had gone I took the boat down off of the ramp, tied it in the willows around the point from the rigging area and made my way to the river runners camping area where we had set up our gear for the night. As the time went by I started feeling badly about my behavior. I always do. Lee says that I am getting better on the turn around time and frequency of offenses. She came into camp after a long time had gone by. I spoke to her sheepishly about my reckless actions. She told me that she had gone to the parking lot and had thought hard about going on home, leaving me to run the trip alone, but she knew that would be wrong. She knew this trip was important for us to do. She had felt good about it from the start and wondered why it was starting out so bad. We talked a long time. She told me how unsafe my actions made her feel. I promised that I wouldn’t be like that again on the trip and then prayed that I could make good on my words.
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Vermillion Cliffs from Lee’s Ferry on the morning we launched our adventure. Our boat finally rigged and ready to go on the launch day, February 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Mike Glasgow) I decided in the morning that the rig was wrong and spent a couple of hours redoing it, all the time paying attention to my frustration level. At one point I expressed to Lee that I was feeling frustrated. She gave me a hug and thanked me for not demonstrating those feelings. It was a start.
We launched by 1:20 pm, bidding farewell to the other boaters rigging for the next day’s launch. As we floated toward the Paria Riffle Lee and I took turns making intentions for the voyage. As we passed the floating marker that signifies the beginning of Grand Canyon we let little pieces of turquoise fall into the stream and watched them sink in the green depths. I have realized that each of my trips through this canyon (40 so far) has been a ceremony of sorts. The canyon is medicine and this little ritual helps open my mind and soul to possibilities. I have never felt the need to enhance the canyon experience with anything more than what she offers me. The experience of traveling through this place always open me up and shows me something I may or may not want to know but it is always something that gives me greater self knowledge.
This trip was very important to Lee. She pushed for it for several years. We picked up the permit seven weeks before the launch date and had to scramble to get it together. As we drifted into the riffle I watched her tears roll down to her chin. She is an amazing woman and has always pushed me into things that are good for me and us. She is also very patient and careful, a counter point to some of my deficits. I thanked her for not driving away the day before, or at any other time over the past 34 years.
After the swirly waters of the Paria Riffle we ate lunch on the boat while we floated down stream. I love being able to do that. The food is simple and easy and we make miles while we eat. Today it was P B and J, cottage cheese with canned mandarin oranges. The day was sunny and Lee radiated her good feelings about our voyage.
Eight miles on we encountered Badger Rapids where on our first trip in 1992 as passengers we were flipped and “maytaged” for over a minute. Forty trips later it is not the fear inspiring maelstrom that it was that June day nearly two decades ago but I still give it my respect and stay focused. Below the rapid we pulled in on river right and collected an obscene amount of firewood. As of March 1 firewood collecting is illegal on the river, but the ranger told us we could collect and carry all we wanted to before that date. We doled out the wood over the next four weeks supplemented with a nice stash of cord wood someone left at National Canyon.
A couple of miles down stream we pulled in to a little beach peppered with sheep droppings and tracks. We named it “Sheep Camp” and set up our gear. We had decided to try where possible to camp where we have not camped before and perhaps where no one has camped. We tried to do the same with hikes though with both there were some we used that we had before.
Another thing we did with this trip was to go iceless. We had no cooler but kept produce in plastic bins and crates below deck with precooked meats and lots of canned things. We did enjoy fresh meat for the first while. I brought a small styrofoam cube filled with hard frozen meat that we ate as it thawed. Lettuce, avocados, broccoli and peppers kept well into the trip in the bilge. Of course things like onions, spuds, carrots, cabbage, citrus fruits and apples did well below deck also. If we were running in summer maybe things would not have gone so well.
Dinner at Sheep camp was BBQ turkey, rice, broccoli and green salad. Dessert was chocolate truffles and cashews. The evening was cold enough that there was no question about putting up the tent. Ours is a very nice three man structure from Mountain Hardware. Bedding and shelter are very important and we chose not to scrimp. Our sleeping bag is a 5 degree rated square bottom affair that sleeps two and fits neatly on our pair of 4″ Paco Pads from Jack’s Plastic Welding. We are as comfortable on Jack’s pads as on our own bed at home.
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Our little beach at Sheep Camp. Lee with Homer. She is the “mom” of Mom’s Stuff.