Posts Tagged ‘Joe and Lee Bennion’

Grand Canyon Expedition Announced

Monday, October 15th, 2012










Join us September 2014 for the trip of a lifetime in the Grand Canyon.

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Lee and I are planning a trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon begining September 24 and ending October 11 of 2014. We would like to invite you to join us if you are able. We are organizing the trip through Tour West, a licensed Grand Canyon outfitter. We plan to run for eighteen days from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek, a journey of 226 miles. We will travel in 18′ oar-powered inflatable rafts. The cost of the trip is about $5000 which includes all services on the river and transportation back to Flagstaff from the take out at Diamond Creek.
We have been taking river trips through the Grand Canyon since 1992. Joe who works as a river guide has completed 48 such trips and Lee well over twenty.
An oar-powered rafting trip through the Grand Canyon is the ultimate and most sought-after white water adventure in North America. Other rivers may offer comparable excitement, solitude and wonder, but in much smaller doses. No other river allows you to run its length for two weeks, shedding the inessential trappings of civilization, like so much dry skin, as you float past some of the oldest exposed rocks on the planet.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most recognizable tourist destinations in the world, but relatively few people see its glory from the bottom up, or experience its meandering as intimately as in an oar-powered boat, which puts you closer to the water than larger, motor-driven craft.
If you watched Ken Burns PBS documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” then you will want to come see this premier park as few get to see it.
If you decide to join us on this trip, expect to be challenged and for your life to be changed. You may forget what the walls of your office look like, or what it’s like to wake to the sound of an alarm. You’ll wake instead to the sound of a cheerful guide calling “Coffee” and serving breakfast at dawn.
Getting on the water early allows us to make miles in the cool and calm of the morning. We stop frequently to visit side canyons with deep narrow walls, waterfalls and swimming holes, hanging fern gardens, natural chapels and concert halls. There is ample time for hiking, swimming and lizarding on flat rocks in the sun. Lunch is served on beaches or in side canyons, wherever we can find shade. We like to get into camp early to allow time for each participant to find some solitude, and so the crew can prepare wholesome and tasty dinners. If you choose to join us on this trip, expect a degree of renewal far more profound than what you typically experience while on vacation.
It is hard to convey second hand just how wonderful this place is.
Pack some clothes and a good book and join us for a truly life altering experience.
Shared solitude.
Deep relaxation.
Sounds that have been happening nonstop for millennia.
If you are interested in joining us on this journey, please contact Joe or Lee as soon as possible. 435-462-2708 or We will be happy to answer your questions. Space is limited. We are asking a $500 nonrefundable deposit to hold your place on the trip at this point.

Been on the river a bit.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I’m sorry for the long break in posting. I have been preoccupied with a couple of long Grand Canyon River trips and the attendant catching up at home that six weeks away over two months can bring on. Above is a video promoting our next trip in 2012. Following are several from the last trip. I can’t express properly how important this trip was for me. It brought together a lot of things. I am leaving Monday for another three weeks away, this time Cataract Canyon near Moab, Utah.

Our trip leader Bruce was always saying that if you are in the Grand Canyon and you are too hot it is only because you are stupid. GET WET!

Whether the Little Colorado River is running Mediterranean Blue or muddy it is a great place to stop and play.

This video captures a serendipitous happening at Blacktail Canyon. Leonard and Kathryn Romney are the dancers. Read the blog entry he wrote here .

Our runs at Lava Falls were down the left side, something I haven’t done since the 1990’s. It was a big ride.

Havasu Creek is a must see for every trip through the Grand Canyon. Whether you go long to Beaver Falls or just find a quiet place to eddy out it is a day to remember.

The Dream Trip: Camp 19, March 25…end of the trip.

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

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I awoke at about 4:30 and lay awake for another hour before untying the boat so we could drift down stream as we watched the stars twirl over head. In and out of sleep we drank in the beginning of our last day on the river or what was left of it now that we were well below the last of anything resembling a river bed not mired in silt. The light that had been gathering on the eastern horizon started to form shapes and shadows on the upper layers of rock. I thought about how long it had been since we first slipped below those cliffs of sandstone, limestone and shale almost a month ago. I fired up the little stove we use on the boat and made cocoa which we had with biscotti and grapefruit.

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Before long we were coming up on Quartermaster Canyon where the Hualapai have allowed concessionaires to set up helicopter landing pads, picnic areas and boat docks. They fly their people in from the Vegas strip and give them an hour long “Grand Canyon River Experience”. It was nonstop chopper action. We were still in bed and not looking quite like the Colorado River Runners they were expecting, just two old people in a sleeping bag. Once again we were the object of touristas attention. For as long as it took us to pass through this zone we were gawked at and asked all manner of questions. They would get off the choppers, walk down to the “river” and board a pontoon raft for a 20 minute ride on the river and then back to the choppers and off to the casinos.
“You guys have been on the river how long?”
The Skywalk, another Hualapai amenity.
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I wish I could say that I looked as good as she did after 27 days on the river.
After the whole air show thing we pushed hard through the day watching the silt banks grow on either side. Often the banks would calve away and there would be a big crash as the clay splashed into the river. There were almost no places to camp due to the silt banks.
Looking west from the Grand Wash Cliffs the Nevada desert opens up. It is the most amazing thing after 277 miles of canyon wall to have them just drop away like that. Looking bak the Grand Canyon looks like a mountain range with a canyon carved into it. Our river journey was fast ending. It seemed tobe falling away like the banks around us.
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A few miles beyond the Grand Wash Cliffs we came upon the new Pearce Ferry boat ramp. It had only been opened a few days and we were very glad to have access to it as the rapids right below the ramp were quick becoming un-runnable. When we got to the ramp it was open so we got right after derigging. With in a few minutes the first Hualapai boats began showing up. I was glad for our little piece of ramp. It is an under sized ramp for a amount of traffic it will see now that the new rapid is so bad. It took us about two hours to tear the boat apart and get it loaded. Some of the Hualapai guys helped me load the rubber into the truck. The rest I was able to manage while Lee rested.
We drove carefully to Meadview not wanting to blow out a tire on the rocky road. At Meadview we used the “scat machine” to send all our crap from the month packing. It is always such a ceremony at the end of a trip.
Our last camp, number 19 was at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, Nevada. We got dinner of prime rib and settled into our two Queen bedroom and listened as the wind howled in the desert outside. We had gotten off the river just ahead of a bad storm that whacked the river runners behind us. Though we missed the star canopy we were glad for the shelter and hot showers….did I mention hot showers.
In the morning we ate a big breakfast and drove through Las Vegas and out toward Utah stopping in Mesquite for gas. At the gas station in Mesquite the gas pump refused our credit card. I went in and was told by the service station attendant that it was not being accepted. Lee called visa customer service and they told us that the account had been frozen due to unusual activity. We explained that we had been on the river for a month and that was why there had been no activity until the night before. I had paid for our meals at the Hacienda Hotel with cash but had used the visa card to pay for the room. The customer service person said that the concern was not the long break and then one purchase far from where we live but a $7.00 purchase made in Ohio the night before. Strange. I remembered that when I handed the card to the hotel clerk he had spent an unusually long time examining the card before hand ing it back to me.
When we got home I tried to contact the hotel management. My phone calls and emails have never been returned. I explained in both the problem. FYI, not only can this happen at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, NV, the management doesn’t care to stop it. A rather bummer ending to an otherwise sweet trip.
At the take out we had met two boatmen from Canyoneers. They were there to scope out the new ramp. Their comment was that with a 39 foot raft no matter how you do it your butt end will be way out in the current. There is not a nice eddy there to pull into as you take out. You are just in the current.
When we explained the nature of our trip to the fellows from Canyoneers they said “That is a dream trip”. From then on we have talked about it as the Dream Trip.
I don’t know if we will do it just like that again, just the two of us. We are getting older and have physical limits. Lee broke her pelvis a few days ago.(October 27) I have bad knees and other complaints. We are rather spoiled for running with large groups on a private trip., THree boats and maybe six people seems like a reasonable limit right now. We will continue to charter commercial trips through my employer, Tour West for larger groups. That is work and it has to be that way but for private trips it will ever more be very small.

The Dream Trip: Camp 13, March 15

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Beware the Ides of March. Two moments define this day on our river journey: Sitting with Lee in the alcove in Fern Glen Canyon by the waterfall talking about our relationship, where we have been in terms of accomplishments and time, the changes and commitment, where we are going and recommitment; and standing with her at the Lava Falls scout looking down on 8,000 cfs of chaos and violence. I have run that rapid 40 times now. This run was easily the most challenging of them all because we were there alone. There would be no one to spot us, no one to help us if we got into trouble, just the two of us trusting each other and God to pull through. The right side looks pretty good at 8K but the tail waves are HUGE and sharp. Lee offered a short sweet prayer and we shoved off with a kiss for good luck. A couple of minutes later it was over except for the bailing. The actual time from the brink of the falls to the safe zone below the “Black Rock” is 12-15 seconds that feel like a lifetime.
We went intentionally slow that morning not wanting to get to Lava early. The water drops as the day goes on and we felt it would be a better run later in the day at the lower flows. We stopped at Fern Galen and hiked/climbed up into her unique terminus where we just sat at talked and then didn’t talk.
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Fern Glen is a world within a world. The silence there is only disturbed by the little water noises and occasional raven’s cries. The only place that compares to it in my mind is Whispering Falls up Kanab Creek. We have a lot of memories stored up from our visits to Fern Glen over the years. With my eyes closed I could almost hear Louisa’s “The Gray Horse” echoing around in the alcove. We stayed along time listening, watching and discussing “us”.
I had a tight gut all day thinking about Lava. I would have felt a lot more relaxed it it had just been me. I could see the anxiety in Lee’s face. I wouldn’t call it out and out fear, just a certain uneasiness. When it was over we both expressed how glad we were that we had done it solo. It meant a lot to us and always will. It certainly was the crux move of this trip, this trip that seems a metaphor for our life. After the run Lee demonstrated her feelings with one of her world class kisses that I have come to look for over the years.
Lee talked about how all of our other trips together and apart in the Grand Canyon have been preparing us for this one. I felt that every other run of Lava over the years has been a rehearsal for this one. It was a text book run. I have had some ugly runs there. I have never tipped a boat over in Lava but we have both taken unscheduled swims there. This one was not ugly at all, it was perfect. Every oar stroke was where it needed to be threading us through the holes and waves. Lee’s prayer was echoing in my mind as we hit the Vee Wave dead in the middle, submerged momentarily in the boiling foam, and ran right of the tail waves almost missing them completely. It was indeed a providential run.

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After Lava we took camp on river right below at what some have called “Tequila Beach”. We celebrated with some home grown plum juice from the trees in our back yard. We ate hot dogs and enjoyed a loaf of bread Lee baked in the dutch oven with dough she had been working on since the night before. The light on the rocks and in the sky was as good as it gets. We also broke out some of our supply of pre-March firewood and indulged in a little blaze…atmosphere you know. The stars were amazing and the distant roar of Lava Falls only another night noise.

Day nineteen began before light. We had retired pretty early after our Lava run and woke at at 4:30. We just laid in bed watching the day begin and talking. What excess! As the stars blinked out a pair of wrens trilled back and forth and up the beach we watched a couple of ravens mating. Lee wanted to feed them so that the little ravens would hatch out strong. I assured her that ravens get plenty to eat and that the little guys would be as strong as ravens need to be.
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After breakfast of hot oatmeal and grapefruit we decided to venture back up to Lava Falls and watch the water for a while. Every other time we have looked at Lava it has been with the knowledge that in just a few minutes we would be in the middle of it. It seemed good to go back and look at it a little more objectively for a while.

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On the way up to look at the falls we came upon a little cavity in the rock that bore witness of human occupation at two very different times both with inscriptions in the rock and evidence of domestic life.
We watched the falls for a long time. It is rather hypnotic, maybe mind bending. As we were leaving to get to the boat and on down the river we saw a group of other boaters pulling in to the scout at Lava. It turned out to be the bunch we had run Bedrock with last week. We decided to stick around and watch the festivities. We were not dissapointed. No one flipped but there were some moments when I wondered. They put on a fine show and made us all the more glad we had worked at hitting Lava the night before at lower water.
As with many groups they scouted for a long time. I hate long scouts. It gives the stomach acid too much time to work. I like to look at it and run. To each his or her own.
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After the entertainment we made our way back to Tequila Beach where our friends had pulled over to eat lunch and relive the adventure of Lava Falls. We had a great time catching up, looking at my photos on replay (Isn’t digital fun?) and swapping tales of the happenings since we saw them last at Deubendorf. The invited us to have lunch with them and we hungrily joined in.

Grand Canyon Charter June 2009

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

We have been home from our 2009 June river trip for two and a half weeks. It has taken me a while to get the photos up as I have been out on another river trip and busy trying to get caught up here at home. It was a sweet trip with Lee, Louisa and me on crew with Steve Bocagno as well. Here are few images worth a thousand words each to give you a sense of the adventure. We are currently booking for our 2010 june trip.
Lee’s brother Marc joined us with his wife Ruth, her sister Louise and Marc and Ruth’s daughter Sarah.
Paul Bakkom came with his son Erik.
Susan Weeks and Mark Conley and their friend Judy Stone joined us from Colorado.
Julia came to us by way of Tour West. She was a fine addition.
Paul and Erik hanging out. The canyon is a great family place.
Are we having fun yet? Joe leads Team Bedrock on a tour of the left side of everyones favorite obstacle. Can you tell that the boat got COMPLETELY full? In this photo the boat is just coming down from a mighty highside effort by the crew. Also check out how quickly Steve Boccagno got up on top of Bedrock with a throw rope. It is nice to have that kind of people backing you up on the crew.
In the eddy below Bedrock Joe finds out how hard it is to move a boat full of water as the team bails.
Team Bedrock at Owl Eyes beach.
Joe catc hes a nap at the Deer Creek Patio later that day.
Hanging out at Doris camp after the Bedrock fun.
Louisa engaging in a little chub petting during a lunch break at 60 mile rapids.
Who needs dishwashers?
Lee and Sarah lead the Diaper Train at the Little Colorado.
Not only can she clean a peanut butter knife she can make great Freedom Toast.
Marc caught this heron and digitized it.
“No s**t, there I was…” That is how all good boatman stories start.
“If you take that picture I am going to stick this carrot in you.”
The nightly game of pick up sticks.
Petting fish….kissing rocks, what is next?
Louisa Becker, our hero, hiking Havasu nine months after bilateral knee replacement surgery.
I don’t know, it just happened.
Why are these canyoneers smiling? The picture was shot at the shady ledges below Lava Falls.
When the going gets tough, the tough find a rock and pass out on it.
Stepping into North Canyon.
The pool at North canyon.
The true happy hour.
Reaching for it.
Actually the only reason Lee gets to come is because she looks so good on the front tube of the boat.
After the coffee, the ecstacy.
Oh gosh, not Tuna Creek again?
After the nap at Blacktail.
Would you let this guy row you down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon?
Erik catching some quiet time at Matkatamiba.
My new Black Diamond Mega Lite came in handy when it tried to rain one night.
Marc snapped this amazing image at Havasu. The Grand Canyon makes everyone into a better photographer.
Sarah resting up for more fun at Last Chance camp.
Team Havasu demonstrating the Monkey dance that got us off the rock in the top of Havasu Rapids.
The game.
This was the Bennion Grand Canyon charter trip 2009.
Floating to the chopper pad the last morning.
Hiho Silver….away.