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Grand Canyon Solo

Never, pass up a trip on the Grand.” 

All the mantras often parroted when the topic of the Grand surfaces in conversation can certainly bore those of us who had never been down.  Yeah I totally get it, sounds awesome.  Three week desert run with incredible scenery, history, rapids and the opportunity to sit on a groover and be amazed how everyone’s poop always looks exactly the same.  A dream come true. 

“Will you take me?”  “No” 

Will they show you pictures and tell you how cool it is?  Yes. 

I personally did not put it too high on my list.  Not that I didn’t think it could be the coolest river I had ever run, but well I can’t really give a good explanation.  It just wasn’t high. 

That was true until this past February droning away in Kamloops, BC where all things kayaking are just out of reach that time of year, and then the itch struck.  In an excited frenzy I emailed family and friends to enter in the upcoming lottery.  Out of the 30 or so folks I blasted 5 times with over-excited miss placed gerunds and run-on sentences, only one friend I was actually with at the time entered. 

We each won a launch date and after forfeiting one we settled on Nov 2012. 

And that was it; I put it in my head and went on with school and figuring out summer work. 

Fast forward to Sept 16th, a cold Montana rain surrounded a manufactured home in the remote shields valley bounded by the Crazy, Bridger and Absorka mountain ranges.  It’s mid Sept and I’m not stoked to gather firewood for Barb with my buddy Corey.  Instead we bake a pie and watch random TV, things we haven’t done in months.  Sometime around that afternoon is when my inbox received a quite intriguing email.  I excited read it aloud to Corey. 

“It says their web site is having troubles and they are doing a first come first serve call in system for canceled Grand permits!”

By the time I got through, the original cornucopia of 30+ launch dates had been whittled down to only 2.  When Elysha the friendly Ranger related the news I wasn’t all too bummed.  I could have only gone on Sept 19th because my brother was soon to be married the first of October, quickly followed by a kayak trip to Nepal.  Therefore I couldn’t find a single other person to come along and help split the gas costs.  I really wanted to go, but this was probably just fate helping me make a responsible choice. 

“Oh that’s alright Elysha thanks, well what are the dates?”

“Sept 19th, and yaddi yaddi yadda”

Whohoo, Grand Canyon here I come!!

Perhaps it was the long drive but I slept surprising well despite the excitement and awoke in the morning to a beautiful river slowly moving past the many commercial boats ready to launch.  There was only one other non-commercial party putting on that morning.  Mike Coultrain gave us a warm send off after his enjoyable river speech. 

As speed was of importance I hurried into the clear water and was off!  Immediately a side tributary spilled in muddying up the water.  Now with a much more natural brown coloration to the body of water below me I fell into a rhythm for the rest of the day stopping for bed 50 miles further downstream.   

And so here is the interesting thing about the Grand. 

It is most definitely worth all the hype.  I totally didn’t buy it at first.  Even the first 10 miles drifting comfortably in my boat absolutely enveloped in the beauty of the canyon which grew by the moment but it was still similar to other runs.  I figured “Ok, so this is like Cataract, which is incredibly awesome and I’m loving it but no different except hundreds of miles long!  So that must be the cool part, the duration of the trip.  Something hard to come by these days of reservoirs and dams.” 

But then something crazy happened.  It was as if I was the audience to a fantastic high school play.  The best to ever be, with young teen prodigies twirling and singing about.  Then all of a sudden Broadway in all its larger than life glamour and over the top lusty extravagance reared up slapping me in the face.  Lights glared burning my retinas, the acoustic glory placed drums beating in my chest and there might have been explosions, it kinda hurt.  I was impressed. 

Next time the Grand comes up in conversation and someone tells you how incredible it is and that you need to go.  Believe them; it totally lives up to all the hype. 

Now would you like to see some pictures while I tell you how cool it is? 





Amoung a few silly items they actually require a second life jacket, even if your by yourself!  It didn’t end up fitting in the boat so I left it. 


Not a very inspiring first sight of the river. 



Little Colorado joining the main for an enhanced river coloring.