Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Cast of Characters


First and foremost in the group were the guides... Chelly, Matt, Tom, Justin, KJ, and Allison. They were the best! Probably every rafting group thinks their guides were the best, but this group was great!

With many years of experience (KJ's been doing this for 35 years!), they knew what they were doing. They propelled the rafts through the rapids, they packed and unpacked the rafts daily, they cooked our food, they kept us entertained, they otherwise helped us when needed. Thanks for everything...

There were six of us passengers that were "full trippers" - Tom and Nancy, Sue and Fred, Patrick, and myself.

From California were Tom and Nancy, shown above with KJ. They are an amazing and inspiring couple, age 78 and 79 respectively.

From Louisiana were Sue and Fred, riding with Matt.

Patrick is a native of France currently residing in Virginia where he works with NATO.

And, of course, there was me!

On the seventh day of the journey, the eleven members of the Upper Canyon group were exchanged for a new group of eleven who would travel with us in the Lower Canyon. It seemed like we had just "gotten used to" the first group and then a new bunch came along that we had to adjust to. It's not that either group was better than the other, they were just different. After a day or two of adjusting to the new group, all was good. They turned out to be pretty nice people too!

The Upper Canyon group consisted of Elana and her mother Priscilla; friends Ashley, Dawn and Susan; and in the paddle raft were Dave and Jacque, with friends Jeff and Sue; and Peter and Deanna.

Elana... I don't have a photo of her mother Priscilla.

The three friends from Pennsylvania: Susan, Ashley, and Dawn. Photo courtesy of Dawn.

Dave and Jacque (friends of Jeff and Sue).

Peter and Jeff.

Jacque and Sue.

Deanna had the misfortune of injuring her ankle while on the paddle board one day. Her misfortune allowed me to ride in the paddle raft that day. (It was a short day with only one small rapid.)

The Lower Canyon group... I don't have a photo of DJ...

From Ohio were Dar and Jim.

From Arizona were Jason and Sarah.

In the paddle raft were friends from California... Russell and Tana, Dave and Mary, and Tony and Carrie.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "The Cast of Characters," Kinexxions, posted October 25, 2013 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-cast-of-characters.html : accessed [access date])

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Upper Canyon :: 1st Day Impressions

It's taken me longer than anticipated to sort through all the photos and gather my thoughts in regard to this experience. I'm still trying to decide how it all should be presented. And, I also took a week "off" to clear out my storage unit. After 5 years and 2 1/2 months, it is finally emptied. Everything that was there has either been donated or otherwise disposed of... including about 25-30 boxes of books!

The middle of next month I'll be going down to Terre Haute where I'll make a donation of my photography books as well as my cameras and lenses to the photography department of Indiana State University. I was surprised to learn that they still use film and develop and print "the old fashioned way." It will be fun to see my professor again. (She is in her 40th year of teaching at ISU!) Anyway, here is the first installment of the "Grand" Adventure. (As always, click on an image to view a larger version). Enjoy!

Whenever you actually "do" something that has been something you've wanted to do for a very long time, you wonder about things and have expectations.

What would it really be like to spend 15 days rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River?

I expected to have a great time, no matter what happened... I did. Oh, yeah. It was the most amazing experience I've ever had. On so many levels.

I wondered if 15 days might be too long of a time to spend on The River... It wasn't. In fact I wish it could have gone on for another 15 days. Time passed way too quickly. The cares of the "outside" world faded rapidly. All that mattered was being there, in that place at that time.

I expected times of discomfort... there were, but nothing major. I was actually surprised at how easily I adapted to the conditions. The sand. Being wet much of the time. No showers. The sand. Bathing in muddy, gritty waters. Sleeping on the ground (albeit with a tarp, a nice soft pad and a sleeping bag) for 14 nights amongst a bunch of strangers. Lack of privacy. The wind. The rain. The sand. All just a part of the entire experience.

I wondered what the rapids would be like... would they be scary, would they be fun, would they be exciting... would I be disappointed if they weren't? There are about 70 rapids in the 240 mile stretch of the Colorado River that we traversed. Some were small, some were big. Some were like roller coasters, some really packed a wallop. Some we made it through without getting wet. Some soaked us completely and filled the raft with water. All of them were fun, some more exciting than others... but all were fun.

I expected that the hikes would be strenuous, after all about the only way to go was up (and of course, you had to get back down to the river)... they were. I started out on a few of them but didn't get far. The pace was too fast for me and the terrain was difficult at best. My legs just didn't want to work. Yes, I was disappointed to some extent, but not enough that it dampened my spirits. The side benefit of not doing the longer hikes was that I had some alone time in some really beautiful settings.

I hoped that our fellow travelers would be easy to get along with and fun to be with... they were. The guides really knew what they were doing, after all, it was their job! They were friendly and helpful, explaining things as we needed to know them.  They were a fantastic group as were the other "guests" on this adventure. As we swapped rafts and rode with different guides and guests we got to know a little more about each other. We came from all walks of life to experience this Grand Adventure together. And it was, indeed, a Grand Adventure.

On the bank of the river are rafts from several private groups whom we played leap frog with as we all traveled down the river.

Paria Ripple, where the Paria River joins the Colorado a short distance from Lee's Ferry, was the first "rough" water we encountered.

I was fascinated with how the river changed color depending upon whether we were in shade or sun, whether going into the sun or away from it, and how the surrounding cliffs were reflected in the water. Above, the "true" color of the river is hidden in the deep blue shadows.

The river was actually an emerald green color, clear and sparkling. At least for the first few days.

The "openness" of the the terrain at Lee's Ferry soon gave way to towering cliffs.

We passed beneath the twin Navajo Bridges, the closest one for pedestrians and the latter for vehicles.

The River has many twists and turns on it's 240 mile journey through Grand Canyon. Rafts are dwarfed by the towering cliffs. The smooth water conceals the fact that rapids are just ahead, rapids that you hear long before you see them.

Soap Creek Rapid at mile 11.5


Several stops were made along the way... for lunch and for a couple of short hikes.

The Canyon walls changed with every bend of the river.

The wind, the rain, and the river all play a part in sculpting the nooks and crannies of the canyon.

Shadows and sun, coolness and warmth. Both would be with us as we journeyed through the canyon.

Nearing the end of the first day.
All photos in this post were taken on September 17, 2014.

You might also want to follow along with Sue and Fred Elliott...
      Lees Ferry–The Beginning of a Journey posted October 23, 2014

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Upper Canyon :: 1st Day Impressions," Kinexxions, posted October 23, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/10/upper-canyon-1st-day-impressions.html : accessed [access date])

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Grand Adventure Begins

On Sunday, September 14th, I met up with Sue and Fred at Chandler, Arizona where we reviewed and discussed the clothes and other stuff we were taking with us on the Raft Trip through the Grand Canyon.  We second-guessed ourselves on some things. Then I just decided to take whatever would fit into my duffel bag, then when the "dry bag" was being packed at Lee's Ferry, if a questionable item wouldn't fit, it didn't go. I ended up being able to take almost everything and also ended up actually usually almost everything!

Tuesday morning we left Chandler and drove the nearly 300 miles to the Marble Canyon Lodge (near the launch point at Lee's Ferry at the north-eastern border of Grand Canyon National Park). Once there, we got our rooms, had a nice supper at the little restaurant, met several of our soon-to-be fellow travelers, then attended and orientation meeting where we met the other travelers as well as the guides. There were 17 of us in the group plus the six guides. A group of strangers - soon to become friends.

We were given instructions in safety and camp procedures, issued splash jackets and life vests (which were adjusted to fit us properly) and given the black "dry bag" for our personal gear. Once back in our rooms we packed and re-packed the dry bag then tried to get some sleep. A combination of nervousness and excitement kept me up half the night but I did manage to get a few hours of sleep.

Morning came, none too soon actually. Then breakfast. Then at 8 o'clock we all got into the vans and rode the five miles to the launch area at Lee's Ferry.


The big blue tarp would become an important fixture in our lives the next 14 days. It is where our gear would be unloaded every evening and where we would put it every morning prior to loading it back onto the rafts before heading out for the day.

Almost ready to begin the Grand Adventure. 

There were six rafts - two were used for baggage (equipment, personal gear, food, etc.), one was a paddle raft with 6 passengers and a guide, two carried some gear as well as four passengers and a guide, and the other raft carried more gear plus three passengers and a guide.

Finally, the time came to cast off the lines and head on down the river!

Previous Posts in this series:
    ~ Prelude to The Grand Adventure
    ~ It was an Incredible and Amazing Adventure!

Note: I will also be linking to some of Sue's blog posts, as she publishes them, so y'all can read her version of the adventure as well as mine.
      ~ Sue Elliott posted 16 September 2014 ~ A “Grand” Adventure–Getting Ready

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "The Grand Adventure Begins," Kinexxions, posted October 14, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-grand-adventure-begins.html : accessed [access date])

Thursday, October 02, 2014

It was an Incredible and Amazing Adventure!

I cannot yet put into words what this Raft Trip through the Grand Canyon has meant to me. It was the most awesome thing I have ever done and I am so glad that I had Sue and Fred to experience it with (as well as all of the guides and other passengers). It was Absolutely Amazing!

It will take a while to "process" it all but I will be sharing more later. It will be 10 days or more before I get back to Indiana and internet access will be sporadic.

We arrived at Marble Canyon Lodge on Tuesday afternoon (September 16th), got settled in, then went for a short drive to Lee's Ferry where the rafts were already loaded and waiting for departure the next morning. Notice the clear, clean water? Six days later, the water would  start turning brown and then even more brown until it was a very, very muddy river.

Six days into the trip and I'm still smiling! The guide in this raft, K.J., is to my left. Nancy and Tom are the other two passengers on that day - they are 78 and 79 years of age and both have a great sense of humor and incredible sense of adventure. Photo courtesy of Sue Elliott.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "It was an Incredible and Amazing Adventure!," Kinexxions, posted October 2, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/10/it-was-incredible-and-amazing-adventure.html : accessed [access date])

Monday, September 15, 2014

Where Have I Been?

My apologies. I have not been keeping y'all up to date very well, have I? So far this trip I've had internet access just one day. It's been kind of nice being "disconnected" from the world for a while. I've been keeping to the "back roads" of America and not eating at 'that' fast-food joint...

Today is a prep day and a day of relaxing. Sorting through 'stuff' to make sure everything that will be needed in the next 17 days is at hand and hoping that what I've decided to take will all fit in the 'dry bag' that will be provided. Tomorrow we head up to Lee's Ferry for the night with departure Wednesday morning. Excitement is in the air!

Below are some pictures of the places I've been in the past week.  More to come later...

Great Sand Dunes National Park northeast of Alamosa, Colorado.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado).

And there was more than cows on the road... poor Van Dora was in need of a bath after this stretch of highway...

A Ranger pointing out the petroglyphs on a guided tour at Hovenweep National Monument (in Utah, west of Cortez, Colorado).

Late evening in the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Where Have I Been?," Kinexxions, posted September 15, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/09/where-have-i-been.html)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Prelude to The Grand Adventure

In a few days I will be meeting up with Sue & Fred in Chandler, Arizona where we will be going over our final preparations for  a little excursion - a 15 day raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon!

This is something I have wanted to do since first hearing about it as a teenager. When Sue & Fred & I hiked into the Canyon in April 2010 we talked about it and then in August of last year they mentioned that they were seriously thinking of actually doing it. I said if they would, I would. And a few days later the deposits were made. At that time I knew I was having knee replacement surgery but the date hadn't been decided. We had scheduled the trip with a start date of September 17, 2014. A few days after sending in the deposit, I got the date for my surgery - September 17, 2013!

Sadly, the recovery from the surgery hasn't gone quite as well as I had hoped but it's not a serious issue and certainly is not going to stop me from going on this "Grand" Adventure!

I left home a week ago (September 2nd), driving leisurely on state highways, with night stops at Argyle Lake State Park on the west side of Illinois, Big Lake State Park near the Missouri River, Red Willow Reservoir in western Nebraska and Lake Boyd State Park in Loveland, Colorado.

Saturday I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park. Traffic through the park was pretty heavy considering it was supposedly off-peak season. Most of the parking areas at the "scenic viewpoints" were full but I did snatch a spot in the "Rock Cut" area (not far from the Alpine Visitor Center, the highest point on the road through the park at 12,183 feet) and took the short walk to the top (in the process confirming that I am woefully out of shape). It was much easier coming back down than it was going up! And, the weather couldn't have been better.

It was mid-afternoon when I left the park on U.S. 34 looking for a place to stay for the night. I turned off on a side road to check out the Sunset Point campground, alongside Granby Lake, in the Arapaho National Recreation Area. It was perfect - on the small side with only 25 sites, very peaceful and quiet - and most of the sites were along the shore of the lake with plenty of shade. It was so nice.

According to the campground host, there is a spring inside Rocky Mountain National Park, not far from the west entrance, that is considered to be the starting point of the Colorado River.  The river meanders out of the park, crosses under U.S. 34 then flows through Shadow Mountain Lake then into Granby Lake exiting at the Granby Dam just a little ways from the Sunset Point campground. I thought that was kind of cool. Soon I'll be traveling on that river!

 My campsite at Sunset Point Campground.

The view from my campsite, looking west.  Luckily, that big old cloud didn't hang around long! Sad to say, Sunset Point did not live up to it's name, there were no stunning colors this night.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Prelude to The Grand Adventure," Kinexxions, posted September 9, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/09/prelude-to-grand-adventure.html)