Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grand Canyon Stories

There are lots of stories and details from the Grand Canyon I didn't get to in the main update. Here are a few, along with some really wonderful photographs taken by my fellow travelers, mostly Belinda, Bruce, and Ron.
Robyn making a creative pancake.

One morning toward the beginning of the trip, one of the guides, Gibby, approached me quietly. "I have something special for you," she said. It was pancake day, and at the end of the batter, the guides prepared a "pancock," which was so large it required two plates to balance. I'm not sure why I was blessed with this generous surprise, but given how much was there, I gladly shared with a few other ladies.

Ari blowing the conch to announce breakfast
Larry, one of our guides, at the hand-washing station. Hand-washing and sanitization were a huge priority.
Terri sampling the lunch buffet
Suzi, Ian, and Belinda on the dish line.
Looking over Ari's exquisite geologic guide, which shows every rock formation in the canyon in amazing detail.
Enjoying the fire. They had to float in all our firewood; we managed to make it last through all but the last night.

Gibby turned out to be quite the prankster. She had a strikingly realistic rubber rattlesnake that she brought out about halfway through the trip and surreptitiously placed near the "groover," our toilet. I'd gone to my tent to read by that point, but I heard the shriek when Suzi was unfortunate enough to discover it. Soon after, I spotted Martin sneaking past my tent with the rubber snake; he was going to throw it toward Kim and Steve's tent.

I guess he has a good arm, because Steve said it landed with a thud right in front of their door, quivering. Not having anything else at hand, Steve threw a jar of hand cream at the thing before realizing it was a fake.

Once the pranks started, they kept rolling. The last morning, I awoke before dark to the sound of the conch, which usually announced breakfast at around daybreak. I shook the drowsiness off and thought to myself, "They told us today would be a normal start--why so early?" When I checked my watch, I realized someone must've gotten hold of the conch and pulled a false wake-up call. A few people even got up, got dressed, and wandered into the kitchen looking for coffee. The culprit turned out to be Peter. Pesky Danes.

A photo of the upstream-most Grand Canyon, about where we put in at Lee's Ferry.
Our parked boats, with sun umbrellas.
The duckies
Me in the duckie, towing some stray mylar balloons I found floating in the river. Apparently, it's a boy.
The paddleboat grabbing a monster wave
Robyn making a badass face as she oars through a rapid
Peter joining the "badass face" club in a duckie.

Alexis, regrettably, did not make a badass face as we paddled through Lava Falls. Probably because WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE GOING BACKWARDS. I'm the last in the row closest to the camera.
Paddles up! This is how we celebrated every successful rapid run.
Lava Falls is the biggest and most difficult rapid on the river, rated a 9 or 10 out of 10 on the scale that measures these kinds of things. The paddleboat requires 6 paddlers, and there were 7 people who were willing to paddle through Lava Falls. We used various choosing games to narrow down the participants until it was between me and Ian for the last seat. Just as we were about to start rock-paper-scissors, Ari jumped in and introduced us to Cops, Pimps, and Ho's. Cops shoot pimps with a shooting motion, pimps slap hos with a bitch-slap motion, and hos blow cops with the appropriate motion. On the count of three, the participants turn around and make their chosen motion. Ian's a bit of a showman, so I knew he'd never miss the chance to do the ho motion. I probably could've pimp-slapped him, but it was too much fun to do a double ho. There ARE pictures, somewhere, but apparently my rivermates have been bashful about posting them. Eventually I won the seat.

Speaking of pimps and hos...
Just downstream from Lava Falls is a camp known as "Tequila Beach." Our guides ensured we lived up to the name. From somewhere on the boats, Gibby and Ari pulled out bag after bag of outrageous costumes. They got the girls to dress up first, and once the punch had been spiked, the dudes were willing to join in.
Elysha, me, Suzi, and Kim
Bruce, Terri, Belinda, and Suzanne, behind them.
Igor, who was never without is "WEED, California" hat, even atop a wig. It's a TOWN, you guys!
Igor's wife, Suzanne, as an excellent sea goddess. Or river goddess?
Now it's a party. Steve and Peter
At some point during the evening, I switched from my plastic snakeskin dress to a fuzzy tube top reminiscent of blue muppet fur. Then I squeezed a koosh-ball-like wig over my whole face. I saw a lot of flashes, so I know there are more pictures out there (again, with the shame!), but right now, I only have this one I took of myself. I was trying to figure out why people were freaking out so badly.

Oh. Obviously, it's the armpit hair.
More than one person opted for a nap rather than a hike the next day. But don't think we got too crazy. After most people had crashed, I and a last few stragglers were hanging out when Gibby looked at her watch. "You guys!" she shouted, laughing, "it's ten of nine!!"

Speaking of physical effects, about halfway through the trip, I noticed an odd phenomenon. It appears that my skin is a slightly darker color where it's been exposed to the sun. Has anyone else experienced this?

A steep beginning to a hike
A much better view of the chimney we scooted up. Terri ascending

Ian and I after climbing a tricky wade/ascent. The water was about waist-high, so I'm in nothing but my bathing suit bottoms, which may or may not be the same garment as my underwear.

A typical slot canyon. The puddles at the bottom look perfectly shallow, but...

Steve, after finally finding his waterproof camera at the bottom of a "puddle". He's standing, and he's probably 6'3".

Another wade and/or climb. Suzi in front, me on the wall.
Me exploring a side canyon

Terri bursting into song. She always had such a joyful face when she sang.

Me taking a swim in aquamarine Havasu Creek
Alexis sketching during a break
 At about the middle of the trip, we stopped at Phantom Ranch, the little resort village at the bottom of the canyon where you can hike or ride a donkey train in. They have a little store, and I got myself a chocolate stash. Chocolate is one of my hiking staples, but the guides didn't have much, probably due to melting concerns.

That night, I neglected to close my tent. I returned to a small chewed hole in my package of M&Ms. Assuming it was mice, I chucked the rest of them.

Then, as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I heard and saw what looked like someone pressing their hands on the outside of my tent. I actually called out, "Hello?" before looking out the flap and finding this:

Stock photo--he skittered away before I could take a shot.
It's a ringtail, a desert raccoon and notorious camp-food stealer. And also a darn cutie patootie. I heard it scampering around on top of my tent later that night, searching for more chocolatey deliciousness.

Another night, a couple of days later, I chose an odd campsite under a large rock overhang. It was low enough that I couldn't set up my tent, but it was dry and pleasant, so I slept under the stars, just a sleeping bag, the sleeping pad, and a tarp floor. I awoke in the middle of the night to the feeling of cat's paws walking across my back. Half-asleep, I didn't think anything of it. My cats walk across me at night all the time. Then I thought as I awoke more, "Wait a minute, I'm not in my apartment..." When I moved a little, whatever it was scampered off, but I like to blame the ringtail again.

My tent/laundry rack. We often camped just downstream of rapids, which meant coming into camp with wet clothes.
A spirited game of wiffle ball in Redwall Cavern, a truly enormous limestone cave with a powder-sand floor
Me in center field. Note how far away the infield is.
 That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure I have more stories, but they'll have to wait until my interminable laptop slideshow when I return.

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