liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Grand Canyon River Strategies: The Early Start

There's a strategy for getting down the river during
the spring windy season. The winds can howl in the spring, making it hard
to get downstream. They die down at night, start
gently in the morning, and increase through the day.
The trick for having the most time to relax on your
trip, is to get on the river early in the morning. If
you're good, you might be at your next camp by lunch.

I know, not everybody is an early riser by nature. To
those of you who love to lounge around in bed, my
apologies. Here are a few tricks to help the trip get
going before the winds increase, and get you to your
next camp early so you can then lounge around to your
heart's content. This strategy also will buy you time
to have layover days, when you don't have to get up at
all if you don't want to....and that's sweet.

If you don't adopt this strategy you will be
struggling to get to camp at 4pm, rowing against a
headwind, tired, and still not there. You will double
the amount of time and energy that you spend just
getting downstream, and loose opportunities to explore
side canyons and just sit watching the light move in
the canyon.

Here's the strategy:

When the group lands at a new camp, the first order of
business is unloading the boats. The boatmen will
untie things and hand them to someone on the end of
the boat, who hands them to someone on shore, who
hands them on up the bag line. Keep your river gear
on while you unload, because you will be wading in the
water. Keep the lifejacket on because it's padding if
you fall down while scrambling around carrying stuff.
Part of unloading is carrying the kitchen tables,
boxes, stoves and firepan and setting them up in the
new kitchen location.

After unloading pick a location and take off all your
river gear there. Clip your life jacket onto a
tamarisk so it won't blow away, spread your paddle
jacket on a rock (with another rock on top), and leave
all the stuff that you need on the river in that
location. Make sure this place is above the high
water line. The next order of business is finding
your personal drybag and picking a camp. Then hikes,
dinner, poker, and the rest. You'll be tired by dark.

This is the most important part: When you wake up,
pack your sleeping setup first thing. If you can't do
that without coffee in your system, go to the kitchen,
make or get coffee, and go back to your camp to pack
it up. When you come to breakfast, come to the main
group camp with your drybag and pad. It doesn't have
to be sealed yet, because you'll probably take off a
couple more clothing items when you change into your
river gear.

Don't be the ONE person whose tent is still drying in
the sun when the boatman says "I need your drybag".
You can easily dry things when you get to the next
camp, in the warmth of the afternoon.

Have a liesurely breakfast. Visit the groover. Take
care of everything you need to do including applying
the first layer of sunscreen and filling your water
bottles. When breakfast is over, it is time to pack
up all of camp and put it on the boats. This means
the kitchen, the groover, the tables, the firepan, the
garbage, etc etc etc.

Packing and carrying and loading take teamwork. Pick
something that you have half a clue about, and learn
how to do it. If you're good at packing the kitchen,
you'll probably be involved in it every morning. It
will go faster if you have a system. If you have a
system for something, teach someone else, so that if
you can't make it one morning the pack will still go

Take everything down to the boats, and set it on the
ground in front of the boat that it goes on. If
you're not sure which boat, leave it one level higher
on the beach, where it is in sight from the boats.
DON'T pile stuff on the boats. DON'T move other
people's personal bags, unless you tell them where you
put it. Once the boatman is on the boat and ready to
rig, they will start asking people to hand them things
from the beach. It's very helpful if you hang out
near the boats while you brush your teeth, ready to
hand something to any boatman that asks.

Hang out and be available during the rigging. If
someone is struggling to get something packed up in
time, offer to help. When it's time, put on your
river gear, seal up your drybag, and add it to the
pile in front of the boat where it goes.

If this strategy is employed the group can be on the
river by 7am easily. This sounds absurd until you
look at your watch and realize that we're not on
daylight savings time. Sunrise is near to 5am, and
there's twilight at 4-something. Sunset is early too,
so if you crash when it turns dark, you'll get plenty
of sleep. Feels good.

Hope this gives a good idea of how things work.

See You on the River
Tags: arizona, grand canyon, river, wilderness, wind

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