Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Big Ditch


It's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but the Mank Crew remains busy, busy gettin' life done day after day.  Most recently, we made life conform to an entirely too short 15 day trip down the Grand Canyon.  The trip got mighty Western in water, scenery and campfire tales of lore.  Here Diane and I roll in style down to the get-in:
So the first days, I thought to myself, "Damn, this place is enormous."  Yet, I had no idea exactly how enormous it would get as things floated by early in the trip.  
I must say that rafting is a sport near and dear to my heart.  Believe it or not, I guided in infamy near Buena Vista for years.  I still know how to keep the black side down:
But never fear, the Mank Crew remains on the attack and we even found a 1st Known Descent right on the shores of the Grand Canyon*.  Chris stuck'er first and I liked his line enough to giv'er myself.
*If you'd like to claim running this drop first, feel free to complain to the editors.  We named the drop "Crikin' in the AZ."
Like I was saying earlier, this place is enormous.  Oppressively, devastatingly enormous.
A trip through the Grand features the most amazing conversation pieces around the living room.
There's something so nostalgic about rafts tied up in a beautiful eddy.  Just thinking about it and I can't get the smile off my face.
The canyon plays so many tricks on your senses with the subtle smells and unfathomable distances, but I liked the way it messed with the light reaching your eyes.  I've visited Vegas, but I never seen lighting like this.
It's hard to imagine a better place to spend the night - stars, good friends, a warm fire on the beach and a touch of whiskey sloshing in the brain (drink responsibly please).  After all it was New Years - 2009!
Ever heard of a Grease Bomb?  I first learned of these while standing under the stars on an Arkansas River beach.  Of note, that fire pan is almost 2 feet off the ground.  Licensed professionals only please.  
I definitely had time on this trip to sit back, enjoy, and realize that the major stresses in my life are a bit trivial in the scheme of things.  "Stressin' the stress free."
You know, it's really unnerving how big we're talking here.  Take the biggest points in Cataract or triple the biggest ones in Westwater.  Now extend those cliffs for every bit of 226 miles - you've probably still not fathomed how big this place is.  
Note the full size cottonwood trees in the foreground.  This shot also brings up a point.  The only thing people seem to want to know about a Grand trip in January is "Was it cold?"  Does that have any bearing on whether you'd go or not?  It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Anyway, my answer is no to both questions.  But I will admit that I was wearing a drysuit or down jacket at all points in time and Diane never changed out of all 5 of her layers.  However, there was generally snow on the horizon at the relatively few points where we could see above the first 1,000 feet of vert.  I will also mention that for months up until the put-in date, I discussed with my journal the exact extent of the pain and suffering I was expecting.  But at least I managed to convince our fabulous cook, Jace, to bring 20lbs of bacon.  Then, I never doubted our survival even once.  
The water in the Grand also had it's own magic.
And enormity.
Chris worked a little magic on the water, too.  I will say the rapids were interesting.  We hardly took any pictures of them, which I think is pretty telling of the Grand.  The rapids will flip rafts, but you come for the superb hiking and scenery.   However, take caution by making sure that someone rides the bull on your raft through Lava to "giv'er the horns."  Otherwise, you may risk disaster.  I think the eddies, whirlpools and oceans on the river were the most interesting features.  Our only kayak swim came on an eddy line...
This shot is looking out of Red Wall Cavern.  I can't imagine a more beautiful, breathtaking, undercut, eddy wall of doom.  Like everything in life, it all depends on flow...
To get an idea of the grand, imagine this scene for the entire 15 days.  A quote from my Grand Canyon Journal reads, "The peace of this place - just the sluggish ebb and flow of life down here - is overwhelming, crushing, maybe even suffocating."  
Like my boys Gov't Mule would say, "On the banks of the deep end.....you gotta hold on to a piece of dry land."

After a few days on the river, the group gets a bit goofy.  By the time you're drying boats at the git-out beach, the group has just lost it.  I wanted to give a shout out to Christian for TLing one hellva trip.  At this point, I should also take credit for winning the World Cup Grand Canyon Dirtoff Championships.  Tom was tragically disqualified from the competition on day 8 after accidentally getting soap on his skin.  
Most of these shots (the good ones) were taken by Tom Janey, seen here in self portrait.  Ladies, can you believe that this guy is currently single?  Holla at your boy!



And my parting shot for those fans (especially lotsawater) of my very favorite kayak company:  Jackson Kayak.


5 comments:

Jim said...

Aaaahhhh!
Very nice photos and commentary. Went down myself in Sept and ache to see those shots.

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