Celebrating Valentine Day with Stories of River Romance

The idea of starting a river rafting business was born in the hearts of Vicki Woodruff and Dave Mackay after they met on a Grand Canyon river trip in 1968. Vicki and her friend, Lucy, hiked down the Kaibab Trail on the morning of August 10, 1968, to join a rafting expedition down the Colorado River. It was something totally new and adventurous for the two LA girls who worked together at Los Angeles International Airport. When they arrived at the boat beach near Phantom Ranch, they were met by the Trip Leader, Dave Mackay, and were soon on their way down the river!

Vicki’s life was never the same again. She fell in love with the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Her journal entries tell about “the brightness of the stars at night,” and the “breathtaking scenery.” It was a “magical, mystical experience.” Each new day was an “exciting adventure of discovering beautiful places hidden away in narrow canyons” and “secret grottoes.” She and Dave got to know each other casually during the course of the trip, and she learned that he lived in Salt Lake City when he wasn’t running rivers, and that he was a student at the University of Utah. She told him she would give him a call when she was in Utah over the upcoming Christmas holidays and maybe they could get together for lunch or something.

Vicki Woodruff hiking down the Kaibab Trail to join the river trip Aug. 10, 1968.  Dave Mackay running the boat in the Grand Canyon Aug. 13, 1968.

Vicki Woodruff hiking down the Kaibab Trail to join the river trip Aug. 10, 1968. Dave Mackay running the boat in the Grand Canyon Aug. 13, 1968.

The Christmas get-together led to a long-distance”affair of the heart,” and Dave seemed to appreciate Vicki’s interest in all things Grand Canyon and Colorado River. He sent articles, suggestions of books to read, and told her river stories when they talked on the telephone. The following summer, Dave invited Vicki to go on a Grand Canyon trip and help out. Happily, she agreed and got the time off work so she could go early and help get the trip ready and then stay after to help clean up. To tell the truth, she was clueless in every way. She packed ALL of the canned goods in one big box so it weighed about a thousand pounds! The other guides who worked with Dave probably thought, “oh boy, here we go, can’t expect much from this girl!” But, they put up with her and she did better as the trip went on. Dave started telling her of his dream to start his own company. By the end of the trip, they were pretty sure they were met to run rivers together forever! And, it’s almost been that long! Forty-plus years since they ran the first Colorado River & Trail Expeditions trip in 1971. Vicki and Dave still run the company and show up for work every day. According to Vicki, “there’s never been a boring day! We still love what we do, and we still dream of our days and nights on the river.”

On one of CRATE’s early trips, Vicki’s sister, Iris, came along with her four kids. Daughter Holly, then 17, met Russell Reeder, who was a crew member on the trip. It was “love at first sight,” and it wasn’t long before they got married. They recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary, so they are almost as “old” as CRATE! Holly and Russell’s son, Zak Reeder, became a CRATE guide right out of high school and worked 15 years. Even though he now has a “real” job, Zak comes back to run trips for us every now and then.

Over the years, running rivers and canyoneering have also played an important roll in the lives of CRATE guides. Even when they “retire” or “grow up” and get “real” jobs, they can’t seem to get the river water out of their veins. Take for instance, former guide Abel Nelson, who met his wife, Erin, on a Grand Canyon trip in 1990.Abel and Erin Marriage Announcement Picture Abel and Erin Marriage AnnouncementAnd then, there’s Laurel Worden and Shawn Rohlf who worked a good many years at CRATE before settling down and starting a family. As a committed couple, they didn’t see a reason to “formalize” their marriage until this past summer, when they “got hitched in the ditch.”  (The bottom of the Grand Canyon on a river trip.) They couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful or romantic cathedral for their ceremony. Their “vehicle” was appropriately decorated, labeling them “Just Married.”  And the whole thing was sealed with a kiss at sunset.Laurel and Shawn Wedding Ceremony_DSC_0083Laurel and Shawn GC River Wedding Laurel and Shwan Sunset_DSC_0128Some CRATE “couples” actually met each other while working at CRATE. According to the gossip of the day, when Ashley Knight showed up at the Green River warehouse to start her guiding career, all of the young and single boatmen were “smitten.” Jeff Cole was the lucky guide who stole her heart. After their marriage, they settled down to “normal” life in Oregon and are now the proud parents of baby Ruby (could she be named after Ruby Rapid in the Grand Canyon??)

Ashley Knight (center front) and Jeff Cole (right) on the river with Ariana, Kimo and Adam Teel.

Ashley Knight (center front) and Jeff Cole (right) on the river with fellow guides Ariana Brechtel, Kimo Nelson and Adam Teel.  June 2000.

Jeff and Ashley Cole with baby Ruby, Christmas 2013.

Jeff and Ashley Cole with baby Ruby, Christmas 2013.

 John Toner and Kristen Sorenson met each other while working at CRATE. Kristen is the CRATE office manager and John is our senior-most guide. When John realized she was the best swamper he’d ever had, he started sending her flowers. That will melt a girl’s heart, for sure. They were married in Fredonia, Arizona, “the center of the universe” (according to John) and the location of of CRATE’s Grand Canyon headquarters.  John knew Kristen was a keeper when she suggested they celebrate their wedding night in his sheepcamp cabin.

Kristen and John Formal Wedding Picture J and K Kristen and John Honeymoon SuiteAlthough Annie and Chris Parks didn’t exactly meet while working at CRATE, they did meet on the river when Annie Kester was working for another outfitter. We were all happy when she joined the CRATE Crew the next summer. Annie and Chris logged a lot of hardworking years at CRATE while they both finished college and Chris finally got a “real” job as a mechanical engineer. They were married among fields of wildflowers in a remote area near Haines, Alaska, home of Chris’ parents and headquarters of CRATE North.

The Wedding Ceremony of Annie Kester and Chris Parks

The Wedding Ceremony of Annie Kester and Chris Parks

Annie and Chris Parks!

Annie and Chris Parks!

Bill Trevithick was one of the “initial” guides at CRATE when the company was starting out. He taught several generations of CRATE youngsters how to work hard and run a boat safely down the river. Along the way,he met Sue on the river and they began a long-term friendship that grew into a serious relationship and finally (!) to a happy marriage.

Bill and Sue on a Grand Canyon side hike in 2006.

Bill and Sue on a Grand Canyon side hike in 2006.

Bill and Sue Wedding

Mr. and Mrs. Trevithick

Running the river is a big thing in the life a guide. It becomes a part of his or her identity, and most guides never quite give it up. Mike Sneed wanted to share the river trip experience with his fiance, Leslie, before they tied the knot. It’s always a good idea to let a girl or guy know before they marry you, that they will have to share you with the river.

Mike and Leslie on a CRATE trip through the Grand Canyon. Yep! She liked it!

Mike and Leslie on a CRATE trip through the Grand Canyon. Yep! She liked it!

Emile Eckart worked as a CRATE guide until he decided upon a career in the United States Air Force. He came back to swamp trips when he was on leave, and when he met Meredith, he wanted to show her the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon before they formally wed. While on the river trip in August 2013, they were “married” at Deer Creek Falls by the trip leader, “Captain Mackay.” In December, Emile and Meredith followed up with a more formal ceremony at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Deer Creek Falls ceremony in Aug. 2013

The Deer Creek Falls ceremony in Aug. 2013

The "formal" wedding on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

The “formal” wedding on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

Walker Mackay didn’t meet Mindy on the river, but he knew she was the girl for him when he took her down the Colorado as his swamper in May 2003. They were married a short time later in November 2003 and chose a place on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to say their vows. Friends, family, and the Crate Crew gathered on the rim above Buck Farm Canyon, where the Colorado River could be seen far below. The marriage was blessed by a California Condor (#22) that came sweeping up from the depths of the canyon and flew over the gathering.

Walker and Mindy Mackay wedding ceremony,

Walker and Mindy Mackay wedding ceremony,

condor couple

The Crate guide family with Walker and Mindy Mackay at their wedding on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Crate guide family with Walker and Mindy Mackay at their wedding on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Front L-R: Mike Sneed, Mary Allen, Mikenna Clokey, Latimer Smith,John Toner, Ashley Knight Cole. Back L-R: Zak Reeder, Shawn Rohlf, Loren Sorenson, Mindy Heyborne Mackay, Walker Mackay, Marc Smith, Kimo Nelson, Jeff Cole, Chris Parks, Annie Kester, Sybrena Smith, Mel Kirkland, and Kristen Sorenson.

It’s fitting that we conclude this blog post with a note about the most recent CRATE Romance.  Bonnie Mackay, daughter of Vicki and Dave and sister to Walker, is also a river running gal who met her fiance, Adam Hiscock, in a chance encounter at Deer Creek Falls while on a Grand Canyon rafting trip. Bonnie was working a CRATE trip and Adam was swamping on a trip with Grand Canyon Expeditions. There must be magic at Deer Creek to bring them together at that particular place and time. Now they are engaged to be married in October!

Bonnie and Adam jumping for joy as they announce their forthcoming wedding.

Bonnie and Adam jumping for joy as they announce their forthcoming wedding.

As long as there are rivers to run and people who love rivers, the romance will continue. Thirty years after his adventurous journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers with Major John Wesley Powell in 1871 (Powell’s second trip), Frederick Dellenbaugh wrote a book titled “The Romance of the Colorado River.”  In the preface he wrote, “I shall never cease to feel grateful. It gave me one of the unique experiences of my life. Now, these thirty years after, I review that experience with satisfaction and pleasure, recalling, with deep affection the kind and generous companions of that wild and memorable journey.”

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing Availability on May Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacations

A photo from David Wille taken in the Lower Grand Canyon.

A photo from David Wille taken in the Lower Grand Canyon.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions has announced availability on two May Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacations.  The trips are scheduled for May 10-12 and May 22-24, 2014 and are all-inclusive from Las Vegas, NV.  The trips includes two days of whitewater rafting and one day at a working ranch.  “May is one of the best times to take this particular trip,” commented 20 year Grand Canyon river guide Walker Mackay.

The Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacation includes all meals, camping gear, and transportation.  The trip begins with a scenic flight from Las Vegas to the Bar 10 ranch on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Ranch activities includes horseback riding, skeet shooting, and ATV rides.  Evening accommodations include the option to stay in a covered wagon.  While at the ranch guests are fed grass fed beef raised at the ranch.  Nightly entertainment includes a variety show put on by the working ranch hands and cowboys.

The second day of the trip starts with a helicopter ride from the rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River.  At the Colorado River participants are fitted with life jackets and given an orientation about safety and protecting the Grand Canyon.  The next two days are spent rafting the whitewater of the Colorado River, hiking, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  Camping takes place on Cots along the river.  Participants are fed healthy meals riverside from the camp kitchen. Highlights of the rafting section of the trip include hiking to beautiful Travertine Grotto and running 232 mile rapid where it is believed the honeymoon couple of Glen and Bessie Hyde disappeared in 1928.

The trip ends with a Jet Boat ride from Separation Canyon, the point where three of John Wesley Powells men decided to leave the Powell Expedition of 1869, to Pearce Ferry.  Points of interest viewable from the Jet Boat include the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the Bat Caves.  At Pearce Ferry an air conditioned Van or Coach will be waiting to take participants back to Las Vegas.

Vacationers interested in learning more about Colorado River & Trail Expeditions’ Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacation can visit www.crateinc.com/raft-trips or call 1-800-253-7328.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, a leading outfitter in all-inclusive multi-day rafting trips, has been under original ownership since 1971.  They are a small, family owned business, with 20 employees who prides themselves in customer relations and introducing high quality wilderness experiences.  They operate in the Grand Canyon, Utah, and Alaska.

 

Planning for a Multi-Day Desolation Canyon Trip

Looking for peaceful destination simply to unwind? Then look no further than Desolation Canyon. Have you not heard of the place before? This is one of the remotest spots of the popular Colorado Plateau, surrounded with picturesque landscapes and natural sceneries.

This area even becomes more stunning when you encounter the Green River that cuts through the Tavaputs Plateau. Desolation canyon is enriched with cottonwood trees and a wildlife. Additionally, the awe-inspiring sandy beaches make the place perfect for camping along the river.

So what about planning for a multi-day Desolation Canyon trip?

Multi-day trip 

This place offers great opportunity if you are looking for a 5 to 6 day river rafting trip on the Green River.  Besides the wonderful red rocks, Desolation Canyon also gives you various opportunities to view famous historical sites, hiking to beautiful places, and much more. 

Enjoy like never before, only at the Desolation Canyon.

 

Green River Raft Trips and Ray’s Tavern

Ray's Tavern Neon Sign Glows Brightly

Ray’s Tavern Neon Sign Glows Brightly

If you have ever been to Green River, Utah and not eaten at Ray’s Tavern consider yourself deprived.  Ray’s is famous for their hamburgers and home cut fries.  They also have a great selection of other grilled foods including Chicken and Pork Chops.  In the Colorado River & Trail Expeditions family it is customary to stop at Ray’s after our rafting trips and whenever we have a large contingent in Green River.  Usually the place is packed with over 100 people in the small inside dining room and the outside picnic benches.  It has been in Green River since 1946.

If you are coming on a Desolation Canyon river trip or Westwater Canyon Trip make sure to plan on a night at Ray’s before or after your river adventure.  You won’t be disappointed.  Rays is located at 25 Broadway.

Another great time to visit Green River and Ray’s Tavern is during Melon Days.  One year the CRATE crew was around town after a fall Cataract Canyon.  We hand carved a Melon Helmet and headed to the celebration.  It was a fun night and the Melon helmet was a hit.  Everyone in Ray’s wanted a chance to wear it.

Via Magazine Highlights Green River

Via, the magazine of AAA recently did a rafting trip with Colorado River and Trail Expeditions on the 1-day section of Gray Canyon.  The river trip was in conjunction with a weekender article about heading to Green River, Utah and exploring the area.  Other attractions listed in the article included the “Good Water Rim Trial”, “Crystal Geyser”, the “John Wesley Powell River History Museum,” and “Goblin Valley State Park.”

The trip leader on the trip was Alex Jensen and is quoted in the article calling Green River and Gray Canyon “a special place that no one knows about.”  We think Alex’s description of the area is right on.  Green River is a special place that is often less crowded and overlooked due to the popularity of nearby Moab.  The area has a remote beauty to it and the Green River 1-day section is as good of a river trip as the Colorado River 1-Day section above Moab.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions generally meets our guests in Green River, Utah for their trips on the Green River as well as many of our Westwater Canyon river trips on the Colorado River.

Photo Contest will end at the end of November

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions has been running a photo contest this entire year.  The photo contest has three categories: people, scenery, and river.  The winners of the photo contest are chosen based upon their popularity on social media.  The winner of each category will receive a multi-day rafting expedition on through one of Utah’s Desolation, Cataract, or Westwater Canyons.  The Grand Prize winner will receive a river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon in 2014 with acclaimed photographer Tom Till.

The contest will end at midnight on November 30, 2013 and the winners will be announced shortly after.  If you have a photo in the contest be sure to promote your chances of winning by getting everyone you know to vote for your photo.  If you don’t have any photos in the contest make sure to go to the Colorado River & Trail Expeditions website and browse the incredible artwork on display and be sure to vote for your favorites.

Backbend by Marsha Gale

Backbend by Marsha Gale

Rafting

Rafting by definition is “the sport or pastime of traveling down a river on a raft.”  Rafting to us is much more.  It is the thrill and excitement of rapids.  It is the great bonds you make with fellow river rats.  It is the journey to discover nature and get back to your roots of wildness.  It is the beauty of side canyons and the sounds of wildlife.  It is more than one could ever put into words.

A multi-day rafting trip is the ultimate getaway.  Not only do you have a chance to disconnect from the strains of modern technology, but you also get to relax and bond with friends, family, strangers, and yourself.  If you have been thinking about doing a rafting trip this is the year.  Colorado River & Trail Expeditions has some great trips planned in 2014 including an archaeological based rafting trip through Desolation Canyon.  We are also planning on heading north to Alaska to run the Alsek and Tatshenshini rivers.

River trips are nice because once you arrive at the meeting point for a trip you don’t have to worry about anything until the trip ends.  All of your food, and sleeping accomodations are taken care of.  Your only requirement is to sit back and enjoy the place.

 

2013 High Flow Experiment Scheduled For November 11-16 in the Grand Canyon

The Department of the interior will conduct a high flow experimental release next week from Glen Canyon Dam.  This is consistent with the High-Flow Protocol and is related to the sediment input that has occurred below Glen Canyon Dam.  Those on our “Epic” September rowing trip through the Grand Canyon know the area received an incredible amount of precipitation with the Paria River and Little Colorado River bringing over 5000 cfs each into the system at one time during September.  Supposedly there is about three times  more sediment in the system this time compared to the last high flow experiment in 2012.

Water released for high flow experiment in 2012 from the Bureau of Reclamation

Water released for high flow experiment in 2012 from the Bureau of Reclamation

This management of the Dam is done to restore the beaches and habitat in the Grand Canyon.  The idea is to bring sediment up from the bottom of the river and deposit it on the sides in the form of beaches.  Before Glen Canyon Dam the Colorado River would flood every spring and leave behind huge amounts of sand as the water receded into summer and fall.  This would clear off the vegetation below the high water line and clean the sand on the beaches.  The hope of these high flow experiments is to recreate these conditions.  These conditions still happen naturally above Glen Canyon Dam in Canyonlands National Park and Cataract Canyon.

The real difference between the historic floods and these man made floods is the volume of water and length of time of the flood.  A natural spring flow in the Grand Canyon would regularly bring 80,000 to 125,000 cfs while the scheduled man made flood this time around is expected to peak at 37,200 cfs and last about 96 hours.  Another thing that puts a big damper on beach building is the loss of sediment in the Colorado River due to Glen Canyon Dam.  As Lake Powell slows the water of the Colorado River the sediment all drops out.  This is why below Glen Canyon Dam the water comes out clear and cold..,,

Our experience on the river has been incredibly beautiful beaches immediately after one of these flooding events.  Unfortunately as the season goes on the beaches tend to return to their original size or even smaller due to the fluctuating dam flows, monsoons, and natural weather conditions.  This loss of sediment is a huge problem and we commend those who have worked so hard to get this adaptive management in place.  As the population continues to rise in the southwest the demand on the water is increased every year we hope new solutions will continue to arise and the Grand Canyon as a resource will always be protected.

 

Fall Grand Canyon Rafting Project-Painting Side Tubes

After the Grand Canyon rafting season ends it is time to start preparing for next April.  One of the projects that we undertake is the maintenance on our side tubes.  This entails fixing any problems and painting the tubes.  We do this work In Fredonia, AZ aka the “Center of the Universe.”

fall rafting projects

The Side Tubes for Grand Canyon Rafting

The first step is to take the tubes out of the warehouse and inflate them outside of our building.  Once the tubes are inflated we check to see if any of the tubes are leaking air or need rubber work.  Then we fix any and all problems by sanding and glueing patches back onto the tubes.  It is amazing how well these tubes hold up.  They are built incredibly well.  Most of our sidetubes were built by the Uniroyal Tire company.  The biggest problem this year seemed to be the grommet patch on the front of the nose of the tube that we lace to our raft and use as a step for our whitewater rafting guests.  Some of the grommets had been pulled out by the incredible force that is placed on these grommets as large waves hit and try to separate the sidetube from the raft.

After the patching and glueing was done it was time to start sanding the old loose paint off of the tubes.  This is a time consuming task but sometimes it is nice to do a project that you don’t have to think about too much and can just let your mind wander.  Once the tubes are  sanded down we have to mask them so we don’t get paint on the places we don’t want.  Then it is time for the painting.  This is the best part of the project.

Painting the side tubes goes quickly and it is great to see how good the tubes look.

The South Rim and The Power House Building

The last couple of days we have been at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for our annual Grand Canyon National Park Concession meetings.  It was good to see all of our fellow river outfitters and National Park personnel.  Time was spent reviewing our past season and what to expect for next year.  We always feel lucky to travel to the South Rim and peer down into the abyss of the Grand Canyon.  It is a spiritual experience and it reminds us of the exciting and fun times rafting along the Colorado River.

At the head of the Bright Angel Trail there is a new, very nice area complete with bathrooms to wait for fellow hikers.  The Kolb studio was showcasing some amazing paintings of the Grand Canyon many of which were for sale.  If you get to the rim definitely check out the artwork on display.  Other highlights included waking up to dusting of light snow and running along the rim of the Grand Canyon along the “Trail of Time.”

Another thing we got to check out was the “Power House” building.  There is talk to take this incredible old building, which used two Fairbanks-Morse continuous-duty Type D Diesel generators to supply power to the South Rim, and transform it into a museum for art or historic boats of the Grand Canyon.  The building has a lot of character with high ceilings and lots of windows.  The generators are still there as well as the power switches with their original labels:  Indian Garden Pump; El Tovar; Fire Pump; Bright Angel Lights and Power; USNPS; Train Yard; Turbine Cooling Tower; Power House.  On the other side of the building is the old Ice House where ice was made to supply the lodges and restaurants.  It will be exciting to see what becomes of the Power House over the next couple of years.