13 Experiences For 2013

 

#1.  Walk on a Glacier

Walker Glacier

On the Walker Glacier with the Alsek River in the background.

Positioned below the Tatshenshini and Alsek River confluence is the Walker Glacier.  Though the Walker Glacier has been receding continually since the first Colorado River & Trail Expeditions trip in the late 1970’s,  it still offers a relatively short hike to its base where it is possible to get on top of the glacier and hike on it amongst miniature ice rivers and waterfalls, deep blue crevasses, and huge boulders it has carried on its back for thousands of years.

 

#2.  Captain Your Own Boat 

Preparing for the rapids

Enjoying the calm between rapids on the Green River.

Join Colorado RIver & Trail Expeditions on a Green River rafting trip through Desolation Canyon and pilot your very own one-person or two-person inflatable kayak through over 50 mild to wild Class II and Class III rapids.  No prior experience is necessary, as the guides will give you instruction. Each day the rapids get bigger to match your increasing ability.

 

#3 Take a Leap 

Jumping at Elves Chasm

The Elves Chasm Leap

One of the most beautiful places in the Grand Canyon is Elves Chasm.  The chasm is full of ferns and a lovely waterfall in a setting that is as spectacular as any on Earth.  During the times the Colorado River is flowing muddy, Elves Chasm is especially inviting because of its cool clear water.  The only way to truly experience Elves Chasm is to swim through its inviting pool and climb up behind the waterfall where there is a perfect place to take a jump into the pool below.

 

 

#4.  Sleep Under a Blanket of Stars

Star Pattern Captured at Grapevine Camp in the Grand Canyon

For most of our human existence the stars have been our compass, our calendar, and our source of myths and legends.  Unfortunately, over the last 100 years the light pollution from cities and towns has made it hard to see the sky as our ancestors did for thousands of years.  A river trip down any of the rivers in the Southwestern United States is a great way to see the moon, stars, and planets in a setting free of light pollution.  The Colorado Plateau is recognized as one of the best star gazing areas in the United States because of how sparsely populated it is.

 

#5.  Enjoy a Thunderstorm in the Desert

Mikenna Clokey’s photo of Rimfalls above the Marble Canyon Dam Site

It is rare for it to rain in the desert, but when it does, it is incredibly exciting.  The Monsoon Season usually starts in mid-July and ends about the third week in August in the Colorado Plateau region.  The normal scheme of things is for the clouds to start building shortly after lunchtime leading into wind, thunder, lightning, and finally a downpour of rain in the afternoon. The storm is usually short lived and clears up by dinner time.  During the months of July and August the storms are usually a welcome cool down from the hot dry summer.  If one is really lucky they might get to experience rim falls.  Rim falls are waterfalls that pour off of the canyon walls into to river.  They are formed when it rains hard enough for the water not to soak into the desert soil.

 

#6.  Choose Real instead of Virtual 

frog on max arm

Trade Virual For Real Memories

In today’s society it is hard to escape the virtual world.  Everywhere you go, people are zoned in on their smartphone partaking in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and watching Youtube videos.  2013 is a year to get back to real friends, real family, real games, and real experiences.  The best way to do this is to go to a magical place where these devices don’t work.  Multiday rafting tours are an excellent way to accomplish this. Once a couple of days have passed, real adventures and memorable experiences will far outshine the virtual world.

 

#7.  Peruse an Ancient Gallery

Ancient Rock art in Canyonlands National park

Rock Art in Canyonlands National Park seen on a Cataract Canyon Rafting Trip

The ancient rock art left behind by the Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan Cultures of the Colorado Plateau is some of the most interesting and beautiful found anywhere.  No one can definitely say what the art means, but most agree it was an important part of ancient culture.  The rivers of Southeast Utah and Northern Arizona offer a great way to experience these magical, mysterious rock art panels.

 

#8.  Float into the Wild West

Abandoned Ranch Equipment at Rock Creek Ranch

 Desolation Canyon is in a remote area of Eastern Utah.  It is Cowboy Country in every aspect of the word.  Access to the area is the Green River, which offers the perfect highway to see the sites and ruins of the old West.  Desolation Canyon has been home to homesteaders, ranchers, wranglers, outlaws, and Native Americans.  All along the banks of the Green River are reminders of this, including herds of wild horses.  Highlights of the 5-day Desolation Canyon adventure include stopping at historic Rock Creek Ranch, hiking to an old bootlegger hideout, and stopping at Flat Canyon to view a spectacular petroglyph panel.

 

#9.  Watch the Grand Canyon’s Walls Rise and Fall

Watch the Canyon Walls Rise and Fall Raft all 278 Miles

To know the Grand Canyon is to travel through all 278 miles of its grandeur.  This means rafting the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead.  There is something special about seeing the canyon’s walls rise at the beginning of the trip and gradually fall away at the end.

 

 

 

#10. Un-runable Rapids? Then Helicopter Portage

Helicopter Picks up the First Cargo Net of Gear for Portage Around Turnback Canyon

Experience a thrilling helicopter ride over a section of Class VI rapids when you join Colorado River & Trail Expeditions on their Alsek Rafting Expedition August 4-15, 2013.  At Turnback Canyon the Tweedsmuir Glacier has pushed the river up against a solid wall of granite, creating a 5 mile section of whitewater that is un-runable for rafts.  The night before the portage, the rafts are de-rigged and prepared for portage.  Then the next morning the helicopter swoops in, picks up the gear and passengers, and transfers them below Turnback Canyon.  The portage takes about 10 helicopter trips.

 

#11.  Rejuvinate with a Power Nap

Rafters Power Nap After a Delicious Lunch

Maybe the best thing about getting away for a few days on a river trip is the ability to leave your troubles at home.  To have a mind that is worry free is one of a river’s great blessings. After a few days of living with the Earth and the wind playing with your hair, relaxation will come easy.  This relaxation will lead to the great pastime of taking a noon time power nap sprawled out on the sand after a yummy lunch!

 

#12.  Capture True Wilderness in the Soul

Wild Alaska Rafting

Mindy Mackay’s Chaco Tanned Foot next to a Grizzly Bear Track

On Colorado River & Trail Expeditions’ last Alsek River trip, the group saw over 30 Bears (Black and Grizzly), 2 Wolverines, a Wolf, Mountain Sheep, and countless Eagles.  The wildlife is the just the beginning! Besides the animals, there are glaciers, icebergs, craggy peaks, dense forests, giant unnamed lakes, and a huge river with a couple of Grand Canyon style rapids.  Sitting around a big fire in the midnight sun telling stories and soaking up the wildness does wonders for you soul.

 

#13. Do Something You Never, Ever, Ever,  Dreamed of Doing

Swimming in the Little Colorado River

 There are countless stories of people who had never camped a night in their life until they took their first river trip.  For most of them, the river trip was life-changing, and they claim it was the best thing that they ever did.  Many have come back for other trips.  So don’t let a fear of camping or living outside deter you.  The meals, camping equipment, and bathrooms are better than any campground, and the river is always there for washing your hair.  Besides, Colorado River & Trail Expeditions will take great care of you, as will the the Rivers and Canyons.

 

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions offers rafting trips through North America’s most beautiful locations.  To learn more about these incredible experiences visit their website www.crateinc.com or call 1-800-253-7328.

 

Kayaking the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Kayaking

Grand Canyon Kayaking

The first person to kayak the Grand Canyon was Alexander Zee Grant in 1941. There are photos of Grant’s boat at http://www.gcrivermuseum.org/river-heritage/the-boats/escalante/ Currently the Grand Canyon Heritage Coalition is gathering money to help fund a river history museum at Grand Canyon National Park. The museum will put on display all of the historic boats. The webpage has a lot of great information. The following Paragraph is taken directly from the Grand Canyon Heritage Coalition Website:

“Grant, in preparation, worked with Jack Kissner to produce a custom “sixteen-and-a-half foot, folding, rubber-covered battleship,” with “bulbous ends carved from balsa wood, and huge sausage-like sponsons along the sides, made from inner tubes of Fifth Avenue bus tires.” For added buoyancy he crammed in eight additional inner tubes and five beach balls. He named it the Escalante. Grant kayaked every rapid except Hermit and Lava Falls. In 1960 Walter Kirschbaum became the first person to paddle a rigid kayak through Grand Canyon, as well as the first to kayak every rapid without portage.”

Now to answer some common questions about kayaking in the Grand Canyon:

Why kayaking the grand canyon is such a special experience?

The Grand Canyon is the greatest place on Earth, and there is no better way to see it than via the Colorado River. The Colorado River winds 278 miles through the Grand Canyon. Along its way the river encounters over 150 named rapids, over 100 great off-river hiking opportunities, and at its deepest point you are about a mile deep in the gorge, surrounded by Vishu Schist rock that is almost 2 billion years old. Kayaking along the way is the icing on the cake. The river averages a drop of only 8 feet per mile, but 90% of that drop is in the rapids. This makes for big whitewater with nice recovery zones. Waves routinely reach 10-15 feet high and in Hermit, Granite, Crystal, Sockdolager, and Lava Falls they get even bigger. Everything about being right next to the water in a kayak is special. One of my fondest memories of kayaking in the Grand Canyon was running the last 10 miles of rapids solo. I just remember the sun glaring off the water before each rapid and having Johnny Cash songs spinning through my head, especially “Down, Down, Down into a burning ring of fire.” The whitewater is just part of the experience though, the camping, off-river hiking, and companionship of those on the river really add to the trip. I work for Colorado River & Trail Expeditions(www.crateinc.com), and we make a point of making the most of each day by getting up early and taking as many off-river hikes as possible. The other things that are great about the Grand Canyon is that it doesn’t have bugs and mosquitoes, it has an ideal climate for kayaking because the weather is typically hot and dry, and if you get hot, you can always take a dip in the cold 50 degree water. Camping along the river is luxurious, we bring cots for our guests, getting them off of the sand and away from the bugs. The night sky is another great thing about any Grand Canyon trip. The area is relatively free of light pollution and looking at the stars, moon, planets, and meteors from this amazing place is definitely a special experience. Through 10×50 binoculars you can see the Andromeda Galaxy which is a spiral galaxy about 2.5 million light-years from earth. During full moons you can see your shadow and I sometimes lead full moon hikes, taking in the night view and seeing animals you may not see during the day.

The best part of Kayaking the Grand Canyon?

It has to be facing Lava Falls rapid which is the biggest rapid on the Colorado River. Right before the rapid you can look up and see a small window on river right in the Basalt called the “eye of oden.” It is good luck to look at the eye. Then you are in the rapid. In a 37′ Motorized raft the rapid is exhilarating, in a kayak it is beyond words. The route one takes depends on water level. The right side generally gives the bigger ride, but many people who decide to run left lose their bearing and go straight into the “Ledge Hole.” On my last Grand Canyon trip this year we were eating lunch below the behemoth rapid when suddenly two 18′ Oar boats floated by us with their aluminum frames ripped off by flipping in the Ledge Hole. If you are running right you have to make it past the “Ledge Hole”, through the “v-wave”, stay off the “Black Rock” and survive the “Tail Waves.” If you run left you have to not lose your bearing on where the “Ledge Hole” is and make it past the “Chub Hole.”

And what sort of skill level you’d need to have – is there anyway a beginner could do it?

The Colorado River is a big volume river with gigantic waves and huge holes, but it has great recovery zones, and it is not really technical. Most of the rapids in Grand Canyon would be rated class III and Class IV with Lava Falls and Crystal possibly becoming class V at certain water levels. The first time I kayaked the entire Colorado through the Grand Canyon I did not have a lot of river experience, but I spent time in the pool perfecting my Eskimo roll until I could do a “Beer Roll.” A beer roll is where you roll over in your kayak without a paddle. You take an unopened beer or soda over with you. While you are upside down you open the can with one of your hands then slide it across the upside down kayak to the other hand. Then you roll the kayak without spilling your drink and enjoy your prize when you come upright. The Eskimo roll turned out to be very important on that first kayak run through Grand Canyon. I never swam, but I rolled the kayak multiple times in many of the rapids.

This article was written by Walker Mackay, a guide at Colorado River & Trail Expeditions

Colorado River

The "Cataract Canyon Coyotes" enjoying the highest water in 25 years on the Colorado River in 2011

2011 Brought the Highest Water in Cataract Canyon since 1984

Colorado River

The Colorado River is probably the most famous river in the world. The river flows 1450 miles starting at the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and flowing into the Gulf of California between Baja and mainland Mexico. The Colorado River drains 246,000 square miles in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states.

The most famous sections to raft the Colorado River are through the Grand Canyon, Cataract Canyon, and Westwater Canyon. Colorado River & Trail Expeditions offers rafting trips on these sections as well as on the Fisher Towers 1-day stretch near Moab, Utah. Each trip offers a unique rafting experience full of excitement, beauty, and fun.

Grand Canyon Rafting

The Colorado River whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon is probably the most famous stretch of river in the world. The Colorado River travels 277 miles from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry in Arizona. In order to cover all 277 miles of the canyon one needs a minimum of 8 days. Partial trips are available to or from Phantom Ranch and Whitmore Wash. The biggest rapids along the Colorado River in this stretch are Crystal, Lava Falls, Hermit, and Granite.

Cataract Canyon Rafting

Cataract Canyon is located in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. It is upstream of the Grand Canyon and downstream of Westwater Canyon. The Colorado River joins the Green River right before plunging into Cataract Canyon. Cataract Canyon offers rapids larger than the Grand Canyon at flows above 30,000 cfs and can become awe-inspiring at flows over 60,000 cfs. At lower flows the rapids are much smaller, but still fun. Though exciting, whitewater is just a small part of the experience of rafting the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. The sandstone landscape is unlike any other in the world and the mesas, buttes, and graben valleys offers plenty of exploration opportunities. Plan on spending 3-4 days to see this marvelous landscape. The most famous rapids on this stretch are the Big Drops.

Westwater Canyon

Westwater Canyon is located on the Colorado River near the Utah and Colorado border. The trip is short and sweet, covering 17 miles of rapids, sandstone cliffs, and precambrian rocks. Famous rapids along this stretch include Skull, Funnel Falls, and Sock-it-to-Me. This trip can be a destination as an overnight river trip or as part of the Canyon Country experience combining it with hiking, biking, or jeeping in the Moab or Green River, Utah area.

Colorado River Trip Near Moab

This one day stretch is very popular. The Colorado River flows underneath tall sandstone cliffs and over fun rapids. This is great trip for those short on time and is a fun introduction to rafting on the mighty Colorado.