Grand Canyon – Day 1

You Want Me To Do What, Where?

Beware!  Potty humor ahead.

I am back. Actually I have been back for a few weeks, but I have been slow to get back to the technology world. I have tried to stay on “river time” as long as possible.

First a little background. I have wanted to see the Grand Canyon from the bottom, for about as long as I can remember.  On a trip as a child I had seen the Canyon from the  South Rim, but I thought that to truly grasp the size and the scope of the Grand Canyon you had to spend some time in the canyon, and explore from the bottom up. A rafting trip seemed like the perfect way.

There are many different types of commercial rafting trips you can take down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon. Many people take the large motorized trips. These rafts are large and carry up to 20 people and their gear.  The main benefit to these, in my opinion, is you can raft the whole Grand Canyon in 6 days.  The downside, is you have to listen to the motor the whole time you are on water. However, I found that the motors were surprisingly quiet.

We (my husband and I) chose to go the slower route. We went on a trip that used just oar boats and paddle boats. The company we went with was Canyon Explorations/Expeditions.  (Excellent Company!) Our group of 17 guests had 6 guides, 5 oar boats and one paddle boat. We were to spend 7 days rafting down the river, hiking the canyon and camping on the beaches. Unlike the motor trips, in 7 days we would only travel half the canyon, the upper half, from Lee’s Ferry to Pipe Creek.  We would then hike the 7 1/2 mile Bright Angel Trail from the river to the rim.

On the oar boats, the guide rows with the oars and the guests ride in front and enjoy the view. In the paddle boat, you have 1 guide paddling and guiding the boat and 6 guest who also paddle. The company also brought along a couple of one person inflatable kayaks (IK’s or duckies) for people who wanted some real excitement in the rapids.

Rafts at Lee's Ferry, Grand Canyon
Oar Boats, Lee’s Ferry, Grand Canyon

So, we arrive in Flagstaff, AZ the day before our trip is to begin, for orientation and our dry bags. One dry bag has to hold all your clothes and personal items for the length of the trip. Good thing they are pretty big! Even I managed to have extra room and I brought quite a few things I never wore. (Mostly cold weather clothing that I didn’t need because we had excellent weather for our trip!)  The next morning we are up and on the bus at 6am!  This was not going to be a vacation for sleeping in.  During the 2 1/2 hour ride to Lee’s Ferry we are served a sack breakfast of scones, yogurt, a banana and juice.  Very good and more than I could eat.

When we finally arrive at Lee’s Ferry we see our boats for the first time. They seem very small compared to the large motor boats that are also loading passengers.  While our gear and dry bags are being loaded onto the boats we get a quick safety talk and are fitted for life jackets.  6  brave people are chosen to start out on the paddle boat. (Hubby and I have heard that day 2 is a better day for paddling so we don’t volunteer.) We are encouraged to fill our water bottles and have our last visit to a bathroom “with porcelain”.  Then it is pick a boat, meet your guide, and we are finally on the Colorado River!

Now here is where it starts to get a little funny.  During our orientation talk we were told that the Grand Canyon is a desert. And because of the heat and extreme dryness  there were three things we needed to pay close attention to. Those three things were hydration, urination, and regulation.   We were told, and I quote, “you need to drink a lot, pee a lot, and regulate your body temperature.”  The details would be explained when we got to the river.

So here we are on the river, and I have my two quart water bottle filled with water. (Hydrate) I have on my sun hat and sunglasses. There are some clouds so the temperature is very pleasant. (regulate). What they haven’t explained, is if I am sitting on this small boat for the better part of the day, how am I to take care of step 2? I am pretty sure the small raft I am sitting on doesn’t have a porta-potty hiding somewhere!

So we spend maybe an hour rafting down the river, already the canyon is awesome. The water is clear and cold, the cliffs, while not particularly tall at this point, are still amazing.  We go through a few riffles, and an easy rapid, and then our guides tie all the rafts together, and, now that it is too late to back out,  we get our real safety talk!  They talk about what to do if (when) you fall in the water. They demonstrate how to pull someone out of the water into a boat. And then they get to what I now fondly call, “The Pee and Poop talk.”

Considering the number of people that travel down the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is amazingly pristine. For the whole 7 days of my trip, the only signs that other people had ever been there were footprints. No broken beer bottles, no fishing line, no trash at all, and no bathrooms, restrooms, pit toilets or privies. Obviously we weren’t going to hold it all in for 7 days!

Pee, we were told, goes in the river. Directly into the river. At night a bucket would be set up, but during the day, directly into the river.  (As the trip went on I began to think that in our pre-trip packet that had advice on preparing for our trip, they should have suggested that women work on their squatting technique!)  We were told that if we needed to go our guide would happily pull our boat over.  Then they tell us, that don’t always get privacy on the river.  You do the best you can, and then it is up to the other people in the group to GIVE privacy by looking the other way.  Being the privacy freek that I am, I am beginning to think maybe I will have to hold it for 7 days!

Poop, is another story. If everyone who visited the canyon used cat holes the whole place would soon smell like a well aged outhouse.  We were told that when we got to camp for the night, one of the first things to be set up would be the groover. (River talk for an ammo can where poop is deposited. If you are really roughing it you don’t bring a toilet seat and you end up with “grooves” on the back of your legs. I was happy we had a toilet seat!)  The groover is set up in a private spot, along with the pee bucket, and would be available until we broke camp the next morning. Whoa be to those who needed the groover during the day. There was a system available that included paper bags and carrying your own “stuff” until the groover was set up at camp, but  I  don’t know all the details because I made sure I never needed to use it! The ammo cans seal up nice and watertight, which was good because they would not be emptied until the trip was over and a sanitation company came to take care of them.

I am thinking Great! They get you to the point where there is no going back and then go into details. I am not at all sure how I will do with this interesting bathroom arrangement.

By lunch time I really have to go. I have been real good about drinking my water. I didn’t ask my guide to pull over, because I really didn’t see anyplace with any privacy at all.   We pull into this nice small beach, the guides start pulling lunch supplies off the lunch boat, and all the guests are looking for a place to pee. There is no place to pee. The river is right there, but the beach is small and it is plain to see there are no private spots. The guys, being guys, kind of shrug, face the river and go. The ladies are all standing around with looks of quiet desperation.  Finally we collaborate, all of us go to one side of the small beach, and while one pees, the rest form a circle to provide a small amount of privacy. I glance over at the guides and see they all look somewhat amused by this.

After hand washing and sanitizing we have an amazing lunch of sandwiches, fruit, cookies and chips. We eat standing over the river so the crumbs will fall into the water and not onto the beach. Apparently stinging red ants are a problem and we don’t want to feed them with our crumbs. Then it is back on the boats for more whitewater fun.

~to be continued~

5 thoughts on “Grand Canyon – Day 1”

  1. So these little holes you pooped in they really made it all smell like a outhouse… lol it’s kind of funny. I guess the pee in the water and poop in the wholes was to save time! Think how long it would had been stopping everywhere to pee and poop.

    This is a pretty cool trip Katalina I’ll have to check out the rest of your blog articles regarding this!

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