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Grand Canyon 2018-Famagogo self-support trip

Winter in North America can be a challenging place for a kayaker, but if you like big adventures there is one place where the water is always flowing and the rapids are giant. This is a place surrounded by hundreds of miles of scorched earth so dry that it splits open as if to suck in any moisture like a giant funnel. The Grand Canyon has been a long time destination for the paddlers in the know. Winter trips have been guarded as the last season you could easily obtain a river permit for this 280 mile paddling smorgasbord. In recent years the word has gotten out to the masses and now winter permits are harder than ever to obtain but still easier than any other time of year.

I always apply for the Grand Canyon River Permit Lotteries – they have one main lottery in February that awards most of the launch dates for the year to private boaters (commercial launches are a whole other entity). The first permit I won took me 8 years of applying and when my name was finally pulled, I felt like I had won the Power Ball. Permit winners can’t always commit to the dates they won and occasionally surrender their launch date. This creates a small supply of cancellation permits that become available over the course of the year. Some of these dates might only allow you a few days to prepare and be at the Lee’s Ferry boat ramp ready to launch. After the normal monthly or so application process for cancelation permits I was notified that I didn’t win, just like countless other times. So we planned to head to the PNW…another paddling dream spot. But while in Colorado to paddle on the Colorado River on New Years Day (yeah, I know odd, but read more here). My cell phone rings and it’s Ranger Matt in the Grand Canyon river office. He asks if I still want to do a trip and if Jan 18th or 19th cold work? In a fraction of a second I agreed to take the date thinking I only have two weeks and two days to get ready and be in Arizona.

Since we travel full time in our Winnebago with most of our kayaks we were mostly ready to go. I just had to drive to Lee’s Ferry, just a hop from western Colorado. Kathy, Abby and I each had our JK Traverse’s on the roof ready to go as we had other trips planned for the spring. All we needed was to get food, fuel and start packing our Watershed dry bags.

My other trips have all been in winter and were graced with very mild weather leaving me with the impression that winter is the very best time to be in the Grand Canyon, with days getting warmer and longer as you move west in the canyon. January 19th was the most wintery launch date I’d had so far. As I watched the weather forecasts I saw highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the 40’s…ideal by my standards. The day we were shuttling to Lee’s and were totally committed to the gear we have packed, I see a cold front coming in dropping the highs and lows by 30 degrees or so. Freezing at night and just above for highs on many of the days for the first week. My decision to pack my 20 degree sleeping bag was heavy on my mind. Luckily Abby brought her zero degree but Kathy brought her 20 on my recommendation that I didn’t want to be too hot at night. This decision made for a few nights of sleeping in all our paddling and camp clothes. Live and learn and we survived but learned a lesson we had been taught before on mountaineering trips. But it still hurt knowing that we had amazing brand new 800 fill power zero degree Thermarest bags sitting in the RV that was 400 miles away.

We wanted to keep this trip to a smal,l tight group with similar goals of self supporting through the canyon. With the ability to move fast and light when needed, or stop on a dime and check out something interesting like a side canyon or waterfall. Emily Jackson and Nick Troutman have been wonderful traveling partners all over North America and we know they would love time in the canyon as much as we would.

Everything we needed for our planned 15 days in the canyon had to fit in our 9-10 foot kayaks.
We chose the Jackson Traverse for this trip. It really is the perfect blend of comfort, speed and features ideal for a Grand Canyon trip. I’d done another kayak self-support trip in 2014 and knew I would love this boat for this trip. A few things that really make the Traverse great for loading gear daily is the large oval hatch in the stern. It also has a drop down skeg that makes the boat track straight in boils and on the flats that are so common in the canyon. Nick, Kathy and I were in the 10 foot version while Emily and Abby paddled the 9 foot Traverse. Abby weighs only 113 lbs and she paddled the Traverse 9 with confidence and precision. What takes adjustment is the weight of all the gear in your boat. The added momentum makes it a hole/wave punching battering ram. But it will make the boat harder to accelerate and turn. This isn’t a problem after you figure out that you need to start your moves a little earlier to end up online. After 20 miles I felt very comfortable with the Traverse.

Here are a few items that I have used on my three past Grand Canyon trips:
-A tarp is so helpful for sleeping and sorting gear on sandy beaches. I love the canyon but hate sand…
-Platypus Gravity fed water-filter, super easy water filtration.
-Therm-a-rest X-Therm sleeping mattress, packs small and folds out to a warm plush place to sleep.
Therm-a-rest Oberon 0 degree sleeping bag (I wish I’d brought this but it was in my RV 400 miles away)
Watershed Chattoga, Ocoee and Largo dry bags. It always sucks sleeping in a soggy sleeping bag, enough said. Get a Watershed! I had 8 watersheds on this trip total.
Kokatat Idol Dry Suit, so nice being able to hike in my pants but take off the dry top. The most versatile expedition dry suit out there.
Kokatat Habanero liner, I didn’t take this off for 12 days straight. sleeping in it added 10-15 degrees to my sleeping bag with no extra weight.
Seals Pro-Rand skirt. super bomber and dry, I love these skirts.
Epic Bars and Olives (olives in a bag), High protein and just a good savory snack while floating the flats or on a hike.
BackPackers Pantry dehydrated meals, These taste so great and are very rugged with waterproof packaging that make for little trash after used. Loved the Pesto Salmon!
Goal Zero Venture 70 & 30 batteries with Nomad 20 solar panels x2, these kept our Gopro, Garmin Inreach and headlamps charged from the sun.
Garmin In Reach Explorer+, Way better than a sat phone and enabled sharing our journal to social media, navigation and an emergency personal locator if something went way wrong.
Black Diamond Mega Mid tarp tent, Light, packs to about the size of a cantaloupe and sleeps 4. A wonderful shelter for any self support adventure.

We love journaling each night on a canyon trip. It’s a great way to focus thoughts and re-live our trip for years to come. on our last two trips we have been publishing these daily entries on our Instagram and Facebook while in the canyon using our Garmin Inreach Explorer+ satellite messenger. We are only able to send outgoing messages to social but find many people enjoy and find inspiration from these posts. Our first mission as an adventurous family is to inspire other families to spend time on their own adventures and I hope these posts show others that they can do really wild trips with their families and children.

Below I have composed our journal entries by day starting on day one January 19, 2018.

I woke up this morning after a pretty cold night at the Lee’s Ferry boaters campground. It felt a lot like my first trip down the canyon. A self-support kayak trip, where I must pack everything I need for 15 days in my boat. I was tired of making lists and buying stuff I might need and planning for every contingency. It was time to actually slide in the river and go. But this time is was different, this time Kathy and Abby are with me. Each in their own @jackson.kayak Traverse, loaded to the gills just like mine. Our little group of 5 will move light and fast through this Grandest Canyon.
It’s different paddling boats that are this heavy. They have so much momentum, they plow through everything. But once you get that momentum moving in one direction it can be hard to change directions. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a great thing. I’m going to take as many of the big waves as possible and let my momentum push me through.
I was a little worried how Abby would do with such a heavy boat. But she didn’t complain about this all day and the same was true for Kathy. They have had so many different experiences as paddlers (WW, play-boating, sea kayaking, kayak fishing & SUP) I think it helps this transition.
This is my third Grand Canyon Trip. The second that I have won a permit. I’m feeling very comfortable here. I’m starting to get to know the canyon maybe just a little. I find myself talking about what’s at river mile this and that and telling historical stories I learned on a past trip. This place is so special. I want to see more and share what I have seen before.
Our little group of 5 is really efficient. We made good time today averaging 9 minutes miles. Not to say we aren’t looking around a lot too, but these boats just want to run and we have enjoyed it. We are camped tonight at 18.5 ledge camp. This was our 2nd night’s camp last year.
At camp we pumped water, set up camp and ended the day around the campfire eating @backpackerspantry freeze dried dinners out of their own bags. Not as plush as the offerings from last year’s two giant coolers, but still very satisfying and quite good.
It’s almost

Day 2 – Kathy
I woke up a little nervous this morning. My memories of miles 20-29 from last year’s trip down the Grand Canyon left me a little apprehensive about whether I would be able to handle a heavy laden self-support boat through the massive waves and boils that riddle the gorge. But as we dropped into the first rapid of the Roaring Twenties I couldn’t help but smile. Nick and Peter took the lead, bobbing and weaving through the chaos of the rapids, the boils tossing them from side to side at the tail end of the rapids. I picked my way through thundering chaos, hot on their heals and Emily and Abby brought up the rear. I felt like I was in the center of a protective squadron of awesomeness that gave me superpowers to navigate the towering waves crashing all around me.
The highlight was dropping into Georgie’s Rapid right behind Peter and watching him

Day 3 – Peter
Last night was cold and had windy fits. Our Mega-mid is a teepee style tarp tent that is only as secure as the stakes that hold it to the ground. I’m in a habit of piling a few bread loaf sized rocks on top of the corner stakes to make sure they keep rooted in the soft sand. Every time the wind howled I would wait for the feeling of half our roof to blow away in one big flapping explosion. But my rocks did their job and the mega-mid got me through another cold and windy night in the desert like it had for the past 20+ Years. I love this funky little tent. I also really like my Watershed bag. Not to make this post a sales pitch but I love what they represent. The watershed bag is a very waterproof duffle bag that comes in a variety of sizes. It represents the space you have in life. My little watershed holds everything I need to survive in this environment and a few other niceties. It fits perfectly in my kayak. I can pull it out and walk over a hill or up a side canyon and live out of it. It has my food, stove, Thermarest, tent, sleeping bag, knife, headlamp, Edward Abbey book “Down the River” and even this GARMIN inReach I’m writing you on now. Essentially it holds what I really need to survive in the Grand Canyon. If my kayak was to sink and I could grab one thing this would be it. It’s really interesting when you can physically pair down everything you really need to what fits in one small bag. It’s a great filter for your priorities. I love getting back to the simplicity of life in the backcountry.
The days are now starting to blend together and I feel like I’m back to life in the canyon. It takes a few days to really adjust to days on the water and nights on the ground. But only now writing this do I think about what might be going on beyond the canyon rim above.
We had a day of mostly flat water. A few fun small rapids but nothing too big. We passed a few other big raft groups. They were mostly on 30 day trips. A true immersion of life in the canyon but heavy with all the gear and supplies that involves. We have chosen to be light and fast, packing only what fits into our 10 foot kayaks but this also means we are limited by our space for food and fuel. I have now done the canyon both ways. Each has its qualities but I really like this minimalist approach. A small and simple camp keeps me in the moment more without all the chores of a full kitchen and elaborate camp.
Direct sunshine was hard to find today with the narrow canyon walls. I’ve mostly paddled without gloves this trip but today I had to dig into my boat for my pogies. We found a few stretches with direct sunshine and it felt so good.
Abby and I arrived to Kwagunt camp 30 minutes ahead of Kathy, Emily and Nick. We shot ahead as they finished a hike at Nankoweap. As we arrived the last sun was waning. We spent the night eating Backpacker’s Pantry and talking about kayaking, climbing and skateboarding. I love hearing about all the amazing rivers and adventures Nick and Emily have experienced. They are so young and have done so much. I’m inspired… It’s cold and dark and once again Kathy and I are in the mega-mid. Abby is nearby in her yellow bivy sack writing in her journal. As I watch for 23-satellites in the sky through the open tent door I drift off to sleep. It’s been another special day in the Grand Canyon.

Day 4 -Kathy
Today started with frost on the inside of the mega-mid. It was hard to unzip my sleeping bag. But eventually Abby unzipped the tent fly and piled in with her Thermarest and sleeping bag. She had slept in her bivy sack under the stars. After a long family snuggle session we decided it was getting late and we needed to get moving. We could see the sun in the canyon above our camp and with Emily and Nick decided a hike to the sun sounded more fun than packing up camp in the cold. We found the sun and it felt so good. After the feeling came back to my toes we went back down and packed up as the sun finally hit our camp.
Once on the river the canyon opened up and it was warm with direct sun most of the day. We explored the confluence of the Little Colorado River (LCR) to find it running it’s magical blue color. This is a great omen for the water quality we will have the rest of our trip. Our last trip the LCR looked like thick chocolate milk and that continued the whole way.
We passed a few smaller but fun rapids and eventually saw a large raft group on river right. As I got closer I saw something we had been looking forward to the whole trip. It was Izzy in her 18’ green raft. Yes, Izzy from our last GC trip last March. Abby was so excited to see her as Kathy and I were too. We met the rest of Izzy’s crew and followed them down to Tanner Camp. Tanner is a sunny camp in a very wide and scenic section of the canyon. We arrived early and enjoyed a few hours roasting in the sun — felt so good. Izzy’s crew is fun to hang out with. Izzy also brought a few dry bags we sent with her before she launched. We had cookies and Pringles chips, a real treat for a bunch that has been living out of their kayaks. While I like our simplicity, we did enjoy their company and campfire. Everyone was very welcoming and wonderful to hang out with. River people are the best. I love it that 20 strangers can gather in a sandy camp in the bottom of the Colorado river and instantly have great conversation. Now we are back in the mega-mid and the temperature is dropping. It’s going to be another cold night but tomorrow will bring sun and warmth. And the river will bring more adventure and giant waves. Good night.

Day 5 – Kathy
Last year, when we did our river trip down the Grand Canyon, my one condition was that we had to have raft support so the if the rapids became too big and scary, that I had a plan B to jump in the raft as a passenger (which I did on the two hardest days). And honestly, even though I kayaked the rest of the 23 days, I was pretty scared most of the time I was on the water. I loved the canyon itself, and spending time with amazing friends, but the time on the river was a struggle. And when I found out a couple of weeks ago that Peter scored a second permit and planned to do a self-support trip (kayaks only), I really had no interest in joining him. However, as Abby and Peter started planning their trip, I remembered just what a magical place it really is. The quiet nights under the stars, the echo of the rapids bouncing up and down the canyon walls, the gorgeous desert-scape. But the best part is the quiet calm time with my family, where we have nothing else to do but reconnect with each other.
So I found myself in quite a conundrum, do I commit to something that was pretty overwhelming just a year ago and see if I’m good enough, brave enough and strong enough so that I can return to a wilderness that I love, or do I pass on an incredible opportunity to spend the best possible time together as a family because I am afraid?
It took me a week to actually say out loud that I wanted to go on the trip, and I think Abby and Peter were shocked at my decision, but here I am 90 miles down the river, smack in the middle of the Grand Canyon. And you know what, I am thriving! The past two days have been an incredible mental breakthrough for me. I am leading the way into rapids that a few days ago had me quaking in my booties, and I had excellent lines through two rapids that I elected not to paddle less than a year ago. I am smiling and laughing and in awe of the wonderful people around me: Peter, Abby, Emily Jackson and Nick Troutman (I call them my force field of awesomeness as they keep a careful watch on me through the most difficult stretches).
Something has flipped inside me, and the fear that has sometimes been paralyzing has morphed into resilience and determination. Some of the biggest rapids still lie ahead, just downstream, but for now I am so grateful to be in this extraordinary place, with people I love, and learning a little bit more about myself everyday!

Day 6 – Kathy
Today was the single biggest mental challenge of the trip. On my last trip, it was the day that I rode in the raft because I was so afraid of the rapids. Coming into this trip, this was the stretch that I just wasn’t sure I could pull off, either mentally or physically. The first rapid of the day was Horn, a HUGE, must run rapid!! Everyone assured me it was easy… all you have to do is paddle hard left around a humongous wave (seriously the size of a house) and then you’re home free. As I dropped into the chaos, I realized I was way too far right and headed straight for the monster. Immediately I was upside down and underwater (my least favorite way to be), and then miraculously I rolled and was upright again looking up the face of another monster. I leaned forward, pulled hard on my paddle and cleared the crest of the next wave, and the next, and before I knew it I was at the bottom of the rapid, celebrating a successful line.
Next up was Granite, which I elected to portage but that everyone else styled, and then Hermit (which seems to be the favorite of everyone I know). When I hopped out of my boat to scout, I was pretty sure I was going to portage because it’s the biggest waves I have ever seen!), but when I actually looked at it, there really wasn’t a single reason not to run it (other than fear) with sunshine warming the canyon, a calm pool below and my fabulous force field of awesomeness around me, I just had to try. Again I dropped into the fury and immediately lost sight of Emily who was leading me down. Then the biggest wave I have ever seen reared up in front of me and knocked me over (again!). I rolled up again and found myself backwards and alone in the land of giants. After an endless roller coaster, I made it to the bottom happy and relieved.
As I paddled away from both of those experiences (stoked beyond belief with two solid rolls in the midst of chaos) I reflected on my day. And In this beautiful place that shifts from calm to rage in the blink of an eye, it occurred to me that the force field of awesomeness (Peter, Abby, Emily and Nick), gave me encouragement and confidence, but I did everything else to make each run a success. Perhaps the force field of awesomeness has been dormant within me all along and I just didn’t know it. I’ve got another 170 miles to figure it out, but with the exception of Lava, the hard part is behind me. Onward…

Day 7 -Peter
“And on the 7th day he rested” and so did we. We woke this morning with all intentions of doing our 20+ river miles. I slept high above Bass Camp on a flat spot at the top of a cliff. As I packed up for the morning to go down and join the others I heard a call of joy as sun hit the beach below.
We have been really cold the last 5 days. It’s been an amazing trip but we have craved getting warm in the sun. So we had a group talk and decided to lay over and soak up sun, rest sore paddling muscles and go on loop hike. After making this decision we felt really good and proceeded to put on tee shirts and shorts and lounge in the sun. Nick shot a video on packing the Traverse, I sorted out my food and gear for the second half of the trip. Abby, Kathy and Emily read in the sun. It was so nice to just do whatever on a gorgeous sunny beach.
Mid afternoon Nick, Emily and myself went on a loop hike exploring Shinumo Creek. It felt great to stretch our legs and lungs hiking steeply uphill for almost an hour. We then went down to Shinumo Creek and explored an old camp with rusty cans and other artifacts. Then we went down the creek on a vague trail back around to camp circling the buttress we hiked up on. It was a good use of an afternoon and a chance to see the canyon from a new perspective than river level.
With our first view of camp we see something different. There are 6 giant multi-colored rafts tied up in our beach. One is a green 18’er. It was Izzy’s crew and we have company again for dinner. It’s great to see this joyous crew again. They are well practiced at setting up their camp and in minutes have a kitchen, Groover and fire pan with a dozen chairs circling. Next guitars and banjos are pulled from rafts. One that is full of water from a raft flip in Hermit earlier today. Song erupts and everyone’s toes tap into the sandy beach. We spent the night as river folk do, telling stories about how big this wave was or how deep that hole is. Raft flips were described in elaborate detail and we reminisced about other rivers we wanted to kayak around the world. It was a great evening.
Being in the Canyon Being in the Canyon can lead to so many experiences. Not just the big water we all dream about, or the hikes through exotic landscapes. These are the reasons people from around the world make this journey all the time. But the unexpected is the people you get to know in an eddy, beach or around a campfire. The original song performed around a fire pan, making new friends and connecting with people who love this place just like I do is the best part. Tomorrow we launch on our next 20+ miles of river who knows who we will meet and what amazing experiences we will have.

Grand Canyon 2018 Day 8/Peter
We got on the water by 9am today. This is hours earlier than any other day yet. It’s so hard to leave your warm bag after a cold night but last night I actually got too hot. It was amazing.
Pushing away from Bass Camp after a sunny layover I could feel the miles we have paddled. In fact today we will near 140 miles and the halfway point today. We are also half way through our time. We have to average 23 miles a day to stay on schedule.
Today we ran Shinumo, Hakatai, Walthenberg, Forester, Specter, Fossil, Bedrock, Deubenorff and more. At one point I watched Abby lead the whole group down Deubendorff. This is in a boat much longer and heavier than she has ever paddled before. She loves paddling this Canyon and it shows. Kathy has continued to have more confidence and grace in the giant whitewater than ever. Getting two combat rolls in two different class 8s has really proved to her that she can run this big pushy water. In short she is having a paddling breakthrough and it’s been really fun to watch.
We claimed the Across from Deer creek camp. Did a quick unpack and ferried across the river to go hike Deer creek and up to the Throne Room, the Thrown Room features many stone thrones in a amphitheater of rock. We had a blast taking photos and trying different thrones for fit and comfort.
Now I’m writing you from a great perch high above the river in my cocoon of Thermarest. If I turn my head I look right across the Colorado to see the dramatic waterfall of Deer Creek blasting out of the side of the cliff. It’s going to be a wonderful night under the stars.

Day 9 -Kathy
We have now paddled 159 miles and are sitting in a camp that is a tiered series of ledges. As I cook my Backpacker’s Pantry dinner (Chicken Vindaloo-yummy!), it’s like sitting in a grandstand looking up at a castle of sandstone towering above me on the opposite side of the river. The sky above fades from cobalt blue to Fuchsia to pale yellow and finally into a deep slate gray. The stars are beginning their nightly debut and the moon is so brilliant that our headlamps are unnecessary. The rhythmical crashing of the rapid just downstream is threatening to lull me to sleep, but I am resisting. I can’t believe we’ve already been here nine days. It feels like nothing and eternity all at the same time.
This place has changed me.
The green glassy waves that undulate and crash cataclysmically around me as I drop into a rapid feel more like a roller coaster than the man-eating monster that tried to swallow me the first day of our journey. I’m sad the big rapids are mainly behind us, but am taking advantage of the calm that lies ahead to pay attention to the wildness around me. I am captivated by the melody of the canyon wren that awakens me each morning, the great heron that leads me down the canyon, staying just ahead of us as we float through swirling mosaics, that sparkle and morph and disappear in the blink of an eye. Fifteen days isn’t going to be nearly enough, but I am going to savor every second that remains. I love this place and am already planning our next trip…self support of course, but maybe in March when it’s a little warmer.

Day 10 -Abby
Emotions seem to effect everything. Maybe my thoughts and the way I interpret things effect my life even more. I like to think that my life is all choices. Some I make are good and some are bad (not checking the oven before preheating is an example of the bad. I chose today to not think about Lava. That was a good choice. I only thought about the different lines early this morning but I decided to not dwell on the negatives. I also chose to scout Lava. In my opinion that was a good decision. But then became the ultimate decision decision which filled me with many questions such as ‘Is the left line a better way to go?’ ‘Will I get stuck or flipped in the V Slot?’ ‘Will I have fun?’ ‘Why am I running this rapid?’ ‘Will I regret walking this rapid?’ Maybe, maybe, yes, yes…etc. I didn’t have any pressure to kayak or walk the rapid and I really really don’t like the V Slot. So I stood on the scout rock and tears filled my eyes. This is a huge rapid. I also thought I didn’t have to prove anything and I had already done that rapid before and my mind isn’t wondering about whether or not the rapid is fun or challenging or horrible. It wasn’t unknown. But it was still scary. That same fear from last time has resurfaced while I stood at the scout rock. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I watched Nick and Emily go down and they made it look stupid easy. But it was so big and I didn’t know why I would run it again. So I decided I was going to walk because there is no reason to go through the V Slot again. Dad asked me if that’s what I wanted — to double check before he goes off down the rapid that caused me so much fear. I thought and I broke down the rapid. If you look at it as a whole it is a section of river filled with holes and breaking waves and if you focus on the big part all you see is thrashing whitewater. But I started at the bottom and there is a lake. I then looked up a little further and saw a normal sized wave train so far this is all good. I then saw the huge wave called Big Kahuna and I realized that just like when I ran Lava last time there is a huge span of slack water to get around this huge crashing wave. And then there was the V Slot which when you walk to the river bank it looks like a small breaking wave. Then before that there is the ledge hole on your left and a crashing wave on our right but a huge gap in between the two. So if you really think about it I just have to go through the V Slot and get to the left of Kahuna and I will be in the clear. And it seem stupid to walk around one little wave because that would be like going to a play park and walking around the main play spot. So I told dad I was ready and we walked up to the boats but unlike last time I was calm. The anxiety didn’t start until I was half way down the bubble line but by then I was focused on getting through the V Slot and missing the Ledge Hole and it didn’t effect me. I did the same exact line as last time. Everything was identical. I got swirled around in the bubble line almost flipping. I paddled through the breaking wave next to the V Slot and felt my boat slide down backwards off the breaking wave into the V Slot. My dad and I got tangled up next to each other while passing by Kahuna but I did great and it seems easier than it appeared from the scout rock. So running Lava was a good decision. I think walking would have been a good decision if I didn’t see the line or I felt uncomfortable with my skill set and the whitewater presented in front of me. And I have made one last final decision. My last decision is that one of these days I will go through Granite upright and Lava facing downstream but I secretly hope I don’t for a while because that gives me a good excuse to get back into the canyon.

Day 11 – Kathy
Today we spent the majority of our 24 miles meandering through flat water. Emily and Abby were leading our group, their words and laughter bouncing around in the canyon walls. Peter and Nick followed behind talking business and kayaking and art and photography with a million ideas sparking between them. I brought up the rear watching the sunlight glint off their helmets in the distance until their sparkles merged with the kaleidoscope of color reflecting off the water. At times the pool in front of me was a mirror showcasing the grandiose monoliths above. And then swirls would appear, like a Van Gogh sky, scattering the colors in every direction.
We arrived at Indian Camp (mile 207) around 2 and spent the afternoon in the warm sunshine. Abby, Em and Nick even went for a swim (albeit it VERY short lived). Life in the canyon is good and we are loving the spring-like weather.

Day 12-Peter
This canyon is an hourglass where we ride a river through time. We paddle with the grains of sand into the future. It’s always changing but from my very limited perspective it always looks the same.
Today was a 25 mile day passing Pumpkin Springs and Diamond Creek. We thought originally that we would take out at Diamond but when I told my friend Tom Martin–the Grand Canyon Grand Pooh-bah of this plan–he said, would you play golf at Augusta and quit at the 16th hole? Well I don’t think I’d want to miss any of the well… Grandness. So here we are in the lower Grand Canyon camped in Gneiss Canyon. I have to thank Tom as we had some really fun high water rapids after passing Diamond today and this camp is really gorgeous.
Nick and Emily are doing great. They make all the rapids look so easy with their effortless smooth style. it’s been really fun to do a trip of this scale with them. Abby is right there paddling along side Emily most of the time. Sometimes she is leading us all into the giant rapids. Everyday I have been amazed at how well this little girl can maneuver this very heavy 9 foot expedition kayak. I have a hard time getting my boat where I want it and she manages to nail her lines with grace. It’s so fun for me to watch. Kathy definitely gets the most improved award (if we had such). She was really nervous with the huge whitewater. Then having to paddle a big heavy boat made this trip seem overwhelming. But after lots of soul searching and advice from a few friends she wanted to give it a try. After one early swim on a silly eddy line then two amazing combat rolls in Horn and Hermit she has been on fire. After long consideration she decided to walk Lava and let Nick run her boat through. This was good as Lava was the biggest and highest I’ve ever seen it. Today I followed her into waves just as big and rowdy. She is paddling amazingly, smiling huge the whole time. She has learned so much and put into practice new skills. I honestly can’t believe the amazing confidence and control she is demonstrating. It’s a breakthrough year for her already and it’s still just January. I’ve heard so many people say the Grand Canyon changed them forever, making them better paddlers, and while it didn’t have that effect for her on last years trip it most definitely has this year. In some ways I see last years trip as Abby’s trip and this year is Kathy’s. For me, I love any time spent in the desert S.W. the Grand Canyon teaches me new lessons each trip. This is my third run through the Grandest Canyon and in many ways it’s just as impressive as the first. In other ways it’s hard to beat the unknown adventure of my first trip that was very similar to this one being a self-support kayak trip with 6 friends. I feel that over the last two trips I’ve very much been in a support capacity for Abby and now Kathy. It’s been wonderful to see the canyon through their eyes and excitement and even a little fear sometimes.
I sometimes find myself dreaming of my next trip. What would it be? A month long with play boats and rafts again? Another self support? A speed lap in 5-6 days in fast kayaks or a solo kayak trip. I keep coming back to solo not because I don’t want friends or family along but as a challenge in self-reliance and time to truly explore the canyon in a way that most people might not enjoy as much as I would. I want to sleep in tiny little ledge camps nestled into cliffs above the river. I want to stop and explore funky landscape using a kayak to access places others can’t. If this means going it alone I think I like the challenge. Maybe some day–who knows how long I’ll have to wait for my next permit. As I write this I just realized I’m already planning my next Grand Canyon trip and the current trip isn’t even over yet. I guess I’m hooked, just like so many of you out there. Enough dreaming for now.. I’m going to enjoy the last two holes of Augusta and live in the moment till I cross the Grand View Wash.

Day 13 -Kathy
After 45 miles of endless flat-water, we paddled the last mile to Pearce Ferry just as the sun was setting and were treated to the most extraordinary sunset. It was the perfect ending to the BEST RIVER TRIP EVER!!!
This trip has been truly transformational for me. Going into it I had no idea if I was capable of paddling a 100+ pound boat through rapids that just a year ago had me running for the safety of a raft. And dropping into the first rapid on the first day, I was overcome with fear and anxiety and seriously questioning whether this whole endeavor was a huge mistake. But now, 13 days, 280 miles and a gazillion rapids later, I can’t believe how much this journey has changed me. My paddling skills have definitely improved and my muscles are noticeably stronger, and both of those are wonderful things. But the thing that I am most excited about is how I have felt dropping into the rapids. I no longer have to look to anyone else to show me the line…I can navigate my own path. And it’s been ten days since I’ve felt that panicky feeling that often emerges in the midst of a big rapid. I have been relaxed and calm and have truly enjoyed even the biggest whitewater and as a result, my skills have improved more in the last week than in the past three years combined.
I watched these same changes in Abby less than a year ago and am so grateful for the opportunity to have had my own Canyon transformation. We are already planning our next Grand Canyon adventure.

3 weeks later:
We are now back in the rhythm of normal life or at least as much as a nomadic family can get. Looking back on this trip I recognize how special it was. I have dreamed what it would be like to kayak self support with my family through the Grand Canyon. I didn’t know if it would ever be possible as it is a huge commitment and much more difficult than going raft supported. But now I know it is possible and a wonderful way to experience the canyon. We all loved our time together, Memories were made that will never be forgotten. Having Nick and Emily made this so wonderful. They ooze confidence and inspire us all to be our best on the water. Emily might not think this, but it’s true. Both of them brought so much to our small team. On our last raft supported trip Abby really grew. This was Kathy’s turn to slay demons. Kathy had the biggest paddling breakthrough in her 20+ year kayaking career. It seems the longer you paddle the metal aspect can be the most difficult and it takes a lot of time with the paddle in your hands to break this. Kathy was a different paddler at Peirce Ferry than she was a Lee’s. I had another wonderful trip. This being my 3rd trip (over 840 miles logged kayaking in the canyon) I still have so much new to see down there. I’m already hoping for a river permit in 2019 and thinking about what might be a fun twist to spin into my next trip. I am also looking forward to doing some backpacking into the areas of the canyon away from the river. If you travel the river you have only seen .05 of the area in the Grand Canyon National Park. I’d love to get up to .06 with some long hikes. I’d encourage anyone to go if they have the opportunity to paddle the canyon. It is a life changing experience.