I’ve been doing a fair number of river trips the last few year, and haven’t really posted a whole lot about them here. Over the last four years I’ve done five major trips and a scattering of shorter 1-2 dayers: Desolation Canyon twice, Cataract Canyon once, and the Middle Fork of the Salmon last year (July 2011). The Middle Fork trip was the highlight of the bunch: a small river running through stunning, remote mountain scenery in central Idaho. Ninety-three miles over seven days resulted in a nice relaxed pace, with plenty of time to hang out, read, hike, go on hikes, or have beers around a fire. Just about perfect.

After that trip, I figured the next year would be hard to beat. I wasn’t even all that excited about doing a trip this year and was content to take that extra time to do a climbing trip or two instead. The one trip that might be able to beat it was the Grand Canyon, so I applied to a follow-up lottery in late March, fully appreciating the low odds. I actually thought I might have missed the deadline when I remembered it at 12:30pm the last day of the lottery, but logged on and submitted regardless. Must have lucked out as Arizona is in either Mountain or Pacific Time depending on Daylight Savings.

Sure enough, I get an email a few hours later congratulating me on winning a permit! I could hardly believe it as I pretty much applied on a whim, not really sure if I even had the time to do it. I didn’t even specify an alternate trip leader in case I couldn’t go. July seventh was the date, so I immediately emailed some river-running friends to try and drum up interest. I had about two weeks to finalize some details and pay permit fees (almost $800!) so it was a bit stressful getting commitments so quickly. I got six firm commitments which was good enough for submitting the application, so we were off, with another three months or so to fill the remaining two spots (it was a small-sized permit with a maximum of eight people).

It was remarkably difficult filling those last two spots, especially as we focused on finding interested women to balance out the genders. There was some interest, but after six weeks or so of deliberation I tried to get firm commitments unsuccessfully. We were back to square one with about a month left before the launch date. However, after removing the gender limitation we filled the remaining spots pretty quickly (surprise surprise), and everything seemed to be coming into place. I had notified my clients of my impending absence, cleared it with Katherine, and seven of us rendezvoused in Salt Lake on July 5th to gather gear and pack the coolers. Cooler organization was a nightmare, as we had to find a way to keep food cold for fifteen days in 100 degree heat. We elected to aim for twelve days of cool food, with the food split over three coolers. Only one cooler would be accessed at a time, while the rest would be sealed with duct tape to preserve its contents. That meant figuring out which meal would go in which cooler for 24 meals. I did my best but it ended up being less than ideal as a lot of ice had already melted.

The next day we took off in two vehicles, one of which would be meeting Cam in St. George. He was driving from San Diego to meet us. The pick-up went smoothly and we ran some last minute errands in Page, AZ before arriving in Lees Ferry at around 11pm. Loading and rigging took all morning the next day, and by 1-2PM all three boats were rigged and we were good to go!

Part two