Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

There are many places in the world which open our eyes to the beauty of nature. The spirit of adventure has driven humans to explore the unknown and experience natures incredible landscapes. The wide plains of sage, massive walls of red rock erupting from seemingly infinite layers of sedimentary stone, and the deep monumental gorge of the Grand Canyon have opened my eyes to the beauty of the Colorado Plateau. This is my story through images and words of my descent of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

It began early one December morning. My brother and I were heading back to Wyoming for Christmas after an epic week of skiing in British Colombia. After hours of night time driving we decided that we needed to stop and sleep. Conveniently we were close to Missoula and the home of a dear friend, Sam Freihofer, AKA MC Heavy Flow. We rolled into Sam's residence around 2:00 am, after a few beers and some time to catch up, Sam roared " DUDE, I am going to the Grand Canyon next month! You should come!" Immediately I wiped all plans that I had devised for January and said " Oh fuck yeah neighbor!" The next day I sent $200 dollars to the trip leader and it was settled. I would depart to the Grand Canyon in one month. 

One month passed quickly and before I knew it, it was 3 days before the put in date.  I loaded a shopping cart with what I thought to be a reasonable amount of food for 10 days in the backcountry ($130, which ended up being a bit short), packed my car and departed for Salt Lake City. In SLC I met up with a few friends and fellow members of the trip and began the migration south.

Camping several hours south of Salt Lake, near Zion National Park. It was a frosty night as temperatures dropped below zero!
We woke to a frigid but gorgeous sunrise.  
The scenery grows more beautiful and foreign as you continue south. 

Brent Tyc excited to arrive at the put in for his 6th descent of the Canyon.

Sam Lowenthal and Brent prepare for the 10 day self-support trip and stuff their kayaks to capacity.
This is all of the gear that I brought for the trip. This is probably twice as much stuff as I had ever brought on a multi day before. Thanks to Fred Norquist for letting me use his Stinger! 
We woke to a beautiful sunrise to begin the river trip. 
Sam came prepared with 12 eggs in his Nalgene bottle. 
The team packs for the final time before we put on and begin the 226 mile journey downstream.
No turning back now! Sam Freihofer lays back and soaks in the serenity and power of the Colorado river.

*Note, most of the photos beyond this point are not it chronological order. 
Endless drainages slice into the canyon, each with its own hidden gems. I enjoyed paddling equally as much as the amazing hikes that we went on.
Marty Smith amongst it. It would be insane to see anyone of the the Colorado's tributaries at flood stage!
"I am just pumped that everyone is so stoked," Sam says.

Sam paddling into one of the many beautiful bends of the Colorado.
The crew looking back and noticing several inches of fresh snow near the canyon rim.
Sam prepares some cheddar brats, a true backcountry day delicacy. 
I went for a cheaper and lighter stock of food. I ate noodles or rice with a few vegetables nearly every night.
Marty tucks into bed for another grand night of sleep. I don't think we stayed up past 10 once and slept nearly 10 hours every night.
Waking up and preparing for another day on the water.

This is the entry to a sick cave near our campsite. This canyon is covered with caves! (This is the same spot where I took the previous photo of our camp)

I took this photo while on a morning hike to scout for ruins. Our camp is the small beach on river right ahead.
Brent and Sam pull in the rear through another ravishing section of the Colorado. 
Marty quietly sits and admires the incredible gorge before him. 
A waterfall erupts from a tiny slot canyon.
This is a closer shot of the slot at the entry to the falls.
The one and only Sam Freihofer, AKA MC Heavy Flow.
Brent throws his hands up with euphoria and absorbs the fading rays of sunlight. 
It is amazing how much the canyon changes through out the run. The canyon is stacked with layers of sandstone and limestone, one section has ancient granite, and near the end of the section has massive columns and lava flows of basaltic rock.
The crew taking a mandatory stop at the Little Colorado river. Low winter flows allow minerals like lime and calcium carbonate to transform the river into a rich turquoise color.
Stoked to be floating in the most colorful river I had ever seen!
This morning we went looking for ruins amongst the canyon walls but were turned around due to eroding and sketchy terrain. 

Setting up camp for another night of rest. This night was incredibly windy and the beginning of my hatred of sand!
This cloudy day cleared just before sunset, which ended up being the finest of the trip!
The best PBR' ever? 
Sam kicks back and fries up a heaping pot of bacon to start his day.

Luke Borserio does a hand stand to warm up for another day of paddling.
Ringtail Cat tracks can be found all over the canyon. especially near beaches and camping spots.
It is hard to not have the best day ever when you wake to canyon walls like these!
"Hydrate, motivate, dominate." - Sam Freihofer
Marty releases his inner child while running through this majestic mini gorge.
Jeff Belanger gets technical while navigating a tight slot.
Marty slides down this natural rock luge. 

This next series of photographs illustrate the highlight of my trip, Havasu Creek. Early one morning at the ledges camp Sam and I woke up feeling motivated. He suggested that we skip breakfast, pack our boats, and send 5 miles up Havasu creek to the righteous and magnificent Havasu Falls. Immediately I agreed and we quickly packed our gear. We put on the water around 9:00 am and paddled 4 miles to the confluence of Havasu creek. We changed, snacked, and began the trek upstream. From the beginning, I was in complete awe of the turquoise water and impressive canyon walls. I will let my images tell the story of our adventure. 

I put on with 11 people, 7 of which were complete strangers. On the river we became roommates and close friends. By the end I felt that we had become a tight group capable of incredible feats. I strongly recommend that everyone go on this trip at least once in your lifetime. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive places on planet earth and is sure to open the eyes and perspective of any individual. 

Thank you so much to Aliye Tuzlak for pulling the permit and allowing me to join, Nick Gotlieb for helping organize and navigate the trip, and to everyone one else on the trip for the fantastic adventure and good times!


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