November 10, 2017 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I’m spending January rafting the Grand Canyon. I am mostly prepared, I’ve done a lot of river trips and have backpacked a lot but this will be the longest I’ve spent on the river, and have never rafted the Colorado. Do you have any life hacks?

I have a great packing list, and am going with seasoned Grand Canyon veterans. Our boats and food and kitchen are provided by an outfitter.
I don’t need advice like “bring a drysuit” and “use biodegradable soap” and “heads up, you’ll be shitting in a groover.”
I would love insights like “be prepared to take rad photos here” and “when I got sick of everyone on day 17, I did this” and “I didn’t think I’d need [widget] but I wished I had it/used it every day.”
posted by Grandysaur to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been down the Canyon twice, once with a commercial outfit when I was a kid, and once several years ago with friends. I had originally declined that invite, and then got a call when someone else dropped out. I was at the airport two hours later. I didn't even have a sleeping bag (which is totally fine in deep summer). I had nothing, and I didn't miss having a thing. It is such a very spectacular place that there's really no need for anything you won't have in your pack as a matter of course.

The pools in Havasupai Canyon are really the only place I remember from being a kid. I remembered them as a wonderland basically. And they were and are. I'd love to see them in winter. There is a secret room behind the waterfall at the top of the canyon, a place where you can get one breath basically underwater. I have no idea the water temp in January, but that is sort of a one of a kind place. I didn't do it when I was there because I wanted to swim in the pools, and I've regretted it frequently since.

Have a great time!
posted by OmieWise at 8:16 PM on November 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, one other thing. My last trip was 16 days, and that is a long time to be on the river. I'm not sure what you mean about being there for a month, but I do think it's worth setting your mind to it. I imagine it would be tougher cold camping. It's a longer backcountry trip than most.
posted by OmieWise at 8:18 PM on November 10, 2017

I would read the Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell. I read it right before I went on a 10 day trip down the river. After reading it, while on the river, I felt like I was sort of reliving history.
posted by AugustWest at 8:35 PM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Even if you’re not particularly artistic, watercolor colored pencils and a postcard sized spiral notebook of watercolor paper is lovely to have with. Dip your pencils in the river (& a cheap brush to blend) & record the amazing color show.
posted by iiniisfree at 10:34 PM on November 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

We rafted a chunk of it in May and the water was mighty cold then so imagine in January it will be bitter but sounds like you've got the gear stuff down. Are you going in dories or inflatable rafts? The typical outfitted trip of the entire canyon is more like 2 weeks so I assume you're going to have a lot of time hiking up side canyons which will be awesome. We particularly liked Matkatamiba (beautiful slot canyon!)and Deer Creek Falls as well as Havasu. Assume you have some sort of solar charger for camera batteries, a journal, and at least one good book - probably several for a trip that long. In January you will have a lot of nighttime hours so rechargeable batteries for headlamp for reading and whatever other after dark activities you will do to keep engaged at night seem essential.
posted by leslies at 8:38 AM on November 11, 2017

In secret I shipped a bottle of champagne to the outfitter who tucked it away. It was brought out after we ran Lava Falls for a surprise for the group. If you're into astronomy take a planisphere. Small binoculars. I took books and didn't read a single one during the 2-week journey. If you want to look like a pro buy a small waterproof ammo can and decorate it. Take twice as much film/memory as you think you're going to need. Waterproof digital and disposable film cameras. Some way to recharge all your electronics. Record the day every day/night in a journal; for me the recording helped cement memories. Plan your travel to get to Page (or your starting point) at least a day ahead, just in case. Learn everybody's name as quickly as possible. Rotate whose boat you share. Spend time alone. Stay in the moment.
posted by achrise at 11:14 AM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Camp chair! If your outfitter doesn't provide them.
posted by bluesky78987 at 3:03 PM on November 11, 2017

Perhaps pick up a hiking guide that focuses on hikes from the river (as opposed to hikes down into the canyon from trailheads on the rim). Two options are Grand Canyon River Hikes by Tyler Williams and Day Hikes from the River by Tom Martin.

Belknap's Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide is something you can consult in the mornings to help get a sense of what you'll encounter on any given day.

For general reading material, Encounters with the Archdruid, The Emerald Mile, and I am the Grand Canyon are all good choices for a river trip.

This is not an original sentiment, but I think photos looking downriver from the Nankoweap Granaries are really pretty.

I always want to photograph Comanche Point when I'm below it.

OmieWise mentioned a cave behind a waterfall in Havasu Canyon. Heads up that last spring someone drowned trying to enter it.

A journal and a pen would be on my list of essential items.
posted by compartment at 8:02 PM on November 13, 2017

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