Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rafting Day 1, Part 2

The last blog got me to Lee's Ferry, the parking lot that connects to the Colorado River where my rafting trip began.

Miranda and I got off the bus and lugged our luggage (2 smallish duffel bags, camera bag, etc.) down to the river.

2 large rafts were waiting for our group of 28, along with the four guides for the trip - Bret and Zach, the 2 "boatmen", and Carrie and Brad, the 2 "swampers". (That's what they were called, I don't know why.) (Maybe because when the boatmen are "parking" the rafts the swampers have to jump out the front of the boat and wade through the water with the land lines???) The guides corralled us quickly, keeping us a safe distance from the rafts, and Bret gave us an orientation.

Each rafter was given :
(a) a uniquely numbered water proof bag (blue) that contained a new sleeping bag, a sheet, a piece of plastic and another water proof bag with a number that matched the first bag. These waterproof bags were large enough to fit a small duffel bag.
(b) a waterproof army surplus ammunition can painted a lovely shade of designer light blue.
(c) a small green waterproof bag about the size of a small backpack, but shaped like a cylinder.
During the day, items in (c) would be available at all times, items in (b) would be available by moving around the boat, and items in (a) would be available only at camp. We were given some advice on packing then told to pack the luggage that we brought between the containers (a), (b) and (c). We were also told that we should wear clothes for getting wet, there were rapids ahead.

Miranda and I took the (a) bags #'d 21 and 27. We made one of our (a) bags with both sleeping bags, sheets, plastic and pillows (and Miranda's teddy bear - she decided she didn't want Sherbert  to get wet) and we were able to fit our small duffel bags intact into the other (a) bag.

Some of the other rafters had more of a struggle fitting their larger personal duffel bags into the blue waterproof (a) bags, and many of the larger duffels had to be emptied and stuffed folded in a bag. After we repacked for 20 minutes the guides said that "should we be having trouble fitting items into the waterproof bags, they could put the land shoes in a common waterproof bag". Shoes were a generally larger bulky item, and with this announcement almost everyone was able to get their luggage packed. The (c) bags were for clothing, hats, sunglasses, etc. that you might want to put on and take off, and the (b) ammo cans were for wallets, electronics like cameras, and things that you might not want to get squished.
What to wear for your first day of rafting ?
An extensive list of clothing had been provided to us, which may be a blog for a much later day. But the choice boiled down to this :
(a) dressing for getting wet where you thought you might get cold when the 48 degree Fahrenheit water hit you, or
(b) dressing for getting wet where you thought the canyon's 80-90+ degree Fahrenheit temperature would make you not care that the water that just soaked you was 48 degrees F.
Everyone had the right gear, so choices had to be made. As a warm loving person, I put on my full length rain pants and rain coat over my waterproof pants, undies and shirt, I had my wool socks on with my waterproof shoes, my sunglasses and hat, and I smeared suntan lotion on the tiny bit of skin exposed on my face and hands. I immediately started to sweat.
Miranda bulked at the hat, socks, rain pants, and coat, so I packed them in the (c) bag and set her to putting on suntan lotion all over, which she bulked at too. So we had overdressed sweaty people; and summer loving people in wearing shorts, about 50-50.
Bret used Miranda to demo wearing and sizing the life jacket. Each life jacket was uniquely numbered, and the guides individually checked the fit of each life jacket (snug! tight! no slippage). You then wore the same life jacket then entire trip. Miranda and I got the 2 smallest life jackets, and we were therefore the only two in our group with yellow life jackets.
The guides took checking the life jacket buckles seriously. If the National Park Service sees a passenger on a raft with a life jacket buckle unbuckled, it is a fine that starts at $200 per buckle, with ramifications for both the guide and the guide service company. A person with an completely unbuckled jacket could be a fine of $600-$800. You could unbuckle to pull a layer on or off, but then you were reminded to immediately buckle back up if you were slow in doing so automatically. Since the life jackets where properly tightened and buckled, you moved like you were in a back brace - you didn't really notice that you were sitting closely to the person next to you because the life jacket was so snug.

Brad gave a demo of the ways we could be sitting on the raft.
The "bathtub" was the front facing seats in the front of the raft. Two or 3 people could sit there with legs comfortably outstretched, but the only handholds were behind you. The view from the bathtub was great - only the water and landscape in front of you. When the raft goes down a rapid, though, the bathtub deserved it's name - you felt like you were in a bathtub. The seats would sometimes be literally under a wave of water. Then the water would then sit around you as it slowly remembered gravity and figured out where to drain. You would get soaked in the bath tub.
The rest of the seats faced to the side. My boat called the front seat on both sides of the bathtub the shower seat, because while you didn't end up sitting in draining water like you did in the bathtub, you got as wet as you would have in a shower. The bathtub got wet when it dipped below the water. The water that the bathtub sailed over splashed up onto the line of people sitting in the side facing seats. The first person would get the full impact of the wave, and generally block some of the water for the rest of the people in the line. In the side facing seats you were holding on to ropes behind you and you were tightly packed next to others on both sides. The drier seats were toward the back.
The last place to sit was called riding the pontoons. They didn't allow you to ride the pontoons in the biggest rapids (too easy to fall off), but it was a fun place to be in many rapids; and it was a comfortable roomy place to straddle sit if you wanted more space then the side seats offered.

The guides would stay dry in the back in many of the rapids. You knew it was going to be a big rapid when the guides pulled on raincoats or layers.
A cloud of gnats was swarming at this landing, and several of us groaned because we had forgotten bug spray. Fortunately, this was the only place on the entire trip where there seemed to be any annoying bugs at all - Once we got going. (Excluding red ants - which where everywhere but never bothered Miranda or me.)
Our luggage was loaded and we lumbered like turtles onto the raft - shuffling around for balance and trying to figure out where to sit, how to clip our portable waterproof bags (type c) to the center of the raft with a carabiner, and where to put water bottles, sun tan lotion, etc. I was hot, sweaty, straight jacketed, worried about the bugs, (and the camping) but excited - I had dodged the deadly swine flu making the headlines (so far), the possible plane crashes, and our rafting trip was starting.
I will blog more soon.


Brayton Homestead Interiors said...

how cool is that, sounds like an adventure from Survivor!not sure I'd have the guts.


wow you are so talanted.. I love your visual colorful & organic style...does that make any sense... will be by to visit your etsy store!!!! Thanks for coming to visit. xoxo Laura

Gary Heller said...

Great photos and story/narrative about the rafting adventure. Looking forward to reading more about the trip. I've always wanted to do that but never got the opportunity as yet.
Great blog!

nomadcraftsetc said...

WOW! I want to do that! Maybe in a couple of years when the kiddos are much older! You sound like you had a blast!

Anonymous said...

Keep it coming!! I love reading it!

Mary Langford

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