On a bright sunny August Bank Holiday, Deb and I took the train to London, meet Dave and flew to the USA. This was my first flight to the US since 2000. I have simply been enjoying the delights of Europe and had the occasional trip to Nepal, but no America since 2000. The truth be known, I never liked the Immigration Officials tone every time I had visited the USA in the past, they all seam to think that everyone on their way into the US wants to stay there. I know it can be a little past the comprehension of some US Immigration Officials, but I quite like Europe and am happy to get on the plane home.
Since 9/11 I undertook that the tone at the border had become even more stern, was it to be an hour long interrogation in a private room of why did you wish to visit the US!! Alas in spite of all the hype, it was a long wait in the line, and then on the hand scanner, one finger here and another there, and look at the camera 60 seconds appointment and I was in. In where, in Vegas for my first Grand Canyon trip.
Now this town is a sublime blend of all that glitters is gold and more fibreglass creations in anyone place I have ever seen. Pass all the bright lights, its a dump and no end of drinking, gambling and fooling around will get you away from the fact its the arm pit of humanity in the middle of a desert. Yet it has an international airport and is close to our putin at Lee’s ferry n the Grand Canyon. After a day of so of Dave fawning over everything Mac at the Apple Store, the rest arrived and we headed to the put in.
At Cliff Dwellers Lodge, set back from the Canyon Rim was a blaze in early morning sun light. The red sand desert stretched into the distance appearing to continue to the cliffs on the east bank, yet there was no obvious sign of any canyon yet alone the Grand Canyon. We sat at a cafe enjoying this amazing yet alien site whilst breakfasting on ham and eggs american style. Our boats had been delivered weeks ago, and awaited us all. A few hours outfitting, packing and repacking flew by, and we were ready for the river. A drive along the desert with rising cliffs that flank the plateau in which the Grand cuts deeply into. Lee’s Ferry is a car park with a toilet, a minimalist put in for such a popular river. Clear and wide the nearly flat river flowed into a low wide gorge beyond the launching point.
As ever there is always at least a single rule in a US National Park is highlighted to the overseas visitor. For Grand Canyon river runners its the need for a US Coast guard (UL) Approved PFD to be worn. Most UL approved PFDs are pretty poor for WW kayaking, as the standard is set to include water skiing in the same categorisation. The European CE standard is specifically for paddlesport and the considerable developments in the test standard, certain give the PFDs the edge. Although I do like the design concepts be hide Astral from the USA.
During the next few days, we got into the rhythm of getting up and going to bed with the sun. The white water picked up on occasion, but in truth it was a mellow cruise and time to enjoy the company of new and old faces on the water. Camping on riverside beaches, short hikes up side creeks and surfin’ smooth glassy waves, are all but the daily grind on the river.
In heading down to a classic attraction, Red Wall Cavern, JP our motorboat captain, was telling is of this time when there was this massive storm and the walls were a wash with a near biblical experience. And within being the spot for 5 minutes, look what happened?
Now with a rich red colour to the river and the sun greeting us after the storm, we headed down into the heart of Marble Canyon at Nankoweap. Its great that many famous scenes from the Grand are captured, check these out:
The following day it was time to get my mother and my in-laws into the Duckies. We slowly made our way to the Little Colorado river, and the end of Marble Canyon………