Day 1 – Lee’s Ferry to Hot Na Na

Day 0 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 2

Day 1 – Lees Ferry (0) to Hot Na Na (16.7)
River Miles: 16.7
Hiking Miles: 0
March 18, 2013

We woke before 6am for our first day on the River. Chris from Moenkopi prepared our breakfast, including scrambled eggs and bacon, before leaving us on our own.

The early morning was a little chilly, but soon the sun came out and things warmed up very quickly. The air felt tense with excitement.

We had our boats mostly ready to go before the scheduled ranger briefing. The Park Service Ranger had a mandatory meeting with us, as well as the other private group to begin on this day. He checked all of our ID’s and signed off on Josh’s permit. Josh had been ragging on us for months about how it was very important that we do not forget our ID on launch day, to the point that it became an extended and repetitive joke.

We’d been anticipating this for so long, imagining this day, that it felt so great and tangible to be actually standing there on the beach and having our ID’s checked.

The ranger was a really nice guy. It seemed as though he’d been around for a long time, and shared with us that he’d be retiring this season. He went over all of the basic stuff with us such as the leave no trace principles, always wearing our life jackets (PFD’s – personal floatation devices), snakes and spiders, rescue procedure, and so on.

He mentioned the possibility that we may find a dead human body. A 21 year old woman had been missing since January – she disappeared overnight in the Canyon while camped with her private rafting party. It’s presumed that she slipped into the cold, swift water and drowned.

This was a sobering moment, as it hit home to us how very serious of an undertaking we were about to embark upon. The Grand Canyon was out there, down that River, and the Grand Canyon does not give a damn about you or me or our petty little lives.

Unbeknownst to us until after the trip, her body would be found four days later… found by a rafting party like ours.

Regardless, the meeting overall had a very lighthearted, sunny, and peaceful quality to it.

checking ID’s – photo by Chris Atwood – when reviewing these pictures after our trip, one of our group referred to the conspicuous guy in blue from the other party as “rasta-man” hahaha

Excitement was high after the ranger left us, as we were all clear to go! There were smiles all around as we put out on the water. Not quite sure of what to expect, I decided to wear my full drysuit.

A drysuit is a single piece, full-bodied piece of clothing that’s 100% waterproof. Unlike typical rain jackets and such, this thing really is waterproof. Suppose, for example, that you go for an extended swim in the 40-degree water of the Colorado River – this thing will keep you dry. There are rubber gaskets around the neck and wrists to keep water out, and they’re full-footed, sort of like pajamas. It looks like an astronaut suit, but drysuits are generally meant for scuba diving and cold whitewater. The gasket around the neck is notoriously tight, and they basically don’t “breathe” at all.

I think I may have been the only one in our party to be wearing it this morning, but I didn’t mind. I figured it would help keep me from getting sunburn on this first day as well.

It wasn’t long after we were out on the water when Doug handed me his TS4 waterproof camera and suggested that I take a few pictures. Almost immediately I regretted the decision not to bring a pocketable waterproof camera of my own. In my budget prior to the trip I had a choice of getting a new DSLR or a waterproof, and I went for the DSLR upgrade.

So these next few shots are pictures that I took with Doug’s camera. It really came in handy on these first few days, before I became more comfortable with handling my DSLR on the water.

This was our first “riffle,” at the mouth of the Paria River. Doug pointed out the Kaibab Limestone layer as it rose out of the ground near here. It’s amazing to think that you’re also standing on this same geological layer of rock when you’re at the South Rim Village and looking down at the Colorado River, a vertical mile below you.

It’s funny to say that such a simple geological fact excited me, but it’s because it served as a reminder that I’d have the privilege of observing each individual layer of the Canyon as it would rise out of the River in the days ahead.

I’ll use this image as an opportunity to point out the two unique boats in our party. Most of us had standard yellow rafts. Josh Case (Our trip leader) piloted the red one seen on the right, with his wife Amy Case as the lone passenger. This red Maravia raft supposedly had a distinguished history in Moenkopi’s fleet, distinguished as Dos Equis. Bo Beck rowed his solo cataraft, seen front and left.

The Navajo Bridge is the first iconic landmark for river travelers, only four and a half miles downstream of Lees Ferry. It’s one of very few places to cross the Colorado River with a vehicle in Arizona. From here the next crossing of the Grand Canyon is about a 300 mile drive to Hoover Dam.

One of my coworkers at the South Rim told me that he urinated off this bridge during one of his first dates with his wife. Oh, young love. Our rafts pass 470 feet beneath the bridge.

Bumper boats! Immediately in front of us here is Dave Nally, our qualified boatman. His passengers are Dorothy Kyees and Mike Burkley. Behind them and to the left is Jeremy McCumber as boatman with his wife Shannon as the lone passenger.

Chris Atwood was actually pointing at something specific here. I missed the shot, and instructed him to strike the “hero pose” again! Chris Forsyth is the boatman, and Steve Nelson is the other passenger.

We stopped for our first lunch here at the Sixmile camp. Lunch consisted of cold cut sandwiches (roast beef, turkey, and ham) but it was mostly still frozen! Hmm, guess we’ve got to get on top of the meal planning.

One of our rookie boatmen already hit a rock and bent an oar. Somebody commented that we can’t afford to go through an oar every day!

After our lunch stop was the first significant rapid of the trip, Badger Rapid. It’s rated a class 5 out of 10. The traditional whitewater classification system goes from 1 through 6, but the Grand Canyon is so special that it gets its own system of one through ten.

One of the outfitters from Moenkopi stated that no matter how many times you row the River, there’s still an “Oh shit,” moment of anticipation when approaching Badger, and hearing the roar of the waves.

Jackie and I crouched up in front of the raft and held on tight. We got a little wet, and running the rapid wasn’t such a big deal after all. This is fun! All of our group had a good run.

At one point in the afternoon we encountered a backpacker that was calling for our attention. Apparently he had lost one of his water bottles. He wasn’t in need of water, just an empty container, and we managed to toss one to him from the water.

Later we came upon a huge block of Coconino Sandstone that had sort of jackknifed itself into the River. It’s called Tenmile Rock and I’d never heard of it before.

This is Stephanie Nally on the oars, with her sister and lone passenger, Brooke Nally.

We ran Soap Creek Rapid, another 5, and I recounted the story of how Jed Dryer and I attempted to hike Soap Creek to the River, and made the mistake of going down the interesting north fork of the creek.

The Canyon quickly begins to get deep, even in these first few miles.

Behind Josh’s raft is what’s called a “drag bag.” We all had one, primarily for the purpose of keeping our beer cold during the day.

The emergence of the Supai formation made for some abrupt cliffs that fell directly into the River. Doug and I marveled over the story of one of Rich Rudow and Todd Martin’s canyoneering trips down Tanner Wash. It ended with a rappel directly into the Colorado River, so it was necessary to descend a rope with your packraft hanging below you, drop off the rope directly into your raft, and immediately proceed to run Sheer Wall Rapid!

We pulled in at the Hot Na Na camp for the evening, and it was time for Jackie and I to prepare the group’s dinner with Doug Nering.

A system was picked out where we were divided into teams for kitchen duty, and we turned out to be Team 1. Each night a single team would be responsible for setting up the kitchen, cooking, and doing the dishes. The same team would also be responsible for the next day’s breakfast and lunch. Team 2 would then be responsible for the kitchen on Day 2, and we (Team 1’s) duty on Day 2 was to set up, break down, and maintain the toilet. Team 2 would then do the toilet on Day 3, Team 3 would do the kitchen, and so on. There was supposedly a third shift for filling the group’s water when needed, but this third duty ended up being virtually non-existent as far as a rotated designation.

The kitchen turned out to be a whole a lot of work, and frankly I don’t think anybody liked it. It was especially stressful on this first night because nobody really had a system dialed in yet or could provide much direction, so we had to figure it out on our own.

Jackie went to set up our tent after Doug and I finally got a handle on things. The menu called for grilled chicken over the charcoal grill, wild rice, and a vegetable. The chicken ended up taking forever because number one, it was still very frozen to the point that hacking it apart with a knife still didn’t have a very positive effect, and number two, I didn’t use nearly enough charcoal to keep the grill very hot because I wasn’t sure how much of a ration of coals was allowed.

I tried to stay positive, but I must admit that I consciously had to keep up my attitude on this. I think I was put off because I went into the trip under the impression that everybody would share the work more equally on a daily basis. A few people helped out, but at first I harshly perceived that the kitchen crew were like the “servers” while everyone else could relax and enjoy themselves as “guests.” The individual team system ended up working out fairly well in the end, and I’m admitting this initial perception as a personal shortcoming.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, and I’d like to think we handled taking on the work very well. Unfortunately it was just about time for bed by the time everything was done.

It didn’t rain today.

Day 0 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 2


  1. Wow! I’m so happy I have found this. My first GC trip was 25 days to Pearce beginning 4 February 2013, just before your group. We also rented from Moenkopi and was given our orientation by that very same ranger. I think his name was Dave? He was very sweet and even let us apply for a permit for 2014 at the ranger station!

    He also mentioned the girl and I had forgotten her name until my most recent trip (I’ve been back a week). While camping at Racetrack, we found a cross hidden in the crack just above where one would typically set up the kitchen. We were initially put-off by it, when we noticed it had been carved upon. It read, “Dance In Peace” and had a “K” on the opposite side. I then remembered her name was Katie.

    It served as a silent reminder about the dangers of the canyon for the remainder of our trip.

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