Colorado River - Grand Canyon - Commercial Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek - Part 1

Journal written by Bob Manthey of Tempe, Az. on October 7, 2009

Banned From the Grand Canyon – Late Summer 2009

I recently participated in a 6 day commercial raft adventure that resulted in my being banned from the Grand Canyon. It all started the third week of August when Betty posted a “Smoking Deal” for a 188 mile, 6 day, 5 night raft trip through the Grand Canyon at a substantial discount. The catch was that the trip departure date was in just one week. This was one of those big raft motor trips with everything included: food, sleeping gear, chairs, cots, tents, plus helicopter and plane flights for the return trip out of the canyon. By Grand Canyon standards, this was a luxury cruise. All I needed to do was bring myself, basic personal gear, and talk my boss into giving me the time off on such short notice.

The Commitment Friday August 21, 2009

Getting vacation time approved went well. I just finished one project and started a new one with no real deadline. So, on Friday August 21, I called Arizona River Runners. With credit card in hand, I committed to the trip departing 8:00 a.m. the next Friday. Shortly after hanging up the second thoughts started hitting me. It wasn’t like me to make such a big decision without at least a little research.

I got on line to check the long range weather forecast at Phantom Ranch, which I knew we would pass about mid trip. Temperatures were very similar to Phoenix, 108 predicted for the high on the date of our departure. Although my Wisconsin blood was thinned by our desert climate a long time ago, I have gotten pretty used to moving from air conditioned building to air conditioned building lately. How was I going to handle being out in the sun all day with those kind of temperatures?

My back isn’t what it used to be and I didn’t know how I was going to handled sitting all day with no back support. Could I bring something to address that? I had been instructed that everything I bring must be able to fit inside a 12 X 12 X 24 inch duffle bag, plus a small 7 X 14 inch dry bag for things I needed to access during the during the day.

Then there was the motor. In my earlier purist days I would never think about a trip that relied on motors. Although I thought about doing a raft trip through the canyon any number of times, the plan was always for an oar powered trip. Besides the noise, I’m not a good sitter. I need to be moving. This would be a long time to sit in one place each day.

O.K. D e e e e p breath, It’s the Grand Canyon at an incredible price, how could I possibly go wrong. Besides an inner voice was telling me this trip would be good for me. Breath out, let it go – you’ve already committed.

Day 0 Thursday August 27, 2009

The week went fast. I took Thursday off, drove to Marble Canyon Lodge and checked in by late afternoon. I ordered fresh trout for dinner and enjoyed the view from the outdoor patio. I wondered what time Maureen would show up or even if she was staying at the lodge tonight. Maureen is also a DP member and was the only other person I know going on the trip. Maureen had really been looking forward to buying a new kayak this year and had to give up that plan to come on the trip. It was a last minute decision for her, made just two days prior.

On not seeing any record for Maureen, the lady behind the check in counter was really helpful and went out of her way to check with all the other area lodges, but no sign of Maureen. The lodge works closely with the outfitters and she was also able to fill me in on what to expect in the morning. “Watch for the plane to land across the street around 8:00ish. Things will happen quickly after the plane lands. Meet over there.” She was pointing to the old lodge building across the street. “You can leave your car anywhere along the fence.”

To finish out the day, I drove down to the put in. I love Lee’s Ferry; it is such a magical place. The sun was low in the sky and casting some incredible shadows on the multicolored sandstone. After sunset, I headed back to the lodge where I met Cheryl, the third member of DP to join this trip. The down turn in the economy recently left Cheryl unemployed. The trip was a big decision, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Cheryl started out knowing one less person than I did. I thought that was pretty brave of her.
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