Monday, September 10, 2012

Grand Canyon Rafting Trip - In the Canyon Part 5

Havasu Falls

One of the highlights of the trip came on the second to last day; a hike to Havasu Falls. The clear light blue water makes it seem unreal.  It is truly an amazing sight. Havasu Falls is actually a series of falls with the most famous and most photographed being eight miles up.  I don't know whether they have individual names, but I'm just calling the group Havasu Falls.  We did not have the time or maybe even the inclination to hike the full eight miles, but our hike would make it up to second level of falls.  As I wrote earlier, this hike was a challenge for Val, but she was determined to do it.

A difficult hike for Val, but with a little help and determination she made it.
Almost there.
 Many of the group including Val stopped at the first level, but I decided to hike up to the next level to see what that was like.  Here's a couple of pictures that.

Dave and Kelly making their way across Havasu Creek to get to the pond above the falls.
This was as far as I was going.
After looking around a bit, I went back down to where Val was.  It was a really nice spot with the falls and a pool to cool off in.  Here's a video I shot of the falls.

A beautiful sport and a real highlight of the trip.  Here are some more pictures of Havasu Creek.

Hikers coming back down to the lower falls.

The "Groover"

There was one topic that always seemed to come up when we were talking to someone who had already done a Grand Canyon rafting trip or someone who was interested in the trip - what do you do for a bathroom?  That was a concern of mine as I am very particular about what bathroom I use; I don't like outhouses; I don't really even like public bathrooms very much.  Well, I found out what you do for a bathroom and that is what this sections is about.

The "Groover" is the toilet used on the trip.  It got it's name from the fact that in the early days they used ammunition boxes with holes cut in the top and when you sat on them. you got grooves on your butt.  They still use ammunition boxes (or at least they look like ammunition boxes), but at least now they have toilet seats on them.

Every night when we arrived at camp we were told three things before we went to pick our campsites, the kitchen is here, camping is at this end and the groover will be down there - don't camp near the groover.  There were two groovers set up, the first was in a tent nearest the camp with a wash station nearby, the next one was further away and was open air.  The open air one was situated so that you had full privacy and there was a system where a seat pad was left by the wash station and if it wasn't there, you knew someone was already at the open air groover.  You could tell when someone was using the tent because the flaps were buttoned closed.  This system worked surprisingly well and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  They put some kind of powder in it which kept the odors down and every couple of days, new groovers were used (I didn't really want to know where they stored the full ones).  There was one complication though, you weren't supposed to pee in the groovers.  It caused odors and also filled them up faster.  Setting up and taking down the groovers everyday was a job I didn't envy, as far as I was concerned the guides earned their pay just doing that.

I actually preferred the open air groover as it usually had a beautiful view and the tent got a little warm and smelled a bit.  How many times in life can you sit on a toilet doing your business and look out at the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  There is one risk to that if you are shy though, if another raft group passes by you're going to be the center of attention.  This never happened to our group, but on our last day we passed a camp that was already set up and sure enough, there was a guy sitting up on the groover.  Naturally everyone gave him a big cheer.  I don't know what he thought, but someone said they thought they saw a middle finger come up pointing at us.

So, if you can't pee in the groover, where do you pee?  The river of course, that was the only acceptable place.  Evidently because of the dry air, the liquid in urine dries very quickly and leave a smelly residue (at least that's what they told us).  For the men it was pretty easy, find a more or less open spot, face the river and fire away.  For women in was a little more difficult, they either had to drop their pants standing in the river or submerge themselves in the cold water.  If there was room and enough privacy, they would designate one end of the campsite for the women's part of the river and the other end to the men.  Usually though, there wasn't enough room for this and everyone just sat or stood waist deep in the river and let it go.  This was called a "smile break", the guides said just get in the river, look around at your friends and smile; everyone's doing the same thing.  Every so often during the day while we were rafting we would pull over for a "smile break".  There was one exception to this, at night they didn't want the women to have to go into the river so they were allowed to go in the groover.

At the beginning, it felt a little awkward, but after a day or two, it was just part of the routine.  So that is probably more than you wanted to know about what you do for a bathroom on the river, but it seems to be at the top of most people's FAQ's.

The Food

If you watch the promotional DVD's or pictures put out by the rafting companies, you will see a wide variety of really tasty looking food that looks too good to be true.  Well, at least in the case of Western River Expeditions, it is really true, the food was exceptional, especially considering everything had to be carried on a raft for six days.  It was all freshly made in camp.  We never saw anything that was pre-made or prepackaged.

It is hard to remember everything we ate, but I'll try to give you an idea as best that I can remember.  For breakfasts during our trip there was always fruit, juice, and some sort of rolls, toast or bagels.  At various times we had ham, bacon, sausage, pork chops, french toast, pancakes and eggs benedict.  One morning we even had coffee cake freshly baked in a dutch oven.  It was always a very hardy breakfast and was always delicious.  To all their other skills, you can add being a great cook to their repertoire.  And there was always hot coffee and water for tea ready when we got up in the morning.

Lunches were usually some kind of sandwich with the usual deli choices of meats, cheeses, tomatoes, olive, pickles, etc.  One day we had some delicious tuna salad wraps and another day a chicken salad wrap.  There was always fruit, chips, and various cookies and such for dessert.  One day we made box lunches at breakfast and then ate our lunches that day floating down the river, that was great.

At various times during the day snacks would be broken out as we mad eour way down the river.  It was usually chips, trail mix, candy or some type of nuts.  It was pretty simple, but it really hit the spot.

Every night before dinner the call would go out for hors d'oeuvres which would usually mean chips and some sort of dip/salsa or crackers or some sort of light snack to whet our appetites for dinner.  On the last night Lucky and Scott visited our individual campsites and served us each a delicious shrimp cocktail.

Dinners though, were really the coup de grace.  The first night we had delicious thick steaks grilled to order.  They were so large I didn't come close to finishing mine.  The next night was chicken breasts followed by a Mexican style meal featuring fajitas.  On our second to last night we had delicious spaghetti prepared by Kelly (with herbs she brought grown in her own garden) and on our last night we had rainbow trout fillets with baked potatoes which were just excellent.  With every meal there was always a salad (usually a different type each night) and a variety of different side dishes.  All in all the evening meals were a real treat and something we all looked forward to.  The desserts were also excellent, we had brownies one night, another night Kelly baked a couple of cakes in the dutch oven and we even had bananas foster one night with ice cream (think dry ice).  Everyone was really surprised by the ice cream, we didn't expect that on a rafting trip.

All in all, the food was great and our guides did a great job of preparing it.

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