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Posts tagged ‘drift boat’

Night in the Canyon by Greg Hatten

Enjoy this, out third and last guest post from Greg–for this trip, anyway.

Nighttime in the Grand Canyon adds another dimension to darkness for me.

1_Nate_PickensPhoto by Nate Pickens

Towering walls rise up almost a mile above the Colorado River to touch the night sky, soft sand wraps around our sleeping bags in a warm embrace, and the river of darkness between the canyon cliffs overhead is filled with so many bright stars that most nights, the ground is visible without the aid of a flashlight.  Darkness in the Grand Canyon is filled with light, and my favorite light comes from the campfire after dinner.

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Photo by Nate Pickens

We throw another log onto the bed of half-spent coals in the fire pan, sink deep into our camp chairs…and take a long breath.  No rapids to scout, no river to run, no boats to wrangle.

The banter is lively as we replay the day – the heroic runs, the botched lines, and the close calls.  Laughter and teasing settles into quiet conversation and reflection as we enjoy the flames of the fire and each other’s presence.  Together, we unwind from the challenges of the day.  Sometimes the only sound in our circle of camp chairs comes from the flickering fire and the river (and occasionally, snoring from Tony).  We listen to the river every second of every waking hour and we hear it in our sleep.  Darkness in the canyon is filled with the sounds of the river and laughter from the circle.

When we’re talked out, we fold our chairs, and one by one, leave the warmth of the fire. Sometimes two or three of us take the campfire conversation deeper into the night.  The smoke from the fire follows us to our sleeping bags and tucks us in. Our best and our worst is on display in the stressful situations of the canyon and in the solitude of my bedroll each night, I sort through which of those “won the day” – and then I sleep.

Darkness in the canyon is filled with the smoky smell of a campfire and self reflection.

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Photo by Izzy Collett

Brightly colored tents sit below the steep rock walls of the canyon.  Some are scattered between boulders and sagebrush or even clustered in bunches on the sand banks of the river.  They glow with a dreamy light.

Some nights there is a special sound to the darkness as Izzy plays a Native American wood flute while she sits on her boat.  The rich low sounds are from a different time and place.  Authentic music mingles with the smoke trails and travels up the canyon on its way to the stars.

It adds a richness to the experience that I will never forget.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with the haunting sounds of the Anasazi flute.

4_Dave_Mortenson

Photo by Dave Mortenson

In the daylight, my canvas tent blends with the light tan color of the sand.  It’s the same material they used for tents and bags on the 1964 trip we are replicating.  I use the tent when there is a threat of rain or I want a break from the strong winds and blowing sand.

When we’re not in tents, we sleep on the open ground with nothing overhead except the stars in the night-sky.  The distance we hike away from the river to throw our bags down on shore is in direct proportion to the energy we have left at the end of a day spent rowing heavy boats through heavy rapids.  Most of the bags are within 100 feet of the boats on the sand banks above the river.  Some mornings we wake up as part of a sand dune and have to shake our way out of our bags.

5_Greg_Hatten

Photo by Greg Hatten

Many nights we sleep on the boats.  It’s my favorite place to spend the night.  Down here boats are life… they’re everything.  We row them through the valley of death and they deliver us from evil… repeatedly.  They carry everything we own and faithfully get us to our next campsite at the end of our rowing day.  They “connect” us to the river with a bond that’s hard to explain.  We love our boats.

6_John_SchroederPhoto by John Schroeder

All covered up in our warm blankets, we peek out in the dark and occasionally see a falling star in the night sky as the water gently slaps the sides of the boat and the river rocks us to sleep.  On “two-blanket” nights it’s cold enough to see our breath – which makes the blankets feel even warmer and the boats seem even cozier.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with cold cheeks, cold noses and gently rocking boats.

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Marble Canyon Tunnel – Photo by Robb Grubb

The darkest dark I found in the canyon wasn’t on the boats at night.  It was in an exploratory tunnel drilled deep in the side of Marble Canyon where construction had begun in the 1950s on one of the last proposed dam projects in the west.

A couple of us tied off our boats on river left and scrambled up the loose shale to the mouth of the tunnel – a hundred feet above the river.  From that elevated vantage point, the canyon looked spectacular.  I tried to imagine a dam in this special spot and couldn’t.  We turned from the river, climbed over the railroad ties and boulders guarding the entrance, and crawled through a portal into the heart of the Marble Canyon wall.

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Marble Canyon Entry – Photo by Robb Grubb

Twenty feet in and we were covered in darkness.  Real deep dark heavy darkness…. an eerie black quiet darkness… and I thought of orcs, and goblins, and the Lord of the Rings.  We turned on a laser light, splashed our way through the puddles on the packed-dirt floor and tripped over loose rocks that had fallen in the narrow passageway.  Walking with an awkward stoop, we finally reached the end of the tunnel several hundred feet from the entrance.  For a moment we turned off the light and just stood there listening to “drip…drip…drip” coming from the dank ceiling and falling to the floor somewhere in the blackness.  For the first time in days we couldn’t hear the river – it was silenced by the tunnel and it was deafening.

We shimmied back out the portal, slid down the shale pile back to our boats and spent a quiet afternoon rowing through the beautiful rose colored walls of Marble Canyon.

9_John-Schroeder

Marble Canyon – Photo by John Schroeder

That night, I reflected again about what the trip in 1964 meant to river runners like us.  That trip and those guys made a huge impact by shining a bright light on the beauty of the canyon.  Their pictures, their videos, and their words inspired millions of people to take a closer look at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and for the first time, many of them saw this place as much more than just a source for water.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with passion.

2_Nate_Pickens

 

Last of the Three Part Series by Greg Hatten

Grand Canyoneers

Our friend Greg Hatten is back on the river and we will have great footage to share soon. He’s traveling old-school in a hand-built wooden drift boat, camping under the stars with a Pendleton blankets.

In Greg’s words:

Last year we honored the historic 1962 river trip on the Grand Canyon by replicating the boats (the Portola & the Susie Too) and the trip in every possible detail.  We took thousands of pics, and NW Documentaries shot hours of video.  

Guess what? We are doing it again…. we received a special use permit to return to the canyon and replicate the 1964 trip which was one of the most significant in the life of the Grand Canyon.  It was on this trip, led by Martin Litton in the Portola and PT Riley in the Susie Too and accompanied by the leading environmentalists of the day, that writers, photographers, videographers, and poets captured the story of the Grand Canyon was captured, romanced, and publicized globally. This put a STOP to the impending congressional vote on the Southwest Water Plan which would have authorized several dams and turned the Colorado River into a “trickle” –  destroying the Grand Canyon National Park. 

Today, those boats are known as “the boats that saved the Canyon” and that trip – which resulted in the book Time and the River Flowing by Francois Leydet and the short film “Living Water, Living Canyon” by David Brower and the Sierra Club are credited with preserving one of our National treasures. 

They are on the water now. More to come!

The Drift Boat Adventure for Kids

Greg Hatten, our drift boat adventurer, has been embarking on a new adventure, besides running the rivers of America in handcrafted wooden drift boats. He’s taken on grandfathering in a big way, with three little ones under two years old in his family.

Greg decided that for Christmas, he’d build his grandkids a rocking boat just like his own boat, at 33% the size. He worked with his boat-building buddy, Roger Fletcher, to make it happen.

Final1

The results? Beautiful.

Final3

The boats are carefully hand-built in the same way as the full-size drift boats for which Greg is so well-known. That is a lot of measuring, cutting, shaping, joining, sanding, staining and sealing. As Greg told us, “I only know how to build boats one way.”

Final2

Greg also adapted the classic children’s poem, “Winkin, Blinkin & Nod” by Eugene Field to reflect his passion for drift boating (and Pendleton blankets, it seems). He published copies for each of the grandkids, and the books and boat were quite the hits.

So please enjoy these photos of Greg’s grandkids enjoying their new boat. Information on the rocking boat and book can be found at the Rocking Boat website.

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