Dear Friends at Pendleton;
Our first day on the Colorado started with a river rat breakfast, a ranger briefing of the do’s and dont’s of the Grand Canyon National Park, and a final equipment check before pushing off from Lee’s Ferry in the late morning sun on a beautiful March day in the canyon.
The oars flexed light and the boat rode high as the afternoon wind picked up. After less than ten miles of sluggish rowing, we pulled into our targeted campsite. I eased the 1962 replica Portola to shore, tied up to a sand stake, “unwedged” the yellow dry bag from the side hatch of the boat, grabbed three oars and trudged up the steep bank to our first campsite on the 24 day adventure.
I would be crashing in “canvas and wool” each night – a nod to the natural material of the ‘62 trip we were so carefully trying to replicate. A wool camp blanket from Pendleton and a David Ellis bed roll of canvas would be my mattress and comforter for this trip (with an occasional canvas tent for foul weather and photo ops). The natural fiber of cotton and wool seems more “authentic” and consistent with the spirit and intent of this adventure.
The swirling sand in the breeze led me to pick a small clump of scraggly trees as a backdrop for my bedroll on that first night and I quickly lashed the oars together to form a tripod as I tied off the hood of the bedroll.
By the third night on the river (and every night thereafter) I was too tired to lug the oars. I simply chucked my bedroll and blanket onto the flattest space I could find in the vicinity of the campfire and called it “home” for the night. “Home” was also home to spiders, scorpions, snakes, and a few varieties of river rodents which occasionally crept into my dreams–but not my bedroll.
Through high winds, sand storms, light rain and chilly mornings, the canvas kept me dry and the wool kept me warm in the canyon. We took over 5,000 digital pics, shot over 100 hours of high definition video, and recreated dozens of photos from the 1962 trip. It was a fantastic project and so much fun to be a part of.
I’ve been asked to write a book about this adventure from the special history of the 1962 trip (which helped save the Grand Canyon from “dam proliferation”) to building the replica boat to the trip itself. If I do it, there will be a chapter on Canvas and Wool….. your Pendleton blankets added a richness and depth to my own personal experience on this trip that I will never forget.
Boat Builder and Rower of the Portola
Thanks, Greg. It was our pleasure to play along at home.
National Park Series blankets and Yakima Camp blankets can be found here. See them in action as you enjoy a slideshow of Greg’s riverside camps, interspersed with artist Dan Burr’s beautiful paintings.