Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Out of the rabbit hole.

Climbing my way back, with minor injuries and major work impediments. Apologies for the absurd delay. So about that Grand Canyon trip: If you should ever have the opportunity to do this – do it. Just go. This is a rare and unique opportunity to see the canyon in a way that so completely surpasses the park-your-car and hike to an overlook, or ride-a-mule-to-the-bottom adventure that I cannot find the words.

Do It.

It was beyond wonderful. Challenging, hot,
freezing, dirty, and soooooo totally worth it. We arrived one day after some massive and horrible flash floods. The day we cast off our primary guide was very concerned about a dozen people who were reported lost – the raft(s) that they had been on were found many miles downriver from their last known location. The river was very high, running fast and deep, the color of a caramel latte, and soon looked more like a chocolate milkshake. We cast off, thirteen strangers, into the most remarkable adventure. Well, six of us knew one another - but the others were new, different and totally wonderful. This is the “before” picture – look how clean we are!

From left to right are Dave and Sally B, Me, DH in the yellow shirt in back, and Rhonda and Ron in the front. Our raft is behind – notice the generous pontoons (I later heard these rafts called Bologna boats!) Less than an hour later we were inundated by a thunderstorm – we sat in the boat in our wet gear looking liking the most pathetic bunch of drowned rats as we drifted downriver. The rain was warm but the river water was ffffrreeezzzinggg. At one point someone said Oh my god, look at that – and we turned to look upriver at a solid curtain of rain descending upon us. Amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. After what seemed like hours alternating between baking and shivering we rounded a bend in the river and moored at a huge cavern carved out by the river
(and queue music sung by angels ~~~ aaaHHHaaah~~~) – and pulled out to a warm sandy overhang the size of two football fields, where the guides and two of the teenage boys played Frisbee, and the rest of us tried to get acquainted with each other and with our frozen appendages. Along for our journey were Jeff, Donna, their son Bryan, and Donna’s sister Sandra, from Connecticut and a grandfather/father/son trio: Verlan, his son Clark, and grandson Josh. Verlan was the most amazing person - every night he'd stand up with a poem or story, some funny, and some very poignant , and all very much looked forward to and throughly enjoyed.

Hilariously, Donna later admitted to me that when she’d heard that a bunch of Californians were coming along she was certain we’d all look like something out of "The Real Housewives Of Orange County” Har!
Poor thing ended up stuck with the Real Nerds Of The Silicon Valley.

Oh Theresa – that little pink bag you see inside the dry sack on top of the central storage section – that’s your HUGe gift from last year, containing one slightly damp pair of malabrigo socks. I did try knitting, really I did, and since we were limited to 25 pounds of gear total, socks seemed to be the perfect project. Unfortunately most all of the knitting happened on the plane ride – the necessities of setup/meals/cleanup in camp life left no time at all until after dark, at which time my ha
ndy-dandy ear light reverted to a handy-dandy bug attractant. That kind of took the fun out of knitting, really.

Our guides were Steven, Marty, and Mike. Steven is evidently one of the top river guides (which we found out later) – he had a near encyclopedic knowledge of the river and its history - Mike was the new trainee (impossibly quiet and adorable), and Marty the self proclaimed “color guy”. Steven (in back with the yellow life vest, Marty front right, Mike peeking out from back left. Marty was flat out hilarious. The kind guy with a dozen funny stories available at the drop of a hat; the kind of guy to whom you'd say “if you’re ever in town…” – and he’d show up. And you’d love him for it.

Steve seemed to have a story for every riffle and rapid on the river. Usually a grim story about what person(s) died at that particular section, which was a source of endless amusement for the two teen boys. But man, did he know the
river – exactly how to approach each wicked rapid, work through (or past) every treacherous hole, and avoid the huge rocks lying under the surface of seeming innocent looking riffles.

I’m not fit to describe the sites. I can show a few pictures and throw out a few fancy words that contain phrases like sedimentation layers and “vishnu schist” (a substance that is a like a billion words old and which every single female on the boat swore would make the best ever countertop).

<<<--Sitting on the shist.

So many amazing things happened, like seeing the nautiloid fossils that measured the length of my forearm – and only came to view when Steven splashed water from a puddle over the sandstone... look close, it's there >>>

(Look here for better pictures of nautiloid fossils)

And then there was fact the fact that I scaled a rock wall three times my height to see the those fossils. Have I mentioned my fear of heights?

Watching Verlan (70+years old) sail past a the gasping/panting Donna and myself as we slogged up a canyon to the most beautiful waterfall and cavern.

Funniest event: Ron betting Rhonda a
fancy piece of jewelry if she’d jump off a waterfall ledge. (This is my husband Bob in the picture, not Rhonda, BTW)

I’ve never seen any woman rip off a hat and sunglasses so fast… mind you, Rhonda can’t really swim. Dog paddle, yes… barely. I’m afraid of heights & couldn’t get the nerve to shimmy through the rock chimney to get to that ledge – but Rhonda, bless her heart - did it. And wore the diamond bracelet to her daughter’s wedding a month later. Ron had made the jump earlier and had forgotten to leave behind his waterproof video camera. Remarkably, Brian dove down and found it, still recording.

We went through some amazing rapids: Lava, which is legendary,

and Specter – which we renamed Sphincter - after riding through a hole that had us staring up at a wall of water a good twelve fee
t overhead.

After one of our day hikes I’d k
ind of torn my knee up coming down this wall (surprise!), so spent the day in the back of the boat where I could sit through the rough stuff – most everyone else had to be “down and in” – meaning crouched between the center storage and the pontoon, hanging on for dear life on the pontoon tie-down straps and my knee wasn’t in any state for crouching – so I got the full view as we plunged through the Lava rapids and hurled towards what Donna and I referred to later as the Wall O’Doom. We missed it by a comfortable eight or so inches. I later overheard our guide remark that he’d swum that rapid (meaning overturned and dumped!) more than he’d gone through dry... Oy. I can’t even imagine it. Prior to riding in the Cleopatra spot I rode most of the rapids on the pontoons, usually astride kind of like riding a horse – but the pontoon buckles were the
source of some truly
epic bruises -
onna-> and Me ->

I could go on for days about the trip – and if I have the energy I’ll fill in a few more details later. For anyone who is
considering a trip down the river, do not hesitate - DO IT. If you're interested there are a few more pictures on my Flickr account and both Bryan and Sally set up additional photo albums as well. Sally's album shows Verlan's final evening story - the classic Casey At Bat, with his grandson Josh playing the part of the "hands" during the story. It was too funny, and I'll treasure that memory forever. Made all the more impressive that Verlan knew this (and so many more) stories by heart.

Small tidbits: Microfiber: Good, because it dries fast (the water is bitter cold). Cotton tank tops: guaranteed misery (the water is bitter cold and the irony of shivering when it is 98 degrees out is, ummm… not so funny).

White underwear – forget it. Everything white ends up stained brown. (Because of the water, not The Groover).

This is The Groover. You don't want to know anything else. Really.

Hats are a woman’s best friend, barring regular bathing where shampoo is involved.

A pair of kayaking gloves would be really fine idea and would have spared me a few blisters.

A complete change of clothing can be accomplished in the company of a dozen strangers with a strategically wrapped sheet.

A tube of Aquaphor can make you the most popular person on a trip down a very alkaline river, though Marty had yet another use for vinegar - a teaspoon rubbed over your hands would do wonders to soften them. You smelled like a pickle, but at least your hands felt good.

There are not as may scorpions as you might think, but a cot is definitely better than on the ground.

It is probably really bad karma to giggle at the incoming rafters with the freshly styled hair, immaculate manicures and spotless Keen water shoes and my payback was swift and sure (but standing there at Whitmore Wash waiting for the helicopter
that would take us all back to civilization while the new rafters sort of sniffed at us… priceless).

<<--My formerly red sandals - see the sand sluicing out of them? It took three trips through the washing machine to get the sand out. The payback: putting away our camp gear under the house, I slipped and fell hard on my fanny, breaking my tailbone and then dragging around one of those mortifying blow-up rings to sit on for a couple of weeks.


Upon returning from vacation, my work went from nuts to total insanity, so no blogging. Or knitting. Newspapers piled up for a week before I'd toss them because I didn't have time to read them.
Not much sleeping either. My cats didn't recognize me. Nor did my kids or husband. I think I did more all-nighters in that six weeks than I did in my entire college career! I probably smelled bad. And in the month of November I had over 280 billable hours - for just the one major client. The other little ones had a piece of my flesh too... But however much I might bitch about it, I'm still deeply grateful to have work when so many others are struggling. I've been through some mighty lean times in the past... given the choice I'll take the insane hours every time.


Other random items: One of my most favorite places ever - my LYS - closed this month, victim of the rotten economy. I know it wasn't an easy decision for the owner to make, and it was heartbreaking for all of us who worked there. The small upside was in taking advantage for the last time my employee discount and buying absurd amounts of yarn to stash away. I'm so far past SABLE* status I'll need to clone myself quite soon just to justify the yarn purchases.

*Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy


Apologies for the overly long and sort of rambling post - I blame the drugs.

You know the story about the guy who finds a genie in a bottle and is granted three wishes, but each wish has some ugly twist to it? After the last two months I'd been wishing for a couple of days off, where I could just sit and knit and catch up a bit on of my shows that have been cluttering up the DVR.

Wish Granted!

My parting shot for the year was to
fall off a ladder have a ladder self destruct under my feet in a daft attempt to reach for a box of Christmas items stored in a highly inaccessible place in the basement (thanks to DH who is having to re-arrange and shuffle basement items so as to work on various bits of our sort-of remodel) - the net result was yet another nasty fall. A new stupendous set of bruises and broken ribs just to ice the cake, so to speak. Vicodin is currently my best friend! And I'm taking a few days off, but it sort of hurts to sit. And thanks to the lovely Vicodin I seem to have lost the ability to count to 39 and cast on a simple K1-P1 ribbed scarf. (sigh).

I've discovered that Macy's does not stock corsets - that'd really help with the whole breathing and coughing thing right now. I'm pretty sure that the sales clerk thought I was certifiable though, so it was worth asking about just to see the look on her face. I settled for some u-g-l-y sports bras.

Perhaps in the next week or so (assuming I can stay concious long enough) I'll post some actual knitting content! Right now though, I'm having trouble just staying awake enough to read my email. Seriously. DH found me face first on my desk earlier this afternoon. It goes without saying that it was some pretty dull email.

Meanwhile - I hope everyone has had a safe and happy holiday with my best wishes for an excellent new year.


junior_goddess said...

you said schist.


smariek said...

What a post! I hope you're on the fast track to mending. Sending you (((HEALING))) vibes.

Loved reading about the vicissitudinous trip to the Canyon, it's on my "to visit" list. You crack me up with the Nerds of SV.

cupcakefaerie said...

What an amazing trip! I hope you're feeling better. Did you try the bridal area for corsets?

Happy New Year!