Grand Canyon Mojo
No river trip is the same, and you’re never the same after any river trip. Getting on a Grand Canyon River Trip is always something special. Grand trips are so many things. There’s the big water challenge, but each rapid has a moderate and easy line and can be portaged easily in a kayak. There are amazing hikes, climbs, and hidden treasures to be discovered and epic views of rock, sun, water, stars and moon. The delight is the wilderness setting amongst the camaraderie of friends and the love of your Grand Canyon Family. Take the Grand trip as far as you can, you’re alive and living. You are out there….in the backcountry and it is serious. It’s the chance for total escape of the world…..Check out time!
15 of us just paddled the Grand Canyon, 226 miles from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek in about 12 days…all by kayak. We came to love our XP’s…. our homes for 12 short January days.
12 days is a short trip by most standards…long enough to see the sights, surf the waves, and hike up the side canyons, but without the extra work and cost of raft support. Most of us just wanted to see if it could be done. Just get there with your boat and a trip to the grocery store, Liquid Logic has got the rest covered. Just hop a jet if you have to and get to Flagstaff…. meet up with Ted….were waiting on ya…
The Park Service has regulations for solid waste disposal…aka GROOVER. Woody designed a killer Groover for the Remix XP. He built them ahead of the trip for each of us, and they are perfect fit for this down river mission in the G.C. national Park. . Your own private Grand Groover consists of some Glued up 8 inch PVC Pipe, sealed on one end and threaded screw cap (water tight) on the other. Disassemble your bow pillar and cut out a template. Two cam straps hold everything in place and this design doesn’t take a lot space out of your boat. And its cheap, $35 materials and can be built in less than hour.
Preparing for a 12 day kayak trip without a mother ship raft to support us was a lot easier than I thought. Just be able to pack extra warm winter gear like down jackets, down booties, tents, tarps, or bivy’s and a winter sleeping bag. Then there is food. Just think light and make it lighter. Or pack the essential gear, and stock up on your favorite good eats that will fit in the kayak after everything else in packed!
The 2nd biggest Park Service Requirement on the grand is having a fire pan. Boyce made a break down firepan out of Alum plates and angle iron shapes for the stakes and frame, and a Kevlar fire blanket as a liner. This gear was split up and carried between 2 to 3 boats and doesn’t weight a lot, I think at least 60% to 75% less weight than a traditional steel fire pan that rafts carry.
I filled my groover with plastic bags of Charcoal. Keeps the stink down. This way you can cook the freshly caught trout and grill over it the fire pan, and it helps start a raging campfire a lot faster, especially when the wood might wet or raining or just to warm up faster. Fires can also help you dry the outside of your drysuit or any wet clothing before you take it off. A rolled up dry drysuit makes a nice pillow and a dry warm dry suit can take the edge off chilly river mornin’s.
Now that the biggest Park service required gear is met, time to get that boat packed. Packing for a 12 day self support can be a little intimidating. But with a little planning and the right boat (bigger the better for the only ditch that is one of the 8 wonders of the world! For this Mission, we choose our Liquid Logic Remix XP ‘s. XP’s are bigger than your average whitewater boat at 10 feet 2 inches with a rear hatch and bulkhead. The rear hatch gives you easy access to the largest compartment of the boat. It’s a lot easier to open a big hatch and pack and unpack gear than from most whitewater kayaks that we’ve been using, where the only access is behind the seat and behind a back band. Having a “big”hatch in a kayak really helps packing larger bags and gear into the boat.
Small end bags like Watershed Futa’s can easily slide into the stern, I like how they fill the shape of the boat and offer more flotation for swims. Sea 2 Summit Compression dry bags compress all your clothes, tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag to half their normal size, sometimes even less! Fill the rest with Jet Boil stoves, fuel cans, water filter, first aid kit. Etc. More room for heavy items or Watershed Ocoee dry bags behind the back band. The XP has a water bottle holder in the seat between your legs, but instead pack a thermos for hot drinks or soups there. The XP doesn’t have a bulkhead, it has foot pegs. So its easy to get some more storage bags like two more Watershed Futa’s or three Ocoee’s or just simple roll closure bags. Some of us had plastic Jars with watertight screw lids for nuts, rasins, trail mix or misc gear items. Anything that this watertight will work when packing an XP! I took out my foot pegs and arranged the bags to be my foot rests. Worked fine and I didn’t have to hassle moving the pegs around to get the bags out. I think I gained some more storage this way too. The Remix XP can swallow big helpings of gear like the CU football team at the training table. It’s a little strange to look at a whitewater boat with a hatch on the stern deck and a mini cell foam bulkhead. Not to worry, this system works and works well. It’s the future of self support trips like the Grand Canyon. Multi days….bring em on!
Paddling a big boat in big water can be challenging. First….any wave catching is a bonus! You can t expect to play your way down the river in a January multiday trip. But it was surprising how easy the Remix catches waves loaded or not. It’s big and wide and supports paddler and gear weight very well. It’s also got to be the easiest Whitewater boat to roll on the market. Which I found out when I tried to get aggressive on the waves…ooops! Heavy boats take longer to turn, carve, respond, so you have to adjust your paddling style a bit. A big bonus is how a loaded boat can punch through a big hole. With so much more mass, you don’t have to paddle that much harder to get the momentum needed to get through holes and big transverse waves and diagonals…just T them up and take them on! With a bigger boat, go for the bigger waves! We got some serious surfs at the bottom of Lava, Crystal, and other huge waves that would be premier on most runs, but everywhere on the grand. Lot of these waves are just too big, fast, and so far from the eddies that only a longer boat can catch. I don’t think I will ever take a boat under 8 feet on the Grand Canyon. The Trade off for big green wave surfs in a long boat outweighs the limited small hole riding in a small boat. Take a long boat on the grand and catch more waves, take a short boat and watch everybody in long boats catch all the waves…you dig?
Another plus to taking a big boat like the XP on the Canyon is that there is a lot of flat moving water and flat slow water. The Remix XP has the rocker profile and hull shape of a whitewater kayak with moderate bow rocker in an oversized package ie wider, longer, more volume. Just like powder ski’s for backcountry…fat to float a heavier load. The REMIX XP Bow is shaped with a little more “V”, so the bow holds your line while cranking through the flats. Also, a rear skeg at the end of the boat can be deployed to assist tracking. A Skeg (pronounced sk-egg not pronounced SKAG ( a very older women that goes after a “Pup” (a pup is cougar bait) A skeg is a just a simple blade that drops from the boat’s stern into the water much like a Fin on a surfboard. It is fixed like a surfboard fin and does not have any moving parts like a rudder. When a skeg is down, it helps the boat go straight. When your Skeg is down, you don’t need to make a lot of correctional strokes. It’s those moments on flat water …as your bow goes yawning off to the left or right that can be frustrating. With the XP skeg down, you can relax and just let the forward strokes fly and make time to the next wave, rapid, side canyon hike, or paddle in high gear to get to camp before the sun goes down.
Take a short boat and you should have your head lamp ready cause you’re going to get left in the dust in the pools. Another benefit of the XP skeg placement is that you can play the swirls, eddies, and whirlpools better than shorter boats. You just don’t experience the spin outs that you do in smaller boats. The Colorado flows at 11,000 to 19,000 cfs…that’s big pushy water with whirlpools that make squirt boaters cry out for “MAMMA! I wanna go home” The XP skeg makes it easier to hold your angle and charge through just about any boil, whirlpool, swirly, etc. The Skeg is also spring loaded so if you hit a rock or drag up on the beach, the skeg will just slide back into the skeg box. But its also operated by a lever outside your spray skirt. So, in the rapids and surfs, or when you need the maneuverability just turn the lever to stow the skeg. We did notice that on waves, put the skeg down and lock yourself into a really stable surf with a roster tail! Yeah man, skeg roosting!
Bottom line, is that the Remix XP is the boss of self support big or small water. The XP owns Rivers, so go for it!
Other than the huge whitewater and canyon scenery, the Grand Canyon offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the west. Just about every drainage and creek has a trail to something special.
The Grand Canyon Geology Course is a PHD’s wonder, the Anasazi ruins and petro glyphs are an archeologist mystery, and the change in vegetation from desert to year round rain forest lush is strikingly unexpected to any naturalist. You can experience everything the Grand Canyon has to offer from a self support kayak trip. You don’t need a month off work and big raft and thick wallet for the trip anymore. The XP can get it done!
XP Livin’…..lose yourself in the Grand Canyon 😉
Here’s Dave bombing the gut of Crystal(ie.big ass hole) in the XP10
This is a really cool video about kayak camping. It has some footage of this GC trip, as well as good info on overnighters.