Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grand Canyon #2 (read #1 first for a more fulfilling blog-reading experience)

          Aight.  Let’s break it down.  Me and Matthew and Mykel and Uncle Chris all drove down together.  It was about a six hour drive to get there.  As we started getting closer and closer, the towns got smaller and smaller.  Uncle Chris told us to look out for the police cars that sit on the side of the road.  They are meant to make people slow down, and I’m sure it works.  But he told us to look inside of the cars at the policemen and we might notice something a little strange about them.  As we drove by, we realized that they were dummies.  There was one in nearly every town.  We thought that it was hilarious.  There was another funny thing that we saw on a billboard.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but I do know that their little slogan was “Home of the Ho-made pie.”  Ridiculous.  Anyway, soon enough we were on the road that took us down to Lee’s Ferry, which was our launch point for the next day.  As we drove, we kept getting lower and lower in elevation, and the temperature was getting higher and higher…and higher.  I watched it go from 85 to 95 in just over ten minutes.  And this was at ten at night!  Once we got there, dad was waiting (with his head lamp on, mind you) and told us where to go.  I went and used the facilities, which were conveniently fly-infested, and while I was in there, it started pouring.  Dad called me from the campsite and told me to just stay there until it lightened up.  So, I just chilled with my friends the flies in a bathroom for a good 10 minutes or so.  It was cute.  Finally the rain lightened up, and I walked back to find my father (still wearing a head lamp, mind you).  Jalyn was there waiting for me and she directed me to where our turbo tent was.  It was a good thing, too because there was just a bunches of bushes and it was dark and I didn’t have a head lamp, so there easily could have been the longest game of Marco Polo if she hadn’t been there.  I got into the giant tent, which conveniently has a little divider thing down the middle so me and Jelly slept on the one side while Tom and Jake slept on the other.  The divider wasn’t there so I got to see my homies.  While I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised to see that they were lacking just slightly in the clothing department.  I was so excited to see my little children, and I was talking loud as everyone informed me the next morning.  Tom was pretending that he was asleep and got really annoyed when I started talking.  He’s 15, what did you expect?  Anyway, Jake probably did a couple model poses for me in his boxers and then we went to sleep.  Oh wait, did I just say we went to sleep?  Because that totally didn’t happen.  95 degree weather makes that idea a bit of a struggle.  So I just laid there for the longest time.  No sleeping bag, no sheet, and it was still boiling hot in there.  That was definitely the worst night of the trip.
                I finally got a bit of sleep in before I woke up bright and early with the sun the next morning.  Me and the Bubs (Jake) went and immediately went to ask mom when breakfast was going to be.  Well, it may have been something more along the lines of “When are you going to get up and get breakfast ready?”  Haha, only joking.  I was starving though, so when she told me that it was going to be at 8, I was super grateful because that couldn’t be too long of a wait.  Then she told me it was 5:45 a.m.  That’s the part where I started crying.  Ha, no.  But seriously, I was like “Girl, what?!?  How is that possible?  It’s already like a bajillion degrees out here and the sun is out and it’s hot and I don’t know what I’m going to do for the next 2 hours because my favorite hobby of finger painting is totally not an option right now and neither is blog stalking so if you could give me some ideas that would be cool because I’m really hungry and the fact that you're just lying there on your bed with your eyes closed is giving me the impression that you’re not particularly concerned about my woes in life and that is totally not helping this situation.”   That was the part where I heard Danny from his tent tell me to be quiet.
                So, I figured I would go pack my black bag.  Each person on the trip gets a waterproof black bag to store all their stuff in for the trip.  I think it’s supposed to be like those little black boxes on airplanes that can't be destroyed and hold all the secrets except these can be destroyed and they don't hold any secrets.  Anyway, I think I walked toward the car which is where I think my black bag was that I was supposed to pack.  I’m pretty sure I got distracted though, because I didn’t actually pack my black bag for another hour and a half…I’m not really sure how that happened…and even then, I didn’t finish because of the whole breakfast situation, and we all know that that was a top priority in my mind.  So I guess I must have gotten dressed or something.  Oh wait, no.  I don’t know what I did for a while, but when mom finally got up, she helped my find a fast-drying long sleeve shirt.  Now, you probably already know what shirt I’m going to get but let me just tell you how it all went down.  Mom told me that she had asked Grandpa for some of his old river shirts for us kids to wear on the trip.  He gave her a couple and she brought them along.  You have to understand how it goes on the river.  There is absolutely no point in bringing anything you don't want to get destroyed because there is a good chance that a lot of the things that you bring will not be fitting to be worn in public again...ever.  So, I go with the ridiculous route.  Everything I bring is really old and ridiculous.  That's just the way it goes.
        She started pulling them out—first a plaid one.  I told her that one would be nice.  She pulled out another—a brownish one with a paisley print…I told her that it was a little freaky and therefore might do, but she was like, “Oh, just wait.  You think that one is good?  Look at this one.”  And there it was.  A beauty just waiting to be rediscovered.  The leopard print.  Oh, the leopard print.  Ladies and gentlemen, it was a beauty.  The fact that it was a man’s shirt made no difference to me.  That shirt and I were meant to be together.  It would complement my party pants fantastically.  She told me she knew I was going to pick that one…in fact, everyone did.  When I went around showing people, they were like, “Oh yeah.  Mom told us about that.  We knew you would pick it.”  Really, folks?  Am I that predictable?  Sheesh. 
                Okay, so by this point you’re like, “Seriously girlfriend?  What are you even talking about?  Was this a river trip or just an outfit catalog?”  To which I say, “Yes.”
                Okay, so I packed my black bag (sort of), got dressed, helped take down the tent…oh yes, I helped take down the tent.  Who’s idea was it to leave me alone to take down the tent without giving me any kind of direction?  I mean, besides the fact that it’s me you’re suggesting should take down the tent, isn’t it common knowledge that tents are the most ridiculous thing and that there are always ridiculous details that need to be taken into account when attempting to fit a GIANT tent into a tiny bag?  So finally Jake and Jalyn and Tom helped me figure out the quirks of this tent.  Of course, the whole time Tom was making comments as to how I was dumber than our dog Malcolm, and that even Malcolm could have figured this one out.  It’s alright, though.  It’s a family joke.  Apparently Malcolm was potty-trained before I was.

Malcolm was born when I was 10.
                Okay, so now for the good part.  Breakfast.  Yum.  I love me some good breakfast.  Costco muffins, bagels, fruit, juice, banana bread, cookies.  Actually, the cookies weren’t supposed to be for breakfast, but I ate them anyway.  That was when the snarfing began.

                LeCheminant Lingo: Throughout these posts, you will likely find many words that could be classified as LeCheminant Lingo, most of which were coined by grandpa himself  These are words that grandpa uses on a regular basis.  They may or may not be real words, but it’s LeCheminant Lingo, and understanding their meaning is crucial to understand how we LeCheminants do rafting trips.  So when they come up, I will try to remember to define them.
                Snarf:  to eat, to finish off.  Not necessarily to eat quickly.  This word is used daily, likely at every meal.  Ex: Somebody needs to come snarf up the rest of this food! Or Did you guys snarf up enough lunch?
                So we snarfed.  Oh, how we snarfed. 
                Then the ranger came to tell us about what not to do on the river.  I don’t usually like the ranger talks because 1) they kind of freak me out with all the crazy things that can happen, 2) rangers are weird—this one was missing many teeth, and 3) they take forever because they feel the need to include personal stories wherever possible.
                So after approximately 58 hours, he finally finished.  We headed off to the boats and prepared for launch. (No, not lunch, launch.  It’s okay, I thought they said lunch, too.  I was a pretty disappointed.)  That’s when I realized my sunglasses were beyond repair.  I tried fixing them, but that was a pretty bad idea and while they did improve the ensemble I had goin’ on, they were a no go.  They were completely broken, and there was nothing duct tape could do.  Ha, but I had no idea how hilarious they looked. So Lena let me borrow a pair of hers because she brought extra.

                We all got into the boats; Jalyn, Jake and I went in Kevin’s boat.  Yee!  We were just about to launch when the rainclouds came.  Cool.  It literally started raining right when we started rowing.  It was so freaking hot, and then two seconds later I was freezing.  The wind was also blowing pretty hard, so the boatmen were trying to row, but they would just get blown upstream…except for dad’s boat, which is kind of ironic because he was rowing Tubby.
                Tubby:  the heavy boat.  While the other boats get lighter throughout the trip, Tubby gets heavier The food from the other boats is getting eaten, but it still has to be taken off the river whether it’s gone through your body or not…do you catch my drift? Ex:  Jake: Mom, can I come in your boat? Mom: No, because it’s Tubby, and it’s already heavy enough.  And yes, I just called you fat.
                After a while, the rain let up, and we were starting to get the hang of things.  There were a couple of baby rapids, but what we were really looking forward to was the Badger Creek Rapid, the first toddler rapid.  It wasn’t going to be much, but it was the biggest one of the first day, so naturally we were excited.  No scouting was required for this rapid because on a scale of 1 to 10, it was maybe a five.  Just a little discussion amongst the boats.
                Scouting:  Not just LeCheminant Lingo—it’s more rafting Lingo.  The act of pulling the boats over to the side and havi the boatmen hike up to the rapid and see what it looks like.  They argue, or shall we say, heatedly discuss which route they will take, which rocks must be avoided, and any other problems that may exist in the rapid.  When all the uncles/brothers are there to scout(on this trip, we had three of the four—Paul, Greg (dad), and Chris—as well as grandpa, you’re always in for a treat.  They love to argue, or more specifically, dad and grandpa love to argue.  It’s hilarious.  But they always figure it out.  They’re always unified in the route they’re going to take once they’ve decided.
                So no, this rapid did not need to be scouted.  We just went for it.  Kevin’s boat was last.  We watched Dad go through it, no problem.  We watched Matthew go through it, no problem.  We watched Chris go through it, no problem.  We watched Paul go through it…problem.  We saw Paul’s boat head into the rapid and the next thing we saw was his boat, but upside down.  Not good.  Not good at all.  We hoped the other boats would be able to catch it, but we still had to focus on getting through.  We had no idea what had happened to Paul’s boat, but fortunately we were able to see that all the members of hit boat were floating and that they would be okay.  Still, we didn’t really know what we were going to do…we had gotten farther behind and hadn’t been able to hear any of the discussion as to where we should go on this rapid.  So Kevin stood up in the boat and tried to see what Paul (his dad) had hit that caused his boat to flip.  He couldn’t figure it out, so he sat down and just prepared to go through it.  Jalyn and I were like, “We’ll be fine, it’s no big deal.”  Kevin was like, “No promises…”  That was the last thing I remember him saying before our boat went over an underwater rock and straight into a hole.
                Hole:  In a rapid, holes are often created when there are rocks in water.  Most times you can’t see the rock until it’s too late.  That is why it is very important to have a guidebook and seasoned rafters on your trip that know where the holes are so that they can be avoided.  The rock causes the water to run over it and then immediately drop straight down.  With all that water dropping straight down and not flowing like the rest of the water, backwater is created.  Backwater spins backward and doesn’t flow immediately forward.  When a boat goes into a hole, the backwater then pours right into the boat.  If the hole is big enough, it can flip a boat over.  If it’s a really bad hole, it can cause the boat to spin around and around, over and over, and can ruin a boat.
                We went straight into that hole and I just remember seeing a wall of water coming back on us.  I tried to hold on but there was so much water coming back onto me, there was no way I could keep holding on.  I remember falling into the water and then looking around and all I could see was black.  I had no idea which direction was up, which is why life jackets are so cool because they make you float to the top of the water…and they keep you from drowning.  So I knew I was floating up, but everything was still black and I desperately needed some air.  You don’t take a big breath right before you get knocked out of a boat, and at this point I wonder if I even bothered take a breath in the past five minutes because I needed air, and I needed it right then.  But I don’t even have time to think about that because I’m sure I’m still a million feet under water and everything is black and what if I’m headed straight up toward the bottom of the boat?  One of my worst fears about rafting is that if I fell out, I would float up right under the boat.  In that case, I would have to swim around until I could find the end of the boat and finally come up for air.  What if I came up on one end of the boat and what with all the rapid-like water moving around I couldn’t find the edge?  What if I got stuck?  What if, what if?  Fortunately, I did not get stuck under the boat, but I really needed to breathe.  I finally, after what seemed like hours, made it up and out of the water.  But I was still in the rapid, which makes the whole breathing situation very difficult.  I kept going up and down, up and down, dying for air.  They teach you to breathe at the bottom of the wave, which is more predictable than the top, where water is always crashing against your face.  They also tell you to put your feet out in front of you, so you don’t injure yourself too bad on any rocks.  Sure, sure.  I’ve heard that speech a million times.  Piece of cake.  Let me tell you, when you’re thrown into a legitimate rapid, it all of a sudden takes everything you’ve got to put all those things you learned together and to make it work.  I finally get my feet out in front of me, and while I’m still struggling to breathe, I at least know I’ll be okay. 
                The first thing I do is look around for my boat.  At this point, probably less that 7 or 8 seconds after I fall out and still in the middle of the rapid, I assume I was the only one that fell out.  Then I freak out because I can’t find my boat.  I immediately assume the worst and think that it’s stuck in the hole, but then I turn around and see it floating right side up…but empty.  Oh my good crap, everyone fell out.  I don’t see anyone.  Where are they?  All I can think is, “Where is my baby brother?  Where is he?”  I know Jalyn and Kevin will be able to swim through this, but that little boy.  I don’t know, some motherly instinct kicks in and I just worry about the youngest, the littlest.  Not as strong as the rest of us, still learning the ways of the river.  I’m ready to freak out.  All I can think is what if my baby brother is stuck in that hole?  What if he hit a rock and got knocked unconscious?  What if?  Then I see Kevin way up ahead of me and the first thing I scream is “Where’s Jacob?!??!!”  He looks around and I swear it was 7 hours before he turns back and tells me that he’s up ahead on the other side of our boat which has zoomed past us and that Jalyn is with him.  I calm down, because now I know that everyone is accounted for and thank goodness Jalyn is with Jake.  By this point, I’ve probably been in the water for 20 seconds or so.  In that moment I also remember that this water is 55 degrees, tops.  In the ranger's boring beyond boring speech I do remember something about how a person can only last five to ten minutes in the water.  I’m freezing.  My breathe is so short, I can hardly get through a wave before I’m dying for more air.  I’m positive I’m getting more water in my mouth than air.  It was so rough.
                Finally, we made it to calmer waters.  I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I’ve caught up to Danny and Lena, who fell out of Paul’s boat.  All the boats are still so far up ahead and all I can think about it how cold I am.  I keep wishing they could row upstream toward us, but of course they can’t.  In fact, by this point it looks as though Jalyn and Jake have been collected.  In the calm water, we have to kick our legs and swim to keep us moving down the river.  We swim and swim for what felt like forever, but it was probably 3 or 4 minutes.  I know I have to get to where those boats are, but the annoying thing is that they’re still moving away from me. 
                The water picks up again and we’re going through more waves.  Danny yells at us to put our legs in front of us and breathe at the bottom of the waves.  We shoot ahead and it finally seems as though we’re getting closer to the boats that have now pulled over to the side, ready to collect us.  It is at this point that I realize that I’m in the middle of the river.  Somehow I have to get over to the side.  I start swimming as hard as I can, but I’m tired.  I feel like I’m making no progress.  I’m approaching all the boats that are pulled over to the side, but I’m still too far away.  In fact, since Kevin's boat is unavailable and Paul's boat is flipped over, only Matthew, Dad, and Chris have available boats and they're all gathering other people.  I look ahead and I see more waves.  I try to mentally prepare myself to go through yet another set of waves, but all I can think about is how cold I am and how I don’t think I can make through anymore waves.  Uncle Chris’ boat looks like my only chance.  Uncle Brian, who was in Chris’ boat, has the throw bag.  I wish he would hurry up and throw it and then pull me back in.  He throws it and it lands about 10 feet upstream.  I’m exhausted and I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to reach it.  My arms don’t want to move anymore, and my legs feel dead.  I tell them I can’t get to it, that I just can’t reach it.  Then I hear my Aunt Julie saying, “Yes you can.  Yes, you can.  You’re almost there.”  As cheesy as it sounds, that’s what does it.  I use all the energy I have left to swim those final feet to the throw bag.  Uncle Brian pulls me to the side of the boat and goes to pull me in.  Normally, if you’re outside of the boat, someone pulls you in, but you also help to pull yourself in.  This time, I could do nothing.  I was honestly a dead weight.  I had zero strength.  He pulled me into the back of the raft, but immediately had to turn around to the other side because Lena had just run into the other side of the boat and he had to hurry and get her back in before we got into the next rapid.  I just laid there in the bottom of the boat as Lena came in on top of me.  We made it.  I didn’t have to swim anymore.  I could breathe easily.  It was like the highlight of my life.  You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.  I was so cold and so exhausted.  Word to the wise:  don’t hang out it really cold water.
                We pull over at the next available spot.  We had to take off all of our wet and freezing outerclothes so we were just in our swimsuits.  They had us sit on warm rocks so we could warm up as soon as possible.  I remember my teeth chattering for minutes.  Uncle Chris gave me his life jacket, which was dry and warm to put over myself.  I took off my shoes and socks.  Then I took a look at the damage.  I had lost my sunglasses and my bandana.  I looked at my legs.  Huge bruises, and tons of them.  I don’t remember hitting any rocks or anything under the water, but I must have because I was pretty banged up.

                I just remember laying there for a good 10 or 15 minutes thinking about how grateful I was for life jackets, throw bags, the ability to swim, and family.
                The rest of the day was pretty chill.  We camped soon after that and everyone spent the evening telling their version of the story.  Seven of the sixteen people on the trip had fallen out.  I was so glad that it was the last two boats, so that the others could help us.  I was so glad that we had all made it back to the boats safely, but it definitely shook me up a bit.  I was a little freaked out by the whole experience.  I really like families, though.
                Oh, and side note.  Remember the part where everyone fell out of our boat?  Well, apparently it caught up to Chris’ boat and grandpa jumped from that boat to Kevin’s and rowed it to shore.  The guy is 81 years old and he jumped to Kevin’s boat and rowed it to shore.  We’re talking about Superman here, folks.  Crazy.
                Okay, so I apologize.  I had no intention for this post to be nearly this long, but it was kind of an eventful day.  Hopefully the others will be more concise, but we all know that being concise in my writing is not one of my talents.  But I’ll try.
                Also, I'm sorry for how many times I changed tense in this post.


Matt & Mykel said...

For Pete's Sake Stacy! That sounds horrifying...I'm glad I read that after the trip was over. I'm so glad you're okay. That really was crazy!
Also, so glad you FINALLY got your breakfast :) Plus, I agree, first night = worst night. I don't think anyone slept - too bad you weren't still out at the bathroom when I took my midnight underwear stroll - what a sight you would have had to behold :)

Mom said...

Yikes...reliving that experience through your eyes is even more traumatizing than watching all of you in the water and trying to rescue you. I too am glad you were the last boat and not the first and all ended well (although for the first 3-4 days of the trip I wondered if we would ever have a "normal" day on the river without mishap)! Note: Next time I'll assign you breakfast prep:)!

Julie/Mom said...

Great recounting of the first day...I wasn't sure if it was worse being in the water or having to watch all of you from the boats just praying that we could get to you before the next patch of rough water. Now, After reading your post, I realize it was by far more terrifying to be in the water. I'll never forget how relieved we all were when everyone was safely "gathered in"!

Grandma Carr said...

How terrified you must have been, Stacy! After reading of your experience, it's a good thing I'm not younger! I was wishing I was with you guys going on your Grand Canyon adventure; but I don't even know how to swim!! Our prayers about bringing you all home safely were certainly answered.

Aubrea said...

STACY!!!!! What were you wearing in these pictures?!?!? Not gonna lie... it's pretty horrendous