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Day 5: Buck Farm Canyon to Nankoweep


March 9, 2014

We leave Buck Farm Canyon fairly late, about 10:45, and head down to President Harding Rapid. This was named by one of the early survey trips who supposedly heard about the death of President Harding while they were working in the area.  Dave wants to film the dories going through this rapid to match it to film he has of the original  boats going through the same rapid.  Izzy takes the oars of Susie Too from camp to the top of the rapid and decides she wants to photograph us going through, so I take back the oars.  It is a straight forward rapid with a large rock in the middle and the right channel blocked with rock fall at this level of the river and is an easy run.  Stef takes his inflatable paddleboard through and has so much fun he walks back up and does it again. We are mostly in the sun today, which is nice because the temperature has dropped a bit and it can be cool in the shade of these high walls at this time of the year.  Most of us get into splash jackets when we are in the shade and get out of them when we hit the sun.  A short time after the rapid, we find a great beach and pull over for lunch. I set up one of the solar chargers to get the Goal Zero large battery recharged and we laze around for an hour with setting up, eating, and cleaning up.

We have been divided into 5 teams and we rotate through 3 assignments and 2 days off in every 5.  The assignment starts with dinner and goes through lunch the following day.  The first and most important assignment is the groover.  When first we come into camp, that box is unloaded as soon as it is uncovered and a spot for its placement is selected.  Most of the time there is an obvious spot that has been used before and the box carrying our solid waste is carried and placed.  Another box with the fitted lid and toilet seat is also carried and the seat lid fitted.  A large, well-marked pee bucket is put out with a small child’s seat for the women to use and the seat is easily removable for the men to use.  Most trips are using a pee bucket system these days since there have been several unexplained drowning deaths on river trips over the years where it was assumed that the unlucky victim got up to pee in the middle of the night, slipped into the river and drowned.   Toilet paper is set out in a covered plastic box, small stakes with reflective arrows are set back along the trail so we can find it with a head lamp at night; the hand sanitizer is set out both at the toilet site and at the entrance to the trail and most importantly the Groover Guy is set out at the entrance to the trail.  If the Groover Guy is at the entrance no one is using the facility.  If he is gone, you must wait your turn or determine if he has been forgotten at the groover by the last user. With 16 on the trip, there are times when there is a line. This team is also responsible for washing all the removable pieces at the end of the morning before we leave and packing them away and carrying the now heavier box back to the boats and getting the box and all equipment packed away.

The second team is the cook team. When we come into camp they retrieve the food box for the day, which has the menu, a list of all the food they need for dinner, breakfast and lunch, and packing the breakfast and lunch food away in the boxes that will be used for those meals, and then shopping through the coolers and commissary boxes for what they need, cooking the food and cleaning up the food.  Some of us have brought specialty equipment such as Dutch ovens (mine), or the raised fire pan (Doug), and we usually see if it is needed and get those out and set up for the group and getting those cleaned up.

The third team is the dishwashing team and they are responsible for getting water in 4 metal washtubs, heating it on the blaster (specialty 1-burner stove designed for heating water fast), and setting it up in a line with the first being hot soapy water designed to get all food particles off the dishes, pots, and pans.  The second is also hot soapy water to make sure everything is clean.  The third is a clear water rinse with Clorox, but the bleach does not work well if soap is present so it is really to get the soap residue off.  The fourth and final rinse is cold water with bleach and dishes need to sit in this for a short time and then are put into a net dish drainer that ties onto tall tables that we work from, cook on, and wash dishes on.  When they air dry, they are put away in the kitchen boxes.

In addition to the chores, each of us is responsible for unpacking and packing the boats, carrying gear, and generally helping out to make sure everything works in addition to setting up our individual camps and tearing them down the next day.  In our spare time most of us photograph, journal, hike, nap or, in my case, write our descriptive blog.  Except for Shy’s unfortunate accident the trip is going well.  There is a lot of laughter, a lot of conversation and a lot of fun and the Canyon is beautiful.

The weather is warmer than expected and life is good.

~Helen Howard


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