Nov 26, 2013

Simple Tips When Traveling Abroad

Heading south of the border this winter? Here are some helpful travel tips from the research dept...

First... get your immune system as strong as possible by eating lots of fresh organic fruits and veggies, as well as daily doses of probiotics and other supplements that help support a balanced G.I. tract. Helping your body help itself can be the best plan of avoiding down time.

Second... and a lot of times the easiest, wash your hands! Wash them before meals, before you brush your teeth and multiple times a day if you get sick down there. Sneezing and snotting!!

Third... always drink bottled water. That's right, don't use tap water for much more than taking a shower. Don't rinse the toothbrush off using tap water either. Wash pots and pans with clean boiled water. This will be easier during longer stays when renting a house or apartment.

Fourth... if you are planning on eating out a lot, and many travelers do, try to avoid the street vendors. Some are fine, but some aren't really looking to give gringos the best they have and, well... you may just wind up with some bad pollo! Small towns are usually better than big cities, but as always, better safe than sorry.

Fifth... make friends with the locals! Not only will they get you on the good runs (when they have water!), but they usually know the doctor and can help ensure good treatment.

Did you get sick?? Don't wait, get a cure sooner than later. Except for a few controlled drugs like valium or codene, you can get medications from the pharmasist without a prescription. They are typically made by drug companies in Mexico, so you may not recognize the names, but the pharmacist can look up the chemical content of the drug you want and tell you the Mexican brand name. Many are illegal to bring back to the U.S., so beware.

Sixth... beware of biting things. On many tropical trips there are lots of small critters that will bite and suck the comfort out of you. Most put-ins and take-outs have mosquitos and tiny black sand flies. Typically, you'll never feel them land or bite you, so... bring some lightweight pants/bottoms to cover up your legs. Sometimes you have to wait for the shuttle taxi an hour or more and that's a long time to stand around with your legs exposed to those little buggers! Some will recommend DEET, but I like natural cures, starting with... covering up! If you were listening during the last paragraph, locals usually have natural remedies you can take that will, at least, ease some of the maddening itch. They itch a lot! So, don't even TOUCH them for the first two days, not even a little bump! After that the maddening itch will begin to dwindle. 

Along this line, most of the strays running around can be quite filthy, mangey or have infections you just don't want to be associate with... so don't pet 'em even if... they're the cutest ever.

Seventh... Earaches!! They happen, and an easy cure is half vinegar, half peroxide droplets in each ear with some cotton or toilet paper to keep it in your ear for half an hour. This practice goes a long way to prevent ear infections, too. If you do get a bad infection go to the doc so they can clean out the infection before giving you drops. 

Eighth... Sunburn!! Easy. Put on the sunscreen!! I use the strongest stuff I can find when I travel south of the border. Hitting the tanning bed on the regular a few weeks before travel can ease the tropical transition, too!

Theft is obviously another concern, but usually not a problem in smaller mountain towns where kayakers tend to congregate. As a general rule, though, don't bring anything you aren't willing to lose, i.e. expensive laptops, cash, jewelry, gear, cameras. Travel light and bring things you can give away to locals, in a show of thanks. It'll go a long way in building friendships and help ensure a fun lively vacation! Gifting is a good practice, anyway!! Have fun and travel safe this holiday season, y'all. Til next time...

Nov 20, 2013

The Grand Canyon pt 1

The Grand, The Big Ditch,  The Canyon... whatever it's called... it's one of the best multi-day trips, anywhere... and will remain one of the most daring (and supremely fun) things many of us ever do. Before the dam went in, heck, ever before the Forest Service was thought of... people were making their way down the slow pace of the Colorado River as it passes through its own Grand Canyon. During the spring the Colorado used to get to 100,000cfs and even once in 1983. There is so much history about this area I couldn't begin to share all of the beauty and lore. And I understand why there is so much and why it calls to so many from so far away... it is truly a magical wonderland.

"You know you're a Canyon guide when"     ... love these guys

A long time Canyon guide and great friend, Kyle Kovalik used to tell me, "Brett, it's the best raft-supported hiking trip you'll ever do," I think he's right. 21 days with 16 unique, capable individuals in one of the most spectacular canyons on earth, what could possibly go wrong? Nada.


The desert is an endless horizon. Except for the eastern Cascades, here in WA, I'd never been to a real desert. My friend Logan offered to drive both of us there. And though his car only had two seats, kayak racks, and a speedo with lots of numbers... we made it. Watching land formations and mountain ranges change is a treat in itself. Along with a small box of tasty treats from his dad's bakery in Leavenworth made it a great drive!

early morning Zion

The first night we slept outside Boise, I think? Poached some cold ground in a trailer park next to the highway. 19 degrees woke us up pretty early along with a chill blowing through my zero degree bag. Grabbed a quick breakfast and got back on the road. Drove through 2 major snow storms, but by the time we got to Lee's Ferry it was about sunset and 73. Nice and dry the desert was and every star in the sky was out. Possibilities seemed to have no limits. Creating our own adventures is what life is all about.

Amanda had a smile on her face pretty much the entire trip

Rig day!! Everyone who flew in, drove to the put in at Lee's Ferry with all of the gear. We rigged for half the day and finished with sunburns and beer. Thanks to our outfitter for making it a seamless transition. Renting the whole kit and driving away at the end is really the way to go, especially when driving from the PNW.

Laura enjoying billions of years of nature

We finally pushed off mid-afternoon, floated about 60 yards and parked on a small little wet piece of ground where we would officially launch in the morning, after our safety meeting with the ranger. The ranger was funny... sometimes. Let him be the funny one, it'll go quicker.

day 1
Kyle Kovalik took me down my first creek and, while he's my good friend, by the end he was everyone's good friend! He's a real love bug and his stories never get old (sometimes). Kyle's a true friend, has a long history of guiding in the Canyon and was unanimously nominated social director of our trip. Thanks Kyle! Kyle's beautiful, talented partner in crime Karen, and her friend Liz were coming from Denver. Big Mike! and many others were winging on down from the PNW. Long time paddling buddies Al and Jon drove together and weren't strangers to the Grand. Totten, his nephew Tanner, and friend and co-worker Amanda were already here. Wes knew Totten from another Canyon trip a couple years back and Wes's friend Laura who was on her own little adventure, making a detour on the way to Alaska! As well as Kate and Jason, who were midway through a cross-country trek from the Columbia Gorge to the deep south. EJ came from Portland and had been down the canyon several years before. We were all elated and everybody at least knew somebody! Very quickly we all became friends and this was to be one of, if not THE BEST river trip I'd ever been on! Thanks again to everyone for making this such a delightfully memorable voyage.

day 4: Redwall Cavern

Our trip had flows of 7,000-10,000 cfs, mostly sunny skies and temps hovering around 82. Not bad for late March! We really only had one rainy day and a couple of windy days during our whole trip! Amazing for spring time. The worst of which we saw at Deer Creek (day 9), but it was such a small price to pay, we were glad to have it. The rowers weren't glad I guess, but it was awesome to witness the power of stinging rain through a tight canyon corridor.

What's to follow is a mini-epic photo bombing of the most amazing desert-scape many have ever experienced. It's always a good time in the Canyon, but who you're with is really what makes it the best. Can't thank you all enough!!!

Jon, Kyle, EJ, and Al

just the beginning

nice to have medics in the middle of nowhere

We went on hikes every day of the trip!

Karen Quinn enjoying the desert


Laura taking a second look

Mike finds a little shade, it's hot in March

Cool petroglyphs!

it's mindblowing just how vast the desert really is

lunch at Redwall Cavern

Totten, Almquist and Albright

Tanman, Totten and Wesley Powell jam out in the Redwall

pics don't even touch it

bring fun things

become amazing!

not a bad spot for a kitchen

21 days full of good times

spring is nice in the Canyon

Jon and Amanda check out the Graineries

Kyle, abnormally silent

some of these spots... you just need to be here

another stunning slot canyon hike

Chris Totten

Mike Arnold

There is sooo much going on right here

THIS... takes a LONG time

the Grand just keeps on givin !

Jason Schroeder about to get it on  with Horn Rapid

Fun Runnin 'iss here crick

so   much   awesome

r to l: Al, Mike and Kyle in the captain's chairs

did I mention ALL of the indescribable beauty?

Tanner and Chris strain the gunk out of the rinse water


Laura, Karen and Wes

Sporty Spice 





hot mess


The last fresh water spring


lots to do

Tanner's first time in a kayak

another bend in the river

another camp

another spectacular side hike

same great folks

the Canyon is amazing

Laura rows EJ and Kate

this good

The Canyon is so good we can't get all the photos in to just one post! Stay tuned, y'all...