There are Grand Canyon trips, and then there are “Grand” Canyon trips. Dane and I had our first Grand Canyon experience, and it was one that I can’t imagine duplicating! Phil Boyer (team JK and 20 year veteran Grand Canyon Guide with over 120 trips down the Canyon) lead the guide crew from his kayak. Mike and Hilde from Coloma, both veteran Canyon guides and great boaters were the other kayaking guides. Jorge from Costa Rica (friend of mine for over 13 years) rowed the beer boat, while Orea and Chad were row raft guides for the non-paddlers, and Saul was the other gear raft guide. The trip started at Lee’s Ferry and continued down for 240 miles by kayak, and then a final 60 miles by jet boat out of Lake Powell, all in 13 days.

My partner, Tony Lunt, booked, organized, and paid for the trip for all 21 participants. This was part of his 50th birthday celebration year, which he called his “excuse”. I will simply start off by saying that he made a major impact on quite a few people’s lives for the better, and provided Dane and I with the most memorable river experience of our lives, which is no small feat. I can’t stress how grateful I am for this gift to us.

Phil, only 39 years old, an avid hardcore creeker, and rapidly developing playboater, is not only full of 20 years of Grand Canyon experience to share, but has gone as far as to write and share his own ballads about the river, recite stories about people who have passed there before us, and easily rivals any high school geology teacher for knowledge of how the earth is laid out. Straying out of earshot of Phil at any time would result in missing something meaningful.

The trip’s characters were:

Lunt nuclear family: Dominique Lunt (Tony’s lovely, witty, and wonderful wife), Mathew Lunt (Tony’s 18 year old entertaining son (Juliard for comedy, acting, etc., and quite the improve singer with lyrics that usually start with “I woke up this morning” to a B-B King raspy Blues voice. ), Alex Lunt (age 14 DUUUDE!) with two fingers on his dads buttons at all times, and a great playmate for Dane. (Matt, Alex, and Tony paddled the entire Canyon.)

Lunt Extended Family: Dr. Bill Lunt (Tony’s Cousin who paddled his black All-Star through everything until he broke his neck doing the high jump at a camping beach on Day 11) Bill brought his daughter, Annie, who is quite the daddy’s girl and 13 years old. Alex Lunt- Tony’s other Cousin who rafted. Susie Lunt (another cousin-sibling to the Alex and Bill) who paddled my Purple Hero down the river, while their daughter, Emma, enjoyed the raft with her husband, Larry.

Friends: Also on the trip were the “Fonzie’s- Tony, Becky, Serina, and Nina from Tucson. Bill Kesche from Tucson, Tony’s local paddling buddy and trip photographer (not the photos here, they are mine- Bill took really GOOD photos!)

Paddlers you would know: Jessie Stone paddled with us until Phantom Ranch and then hiked out and flew back to NY to prepare for the Kid’s Camp and be with family. Clay Wright and his girlfriend Tara paddled with us as well. Tonge’ (sorry, no idea how to spell this kids name) from France (14 year’s old) learned to paddle on the trip and then ran the bottom 100 miles, not including Lava Falls.

It has been Tony’s goal to kayak the Grand Canyon for some time. Now was the time as he had Phil, Mike, Hilde, EJ, Clay, and Jessie to watch over him. Tony paddled the entire thing except for a short back break on day 11. He did awesome and didn’t hesitate to run any rapid, even the biggest ones like Crystal, Granite, Hermit, and Lava Falls.

Clay, Dane, Jessie, Phil, and I did a ton of playboating each day. Whomever started the rumor that bringing a long boat to this river was better isn’t a playboater. While I agree that it is easier to run the rapids in a Hero, for example, than an All-Star, for many people the whitewater isn’t over their head and bringing a long boat eliminates the incredible amount of playing that is available. We were even talking about doing a “playboater’s guide to the grand canyon”. Waves, holes, pocket holes, eddylines, etc. were EVERYWHERE! Bringing a long boat to the Grand Canyon is EXACTLY like bringing one to the Ottawa River. Again, if you just want to make it through the rapids, that is one thing, but if you have enough skills to surf and play, bring your playboat! Some playboating highlights for me:

1. I got my biggest, second biggest, and third biggest Macho Moves in my 7 year history of doing them, all in one trip.
2. I learned to do Back Macho Moves, something I had only done once in 2004, but got some sweet ones on this trip and something I have never seen anyone do before. (straight over the top aerial back loops downstream)
3. I learned to do a flatwater McNasty and phonix Monkey.
4. My Air screw got straighter and faster.

End of part 1: