Summer Newsletter Is Available On Our Website

We hope you have some great fun planned for this summer. Our current Newsletter is available for download here.

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Take Time to Watch Our Bhutan Slideshow

Please take the time to watch our recently posted 22 minute slideshow featuring some of our travels in Bhutan. We hope it will inspire you to join us in this remarkable Himalayan Kingdom. Since 2006 we’ve been returning to explore it’s beautiful rivers, stunning scenery and gracious culture. Join us for one of our regular departures in the fall or let us put together a custom trip for you.

 

A Rare Moment In Bhutan

The Thangka of Paro Dzong on display just outside the fortress walls.

The Thangka of Paro Dzong on display just outside the fortress walls.

When in Bhutan, one constantly experiences moments of serendipity. Shedding the western desire to stick to a schedule allows one to experience these moments and open up to some pretty wonderful things.  Such was the case on the first day with our Class III kayaking and cultural group.  We were en route to our hotel after picking everyone up at the airport. Glancing across the valley toward the Paro Dzong (fortress), I saw that a 3-story tapestry (called a Thangka) was unfurled and on display.  These huge panels are the end product of many months of labor, hand appliquéing and embroidering figures and symbols of religious significance. A Thangka is taken out of storage only one day a year for a few hours. This is a special Bhuddist ceremony, a time of celebration and blessings. For a chillip (that’s us) to see one in person is rare.  We quickly detoured over to the Dzong.

What little we could glean about this particular Thangka is that it was made by the community and presented to the Dzong one year earlier. Its significance was the blessing of long life. It had been on display once, exactly a year prior. It’s annual hanging was an unannounced event, and our group was but a handful of westerners that made up the small crowd that was there. The locals were dressed in their finest traditional clothes; men in their gos and kabne shawls while the women were in kira skirts, teago jackets and rachung scarfs.

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Woman in their traditional dress of Kiras attend the blessing of the Paro Thangka.

It is considered a blessing as well as a means of gaining merit to be in the presence of one of these large Thondrels. People prostrated facing the thangka, lit butter lamps, received blessings from monks and, one by one, approached the thangka so as to touch their forehead to the underside of the edge of the cloth.

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Worshipers pray in front of the giant tapestry or Thangka at Paro Dzong.

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A woman recieves a blessing from a monk.

Almost immediately we saw the monks were getting into position to roll the thangka in a extremely prescribed manner in order to return it to storage inside the Dzong.

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Raedy to roll. Moments after we arrived to view this large Tangka it was rolled and stored until the next year.

A row of monks and others lined up shoulder to shoulder across the width of the base of the enormous panel and, under the commands of a head lama, began a careful and coordinated effort to fold it as it was lowered from above.

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A lama oversees the folding of the large Thangka.

From there it was placed on a sheet of fabric, folded lengthwise many times and wrapped in a fabric casing.  The immense and heavy package was hoisted onto the shoulders of mostly monks and a procession lead by a small band of musicians, flag bearers, locals and religious officials marched up the stairs of the fortress where it will remain until next year.

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A procession walks from where the Thangka once hung toward the Paro Dzong

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Monks carry the heavy fabric panel toward the Paro Dzong.

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The heavy Tangka is carried into the Paro Dzong.

Truly a significant and “auspicious” event for the start of our trip and, in some ways, just another day in the life of Bhutan. We all knew this was going to be a good trip.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Kayaking Grand Canyon Trip Report: September 10-24, 2013

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I’m not sure if it’s possible to have too much fun but it sure is worth trying!

As I write this our politicians are holding the Grand Canyon and all federally controlled recreation lands, as well as many people’s jobs and livelihoods hostage while they play a game of chicken with our national budget.  Anyone who has either signed on for a commercial trip or whose long awaited start for a private permit is scheduled during this time is being blocked from launching. Ironic that the very places that many of us go to get away from it all are affected even as we try to escape.

If all you did was look at a map each time you went to run the Grand Canyon or any other river for that matter, it would look the same each time you came back.  You put in at point A and take out at point B.  That is where the similarities end.  Each time you put on, the river is going to be a little different, it might be clear or muddy, a little higher or a little lower, the weather might be cloudy or sunny, cool or hot, but  what really sets it all apart from the rest of the trips you may have done are the people.  It’s a key element in all trips.

To paddle the Colorado is one thing, to experience as much of the Grand Canyon as you can is another.  For many this truly is a once in a lifetime trip, the only time they’ll get to do it. Others will fall under its spell and find ways to return again and again. What if this is your only trip?  Wouldn’t you want to see as much as you possibly can?  We agree!  So on the mellow water days we might load everyone onto the rafts (along with their kayaks) so we can focus on exploring the many side canyons and doing as many loops hikes as possible.

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We truly look forward to the actual running of our trips.  We’d been corresponding with many of our guests for close to a year and finally being on the river together is what it’s all about.  On this trip we had folks from Germany, Switzerland and all across the US, plus our good friends Jaime and Gisela from Ecuador.  We also had a great crew of guides from Tour West, our Grand Canyon outfitter.  Four trip leaders!  With over 500 combined trips down the Colorado between them, let’s just say that Dave, Kyle, Tom and Cameron knew their way around.

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The southwest had been experiencing later-than-usual rainfall. We knew we weren’t going to have a clear water trip. Just as a splash of milk will change the color of a cup of coffee, it doesn’t take much silt from a tributary to turn the main river some shade of “colorado”. Just downstream of the put-in with an “average” flow of 35 cfs, the Paria mixes with the green water of the dam-controlled Grand. Three day after we put-in, the Paria peaked at over 7,000 cfs! Our flows for the 15 days fluctuated between 9,000 – 19,000 cfs, 2,000 – 6000 cfs more than the dam released. This silt laden run-off negated the term “whitewater” and made our paddles slippery to hold. THIS is the Colorado!!

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For the first three days we lived with clouds and occasional rainfall (never at mealtime). We retreated to our tents each night to be sure we got a good nights sleep. By the forth night tents gave way to cots.  From then on we slept under clear, starry skies. During those early days we hiked into the Esplanade Sandstone of North Canyon, took on the rapids of the Roaring Twenties and settled into the mellow stretch of river below Silver Grotto.  We threw frisbees at Redwall Cavern, marveled at Nautaloid fossils, climbed high at Eminance Break to see this mighty river oxbow around Point Hansburough, we swam in the clear water at the end of the of Saddle Canyon hike and gazed from the granaries of Nankoweap at the iconic downstream view.

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In spite of the rain, most of the side streams were flowing clear so we made stops at places like Shinumo, Elve’s, Clear Creek, Makatamiba, Havasu and Three Springs. We were also fortunate to camp at Stone Creek, Ledge’s and Fern Glen, also with clean water.

The Canyon itself was verdant!  While hiking to the overlook at Unkar, normally a sun-parched wasteland, someone commented that it looked as if grass seed had been spread and a lush lawn was coming in.

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We were a merry band of kayakers and rafters, all keen for adventure.  The hiking trio of Jean “the machine”, Rimma and Michele were a force to be reckoned with, often heading up the pack during the longer hikes at Carbon-Lava Chuar, Tabernacle and the Surprise Valley up-and-over from Tapeat’s to Deer Creek. Michele would often stop to catalog her most recent find in the form of a plant, critter or rock. It had been a long talked about dream to share the Canyon with Todd and Becky, as it sits in their backyard. It wasn’t until this year they were able to make it happen.  Mary F. gets the “Vishnu Schist” award for having undergone the greatest metamorphosis, with true grace, from neophyte camper to Canyon veteran. Amazing, Mary.

This was Jaime’s second trip down the Colorado, perhaps giving him the most runs in a kayak by an Ecuadorian (how’s that for looking for a first). Gisela, from the tropical town of Tena, Ecuador was soaking up the desert and game for anything (as long as she got a clean-water solar shower each day).

Patrick, Jerry and Steve usually led the kayak charge, going BIG by hitting both holes in Crystal, venturing right at Hance, repeatedly plugging the hole in Upset and taking the crasher at 209 head on! Carry back up to do it again? You bet! Tom, at 72, with somewhere in the neighborhood of  25 trips down the Colorado, was the man to watch for smooth lines with minimal effort.  Eike, the nicest guy around, had never seen such big flows!  An example of efficiency, he’d see his line and quickly run it clean. (A version of “they’re at the top, I’m at the bottom. I win!”)  He found an outlet for his surplus energy in crushing cans in camp each night perfecting the technique of minimum blows.  It was fun to watch his confidence in the bigger water began to match his solid skills.

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Maren boated the Grand with us before.  Right off the bat she looked like a different paddler by styling Badger on day one (it had knocked her flat three years earlier). She never looked back as she gracefully aced the big rapids. (I think she might have flipped only once the whole trip!) Thomas took the realistic approach, chose his paddling days wisely and put great effort into working on his roll and technique for negotiating the swirlies.  Mark with his calm expression had a paddling style to match, never too much or too little, just steady. He survived the most dramatic collapse of Lava’s infamous Kahuna wave I have ever seen!  Jim was back for more and paddled better than any of his previous times down. Todd and George consumed the most oxygen through the big rapids with heart rates exceeding their max! Each rose to the occasion and scored successes that left them confident and elated (and perhaps humbled in a couple of the biggest rapids). But who cares! It’s only water! And with the hikes, geology, flora and fauna, solitude and camaraderie, the Grand Canyon put everything into perspective.

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For 15 days we had molded into a supportive, motley extended family.

And then, it was over.

It’s a weird transition, going from a place where the perspective of time doesn’t mean the same as it does back home.  Where life is bared down and decisions simple. Where the eyes see differently, and the spontaneity of the moment reminds us of life on the playground. It took three days to wash most of the silt from our gear when we got back. I don’t think that it’s possible to ever wash away the memories of those 15 incredible days together. Why would anyone want to?

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Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

A More Relaxed Approach To Luggage During a Stay In Bangkok.

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Many of our guests who travel with us for our kayaking and cultural tours in Bhutan opt to use Bangkok, Thailand as their gateway city. We’ve always suggested they spend some extra days in Bangkok so as to feel more rested when they do travel on to Bhutan. Staying in Bangkok doesn’t mean you have to haul all of your luggage around the city with you, here is a suggested alternative.

Most taxis in Bangkok are the size of a Toyota Corolla and we’ve spent our fair share of time upon arrival at the city’s airport showing doubting taxi drivers how to stuff all of our luggage, including a paddle bag, into their cabs. We would then repeat this when we returned to the airport just a few days later for an early morning departure on to Bhutan.   This past year Mary and I finally figured out how to take advantage of the Suvarnabhumi airport’s “left Baggage” service so we could go into town with just a daypack each.

There are two locations for baggage storage in the airport, one on the 2nd floor for arrivals and another on the 4th floor for departures. We use the one on the 4th floor as it makes it easier for us on departure day. It is located at the end of the “Q” row of counters and is open 24/7 and cost about $3.00 U.S./ bag/day in 2012.

Here’s what to expect. When you first arrive in Thailand you’ll have to go through immigration.  Once your passport has been stamped you’ll see some money exchange kiosks just before you get to the baggage carousels. We’ll usually exchange some money there. You might find a better rate at your hotel or somewhere else in the city but you are going to need something for taxis and perhaps a bite to eat and these kiosks are a pretty convenient place to do it.  Once we claim our bags from the carousel we find a quiet corner of the baggage area where we can open them up and shuffle things around, taking just what we need for our short and usually hot stay in Bangkok and load it into our large daypacks or small duffel that we’ll take with us in the taxi.  The rest goes into our luggage that we’ll be storing at the airport and is locked.  We’ll then use the luggage carts to get upstairs, check in our left luggage and head back downstairs to where we can catch a cab to our hotel.

When you return to the airport to fly out again just grab a cart, go back to the kiosk where you left your bags, pay and claim them. From there it’s off  to your counter and check in.  Don’t forget to factor in a little extra time to reclaim your bags in case they are busy.

Do it this way and you’ll get to travel light to the city, won’t have to pantomime packing a car to a taxi driver and won’t be tripping over bags of clothing meant for the Himalaya in your tropical Bangkok hotel room.

Note: They do have restrictions on some items you can store. For the most part they don’t want you leaving valuables like cameras, documents or electronics. There is a list when you go to check them in. As with any time you entrust someone else with your luggage there can be risks.  This is just a suggestion for one way to avoid extra inconvenience while in Bangkok.

Here is a link to the Left Baggage site:

http://www.suvarnabhumiairport.com/service_baggage_service_en.php

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Return To The Rogue

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A  tanker helicopter works it’s way up the Howard Creek drainage along the Rogue River.

The Big Windy fire that kept us away from the Rogue River for our first two trips had, as much as a fire can, settled into a more predictable pattern.  It wasn’t crowning from tree top to tree top and it hadn’t jumped the river. Officials were calling it a “healthy fire” since it’s behavior was to creep along at ground level confined to just the understory, despite having burned thousands of acres.

The BLM reopened the river corridor allowing trips to resume.  There were still restrictions in place from Howard Creek down to Missouri Creek with regards to where you could stop during the day as well as camp each night. The normal shuttle route over Bear Camp Road was closed meaning trips would have to return via the coastal route. We were pretty excited about the prospects of getting at least one trip in on the Rogue this season.  Thanks to Jim Ritter at RRJ we had been keeping our guests on each trip up to date on the fire’s status. This third group was happy to hear about the reopening and they understood there would be smoke for part of the trip- how much and where was up to the wind.

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First camp at Wildcat

In addition to the great white water and instructional opportunities the Rogue presents, we were all pretty curious about seeing the effects of the fire. From our first night’s camp at Wildcat we could see the smoke and occasional flames from the Howard Creek area a mile downstream.  Thankfully we had downstream wind and air at camp was clean with blue sky above.

Howard Creek, we were told, was where fire crews were putting in a fire line to form the eastern boundary of the fire. Just before we arrived in camp, in the flats above Tyee rapid, a large tanker helicopter dropped down to within feet of the water’s surface and began slurping up water.  It flew off in the direction of the Howard Creek drainage and returned to begin the process all over again.

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Day two started out smokey.

Day 2 dawned an eerie, heavy day. The clouds built as we packed up, obscuring the sun and holding the smoke in while the rain began to fall. We made our way past the most active part of the fire visible from the river.  It was the most bizarre scene, the trees were green and healthy while underneath, smoldering moss and grass occasionally gave rise to a small flareup. Rarely on the hillside we saw the glow from a burning tree trunk -surrounded by green trees!  We could see scorched areas where the fire had come down almost to the water’s edge.  It looked as if fingers of the fire had extended down the hill.  The worst area was around Horseshoe bend where a stretch of shoreline from Jenny Creek down to the point at Horseshoe had been scorched.  We learned later that was the result of a back burn that firemen set to prevent the fire from jumping the river.

As the cool, steady rain fell, all I could think about were the positive affects as it washed the smoke from the sky.  By the time we made it to camp at Mule Creek the air was clean and altho we set up tents, the skies cleared and the stars were bright.

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Nine year old Johnny kayaks near camp at Mule Creek.

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Super guide Katherine Luscher surveying her domain

Day 3 dawned clear and the Rogue was looking like it’s old self again.  We paddled Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar under sunny skies, watched Johnny skip stones and talked him into his first session of bottom walking (picture big rock, calm pool, start walking, hold breath- oh and heavy parental supervision and approval) all before lunch.

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Clifford S. exiting Mule Creek Canyon under mostly blue skies.

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Nature’s cooler.

On the last night, after the evening’s festivities and dinner, people wandered off to bed, tired from another good day. Three of us remained, standing at the edge of camp looking up at the night’s sky.  Mostly we were silent, enjoying the beauty of the moment.

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The group from our August 21st Rogue trip

Adventure is defined as “outcome unknown”.  Thanks to all that joined us on this and the trip on the Deschutes this year.  We are grateful for your adventurous spirit and for placing your trust in us and the fantastic crew we work with from Rogue River Journeys.  Together we all made some great memories.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Hot Lemonade And The Rogue Less Traveled

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Deschutes River, Oregon

When fires ignited by lightning began to burn in the Rogue River corridor on July 26th we held our breaths to see what would happen next and how that might affect our August trips.  The Rogue is a beautifully forested river that hasn’t seen a major fire in many years.  It had been spared from being involved in the 500,000 acre Biscuit Fire complex back in 2002 when that fire stopped just shy of the southern boundary of the river’s view shed along Bear Camp Road. This time the fire had started within the corridor and the potential for a big burn seemed high.

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I wish it were this simple. Fires were a big factor on many rivers in the west this year.

On July 31st the BLM closed the Wild and Scenic portion of the river from the put in at Grave Creek to Marial, just above Mule Creek Canyon.  In some cases the fire had burned very close to the river and, remarkably, it had been solely limited to the south (river left) side. We had to cancel our August 7th trip.

We then turned our attention to our August 14 and 21st dates. Brainstorming with our outfitter, Jim Ritter of Rogue River Journeys, we decided to move the next trip to the Deschutes in Northeastern Oregon, just north of Bend. The Deschutes fit a number of criteria in terms of length of run, difficulty and a location that wasn’t ridiculously far from people’s original travel plans.  Most of all, it wasn’t on fire.

Making the switch wasn’t without its challenges and rewarding moments.  I love the boating community and the way the outfitters support each other, kinda like living in a small town where everyone is willing to pitch in and help. We activated the boating network and reconnected with friends we hadn’t talked with in a long time. Fellow kayak instructors, raft company owners and private boaters all helped us gather info about the run before we ever paddled it.

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Mary and our vehicle’s solar powered BPS (Buddhist Positioning System) otherwise know as a prayer wheel.

Since this would be our first time down the Deschutes and wanting to provide the best trip possible, Mary and I headed to the north with enough time to get in a quick two-day paddle of the 52 mile stretch from Warm Springs to Sandy Beach before our August 14th launch. The experience was greatly aided with the help of Brian Sykes and his guides at Ouzel Rafting who let us paddle along on an overnight trip and pick the brains of the guides about camps and the like.

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Bucksin Mary putting the hammer down on a 32 mile scouting day.

RRJ guides Katherine, Saylor, Ross and Esa showed up late the night before the launch, weary from the travel but excited about a new adventure and all of us being together again on the water.  The next morning we rigged and talk more with Tim, an Ouzel guide with great knowledge who guided with our trip. Jim Ritter, RRJ manager extraordinaire and our kayak guests arrived in time for lunch after a scenic drive from Medford along the upper reaches of the Rogue. Then we hit the water.

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First night’s camp.

What I  saw during the trip was the coming together of a great group of folks; guides who were motivated to run the best trip possible and guests who wanted to spend multiple days on the river while having a good time, learning new skills and improving existing ones.  The Deschutes did not disappoint.  The last day of our run was a nice climax to the trip, full of great rapids.

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Classroom with a view. Mary leads a “chalk talk” about strategies before leaving camp day 2.

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Super guides that know how to keep it fun while providing a great trip.

The most common comment we got from folks as we said good bye? “See you on the Rogue next year”.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.