Flag Day: Day -1 Grand Canyon 2022
Day -1 on our Grand Canyon Adventure is also known as Flag Day. In the sport of whitewater rafting, Flag Day is not a holiday. It is a dawn til dusk list crushing event that can exhaust you before you even start the rafting part of a private Grand Canyon trip. It is the work before the rest of work. But not this time…we had a bad Flag Day -1 on our last trip in 2021, and learned some tough lessons about what happens when someone drops out right before launch. Thankfully, we only have each other to deal with this time. This makes communicating and decision making fast, fluid, and nimble.
Since we did most of the drive yesterday, we landed in Flagstaff way ahead of schedule. Additionally, we shopped and packed most of our gear and food in California, so we were left with very short shopping list for Flag Day. Still, we went over it in bed with cups of hot coffee in our hands. We ate a quick hotel waffle buffet breakfast before we left our cozy hotel in Williams, AZ.
When we rolled into Flagstaff we were at a bit of a loss of what to do. We had an early arrival scheduled at our airbnb where we would organize and repack, but that was still several hours away. Our hostess was river runner friendly and generous over text. She allowed us to unload a bunch of gear into her driveway so we could shop in town without worries. We de-rigged most of the truck into a rainbow colored pile of waterproof bags, ammo cans, camp items, and ice chests. All of these containers need to be repacked today with loose unorganized gear or food and ice.
Linking up with Our Outfitter
Before we left California, we called Moenkopi Riverworks, our rental gear outfitter of choice. This was Forrest’s fourth or fifth trip hiring out their gear for Grand Canyon rafting trips. His repeat business was owed to the flexibility of the company. We run unconventional styled river trips and appreciate that we are never forced into any all inclusive packages with Moenkopi. We aren’t once a year rafters; we own a lot of our own gear. Moenkopi allowed us to rent gear a la carte to fill in the gaps of what we don’t own.
Dave, the assistant manager, happened to live near our airbnb and offered to leave our rental ice chest and captain’s boxes in his driveway for us to pick up this morning. It was Saturday, and no one was in their shop to meet with us. We picked up the gear at Dave’s and headed to the grocery store for ice blocks and the remainder of our shopping list.
After a quick spin through the store, we cruised Beaver Street Liquor, the drive through liquor store of choice for rafting trips. “One beer a day,” Forrest said, adding, “if there’s room after packing, maybe a few more.” On a one boat trip, there’s only so much room for unnecessary things, and we tend to avoid the “booze cruise” mentality generally while rafting. (Most Grand Canyon trips have a boat just for alcoholic beverages.)
After shopping, we got back to our airbnb…still another hour before check in. We were just far too efficient with our time on this trip! We decided to spend the time lingering in the sunshine while eating fresh salads and chatting. Our hostess came outside shortly after and offered to open up our rental so we could get to work.
Preparation Pays Dividends
Packing for a 30 day rafting trip is one giant tetris game. We spent some hours setting up systems of organization in each container we hoped would serve us well in the coming weeks on the river. Lo and behold, there was room for a few more beers and a bag of cuties.
At the end of the packing session, we felt the first stirring of “heading out” emotions. There is a separateness to heading out and living in the wild. There are no comforts out there except the ones you bring with you. We both shared a mental moment of releasing ourselves from the tethers of our lives back home and embracing the endeavor fully. It was a relief to no longer fixate on personal issues, business plans, or social frivolity. We surrendered to the reality of committing to the canyon, and this tsunamied us into a much needed afternoon nap. Or maybe it was just the celebratory margaritas at the end of packing…maybe a bit of both.
“Plan your work, work your plan.” It has finally paid off, and it’s all getting packed in the boat tomorrow. Downstream, we shall see delicious dividends in all these 20mm cans and the frozen 210 liter cooler, and in the lack of camp chores…and the abundance of adventures from the river level up.