A Ton of Food and Homeland Security… Rafting the Grand Canyon

Preparation for our 18-day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon quickly taught me that eating was going to be a central part of our adventure. This is the back of my 22-foot travel van after a trip to Safeway in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Great adventures start with the mundane. For example, did you cancel the paper? Common sense (and probably your mother) admonish that devious burglars have nothing better to do than to cruise the streets looking for rolled newspapers in front of your home.

More importantly, what about the cat?

Once upon a time Peggy and I had a cat named Effie. Vacations meant I would carefully measure out twice as much food and water as she could possibly eat or drink and four times the kitty litter she might use. The likelihood of her pooping all over the house was much greater that the likelihood of her starving. As a reward for my thoughtfulness, she would shed enough fur in our absence to fill a dump truck.

Now we have food to worry about. Lots of it. Tom Lovering, the trip leader, his wife Beth and their friend Jamie Wilson arrived in Flagstaff three days in advance of our Colorado River trip. Their car was packed to the brim with empty ammo cans and other watertight boxes waiting to be filled with food and the miscellaneous paraphernalia of river trips.

The Department of Homeland Security delayed their journey at Hoover Dam. The Agency is paranoid about mad bombers. Its normally low sense of humor dropped to zero when the agents saw all the ammo cans. The whole car had to be unpacked.

Tom Lovering, our trip leader, has been running rivers since the 70s. I first met him in 1974 when I persuaded him that his outdoor/wilderness store, Alpine West, should sponsor a hundred mile backpack trip I was organizing for the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

Tom is even more paranoid about food than DHS is about terrorists. In addition to being a highly experienced rafter and trip leader, he’s an old restaurateur who had spent months planning the menu.  Each dish has been tested several times and quantities have been measured down to the teaspoon. Recipes are spelled out in minute detail. We will eat gourmet on the trip… or die. The options are clear.

Beth, Peggy and I are dispatched to Sam’s Club with marching orders. We fill seven large shopping carts with food. Think of it this way. There are 16 people going on an 18-day trip and eating three meals a day. This equals 864 individual meals.

When we arrive back at the motel, Tom and Jamie have set up a staging area. Food needs to be organized by meal and day and then stuffed in the appropriate containers. The containers will then be assigned to rafts. It’s important that we know where to find the beer.

We have yet to shop for perishables and more food is coming from Sacramento. Our room, we discover, is to be the recipient of most food. There is barely space to sleep.

Food purchase and storage for an 18-day river adventure depends upon numerous lists. First you have to plan out menus and quantities. Next the food needs to be purchased. Finally it has to be carefully stored so you will find the right food on the right day. Tom’s wife, Beth, was in charge of the lists. (Photo by Don Green)

One of our participants obviously felt that tequila and oranges needed to be stored together.

Our bedroom was packed with food. Personal gear is on the bed.

Food organization took place outside of our motel rooms.

The next day is more relaxed. Other trip members begin to arrive and Peggy and I assume airport shuttle duty. Tom takes time for a makeover into something resembling an English Punk Rocker from the 70s with green and purple hair. Homeland Security was right to be suspicious.

Tom is 50% businessman, 30% adventurer, and 20% character. Or maybe I have the percentages reversed. Here he is having his hair bleached for the trip. You will see the results in future posts.

Next blog: Three days and 39 miles: The Journey Begins.

The morning of the adventure has arrived. Everything we have packed… our food, personal gear and rafts are stuffed into this truck in preparation for our drive to the takeoff point, Lee’s Ferry.

4 thoughts on “A Ton of Food and Homeland Security… Rafting the Grand Canyon

    • Without Safeway, without modern rafts, without detailed maps, without satellite phones… and the list goes on and on. (grin) There are times when I wish I was back there… exploring new lands.

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