The Ladies’ Guide to the Grand Canyon


I have gotten many questions in the past about women-specific issues on the river, so I thought I’d offer a few thoughts. I originally wrote this for the ladies in my 2013 trip and it has been forwarded to other women, so I thought I would share it more broadly.

me boating gc

My first trip in 2010. I was TL and rowed a boat…and had NO idea what I was doing! Luckily I am a fast learner.

  1. Do you have a sarong? Buy one and pack it. I swear by mine, used it almost every day on my last two trips. They are great for changing in front of others without flashing anyone. A sun shade when you’re getting burned. A sheet at night when it’s hot (or extra insulation when it’s cold). A skirt, dress, towel, blanket. Dries quick, stows small. Love love love it.
  1. Pack some ziplocs & tissues in your toiletries bag or personal ammo can. The group trash won’t always be available or sometimes it won’t be convenient to put something discreet in there. So wrap it up in tissues and put in your ziploc to throw away later. I even used mine for kleenex at night, food wrappers, and other trash, then would empty it/throw it away once or twice a day at camp.



So you wanna raft the Grand Canyon? Step 1: Win the Permit Lottery

If you have ever seen photos from someone’s trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, a spark probably ignited in you with the desire to do the trip yourself…someday. Most of the US population will never attempt such an experience but for others it is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation (or for others, “The once-in-a-lifetime trip that I take every year,” as Bryce Greer was quoted as saying of his annual winter Canyon trip tradition). You may think you could never organize such a trip so you just wait for the chance to be invited on someone else’s trip, and when that invitation comes, you worry if you can get off work, if you’ll get along with the group, and if you can handle sleeping outside for two to three weeks straight—traveling day in and day out with the same group of people.

The truth is that you can absolutely plan such a trip and I will help make it easy. As someone with three trips in three years (or in one month, four trips in four years), I frequently get asked how to plan the trip or how to start the process. I planned my first trip with 61 days’ notice…with ZERO previous experience. If I did it, you can, too! And I will help you. Does this not look amazing? Well worth the effort!


Life’s lessons from a dog

Tonight I learned that a dear childhood friend lost her four-legged best friend of twelve years, a yellow lab named Berkeley. He reminded me of the pup in a book I had read three years ago when I was living at the Nantahala, called Merle: Lessons from a Free-Thinking Dog. I looked the book up online and enjoyed some excerpts to remind me of the story and what the author learned thanks to this free-spirited dog he rescued on a river trip. Berkeley and Merle got me thinking of my own dog, how much of my life was different because of her, and how much I have learned about myself and life from the little pup that seems to have figured out the keys to happiness. (more…)

The Van Re-build: Insulation Continued (Part 2)

As I mentioned in the previous post, Version 1 of The Van had polyester batting glued to the window cut-outs. I did this mostly to fill the gap around the potential window rim, so Reflectix on top of it would lie flatter. I don’t think is a good idea–a better idea would be to put Reflectix here and then cover with insulation. But this stuff is glued down pretty good and is not coming up, so I’m leaving it up.

Next, I used the pieces of Reflectix from Version 1 and re-attached them over the window cut-outs, trimming the edges so they fit more snugly in the recess. Then I covered the seam with aluminum tape, made especially for Reflectix and sold in the insulation isle at Home Depot. (more…)

The Van Re-build: Insulation & Lighting (Part 1)


To prep the van for the rebuild, I took everything out of it, storing nearly everything I own in a friend’s garage. Then I removed the steel “cage” walls that were left over from the van’s past life as a commercial paint vehicle (I left these in the original build to use them to mount my platform since it was easiest). I found years worth of dirt, dust, and debris behind those walls, which probably had been up for the life of the van, or seven years. I even found my 2011 Grand Canyon River Trip journal! (My 2011 US travel journal is still MIA, keep crossing my fingers it shows up somewhere, someday.)

Long-lost river trip journal that has been missing for a year! Found when I gutted the van for the re-build.


Contemplating the Van set-up

I have spent the summer working in Flagstaff and Zoe and I have been living in the guest room of my friend and boss. It has been great to unpack the van, sleep in a real (queen-sized) bed, and have a bathroom next door that I don’t have to put shoes on to use! The neighborhood we are in backs up to National Forest, so Zoe and I spend some time every morning and every afternoon on the trails. She is loving it!

Having been stationary these past three months, the travel itch is beginning to re-emerge and I have spent considerable time contemplating my future options (immediate, short-term, and even long-term), my van set-up, and whether I should even keep the van or buy a camper. I’ve gone back and forth a few times but have finally settled on what I think is the best option for me: re-build the van to meet my needs. Living in the van was a challenge since it was set up as a great paddling vehicle–plenty of space to stash boats and gear with a high platform for sleeping. It was not set up to meet my basic “living space needs”: a sink, convenient cooking space, accessible storage for clothes, etc.

Wandering, traveling, and living in other people’s homes has made clear to me the things I want and need in a living space. Some are expected (a nearby bathroom, clothes storage, a bed, etc.) while others are things I have discovered or affirmed about myself, for example a desk where I can work, space to paint and storage for painting supplies, organized storage that’s hidden yet very easy to access (under-bed bins are great for stashing a lot of stuff but useless for things you might actually need to get to).

My dream van set-up

And so, Project Van Re-Build begins!


A Dog Day at Lake Mary, Arizona


Zoe & Mars on Upper Lake Mary, Flagstaff, AZ

Since working was my goal in coming to Flagstaff, I am definitely achieving it! Last weekend I went to Lee’s Ferry, the put-in for the Grand Canyon Colorado River, to rig a group and cook them a low country boil dinner. We then spent the night and helped them finish up preparations the next morning after breakfast. They were a great group and for work, it was actually a lot of fun (almost like being on the river myself!), although we were working in brutal heat and I got dehydrated pretty quickly.

That makes two weeks that I have worked without a day off, so I was pretty happy to be able to take today off and lay low. I finally motivated to take Zoe out for some much-needed exercise, since she gets neglected when I’m working so much and am too tired at the end of the day for a long walk in the woods. We met a friend who brought his dog, Mars, and I was happy to see the two got along just fine! Mars tried to chase after Zoe, who ran around frantically, absorbing all the amazing wildlife scents around us, but he usually gave up after 20-30 feet. (more…)

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