BK’s Grand Canyon Trip

On January 12, 2010, my brother Chris (a.k.a. BK), will begin a 29-day rafting trip from Lees Ferry through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. 297 miles. It will be his fifth time rowing a boat down the river and the third January in a row. In January 2008 my wife and I joined his group for 9 of the 28 days. It was friggin’ cold down in the canyon, and when we hiked out at Hermit Rapids it was difficult to imagine spending 19 more days down there. 9 days was enough for us. Last year, he and his girlfriend Katie (a.k.a. 2P1M or #79 or CB), did the same trip in a single 15-foot raft. Most of us thought that was crazy as the consequences of flipping with only a single boat could be dire.  They didn’t flip. His only flip has been in Lava, one the most feared rapids in the canyon, in 2008 in a 14-foot raft.

BK in Grand Canyon Jan 2008

BK in Grand Canyon Jan 2008

So what’s so special about this year? BK, who just turned 40 last month, will be going solo. The chances are good that he’ll see other people down there, but in January there aren’t too many others, and it’s possible he’ll go several days without seeing a sole.  The 297 miles normally take about 16-18 days, but in January the days are short and the sun is low so you don’t get many hours on the river each day. 28-29 days is normal for January.  While I can’t imagine not training for 29 days, I can definitely relate to the allure of doing something like this. My bro and I have had many great adventures together. When Chris first told me about this trip, I was a bit shocked. Why go solo? What if you flip? What if you have a medical emergency? Why take the risk? Don’t you enjoy sharing each day’s experience with others? Sharing the excitement of going through a scary rapid? Sitting around the campfire and talking about the day that was and what is coming up the next day. I won’t forget the night before we ran Hance rapid in 2008. I had been on an epic run on the Escalante Route from our camp near Carbon Canyon to Hance. The group had actually let me try to run from camp to camp that day. It was surreal as I watched my group from high above the cliffs near Unkar, in the rafts with all my support, go down the river. I was committed. It felt very lonely in that huge canyon. It took me about 8 hours to go 3-5 river miles. Suffice to say I had a difficult time finding the seldom used route and didn’t make it to camp until well after dark. It was an epic day. The campfire was roaring and it was such a relief to be connected with my people again and them with me. We really didn’t even think about the scary Hance rapid that we had to run first thing in the morning. When we woke up the next morning, we scouted and re-scouted and re-scouted the rapid again. We didn’t start rafting until after noon! Doing all that without sharing with other humans is just something I couldn’t imagine until Chris told me he was going to do this trip solo.

Red Wall Cavern

Chris in his own words:

“This is a tremendous mental challenge and I feel I have prepared myself for something like this over the span of my lifetime. Each big event in my life has been a stepping stone for something even bigger right around the corner. Overnight backpack on Western States trail in the late 70’s with you. Four day backpacking solo in Sierra’s in 8th grade. Two weeks backpacking with you in Oregon. Riding my bike with you from Canada to Mexico at 16. Running my first Marathon at 16. Running my first 50 at American River when I was 18. Climbing Half Dome at 23. El Cap a few years later. Rowing a boat down Grand Canyon for the first time in ’03. Where’s Waldo for the first time in ’04. Summiting Denali in ’05 after 27 days on the mountain. Running my first 100 miler in ’05. Finishing Western States (the hot year) in ’06. Removing alcohol from my life in ’06. Single boat Grand Canyon trip with Katie last year in January. I have known about this solo trip launch date since February 24, 2009. I have prepared my mind specifically for this effort over the last 10 months. I feel ready.  I am most anxious about the unknown. That is what makes this trip so awesome. Twenty nine days alone (a full lunar cycle) is unique. Spending that much time alone in Grand Canyon is bound to be monumental. I was scared last month. Now I am focused and eager to start my journey. I respect the potential danger I face. I am ready to look around the corner at Lee’s Ferry.”

BK Doing A Headstand Near Lee's Ferry

BK Doing A Headstand Near Lee's Ferry

So what are we going to do while he floats down the river for 28 days? We’re going to keep track of him through the SPOT GPS device he’s taking with him. We can track his progress via the map below. He has to push a button to send out a signal that tells us where he is. He expects to do this once a day or maybe a couple times a day if there are huge rapids. Have a great time, bro. We’ll be watching and we’ll be looking forward to hearing lots of stories as you pace me on Cal St at Western States this year. I love you.

February 9, 2010 Update:

Chris has reached South Cove in Lake Mead safe and sound after 297 miles.  Looking forward to hearing the stories.  Hopefully he’ll write a guest post on his adventure.

April 12, 2010 Update:

BK’s report on his trip


  1. Craig, I had no clue how freakishly accomplished your brother is in outdoorsy adventures. Thanks for sharing! So many next-ddor neighbors with such talented ideas how to make life more interesting, just awesome. I wish him all the best, and safe coming home.

  2. Craig,
    This is a great writing. Mom shared it with me and we will be following from here. You are both so very adventerous! He is a wise man and has walked through many challenging moments victorious and this too will be another moment in time that the two of you will sit back and say, wow! We look forward to the headstand at the end! What does ‘BK’ stand for?


  3. Chris,

    It sounds like you are already on your way and will not be checking this again until your journey is over, but wanted to say anyway that I hope you have/had a wonderful trip, and that you enjoy/enjoyed this time alone, with just you and all that is out there.

    I am impressed with your courage and adventurous spirit. These are to be admired. Take it slow and easy out there.

  4. Looks like Chris ran House Rock rapid this afternoon. That’s probably the first rapid that got his heart pumping. I think it’s a 7 on the grand canyon scale of 1-10. I imagine he’s feeling pretty good about it this evening. Second night of 28.

  5. Now I have 2 sons with gongs! mmmmmmmmm Maybe when you practice a bit Craig you guys can do a duet! Chris obviously really enjoys it. Redwall Cavern is pretty awesome. The gong must put out some impressive sounds in those canyons. End of day 4……..

  6. I got our Grand Canyon guidebook out, and am having fun comparing it to the Spot map. We’ve got lots of notes in the book from our two trips down there that bring back memories of particular places (certainly Redwall!). Fun to have memories of the places where Chris is. If anyone is interested, there’s a book called “The Doing of the Thing” by Buzz Holmstrom of Coquille OR (which happens to be my home town!). In the 1930s, this guy got a bug to run rivers; built a boat, and ran the Colorado a couple of times by himself. Very awesome to think of with the limited gear of the day! I believe Chris took this book on the river to read during this trip. Amazon.com has the book.

  7. Saddle canyon tonight, we thought there were some big animals around us last year at this camp, we felt them pretty close around the camp fire if I do recall… tomorrow Nankoweap where Craig ate too many grits in the morning, i couldn’t tear you away from the pot, and then you guys went on a long late run/hike that evening. We have some big weather moving in over the weekend. Calling for 3 to 5 feet of snow some is sure to fall in the canyon. think warming thoughts.

    • @KT, You’re more of a Canyon expert but isn’t he at Nautiloid tonight? I do remember the grits and the night run/hike in 2008 at Nankoweap. Seems we got a little lost that night as we got up into snow. 3 to 5 feet of snow down in AZ? I better go sit in the hot tub.

  8. I talked with Chris tonight on the Sat phone (yeah, Laurie called him a wus for using the sat phone on a solo trip) and he said he’s having a great time. He was concerned about the weather. He said House Rock Rapid was easy because the water was high and he was easily able to pull right of the big hole. Hance is tomorrow and he’s excited about doing it. One thing he told me was that he doesn’t get as scared when he’s scouting a rapid by himself. When he’s with a group he gets more nervous because the others in the group are scared. I thought that was interesting. He seems to be in a good head space. He’s solid.

  9. Wow. Chris is cruising down the canyon. Yep, the storm is coming here in Flag. Chris’s trip is shaping up like my trip DEC/JAN, 2008/9 right before Chris and Katie’s. We had 6 inches of snow at Phantom that mid DEC. Flag got a 3 footer on DEC 15, 2008. It was a cold wet trip then Chris and Katie got the super weather for JAN. Sheeesh.
    I would make the delux camp under the trees and Hance and wait it out. The rock fall in the Granite Gorge freaks me out in the winter and the Cremation Camp sux at anytime, for me.
    Chris, I got the snow plowing covered. I will just stay up for 5 days straight.

  10. The update was reassuring he’s (still) having fun and keeping his wits about him. Sure looks like he’s plowing foreward the past days. Wish we had some of that possible snow storm.


  11. Just talked to Chris from Phantom. He’s planning on pushing a big day today and then making an elaborate camp and waiting out the weather. I imagine he’ll have a few gong shows for the canyon creatures. Hopefully he’ll shoot some good video. Today’s rapids are Horn (8), Granite (8), Hermit (8), and then Crystal(9). He will hit the SPOT as he goes through them.

    Oh, he did see the first people on the trip yesterday as he passed a bigger group. They’ll likely pass him back while he’s banging the gong.

    @Michael – Chris says to stay on Moenkopi and to not let it pile up. If it gets over 8 inches it is much harder.

  12. So much fun to read everyone’s comments and to follow Chris’s progress. I too wonder about the sound of the Gong in the Canyon. I am so moved by it when Chris plays, add to that the magic of the Canyon…Amazing! Definitely thinking warm thoughts and sending hugs your way Chris.

  13. Geez, he had an epic day today: Horn can be vicious at certain levels, Granite is always a freight-train (it was my BEST run in 2000), and Crystal keeps your attention. Lots of water. Do you know what the levels have been, Craig?

  14. today was BIG and it appears all went well. water levels have been 11,000 to 19,500 thus far, hopefully he ran Horn creek around 15- 16,000 which would have been perfect for “splitting the Horn’s”, we are getting lots of moisture here in AZ and NOAA is predicting lots of precipitation and potential flooding, h2o levels could certainly increase at any time. Seemed like Chris wanted to hole up for a few days to wait out the storm. Last year we holed up @ Bass, where he is tonight, for several days to wait out the rain and cold. There is high ground and little risk of Flash Flooding, plus good potential sunshine.

    Today was BIG, way to go BK!!

  15. Fitting for Serpentine rapid which BK ran today “We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

  16. If you couldn’t tell the SPOT tracker is only showing us his messages from the last seven days so the number of messages is changing as the older ones are removed. His last message was this morning at 7:27 Oregon time. In full screen mode you can look at when each message was sent. I think his plan was to hole up at Bass and wait out the weather. Probably some good gonging going on.

  17. Thanks warm son Craig, What gave me relief is that you said he was going to hole up at Bass and wait out the weather. I saw the message from this a.m.at 7:27. Haven’t allowed myself to worry except a bit this evening. And we are in FL. In a few days you get a birthday song on the telephone!
    mom from Cool

  18. Flagstaff is still getting dumped on, Grand Canyon NP was closed yesterday and today due to weather! talked briefly with Chris this am, he is doing great, dry and warm, said he went for a run this morning. He said he would hole up for one more day then try to make some miles either tomorrow or Sunday. Lots of flash floods in all of the creeks around here. I am glad he is high and dry.

  19. Yes Chris, It’s time for the weather to cooperate better so you can get a move on and make some progress. Mom counts on those numbers and ok’s appearing when we check in periodically during the day. Only good positive thoughts coming your way baby. Thanks Katie and Craig for your updates.

  20. He made some good miles today! Tomorrow will be a fun and big water day, Specter at this level should be a huge ride, then Bedrock, and Dubendorff! I hope the sunshine lights up his face tomorrow.

  21. Yes, Mel and Craig, I love the way we can zoom in and I struggle to see Chris and his gong. It was such a relief to see the ok’s this a.m. and this afternoon.I have missed 2 of his phone calls here at the house as we were in FL. Did get a card from him yesterday. Yes, he made a lot of headway today. He will have so much to share when he completes his travel. Even though Chris is experienced and respects the danger, there is always concern for his safety. I sure hope my other son doesn’t decide to do this? Thanks for the mileage update Craig. Was look at NOAA weather forecast againlastnight.Sounds like you had a great birthday!

  22. Probably tomorrow morning or the next day depending on weather Chris will run Lava! we have slept right above Lava the last 2 January’s, a sound you don’t forget, nor one that really lets you sleep. With these water levels a left run seems like a good option, I imagine the water is super muddy from the side canyon floods and rain. Last year we camped above Lava for 2 nights and watched the h20 levels change throughout the day, then the morning of the second day we saw a solo dude just drop in and run the right line. he was silent and purposeful with the biggest smile on the planet at the end of his run. He didn’t know we saw him till 3 days later. Then we ran the left line, my entire body minus my right hand was out of the boat and into the water. We never flipped just got to check out bottom of the boat from water level! I think the h20 level will be awesome for Chris. What a rush!!!! And the weirdest part is no one to say WAHOO!!! with. So lets all say it for him tomorrow!
    If you have 6 minutes check this video out!

  23. Talked with Chris last night until the satellites moved. He said “it’s been good.” The rain last week was “really scary” as the beach he was camped on eroded away from all the water. He didn’t get any snow but said the rain was very cold. Not sure what this means but he did run the hole at Upset rapid and that wasn’t intentional. He better get his sh&t together for Lava although I think he wants to get challenged and flipping the boat back upright by himself would probably do that.

  24. WOO HOO!!!! Yay! Jim just called me from work to tell me that Chris was through, so I just this minute logged on to see. I so hope he’ll call you or Katie soon to tell the tale! Can’t wait to hear…

  25. Wahoo! He is through Lava falls. I’ve been at work looking a the spot page every fifteen minutes and being nervous as hell for Chris. I’ve run this river three times before and Lava is the most exciting (dangerous) rapid on the river. Good job Chris. Now I can relax and get back to work.

    I hope he stops a Tequila beach for a celebration.

  26. Just got back from working out and there was a voice message from Chris and then he called again. I think he’s probably calling everybody because there was nobody to share the experience of running Lava with. He ran the left line, barely left of Ledge Hole. It went perfect. He said things like “off the charts” and “sweet” and “this was way out there” and he let out a big yell when he got through it. He is expecting to sleep well tonight. It started raining right when he got in the raft this morning and it is raining now (he was in his sleeping bag).

    Chris is loving doing this solo, but you can tell that the one thing he is missing is being able to share the experience with us. Guess that’s why he calls all the time and is using the SPOT. I really did not expect to hear his voice for 29 days and I’ve talked to him like 6 times. He knows we’re all watching, following his progress, and I think that somehow makes him feel connected. Humans are social creatures and we can’t easily shut that off.

  27. Missed Chris’call again today but at least Bill got to talk to him.In great spirits after the Lava run. Checked out the video and wow what a rush that must have been for Chris. Sounds like he is ahead of schedule at this point. Sleepin good tonight my son.

  28. So, today Chris is hanging out after Lava and enjoying some sunshine. Finished off the last of his cookies mom sent on his trip.He sounded so good today. 100 miles left and he plans to be out there all of the 28 days he originally planned on. He said Lava was way bigger rush than sky diving. Ok Chris! For me the skydiving was beyond. But of course that was the biggest rush for mama.

    • @Mel B., I was starting to compose my comment here, my phone rang and it was Chris. He did a big 30 mile day, is at mile 250 and is tired. All is good and he only has one rapid left (Pierce Ferry) and 47 miles. Today he found a 45 gal drum floating in the water and just couldn’t leave it so he strapped it to his boat. He said that is his Wilson (from Castaway). Obviously, he’s been spending a lot of time by himself.

      Anyway, to answer your question, KT is supposed to pick him up next Tuesday at South Cove. With weather coming in this weekend, he’ll probably do another big day tomorrow and then just hang out, beat the gong, and dream about hot tubs.

  29. unfortunately there is not hot tub around here, just a hot black cat, a cold woman, and lots of snow! Pearce Ferry was quite significant for us the last two years ( the last rapid in front of Chris) this is a newer rapid that used to be a take out point for river trips when the lake level was higher. the river has since significantly changed course and left a few noteworthy rapids in its wake. Pearce Ferry being one of the biggest that has literally morphed in the last 3-5 yrs. A few good visuals: …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMpJmfD6884

    just 5 more days of his journey, hoping for good weather !

  30. With all the phone calls Chris has made I do believe he is missing people. Human nature,absolutely. I’m sure he is going to have a lot to share and share and share. The 45 gal drum will be a part of his story. Don’t ya love it?

  31. Chris made it through Pearce Ferry rapid at the end of a 31 mile day. Yes, he made another round of calls after running it. Sat phone bill is now likely over $1000. He scouted the rapid for an hour and it scared him more than Lava. He said it was just a crapshoot on what would happen. “Just drop in and see what happens.” Perhaps it had something to do with it being the last rapid of the trip, but he was still filled with adrenaline 30 minutes after the rapid. Only 16 miles left and several days of rain ahead. Then he gets to warm up with that cold woman in Flagstaff.

  32. Only a few miles left and Chris can be with people again. A comfortable bed, lay on the couch in front of the fireplace with Katie and the beautiful black cat. He can begin to share his adventure out on the river. To have challenged himself in something that most of us would never even think of doing, or would even want to do, especially for that length of time. Soon we can congratulate your bro Craig, your man Katie, and my son Chris.

  33. I met Chris on the river, January 19th at Upper Bass Camp.
    He had just run down through some of the most challenging rapids on the river in the rain, and was all charged up(as you can imagine).
    He is a wonderful and energetic soul.
    I’m glad things turned out well on his trip.
    We decided not to try to run Pearce Ferry Rapid on February 3rd.
    It was just to fierce and scary!
    Congrats to Chris.

    Jackson Hole, WY

  34. Congratulations Chris! You did it and did it “big”! A big thank you to all who followed and commented on Craig’s blog. Thank you Craig for having this whole event on your blog. What an awesome tool for so many events.

  35. WOW!!! No wonder I felt like I always had a tail wind. You guys rock!! I had an unbelievable trip and am trying to adjust to the world upstairs. Many photos and 9 hours of video were recorded. I am looking forward to sharing this adventure with you all, I just need a little time to catch up on things. Katie is running a 34 mile race in Moab this weekend so we are off on a road trip for the weekend. Thanks everybody for your tremendous support. Thanks again LB for creating a way for everybody to follow along and thank you especially for showing me the outdoors growing up.

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