Kayaker takes GRAND adventure

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 30, 2012 11:52 am

GREG DAVIDSON is shown in his 14-foot kayak at the start of his 280-mile trip through the Grand Canyon.
GREG DAVIDSON is shown in his 14-foot kayak at the start of his 280-mile trip through the Grand Canyon.

Greg Davidson, a La Grande kayaker, was ready to celebrate — to mark his 50th year with a venture that would forever change his life perspective.

Last month Davidson  embarked on a 280-mile solo kayaking trip through the Grand Canyon. The 12-day trip on the Colorado River took Davidson from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and into a world of scenic wonder — one of towering cliffs, gorges and ravines, many splashed with color.

“It is phenomenal,” Davidson said. 

Davidson made the trip in the winter because it is much easier to get a permit from the National Park Service to take a private kayak or raft trip in the Grand Canyon than in spring or summer. So many kayakers and rafters apply for spring and summer permits that it sometimes takes people years to obtain one.

Davidson, who turned 50 in October, did not want to wait.

“I wanted to do something challenging and significant for my 50th year.” 

Snow fell in the Grand Canyon the day Davidson put in at Lake Powell, but it was not a bad omen. Good weather prevailed for most of the 12-day trip except for two days of rain and one hail storm. 

Fortunately, the hail storm hit while Davidson was at a point on the Colorado that is easy to navigate.

“I was able to enjoy the storm,” said Davidson, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a veteran of 15 years of river guiding.

Davidson made the trip in a 14-foot kayak, one which had extra length to accommodate his supplies. The kayak was a harder to maneuver because of its size. Regular kayaks are 8-feet long.    

Davidson had no close calls during his river run while passing through rapids on the 280-mile stretch of river he traveled. Generally speaking, the rapids are in the class 3 and 4 category on a scale of 6. 

The rapids did not intimidate Davidson, who has 20 years of kayaking experience and was a kayaking instructor for 10 years.

“That is not to say that with a long, fully loaded kayak my heart rate did not get going a few times,” said Davidson. 

Davidson’s Grand Canyon trip included two layover days. Those days were spent hiking through one of the world’s most ruggedly beautiful areas. Places he found during these hikes included old granaries built by the people of the Anasazi culture between 900 and 1000. The old grain storage sites are rocky areas with overhangs. They were sealed by the Anasazi with mud and rocks. 

Davidson saw a limited amount of wildlife while hiking and on the river because it was winter. The wildlife present was primarily waterfowl and a few deer. 

The kayaker also encountered few people. 

“Sometimes I would go three days without seeing anyone,” he said.

All told, he did see eight or nine rafting parities.

Davidson completed his trip on Feb. 26. The next two days were ones of adjustment for Davidson after his extended period away from hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced, high-tech society. He knew what to expect since he has been on kayaking trips with groups in the Grand Canyon before.

 “You are so used to the solitude,” he said. “It is strange being around cars and noises. It is almost like you have a heightened awareness. It (a Grand Canyon kayaking trip) makes you hyper aware of sights sound and little things.”

He said that a trip like the one he made in February changes a person because of the time it gives you to reflect.

“You are by yourself just with nature. You don’t have the disturbance of everyday life,” Davidson said. “It gives you a different perspective on life. It slows you down and makes you appreciate things.”

Davidson said he is looking forward to taking more solo kayaking trips down the Grand Canyon. 

“I want to do it as many times as a I can,” he said. “It is mind blowing.”