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I was on a Grand Canyon trip this month and was surprised by the need of some of the people rowing to have a guidebook open that they were looking at every couple of minutes or so.


We had two people who were new to the river so I can understand why they would like to follow along. The others all had multiple trips in Grand Canyon but still seemed to need to look down at their guidebooks as if something had changed in the last minute.
I can only wonder if this is a new thing related to the newfound love of instant information or there is a valid reason you can't live without a guidebook.


I have always held that running a river with a guidebook is like painting by the numbers, you get a picture but don't learn much about painting. I am old enough to remember when we ran the Grand Canyon with just a Les Jones Scroll map and figured it out as we went.


I would like others take on why this seems to be the new norm.
 

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I haven't been on the Grand, but my 'RiverMaps' guide to the SanJuan has a map on the right side and a page full of text on the left side. The left side calls out points of interest such as hidden rock art, granaries and geological features I would never have noticed on my own. The detailed background info enhances my viewing.
 

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Agree with kengore. Also fun to match up topo maps with terrain, location (thinking of all those goose neck turns on the San Juan!). Love to read maps, but also remember to look up and often at the amazing scenery near and downriver.
 

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There are these things called rapids,too. For some reason, some folk like to know about them beforehand, pull in, and scout them!

I know...crazy, right!!!? OMG! WTF!
 

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I definitely find a lot of value in river maps, but will admit that forgetting mine in the truck on my last Canyon trip, was awesome. Made me appreciate not having that distraction, and I had to think just a little harder, to remember what was coming up. Was also nice that I ran sweep the whole trip.
Think I could have made it just fine though, after having seen it twice before.

Most memorable trips I have ever done, there was no guide yet for the section, had no shuttle set, no idea where I was taking out or what the rapids were like, just launched with my truck still at the put in. It was a great trip, eventually got back to my truck, a few days later...
 

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I can only wonder if this is a new thing related to the newfound love of instant information or there is a valid reason you can't live without a guidebook.

It seems as though you let how someone else enjoys running the river bother you. That is a pity.

I boat with a bird, flower, geology and river guide in hand. That is how much I love being there and thirst to be more intimate with my surroundings. I admit, it gets hard to row at times.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It seems as though you let how someone else enjoys running the river bother you. That is a pity.


GeoRon thanks for your reply.

Far from bothering me it was amusing.
The lowest number of Grand Canyon trips for the rowers was 7 and between the 5 boatmen we had right around 100 trips total.
I am just interested in the seeming need for total control of the situation on a river that the rowers should know well. This was the reason for my post.
My thoughts are that we have become desensitized to the experience of exploration and wonder that comes with exploring a new river or environment. People seem to have turned off a part of their brains that let's us remember important details perhaps in part from information overload.
I am running a river in the Yukon Territory this summer that I have very little information about and one of the things I look forward to is the challenge of evaluating the river and my surroundings on the fly.
I realize that people have different levels of risk tolerance and may find comfort with extensive information.
 

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I am running a river in the Yukon Territory this summer that I have very little information about and one of the things I look forward to is the challenge of evaluating the river and my surroundings on the fly.
I realize that people have different levels of risk tolerance and may find comfort with extensive information.

Very cool. I hope your trip in the YT is amazing.


Not just risk tolerance. Different people have different ways of enjoying the river. Some are there just to hike or enjoy the camp scene. Not all are there to be badass boatmen. Some may be more risk tolerant on a day run, but become quite risk averse if they're on a multiday and particularly when responsible for others.
 

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Dsrtrat,

I enjoy your deeper thoughts and perspectives. It is a rare thread that delves into the thoughts and the on-the-spot consciousness of running rivers.
I still experience on occasion the joy of raw discovery and the pucker factor of a new at-my-limit challenge. Unfortunately, now rarely as often as when I was younger.

Have fun in the Yukon country. It is beautiful. I used to do some exploration geology up there with a helicopter to move me about. Special times, special people in a very special place. Never again will I see a Caribou herd, to-the-horizon, moving in migration in a helicopter at 1500 AGL at sunset. As they say up there, "Living a dream".

However, given the same considerations, I consistently come to the opposite conclusion. I'm insistent to the extreme that each boat have a guide and that they exercise self-determination by knowing where they are and what next to expect. Sadly, the days of Powell are over, the days of personal responsibility are here and now.

Although,,,,, I've had many of your thoughts about people and cameras, which is, "are you really experiencing this now looking for the perfect picture because it seems a shame that you always have a camera between you and the majesty surrounding us". But I do enjoy looking at their pictures later and I have thousands of pictures of western rivers, some in guidebooks. I though, have moved beyond river snapshots and prefer to kickback and ponder; sometimes reflectively realizing that I won't be doing this, enjoying this, in another 10 to 20 years. Cherish it now.
 

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I too have my share of chuckles about how various people enjoy the outdoors, about how friends won't leave their fossil fuels behind and can only seem to motivate into the great beyond when on top of a motorized vessel....or reliance on alcohol for being happy....or like the camera comment above are focused on capturing the perfect image of enjoying the wilderness via camera instead of focused of the actual real enjoyment....that said I drive (like I always have) with a road atlas right next to my seat, and will pull it out randomly even when in well known territory just to immerse myself in the magic of maps...when I am on my raft I also occasionally will pull out the river map to see the where/when/how of the flow, and ponder the what ifs and where ifs and possible next trip variations....don't underestimate the magic that is held in maps, all of the effort skill awareness history devotion knowledge that went into the making of them...maps are powerful entities, good allies and friends to have even when you know exactly where you are.....
 

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I too have my share of chuckles about how various people enjoy the outdoors, about how friends won't leave their fossil fuels behind and can only seem to motivate into the great beyond when on top of a motorized vessel....or reliance on alcohol for being happy....or like the camera comment above are focused on capturing the perfect image of enjoying the wilderness via camera instead of focused of the actual real enjoyment....that said I drive (like I always have) with a road atlas right next to my seat, and will pull it out randomly even when in well known territory just to immerse myself in the magic of maps...when I am on my raft I also occasionally will pull out the river map to see the where/when/how of the flow, and ponder the what ifs and where ifs and possible next trip variations....don't underestimate the magic that is held in maps, all of the effort skill awareness history devotion knowledge that went into the making of them...maps are powerful entities, good allies and friends to have even when you know exactly where you are.....
Have you seen the web conference on mapping the GC?
 

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I don’t know, Desert Rat. I appreciate your thoughts on this, but cannot agree with your sentiments. I don’t post much on here, but nonetheless you’ve teased me out of thought on this one... I take a USGS quad map everywhere I go in the US, it enhances and gives a 3-dimensional quality to everything I’m looking at. I love seeing where I am on the mapping scale. I take books as well, and read what others have said about where I am. I often read their thoughts while I am there. In much the same way I like discovering the name of a bird, or a weed I’ve never seen, or a new mineral in a rock... is the name of a mountain, or the one beyond the one I can see, or the way the terrain folds around that particular bend, out beyond my field of vision (which is so limited, really). Actually, at river level our vista is highly limited. (Grand Canyon, I know the limited vista is a relative THANG....) But I find it’s a wonderful thing to know what is happening out there beyond my immediate vision, out on the plains above the top of cliff, or the valleys and ridges beyond my sensory experience. Don’t assume because boatmen are studying maps they are simply wanting to know the name of the rapid in front of them... not at all. I study maps all day long for what I can see, and what I can’t. I paddle the river with books open all around me. But I’m a land surveyor, so to hell with me... ;)
 

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I ran the Grand 3 years ago. I bought a book that focused more on the history of the canyon and provided only a cursory discussion of the rapids. My father was on the boat with me and I would read each excerpt as we passed the sections. Sometimes these blurbs were quite lengthy but always interesting.

Side note: My focus on the book, at times, caused me more effort on the oars when I realized I was reading and looking at (or for) the landmarks and less at the river.

When I flipped in Lava I lost my hat, my sunglasses, and my book. This saddened my dad as he (we) were enjoying learning all about the history. From Lava down we didn't learn a thing! (ha ha)

I have run Hells Canyon over 70 times and the MF over 25 and I don't take a book. I might be able to write a book now. I also take a lot fewer pictures. I just row and enjoy the river.

But the first few times I think a book is good. Agree with your assessment of old timers; is a book really necessary? I will always have a book of the more complex rivers but, if I have been on that river many times, it stays packed. I bring it in case there is a new person to the trip and I can loan it to them or a new passenger that wants to read about the river.
 

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I ran the Grand 3 years ago. I bought a book that focused more on the history of the canyon and provided only a cursory discussion of the rapids. My father was on the boat with me and I would read each excerpt as we passed the sections.
When I flipped in Lava I lost my hat, my sunglasses, and my book.
I figured out why you flipped in Lava... you should have put the book down for that one!!
 

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Great conversation! I think it’s a little less dichotomous than it’s being made out. The reason I backpack, raft, hike, and camp IS to release from society. Unplug. Slow down. Feel the rhythm of the earth. But I always want to know where I am, where the water is, the rapids, the cliffs, the way home, the way forward. In a canyon without signs it’s hard to catch up on a map if you hadn’t paid attention for 10 miles. I support use of maps and taking rookies out. Cheers!
 
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