Flying Across the Rapids and Above the Canyons With Sheri Griffith Expeditions

My adventurous boyfriend, Bernie, had been on a white-water rafting trip with Sheri Griffith Expeditions and loved it. He wanted to share the experience with me, so he booked our Cataract Canyon expedition on the Colorado River. I had some reservations that I didn’t share with him about “surfing” Class 4 and 5 rapids. I didn’t want to dampen his exuberance about the trip. While I’m adventurous, I’m not a risk-taking, adrenaline-seeker type per se. I’ve only experienced an afternoon-long white-water rafting trip with mild Class 2 to 3 rapids. My anxiety did not dissipate after discovering what class 4 and 5 rapids are.

What are Class 4 and 5 rapids, you ask?

Class 4 Long, unpredictable rapids with large waves and narrow passages for intermediate and experienced rafters.

Class 5 Large, gnarly white-water waves with the possibility of rocks and other hazards, including large drops—requires precise maneuvering and advanced whitewater experience. 

Pre-trip trepidation

Having reached a “certain age” where mortality looms large, the memories of serious accidents and the long road back from them haunt me. I pick my active adventures carefully. I want to stay happily and vigorously active for as long as possible.  White-water rafting Class 4 and 5 rapids is a bit out of my risk zone. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had a couple of nightmares. I shared my qualms with some of my close friends—primarily about being tossed out of the boat, hitting my head on a rock, being held underwater, and lights out. These things do happen, but infrequently. (Indeed, Bernie shared a story that this had happened a week before his last rafting trip. Probably not the best story to share with me before our trip.)  Maybe I should take a more cavalier attitude like my Mother, “When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

Turns out, my number wasn’t up

Among the many exhilarating moments,  was the instant where I nearly got pitched from the boat, my legs flying out perpendicular to me like a ragdoll’s—it turns out my number wasn’t up. So I got my feet and entire body wet trying something new and somewhat risky, and had a blast.

Why the 2-night, 3-day Cataract Canyon white-water rafting adventure on the Colorado River?

It was just the right amount of time for me. 3 days without a vigorous workout will make me wangry, and Bernie knew it. Bernie also knew that most of the rapids are in a fairly concentrated area. A 4- or 5-day trip means more downtime. If you enjoy relaxing by the river, it might be the right trip for you. (Of course, how relaxing it is depends on the group.)

We lucked out with a semi-private trip with kindred spirit raftmates—a cool couple from Salt Lake City. Some rafting companies would cancel your reservation or force you to reschedule since small group trips are not profitable. While they asked if we’d like to switch to the 4-day, they let us stick with our 3-day plan. The ratio of guides to guests was in our favor at 3:4, so we received 1st class, VIP treatment even without them knowing that I’d be blogging this review.

We Had the Best Crew

Owen, our boat team captain/river cowboy, was a skilled raftsman. He navigated us head-on into the white-water waves for extra fun while sharing his knowledge and love of the river during the lulls.  As we floated down the river, he shared a poem about Floyd Dominy, the man behind the Glen Canyon Dam. The poem, Floyd’s Void, was written by former river runner, legendary Vaughn Short. (I’ve posted the humorous poem on the controversial dam at the end of this blog.)

Owen’s apprentices were Joe and Emma, college students, intellectuals, and athletes. After dinner clean-up, we’d chill out under the stars enjoying the evening and sharing stories

What did you bring? They take care of the food, tents, and sleeping bags. You pack for fun.

Speaking of the food, how was it? I ate better and more frequently than I do at home. We had 3 well-prepared and beautifully presented delicious meals a day, plus snacks and appetizers. (I wish I’d taken pictures of the charcuterie board and the other lovely dishes (pork roast, grilled carrots and mashed potatoes, egg sandwiches and fresh fruit, refreshing Caesar salad wraps, etc. but I was too busy chowing down.)

What were the highlights?

Bouncing through tumultuous rapids while bracing for the next shockingly cold (~50 degrees) splash to face and body

Mini hikes to cool granaries and overlooks

Chilling by the river at sunset was sublime, especially when the big horn sheep (my spirit animal) came down to the water to drink.

Doing yoga on the river beach both mornings

Dawn and sunsets golden glow on the cliff walls

What’s the scoop about packing out the poop?

To leave no trace and keep the beaches and river as pristine as possible, packing out poop is a necessity. You do your business on a metal “commode” called a “groover’.  The earlier versions of the groover would leave telltale indents/grooves on one’s delicate cheeks. The name “stuck,” even though they have regular toilet seats now.  At each campsite, the crew places the throne in a private spot with a fantastic view so you can meditate on nature’s beauty as you answer nature’s call. Bernie was answering nature’s call or getting his groove on when he was graced with a big horn sheep visitation on the beach at dawn. How’s that for a memory?!

Oh, and that’s not all.

To top it off, the adventure includes a 40-minute flight back to Moab with Red Tail Adventures in a Kodiak!* You get a bird’s eye view of Moab’s amazing geological wonderland and, if you’re lucky, a documentary-style narrative by the pilot! We took precautionary Dramamine because Bernie said last time there was a bunch of turbulence. Fortunately, there was no turbulence on this flight.

Unfortunately, the Dramamine had an unintended consequence on Bernie.

*(Flight is weather permitting. Otherwise, you’ve got a 2+ hour van ride back to Moab.)

Would I consider another white-water rafter rafting trip with Sheri Griffith Expeditions? Yes-absolutely! The food, service, and entire experience was tops. There are many options on multiple rivers (Colorado, Green, Yampa) via oarboat, motorboat, and kayak. And, I’d request our same crew.

Wholeheartedly recommend Sheri Griffith Expeditions —2 thumbs up.

Other lasting impressions

You hear of the devastating depletion of Lake Powell and the Colorado River in the news. Hearing Owen describe how it’s changed in his time on the river and seeing the evidence first hand from air and land was heartbreaking.

Who knows how much longer there will be white-water water rafting trips on this man-strangled river. The only exit ramp left is steep and treacherous and takes hours for the crew to maneuver. Big thank you to Bernie, our crew at Sheri Griffith Expeditions, and Red Tail Adventures for an EPIC adventure!

I’ll close with Vaughn’s Short’s poem, Floyd’s Void from his book Raging River Lonely Trail, Tails Told by the Campfire’s Glow.

Floyd’s Void

There’s a breed of men who sit at their desks

And they like their water tame,

They like to damn the rivers up,

Then give the lakes a name

They do They give the lakes a name.

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys

And a special rah for Floyd

He built his dam and he built it well

And then he said, “In spite of hell, I’m going to fill that void l am I’m going to fill that void”

Now within this void, created by Floyd,

Was a special thing or two,

Reserved for the sight of the filthy rich

And a very greedy few They were A very greedy few.

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys

And a special rah for Floyd

For Floyd did say, “I’ll change this plan,

 I’ll open it up for the common man I will I’ll open it up for the common man.”

“What value the trees?

What value the grasses, Compared to the rights of the down-trodden masses?”

Floyd said, “I’ll make it so easy, I’ll make it so simple,

They can all speed their boats over Music Temple How about that?

Speed right over the top of Music Temple!”

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys

And a special rah for Floyd, For now we know beneath the blue

Is a revered spot once seen by few

How sad Before Floyd’s void seen only by few.

To see the Rainbow-aloof-remote you had to hike or you had to float

Denied it was to that jolly old chap

By his houseboat rail in his yachting cap

Oh my! Poor old chap in his yachting cap.

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys

And a special rah for Floyd.

Floyd said, “We’ll put the water there For this deserving old man in his easy chair,

For he’s entitled to his just share He is He’s entitled to his just share.”

If one should insist on making a list

Of the many grandeurs there-There were Gregory, Dungeon, Hidden Passage

And many more I swear Oh Yes!

There were many more I swear. So give three cheers for the Bureau boys

And a special rah for Floyd

He buried them all deep under his lake

But he did it for the people’s sake

He did He did it for the people’s sake.

For the power hungry man with the dollar sign eyes,

Who lights up the neon in the evening skies,

For the poor down-trodden in his speeding boat,

For the jolly old chap in his yachting cap

Who had no water to float Poor guy

 He had no water to float.

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys And a special rah for Floyd

Though he buried the Moqui and he shortened the wall,

He did it for the good of all He did

He did it for the good of all!

But there’s a breed of men both hardy and free

Who lie at night on the lonely bars

And there beneath the glittering stars

They dream of TNT They do They dream of TNT.

So give three cheers for the Bureau boys And a special rah for Floyd

He built his dam and though he built it well,

These dreamers swear in spite of hell

They’re going to void Floyd’s void

They are They’re going to void Floyd’s void.

They dream of a mighty boom and a quake.

They dream of a swirl in a vanishing lake.

They dream of a river wild and free,

Freed from its shackles by TNT Sweet bliss

Freed from its shackles by TNT.

Now! Let’s have three cheers for the boys on the bars

Who dream their dreams ‘neath the glittering stars.

Who dream of a wild and a wonderful treat

A house boat running Dominy Falls at a million second feet

Ah yes A house boat running Dominy Falls at a million second feet!

Top Picks:  Escalante Outfitters—Best Pizza Ever and More!

After a day of adventuring in the Escalante area (and there’s plenty of adventures to be had in the area – Lower Calf Creek Falls, Zebra Canyon, etc.), I always stop at Escalante Outfitters Café for a bite. And I always get the pizza. I’m not a big pizza person, but Escalante Outfitters converted me with their homemade pizza pie. I’m one of those who usually leaves my pizza crusts on the plate. Not here, their pizza is good to the very last bite.

Of course, there’s more than pizza to choose from on the menu (salads, sandwiches, and desserts). Maybe I’ll eventually try something else, but for now – I’m going steady with their pizza.

If you forgot to pack anything for your adventure, their store has hiking and camping gear, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. There’s also a nice selection of souvenirs and gift items to browse while you waiting for your meal.  

In addition to the Café and store, they have cabins to rent and offer fly fishing tours.

When in Escalante, they’re your “go-to” for all of this, plus local tips on the area.

Also, I want to give them an extra shout out for their friendly service and for mailing my forgotten credit card back to me.

Cheers to Happy Trails and Tummies!

Exploring the St. George Area on 2 Wheels

For those of you who might be wondering, here’s a sample of what biking (road biking and mountain biking) looks like around St. George, Utah. As you can see, the views for much of this 60-mile ride were splendid, quintessential Utah—Virgin River, canyons, red rock, and snow-capped mountains. Road quality varied. (Utah drivers were not quite as courteous as I’d hoped. Lots of trucks sped by us without moving to the left or braking.)

Scenic views road biking Utah
Roadside Red Rock off the 7
Virgin River
Virgin River Views From River Rock Roasting Company
virgin river views la verkin
Virgin River Views From River Rock Roasting Company
L rocky roasters
River Rock Roasting Company: Definitely the Best Coffee / Gastropub and Views Around!

Quail Lake 3Quail lake 2

L Quail Lake

Not bad, eh?

Toquerville /La Verkin Road Bike Loop ~60 Miles, ~2500 feet  of climbing

A friend of mine, now a St. George local, guided us on this 60-mile road bike sampler with ~2500 feet of climbing on surrounding highways and byways. We took the lovely, low traffic 7 to Sand Hollow Road (rough surface) by Sand Hollow Reservoir (Half-Ironman site) across to State Street / 9. (The 9 is a main thoroughfare with heavy, fast traffic -not so nice. Maybe save this one for Sunday mornings when most of the locals are at church.)

At the halfway point, we enjoyed some refreshments and superb views at the super scenic, ever popular River Rock Roasting, which is perched on a cliff overlooking Virgin River in La Verkin. If you’re in the area, River Rock Roasting is a must stop and is definitely my top pick for coffee, food, brews and views. It’s slammed on Sundays (apparently everyone who is not in church goes here) so pick a weekday if possible.

Our route back on State Street/9 was topped off with a stop at dazzling Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. And yes, you can swim in it. No, I didn’t this time, but will next! It’s 120 feet deep in places and stocked with rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass. There’s boating, kayaking, SUPs, hiking, biking and camping here.

The Veyo Loop is another amazingly scenic route through the Gunlock and Snow Canyon area—one of the top ten routes in Utah -minimal traffic and maximum views!

Desert Canyons Mountain Bike Trails: Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce ~8 miles

Our mountain bike sampler was limited as it had recently rained, but we’ve heard there’s tons of epic trails around here. The driest trail option was the newly developed Desert Canyons Trail System. We cruised around two of the trails, Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce, both pleasant easy to moderate with views from the top of the mesa out to the horizon. Unfortunately, these views are slated to be filled in by a Master Community in the near future. (The developer’s concession / gift was this mountain bike trail system.) We were lucky to have it to ourselves with no building encroachment yet.

MTB yellow wildflowers
Wildflowers and Mesa Top Views
desert canyon mtb cutout
Metal Art
Kara MTB jump
Kara Highlighting Crazy Technical Opportunities
L MTB desert canyon
Open Views for Now…

Directions: From St. George, take the I-15 S to Desert Canyon s exit and take a left under the overpass

We were told that there’s plenty of great mountain biking in and near St. George, but it wasn’t in the cards for this trip. We did make it to Moab for an epic mountain bike ride – stay tuned for that post.

As far as these 2 rides go, I’ll give them 2 thumbs up.


My PNW Explorations: Looking promising, Port Angeles!


Driving over the crest of a hill, I caught my first glimpse of downtown Port Angeles, the shimmering water and port in the distance. My first impressions? Wow! Clean, wide roads, nice sidewalks, historic buildings, art installations everywhere you look and great views. From what I’d heard from the Port Townsend and Sequim “ambassadors”, I expected to see a smaller version of skid row—homeless people and druggies panhandling on every corner, litter in the streets and on the sidewalks, dilapidated buildings and overt grime, crime and grit. Not so—quite the opposite. In many ways, Port Angeles has more character, art and scenic appeal than either Port Townsend or Sequim. And my taste tests attest to the fact that Port A has much better restaurants too.


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Over the course of my PNW adventure, I spent a total of 3 nights in Port Angeles and thoroughly explored the town and its neighborhoods. Yes, eventually, I saw some homeless people. I have no doubt there are “issues”, but every community has issues and more and more have issues of this type. (For the record, Sequim is not immune – recall the panhandler at the Village Marketplace. No doubt they would say he was just on his way to Port Angeles.)

My first stop, and an easy one as its right on the main drag as you come into town, was Sound Bikes & Kayaks, 120 E. Front Street. My last chance for mountain bike rentals before I headed up the coast. I was so relieved when I opened the door and saw plenty of quality mountain bikes to rent. (And they even have an in-store rock climbing wall there too.) The friendly team at Sound Bikes & kayaks gave me the local scoop on the top mountain bike rides and hikes in the area. I shared my encounters with the Port Angeles and Sequim gloom and doomers and they just shrugged their shoulders. (Tourist dollars are hard to come by, especially in the off-season, perhaps that was what it was all about.)

Lodging was easy to find, I just walked across the street and rented a room in the historic Downtown Hotel. Now it was time to grab a bite with a view at Downriggers at the Landing and plan my active adventures.

Its close proximity to Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge / Olympic National Park and its gateway position to adventures farther afield made Port Angeles a great basecamp for my PNW explorations coming and going.  Here’s my sampler for ya:

Port Angeles Lodging

Downtown Hotel – great rates, views and old-school charm

Built in 1916 and renovated in 2003 after a fire, the Downtown Hotel has lots of character. This place made me nostalgic for the old hotel from my childhood. (My family was in the hotel and restaurant business in New Hampshire.) The Downtown Hotel is historic, quaint and clean—and full of old-school charm. You can choose from kitchenette suites, apartment suites, private baths or “European style with a shared hallway bathroom. I picked a suite with a view of the harbor. The bed was a bit small for a queen and the wifi was a bit spotty in the room so I had to take my work conference call in the lobby. Other than that, I loved it. The reading material in the lobby was great. They subscribe to the New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines – another feather to put in the artsy / cultural hat of Port Angeles. It’s a cool, centrally located spot within the heart of Port Angeles. I would stay here again and consider it for a long-term stay. The general manager, Tim, is a bit of a vintage bike nut. If you are too, you might ask him to show you his extensive collection. Notes: no pets allowed and no wheelchair access. The entrance staircase leads from street level to the lobby and rooms are on the second and third floors.

The Red Lion Hotel  221 N. Lincoln St.

red lion hotel
The waterfront Red Lion with its Olympic Mountain backdrop

Treat yourself to a great night’s sleep and a spectacular sunrise with a water view room. Extremely comfy bed with a room large enough for a happy dance. (I think it was an ADA room, not sure if they are all like that or If I just got lucky.)

Super 8 by Wyndham, 2104 E 1st St

Clean, comfy, convenient and budget friendly. This place has been renovated recently and is downright decent. Wifi and free breakfast are included. Be sure to pay your respects to the resident feline, Douglas. Drop into the locals’ bar, Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge, next door for a quick bite or nightcap if you’re so inclined. This is where I got the insider tip from locals Kristin and Chef Matt Colony to visit them at First Street Haven for breakfast (see review below).

The Landing & Downriggers

The Landing mall and the restaurant Downriggers is right on the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It features spectacular water, city and Olympic Mountain views and and is home to galleries, restaurants, offices, a co-working space, a rowing club and more.  I ate a salmon salad at Downriggers my first night. Perhaps not as good as the view, but  as good or better than Sirens in Port Townsend. Not that it’s a contest or anything, but if you read my previous post, you’ll understand why I’m making all the comparisons.


Great Restaurants

Next Door Gastropub—Not to be missed!

The line out the door is a good indication that this is the “go to” spot in Port Angeles for great grub. In general, I avoid meat. Once I caught sight of the burgers here, I caved. Delicious! For those with stronger willpower than mine, there are delectable vegetarian options as well. Whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore, you can’t go wrong here. The outdoor seating is limited, but always my happy preference so I’m glad they have some.


First Street Haven, Heaven for foodies 107 E 1st St

Had some drinks and great conversation with the chef and a waitress from First Street Haven at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge the night before. The chef was from Oceanside, CA – small world. (My home base is next door to Oside, Carlsbad.) They said their establishment had the best breakfast in town. After sampling it, I’m inclined to believe them. Crazy delish cinnamon rolls, banging eggs Benedict, and so on…We even scored some local mushrooms. (No, not that kind, come on now!) Excellent cuisine (Chef Matt Colony) and service (Kristin).  They are at the top of my list for a return trip.


BADA NW is gooda 118 W 1st St, Port Angeles, WA 98362

This is one of the coolest coffee shops with a great PNW vibe. It’s up there with Woody’s in Hakone, Japan for great atmosphere and quality coffee. They serve food and beer and wine too. (As did Woody’s, coincidentally.) Bold, Ambitious, Dedicated and Authentic (BADA) is gooda.


So Port Angeles, you won me over, 3 days – not only did you not disappoint, you exceeded all expectations. All the locals here I talked to were super friendly and helpful.

Stay tuned for my active adventures in the epic PNW, including Hurricane Ridge, and points beyond.

Prescott Round-Up: 3 days of fun and adventure

I spent 3 incredibly fun days exploring the Prescott area and covered a fair amount of ground on foot and on bike sampling the local trails.

Downtown, historic Prescott, Arizona is charming, clean, friendly and fun. Lots of historic buildings, galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels and old-time saloons. I’m sure glad my road trip took me here. I had a blast exploring the area—hiking and mountain biking in the nearby Prescott National Forest by day and kicking up my heels on the saloon dance floors by night. As a solo woman traveler, I felt completely safe my entire trip. Nightlife – yes! Live music – yes! Dancing – yes!

Downtown Prescott
Whiskey Row at Dawn



Granite Basin

Spruce Mountain

Constellation Trails

Mountain Biking:

Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Roadtrip to Jerome



The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions


Good night’s sleep on the “cheap” – basic, clean, quiet accommodations

Got into town late the first night and just needed a clean, quiet, safe place to stay. Here at the Rodeway Inn, I found friendly staff, a clean room, and comfy bed. Just basic was just right for that night for me. I left before the complimentary continental breakfast, but nice that they offer it.

Prescott Resort and Conference Center

Not quite on the same scale as a California “resort’, but nice enough. It certainly has stunning sunrise and sunset views across Prescott and a wonderful patio where you can enjoy them with a cocktail if you’re so inclined. The rooms were cozy, comfortable and clean and I’m guessing that most have great views too. I ate a decent, inexpensive meal in the casino and was pleasantly surprised by the quality. (The casino restaurant has daily specials so it’s worth checking out the restaurant there compared to the “resort restaurant” if you don’t care about ambiance.) I was traveling solo and had been hiking all day so it was just fine with me.

Sunset from the Prescott Resort and Conference Center Patio with Thumb Butte in the Distance

Hotel Saint Michael, Downtown/ Whiskey Row, Prescott, AZ

Location, location, location. On my final night in Prescott, I kicked up my heels and checked out the live music and saloon scene on Whiskey Row. If it’s a busy weekend you might need to pick your poison – some interior rooms with a super noisy generator or exterior room with rowdy crowds. Yes, the rooms and bathrooms are super dated – this is a historic (and word has it, haunted hotel – I expected that much. I didn’t expect the roar of the generator. Disclaimer, I’m a “sensitive sleeper”. But the noise was so LOUD, putting pillow over my head didn’t help. They should probably hand out earplugs here. Maybe they’re hoping you’ll come back from Whiskey Row so sloshed that you won’t hear a thing.

l in lobby saint michael hotel
The Lobby of the Hotel Saint Michael

Much left to explore. I’ll be back!