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Camp Life: Grand Canyon



413by Kate Dernocoeur, Guest Blogger

Dump the bag. Fling the rolled tent that was inside so it uncurls across the most comfy-looking patch of shoreline. Unfold the sides from the middle and set the rainfly aside. Grab the smaller tent pole bag.184

 Let the shock cord snap the sections together, nine of them, for each of the long, flexible poles. Crisscross them over the fabric of the tent, lining each over one of the color-coded sets of plastic hooks. Secure one end, bend the pole, wait for your tentmate to secure the other end. It’s a spaghetti-mess of aluminum for a moment while all three poles rise like tangled St. Louis arches.


 Find the middle piece of the tent, that triangle of mesh at the top through which we will watch stars later, where the three poles intersect, and—whew—looks like we’ll have a home again tonight.


The tent also serves well as a drying rack for wet things: paddle jackets and pants, neoprene socks, sundries that we will later “wash” in the river. Everything in camp has multiple uses, or it just isn’t very, well, useful.

Then unpack the dry bags, one for the sleep kit and one for PG (personal gear: camp clothes, toiletries, books, warm stuff, first aid kit, etc.).468.RD18.TakeOutDay

These are in addition to the smaller dry bag for day use stuff (camera, journal, extra layers, sometimes our lunch) that stays accessible while we’re on the move. All this packing and unpacking is hell on manicures.


Camp. Ah… that place where you roost each night while rafting eighteen days down one of the most iconic canyons in the world: Grand Canyon. Once the tent is set (sometimes with ten stones to hold it down), we maybe relax, or help with dinner, or chat with the others. Have a class. Sit in the really uncomfortable camp chairs.



Camp life is good when things are good. But camp life can go south fast if people don’t pay attention to hygiene, so there are two hand-washing stations, one at the kitchen, one at the “groover” (you know, where you go to… go).   It’s called the groover because it’s really just a large ammo can and didn’t used to have a toilet seat rigged on the edges, which left grooves on the legs of those who sat.


Camp life is largely about the food.

Our guides are multi-decade veterans of feeding twenty-four people three times a day. They have a magic system.One of the more amazing nights is when they put the grill on a river-peninsula and cook brats and burgers over the coals.




Every day–even on the really cold days—the guides pull off lunches that rival proper restaurants under an umbrella.  Just don’t ask about the day with sustained gale force winds when our amazing guides managed lunch by hunkering behind an aluminum table on its side while they made chicken Caesar wraps.



 Nothing—and that means nothing—gets left behind. The food for one day is in the ammo can that will become the trash can for the next. One night, there are too many mashed potatoes, so I get to have a mini-spa by mooshing around in the warm leftovers, barefoot. A little crazy. But wow, is it ever (oddly) sensual. I love camping!

For more about Kate’s Grand Canyon trip click on Canyon Hiking or Grand Canyon from the Water.


Kate Dernocoeur would rather have nasty-looking fingernails from camping for three weeks than be stuck indoors any time. And they did look nasty after this river trip!

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Ann Cabezas Creed
    Aug 5, 2014 Reply

    I wish to go to the Grand Canyon and camp out!
    Ann Cabezas Creed

  2. posted by
    Kati Boland
    Aug 5, 2014 Reply

    Hi Kate, Love the Canyon. Was down in it many years ago and experienced a huge hailstorm followed by the most magnificent rainbow ever over the whole canyon. Fun trip for you…thanks for sharing. Kati Boland

    • posted by
      Aug 6, 2014 Reply

      Kati! So good to see you here, and to hear YOUR Grand Canyon story. It’s such an amazing place…

  3. posted by
    Susan J. Smith
    Aug 5, 2014 Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this experience Kate. I really appreciate your taking time to record what your trip was like and taking such great photos.

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