Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rafting in the Grand Canyon - July – 2012
In the back of my mind I have always wanted to go on a white water river rafting trip in the grand canyon and was delighted when my friend el donna invited me to join her and her daughter Camille this July.  You should book a year in advance as these trips are very popular and sell out quickly. We booked a 6 day trip with western river expeditions ( and it was perfect in every way.

The meeting place was in Marble Canyon on Wednesday morning, July 25 so I decided to drive up.  On Monday I drove to Sedona, arriving about 7 p.m. and stayed at the lovely Sky Ranch Lodge ( close to the perfect outlook for watching the sunset.  I had make a dinner reservation at the Amara Resort ( in the Hundred Rox restaurant but as the restaurant was being renovated a separate room was set up for temporary dining which was very disappointing….As it was rather late and Sedona closes up early I ordered the Asian spring rolls and coriander ahi tuna which were both excellent.  It was the ambiance that I missed….I wandered the streets on 89A North and then went back to my lodge.

In the morning I stopped at the Heart of Sedona Cafe nearby and chose a delicious zucchini almond muffin and coffee and before setting out for the Bell rock trail.  It is best to hike in the morning as it gets very hot so I enjoyed the beauty of Sedona’s red rocks and the fresh air.  Lunch at the Desert flour Bakery ( before heading to Flagstaff where I visited my niece Kiva, arriving at the Marble Canyon Lodge about 8 p.m.  The drive was very straightforward and I was listening to Stardust by Joseph Kanon (who wrote The Good German) which was very compelling and made the time fly by.  A quick piece of apple pie and then bed…

After a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, we all met across the street from the Marble Canyon Lodge with our duffle bags in tow.  After a short ride to the river’s edge we loaded our duffle bags into a large dry bag containing a sheet and sleeping bag and picked up a little day bag to keep whatever we might need during the day, i.e. rain gear, water bottle, sun screen, etc.  We put on our life jackets, found a spot on the raft and started off down the river. 

The rapids varied from day to day, from 4 to the highest 10.  There were 9 possible seats in the front of the raft and I generally sat in the middle with someone in front of me unless the rapids were calm and then I would sit up front.  Wren was a fantastic “driver” so our raft never capsized nor overturned but we sure did have fun on some of those number 10’s!!!  As the water was veryyyy cold it was important to wear rain jackets and pants to avoid getting too cold as the water from the rapids soaked you at every turn. 

Our days started when the sun rose about 5:30 a.m. with one bugle call which indicated that there was coffee available and breakfast would be ready in one hour.  Most of us rose, took down the tente and cote and packed up before breakfast.  Breakfast (and all the meals!!) was delicious!!!  Some of our breakfasts were:  French toast, syrup, melons/eggs Benedict, hollandaise sauce, ham, grapefruit halves/fried or scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, bacon, blueberry and poppyseed coffeecake/French toast, sausages and bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, fruit.  Coffee and tea were always available. 

We would form a “fire line” and load the raft and then set off down the river.  Sometimes we would stop and hike into a canyon, up to a waterfall or into a cavern.  One day we hiked into Havasu Canyon with its tranquil pools and waterfalls.  We would stop for lunch about 12:00 p.m. and whole wheat breads, cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, pickles, cookies and fruit would be set out for us to help ourselves.  We would find spots by the river and relax and enjoy the view of the canyon and then load up and continue down the river.  The trip was so professionally run and well organized it made for a wonderful experience and the views on every side were breathtaking.

About 4 p.m. we would find a camping spot and dock.  A fire wall of people would unload everything and then we would each find a spot to pitch our tents and set up our cots.  It was very humid and hot at night so some people just slept outside on cots.  A tent was set up for one “bathroom” and another outside toilet was set up under the stars.  While dinner was being prepared we would take our soap and shampoo down to the river and clean up – the water was pretty cold but it felt good to be “clean” after a hot day on the river.

About 5 p.m. a bugle would sound meaning appetizers were ready and two bugle blasts meant dinner was ready.  Some of our wonderful dinners were:  grilled chicken, rice, spinach salad, corn bread, pecan pie/grilled fish, rice, salad, carrot cake/burritos with beans, rice, grilled chicken, grilled peppers and onions, brownies/spaghetti with homemade mushroom and meat sauce, garlic bread, bananas foster with vanilla ice cream and grilled steaks, mashed potatoes with mushrooms and onions, salad and chocolate cake.  We were given plates, mugs and utensils which we used for every meal. Little “chairs” were set up all around and we used our laps as tables as we dined under the stars.

Our last morning we rafted over to the helicopter site where 6 of us at a time were taken to the Bar Ten Ranch for showers and lunch and then flights back to marble canyon or Las Vegas wherever you came in from.
El Donna and Camille left first and flew to Las Vegas and we decided it would be fun to do something together gain.

I flew to marble canyon where I picked up my car and drove to Sedona this time staying at Views Inn ( in the heart of the red rock country.  I took a walk into the red rocks which felt good after the 3 hour drive and then had a wonderful dinner at the Auberge de Sedona ( outside by the creek.  I ordered peekytoe crab crepe with buttered braised shitake, rack of lamb with ricotta gnocchi and milk chocolate hazelnut feuilletine with passion fruit sauce – absolutely divine.

In the morning I stopped by the Heart of Sedona Café again for another zucchini almond muffin and coffee and then headed home, stopping in the ghost/mining town of Jerome and then Prescott, walking along the whiskey row filled with old saloons and ice cream parlors.  I picked up a chocolate walnut ice cream cone for lunch and then drove back to California….  It was really a fabulous trip!!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 fennel bulbs, finely diced (reserve some leaves for garnish)
3C sliced leeks (white part only)
3 lb. new red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2C Italian parsley leaves
5 – 6C chicken stock
1/2C cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan and sauté 3 tablespoons each of the diced apple and fennel.  Reserve for garnish.

Heat the remaining butter in a sauté pan and add the leeks, the rest of the apple and fennel and cover lightly with parchment.  Cook until tender – about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – do not brown this mixture.  Add the potatoes, chicken stock and Italian parsley leaves and cook until the potatoes are tender – about 30 - 40 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.  Puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pan.  Add the cream, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer.  Divide the soup among 6 bowls and garnish each with some of the sautéed fennel-apple mixture and fennel leaves.
MAKES:  6 servings