Clyde's 2006 Grand Canyon Blog
In 2006, NRS’s own Clyde Nicely live-blogged his raft trip down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Enjoy this archive of his adventures.
FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2006
I’m dedicating this blog to my sons, Benjamin and Matthew. Guys, I’m sorry you couldn’t make this trip — that would have made it perfect. I’m glad you made the last one. Follow the Old Man on this trip and rekindle the memories.
Here’s a drawing that Matt sent to post — click on it get the full effect! Thanks, Matt.
The Trip Members
The blog pilot. I’ve been rafting for about 30 years and this is my third GC trip. I work at NRS in Customer Service and am editor of the NRS eNewsletter. Favorite tongue in cheek saying, “A bad day on the water is better than a good day at the office” — sorry NRS. Favorite rafting literary quote, “We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and comfortable on a raft” — Huck Finn. Favorite quote from a friend, “If you can’t have a little fun in this life… then have a Whole Bunch!” — Slinky the Clown.
Dave & Liz
Dave’s been rafting longer than many dogs have fleas. It’s his first GC trip. He’s EMT-trained and a damn good cook. He’s a great storyteller who’s not afraid to stretch the truth and has the best hat on the river. Liz was a child bride, so she’s much younger han Dave. She grudgingly puts up with our BS, has been known to bring makeup on the river and looks upon the sun shower as essential safety gear.
Many, many years of rafting experience. His second GC trip. He has a dislike of bureaucracy, a long-suffering wife and is an organizer par excellence.
Our other EMT. Many years of rafting experience. His second GC trip. He can’t stand spicy food, has a great mustache and chin whiskers and is a golfing fanatic.
Grew up rafting. This is his second GC trip, he turned 15 on the first one. He’s quite tall, a hard worker and great father to Corvin.
She’s only been on a couple of river trips here in Idaho. Friend of Elton’s, great sense of humor. She’s pretty much a vegetarian but has graciously offered to not make the carnivores cook special for her.
Been on a number of raft trips. His second GC trip. Heavily into mountaineering, has so far bagged 31 of Colorado’s over 14,000 ft peaks, climbed Kilimanjaro and was going to do Aconcagua last year until he shattered his ankle snowboarding. Used to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, now just flies them.
A member that I’m looking forward to meeting face-to-face. His dad, Don, rode with Arthur and me on the first GC trip in 1988. Two of Jim’s sisters came out from the East Coast and ran rivers with us over the years. He regretted never having done it. When he heard about the trip (he and Arthur are cousins), he jumped at the chance to go. Little rafting experience, first GC trip.
Bunch of rafting experience. First GC trip. He can find humor in most things, is very organized and recently took the big step into boat ownership.
Son of Dale. Has been on several trips. First GC trip. He’s a college student, has a good laugh and will have a hard time living down having flipped a raft within sight of the take out.
Lots of rafting experience, has been a river guide. First GC trip. Works at NRS as Wholesale Rep for the southeast US. He’s crazy (it’s also his rugby nickname and it fits), plays guitar and sings.
She’s agreed to marry Brian, which means she’s crazy too. First GC trip. A game trooper, great photographer.
Works at NRS, has been in the Warehouse, now training in Retail Sales. Longtime friend of Brian’s, great smile, go-for-it kayaker.
Been kayaking since most girls her age were still playing with dolls. First GC trip. Friend of Blake’s. Raced on the US Junior Kayak Slalom Team. Runs a college outdoor program. Looking forward to meeting her.
The only other two-trip GC veteran. He’s the silent type but a real party animal.
Here are the boats we’re taking: In the place of honor, two NRS Sport II rafts. Bought in the fall of 1983 by Alan and me, in anticipation of my first GC permit in 1988. They’re a little less than 15 feet long, about 7 feet wide and are bucket boats. Elton’s going to row mine and Alans still at the helm of his.
A blue NRS E-150. My purchase for this trip. The only time it’s been in the water is throwing it in a local boat marina to make sure the frame was adjusted right.
A green NRS 16 foot River Cat. Al on the sticks
A gray NRS Hualapai, made from the old Riken pattern. It’s 17' 7" x 7' 7". Brian’s boat of choice.
A red AIRE 153E that Dave & Liz will be herding.
An AIRE 143R that Dale recently invested in. I haven’t seen it, don’t know what color it is.
We have two hardshell kayakers — Blake’s in a Savage Skreem and Amy has a Liquid Logic Jefe.
We’ve also got a blue NRS MaverIK I along for folks to play in.
SUNDAY, JULY 02, 2006
Ah, is it a typical getting ready for a raft trip or what.
We loaded our frozen coolers Thur. evening. Took three of them to a local grocery (all they had room for). Took four more to another grocery. Friday the second store called and said they had freight coming in and we had to move the coolers. The place Alan found to move them was a meat shop that isn’t open on the weekend but the owner said he had a customer coming to pick up some meat Sunday morning at 9:30 (we could have picked them up at the grocery at 7). Oh, well.
Then yesterday we were scheduled to start loading the trailers at 9 a.m. Dale and Evan were bringing one of the trailers over from the Seattle area. They had trouble and didn’t arrive until 3 p.m.
While waiting for Dale we decided to check and pack the wheel bearings on my trailer. A couple of hours in the hot sun and $74.00 in parts got that taken care of. Thank goodness, Dave is a good mechanic.
So we have half the gear to load on the trailers, get the coolers whenever we can get them and get on the road. Brian, Jenni and Blake went ahead to Twin Falls where we’ll meet them tonight.
Mamas don’t let you’re babies grow up to be rafters.
To be continued…
MONDAY, JULY 03, 2006
On the Road Again
The saga continues:
On Sunday we were at the first grocery at 6:30 to retrieve three coolers. So far so good. Got back to Alan’s, went for dry ice. Wrapped the ice in scrap neoprene, tucked it in the coolers and duct taped the lid seams. We then wrapped them in paper machine felts and wet then down.
We were able to get all the other coolers at 9:00. Gads, getting all the last items in the trailers is the pits. With all the final preparations it was almost noon before we rolled out of town. The two trailers are clones — dual axles, 7" x 16". I piled in with Dave, Liz and Al in Dave’s truck. Alan had Dale, Evan, Elton and Codi. I was asleep before we left town. They stopped in Lapwai to check the load and it didn’t waken me!
There were lots of rafts and kayaks playing around in the Salmon below Riggins and in the Payette. We kept on chugging along — we’d brought food so didn’t have to stop except for gas and potty breaks.
Well we’re running three hours or so behind our planned start time but the rigs are running good. Past Boise the sky got threatening, lightning flashed and the wind blew. Did it blow! Getting out to restrap things on the trailer you could barely stand up.
We were in phone contact w/ Brian and Jenni. Her folks wanted to feed us. Best laid plans. Due to a faulty map sketch (Brian), we missed the turnoff. Twenty miles on we discovered our error. By the time we backtracked, it was well after dark. They met us out by the freeway and guided us in.
Zeke and Shawna really welcomed us to their beautiful home. Hamburgers, hotdogs, salad, watermelon and homemade chocolate cake! And ice cold beverages. We got a good visit, then some went to a motel and the rest crashed on the sunroom floor.
6:15 came soon. Up to coffee and a wonderful breakfast casserole that Shauna made. We were headed out by 7:30. On to Salt Lake where Brian & Co. rescued Amy from her hotel. Fast food and rolling south.
Down south of Salt Lake, around Beaver, cool rain, glorious rain! Great help for the coolers. On to Hurricane, where it’s the last night for beds with a roof and showers with lots of water.
Tomorrow, Page for last minute shopping, then all to Lees Ferry.
THURSDAY, JULY 06, 2006
The Fourth and the Launch
Tuesday, July 4th
Hurricane — the eye of the storm was very calm. Got there by 7 MDT. Super 8 treated us right. On the road by 8:00 on the birthday of our nation. Bit of concern re Brian’s Explorer but a couple of quarts of tranny fluid seems to have healed the issue. Headed out through some spectacular scenery. Red, cream and ochre layered buttes and spired promentories. We’ll be dipping into the southern edge of Zion Nat. Park.
We got to be in the Springdale Fourth of July parade. We did the Parade Wave right through town. We were having a good time and really getting into the holiday spirit. Then we got to the edge of Zion Park and got socked with a $15 entrance fee. The scenery is awesome, I guess the fee is a looker’s tax.
Nope, it’s a Tunnel Tax. We went through a tunnel over 1.1 miles long. Quite an engineering marvel. Most spectacular scenery. We won’t begrudge the gument taking their pound of flesh. It’s overcast and cool, good for the coolers. May see more rain over the next couple of days. Praises to Teddy Roosevelt and the other visionaries who had the foresight to create these national parks. It sure is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Rolling on. we be in Arizona now, back on the same time we had in North Idaho — Arizona doesn’t use Daylight Savings Time.
We did Page, buying last minute food, beverages and supplies. Then on to Lees Ferry, 50 miles away. Got there at 3:30, no one else in the private boat launch area. Got the trailers unloaded and started setting up boats. Dave, from the Park Service came over and started our checkin process. The other private launch party showed up and we got to meet Tom Taylor and his group. Nice folks. Then Arthur, his wife Kathy and Jim showed up. It was great to see Arthur and Kathy again and to meet Jim.
It was a confusing setup. Only two of the rafts we have had ever been set up by their crew before on the river — the other 5 are either new or borrowed. We ran out of daylight before we got it all done. Al slept at the boats and the rest of crew went up to the campground.
When we got back to the boats on launch day, they were High and dry! Al said he was awake until midnight and the water hadn’t gone down. When he next woke up, the plug had been pulled. We all ganged up and moved the boats one at a time — “1, 2, 3, Heave!” Alan and Jim stayed in Page overnight and brought in more dry ice. Finished loading the boats and Peggy, the other ranger finished our checkin. We joined Tom’s crew up at the Park Service trailer for a video and orientation. Peggy did a fine job of covering all the bases and answering questions.
Some nice folks took some group pictures for us, then we got on the water at 1:15 — finally! It was a good feeling. Heard the first Canyon Wren within a mile of the launch! We floated on, making minor adjustments to frames and gear. Passed under the Navajo Bridges. Got down to Badger Creek Rapid, a Class 5 on the 1-10 Grand Canyon scale. Scouted it on the left and watched Blake and Amy run it. Then we all piled back in the boats and hit it. The crew gave me the honor of being the first raft in. We all had good runs. Felt good to run some whitewater. Also felt good to finally be in a self bailer! Almost 30 years of being full of water at the end of a run, guess it was time to go modern.
We camped at 4:30, at Below Jackass Camp, mile 8.6. Supper was fried chicken, coleslaw and watermelon we’d bought in Page. Finished up the evening with a talk about camp chores and trip philosophy. My main point was “it’s my permit but it’s our trip. Let’s work together to make it a great one.”
The weather’s been overcast and it’s been sprinkling rain this evening. As I finish this I can hear that the BS session is still going on. It’s bedtime for me, got some sleep to catch up on.
SUNDAY, JULY 09, 2006
Another Couple Days
Thursday, July 6, Day Two
We awoke again to beached boats but it wasn’t bad, they were on a steeply sloping sand bank. Got on the water at 9:40. Arthur started out in the MaverIK. We ran Soap Creek with not problem.
Down to House Rock, Class 7, our biggest so far. It’s an S-curve with two huge hydralics bottom left. You can’t start out right because of rocks across upper right. We scouted and pondered. Amy and Blake ran it first. Amy had a good clean run. Blake got too far left and we saw the bottom of his kayak… then he disappeared. We stood there with our hearts in our throats, saw his helmet appear briefly, then he shot out of the bottom of the rapid — upright and in his boat! A totally amazing display of stick to it and go for it. With his helmet on he looks like “Mr. Incredible” from the movie of the same name, so henceforth he is Mr. Incredible.
Then Al ran it in the River Cat and did great (he says Hi, Sandy). I went next, got good position below the upper rocks — then lost control of an oar. By the time I got it back I was headed for the upper hole. I managed to catch the edge of it and highsided as the water poured over me. As I got into the tail waves I looked back and saw Arthur swimming, still holding onto the paddle and IK. I rowed to him, grabbed his paddle which let him get back in the boat. Everyone else had a great run, so mine was the ugly one.
We had a great rest of the day, with lots of Class 4-6 rapids, all read-and-run. Tom Taylor’s group was camped at North Canyon, stopped and chatted with them.
We ended up camping at 24 1/2 Mile Camp. Crappy landing but a nice camp. Elton, Codi and Alan whipped up a great supper — beef and shrimp skish kabobs, salad and rice, with organic apple and blackberry sauce for dessert. Oh my it was good and there was lots of it.
Friday, July 7, Day Three
Well, the adventure continues. We woke up this morning to red-brown water…and a missing boat. I got up at 3 a.m. to check on the boats. With the fluctuating water levels we’re trying to avoid having the water drop out from under the boats. I fumbled around in the dark, checking lines. Dave joined me around 3:30 and made the discovery that Alan’s boat wasn’t with the rest of them. Dale and Elton joined us and our rummaging around woke Al. We looked up and down and still didn’t see it. So, we woke Alan and asked him if he’d moved it. “No”
We decided that there wasn’t anything more we could do before daylight, so we went back to bed. I got up at 5:30 and Elton and I hiked downstream as far as we could go and still no boat. So I used the sat phone to call the Park Service Dispatch Center. Told them we’d lost a boat and if anyone called in to report finding it to please tie it up.
We got packed up and left the beach by 9:40. We went cruising downriver, pushing hard. Couple of 4-5 rapids. Amy and Blake went ahead in the kayaks. We had to push past Silver Grotto, a great slot canyon, a bummer. Day overcast and threatening rain. Arthur and I were out ahead, looking up as Vasey’s Paradise (a high volume spring) came into view. Then Arthur said “Lookee there!”
A couple of hundred yards upstream of Stanton’s Cave (cave where one of the early surveying expeditions stashed their gear when they had to hike out of the canyon), there was Alan’s boat high and dry on bank at river right. Pretty soon the rest of the crew arrived and celebration all around. There on the dry box, tucked under a couple of Budweiser Selects was a postcard with a note that read “Hope your luck improves! Here’s a beer for you — we figure you could use it — the July 4 Johansen group. P.S. We’re planning to be at Nankoweap tonight.”
Johansen Group, you are the Best! Great Grand Karma is yours for the rest of your trip. You just displayed to the max the kind of spirit I love about river runners. We’ll definitely be in touch after the trip if we don’t run into you on the river. Alan’s boat came through amazingly well. The only major loss was the tip of one of the oar blades. Everything else was intact.
Lunch break, then down to Redwall Cavern. That place touches a real spiritual feeling in me. The view and quiet in that massive space is awe inspiring.
We stopped at Nautiloid Canyon and the more agile scrambled up to look at the fossils in the limestone.
It was time to chug for a camp, so we pushed on into a downstream wind and intermittent rain. We got to Lower Buck Farm Camp at 4:35. River mile 41, so we are caught up to our 14 mile a day average we need to maintain. Beautiful beach and awesome views — Amy M. if you’re reading this, kudos to the camp recommendation.
Brian, Jenni and Blake really outdid themselves with supper! Grilled marinaded boneless porkchops, smashed potatoes, salad using spinich as the greens, toasted garlic bagels and brownies for dessert. Extra potatoes for Codi, our vegetarian.
A great end to a day that started off with a problem.
Note: sorry about the lack of pictures. Jenni’s been taking some great ones but I’m having issues with the photo software. Probably have to wait for the first layover day to try to figure it out.
Days Four and Five
Saturday, July 8, Day Four
Sorry for the sporadic posts. It’s hard to get connection with the satellites down here in the canyon. Very frustrating. I get connected, then it drops the call. Anyway, here we go again.
I got up early enough to hike up into Buck Farm Canyon. The vegetation along the river is alive with bird calls, twittering back and forth to each other. I climbed up into the canyon, sometimes having to boulder hop. I went in far enough to be able to look up the canyon and still see the red limestone across the river.
No river sounds, just the sigh of the wind and an ocassional Canyon Wren call. I do love that liquid song, such a mighty voice for such a little bird. I sat on the ground, back against a rock, looking up the canyon. This is solitude, this is peace. Harold, an old Utah rancher once expressed it so well to me. His wife was a vey devout churchgoer, Harold wasn’t. He said, “When I’m up in the high country working my cows, that’s when I’m at my church.”
I know what he meant. I can get the feeling when I’m in church but not always. But when I’m outdoors in a place like Buck Farm Canyon I can always get there. Peace, a melting away of the outer, a spiritual connection. I like being with people but I crave solitude.
I sat long enough to fill my cup, listening to the wrens, watching the clouds move across the blue sky, marveling at the beauty of this place.
We gathered together and decided to push to Nankoweap for a layover day. We got away from the beach a little after 10 and headed downriver. Just one little rapid, lots of lazy river and slow rowing. The cliffs are carved and molded in such marvelous shapes. This is indeed a place of grandeur.
We got to Little Nankoweap and had another confab. Decided to take a chance on getting one of the camps at Nankoweap proper. We scored and got the Main Camp — big beach, lots of open space and little tent nooks back in the salt cedar and willows.
Lo and behold the Jacobsen group was camped down below us! Ron and some of his family came up and we were able to properly thank them for rescuing our runaway boat. He also reported that Doc Thomas was part of their party. Doc has run the river over 160 times and is somewhat a legend among GC folks. Look forward to meeting him.
The sky was threatening so we set up two River Wings, end to end. It was our time for supper duty so Arthur, Jim and I got busy. Arthur whipped up some super nachos in the Coleman oven. I contributed DO Chicken Enchilada Casserole, from Sheila Mills’ cookbook. Arthur brought real authent
ic pork and chicken/green chili tamales up from New Mexico. We had Toad Juice with the nachos and Dave and Liz brought margaritas to the meal.
Just as supper got served the weather asserted itself with blasts of wind that set us to holding onto the river wings. It settled down, gave us enough time to finish eating. Then it started to rain so we circled up under one of the wings and had a rip roaring good BS session! Brian got out his guitar and provided some rousing entertainment.
We decided we were finally hungry enough so we fried up sopapillas by moonlight. Crack those little babies open and pour in the honey. Good stuff..
Sunday, July 9, Day Five
I tried to sleep in but couldn’t. Got up and made the last post. Dave, Liz and Al made a great layover breakfast — DO casserole of hashbrown potatoes, sausage, bacon, eggs and cheese and DO biscuits. Lots of coffee, homemade Baileys for creamer. Good eating and we cleaned up the whole 14" DO of casserole.
I walked over to the other camp to meet Doc Thomas. Interesting fellow, going on a trip with him would be like taking the encyclopedia of the Grand Canyon with you.
Got geared up and most of us hiked up to the Anazazi granaries, about an hour and a half climb up to rocked-in enclosures they used to store food away from critters. The view from there is spectacular. You may have seen pictures, BOSE and others have used the shot in print ads.
Arthur, Jim and I decided to hike over into the Nankoweap drainage after the climb to the granaries. It was a long hot trudge. We got rewarded when we got there by being able to lie down in the creek’s warm water.
We hiked for a ways up the creek. Not too far along I spotted a shady rock overhang right by the creek. I told them to go on without me. I lay there in the shade, closed my eyes, listening to the gurgle of the water and was out like a light. I got a wonderfully refreshing half-hour nap! Ah, Solitude. Before we started back over the hot trail we had some snacks and another soak in that great water.
When we got back it was a cold beer and do the laundry. We puttered around camp until the Monsoon Express rolled through around 5. Then it was hold onto anything that could blow away. Then sit under the River Wing until the rain stopped. Dale, Evan and Amy whipped up a good supper of beef and bean burritos. It’s dark now and I think the crew is trying to make smores.
Sarah, your mom says “Hi”, she misses you. We’re also sending out Good Wishes and Best of Lucks to the NRS Softball Team as they go into tournament play. Sorry we stole two of your star players, Brian and Blake. Jeremy, your phone stand works great! Laura, thanks for promoting the running group, it hardened my legs for the hiking.
MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006
Monday, July 10, Day Six
We got away from the beach a little after 9:30, pretty good after a layover day where we had everything spread out. It was a great layover. Nankoweap is at Mile 53. Forgot to mention that we filtered our first water — some from Vasey’s Paradise and some from the river that we’d settled out with alum. Brian brought a felt prefilter to knock out the big chuncks. We did the final filtration with the Base Camp Filter and added 2 drops of bleach per gallon to kill any viruses.
Down to run Kwagunt, a relatively easy enter left of center, work right. The run down to the Little Colorado River is mostly flatwater. With some rowing, we were able to average 4 MPH.
At the Little Colorado we got a big disappointment. The stream was a deep reddish brown, darker than the main river is now. We had all been looking forward to swimming in the bright blue water. Instead we ate lunch and pushed on.
We passed the Hopi Salt Mines. The salt that has leached out of the rocks makes beautiful crystal formations on the canyon walls. At Lava Canyon (Mile 65.5) we stopped and talked with Larry from Canyon Explorations. His customers were hiking up the canyon. They had a couple of big NRS rafts for gear boats — bright yellow.
We really wanted to push on for more miles but knew some parties ahead of us would probably be camping at Unkar (M-72), so we took the conservative route and stopped at 68 Mile Camp. It was hot and windy when we got there but as soon as the sun went below the canyon wall it’s a nice camp. A huge sandbar with a 180 degree panoramic view. We can see the South Rim Watchtower from here.
Dave, Liz and Al served up a sumptious meal of spagetti and meat sauce, salad, garlic bread and DO Pineapple Upside Down Cake. No one went away hungry! Tomorrow will be a busy day. We have some of our first big rapids — Unkar, Hance and Sockdolager.
Shauna, forgot to mention we finished off the cherries a couple of days ago — Thank You! KT, Arthur says “Hi”, I’m really enjoying his company.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2006
Tuesday, July 11, Day Seven
The sun drove us off the Mile 68 beach, no late sleepers this morning. We hit the water at 8:50. Pushed on down to Unkar Rapid (M-72.5, C-6). Pulled in on right side to scout and to look at the Puebloan dwellings up along the creek delta. It was so hot that we didn’t stay long. Talked briefly to some of Tom Taylor’s group who were just leaving.
We all had clean runs of Unkar, a right-hand line with holes and standing waves. On down to Nevills Rapid (M-75.4, C-6). We scouted what we thought was Nevills but realized once we got in it that the “real Nevills” had to be ahead, and it was. No problems for any of us.
Hance at 76.6, at a Class 8 was our biggest rapid so far. Although some didn’t admit it, I think we all were nervous. We scouted it left and really over analyzed it. There are major consequences of a screwup there but we definitely “thought it to death.” We finally all agreed on a left hand run, going left of a big rock on the left side, then pulling hard back to the left center. Down the middle were some gigantic holes. Amy and Blake went first and made it look easy.
Al ran the first raft and the rest of us made like little ducklings. I cleaned it around the rock and got far enough right. I kissed the edge of one big hole and avoided the rest. Lots of big rollers and smaller holes. On the runout I was having trouble getting into an eddy. When I finally did get one I saw the reason. My left oar blade (8" Outfitter Blade) was bent at about a 30-degree angle. I never felt it catch a rock but it must have. Everyone had clean runs and we were pumped and proud. Arthur ran it in the MaverIK and did great.
This section is in a close walled canyon so it was a ways before we could get to a crappy pullin for lunch, within earshot of Sockdolager (M-78.5, C-7).
You can’t really scout Sock, the walls are real sheer there. We stopped a ways back and got the long view. Mostly a left run with some hard to avoid holes. Everyone did fine.
We were tired after all this and looking for home. We found Grapevine Camp (M-81.1) open and were glad of it. They request that groups not picking up or exchanging passengers at Phantom not camp between there and Grapevine, so we were doubly glad to get it.
Codi, Elton and Alan fixed a most fine meal of marinaded bite size steak, shrimp, salad, brown rice and DO Raspberry Cobbler.
I had taken Matt’s drawing and using iron on transfers, made a flag. My flagpole was going gunnybags so I fixed it while waiting for water to heat for dishes.
Notes: Wildlife so far on trip — lots of birds, some duck broods, deer tracks, a small herd of bighorn sheep at one point, deer tracks, lots of lizards (we’ve IDed three species, two species of snakes (no rattlers yet), a couple of tiny scorpions. Something ate a hole in a drybag on Dave and Liz boat last night.
K-Pumps are a big hit. We’ve got a 200 and a 400 with us and they’re the only ones getting use.
Cooler discipline is really helping. We have them wrapped in papermachine felt which we keep wet for evaporative cooling. We also keep either Paco Pads or thick foam pool floats on the tops when the sun’s out. We have them loaded sequentially so they only get opened when that part of the trip arrives.
Don, Jim has been riding with Alan and is getting a lot of experience rowing, doing good. Elton and Arthur took turns in the MaverIK today and Arthur said it felt like old times rowing my old boat. Evan rowing some of the big ones, fine job.
Enough for now, let’s see if I can get out in this tight canyon. (Couldn’t make it out last night, trying on the morning of Day 8. Phantom Ranch today and more big rapids.)
THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2006
Day Eight — A Touch of The Outside World
Wednesday, July 12, Day Eight
The early risers got to see a bit of raw nature. Dave noticed a peculiar track in the sand, a 6-8 inch wide mottled pattern weaving across the sand and ending under a dry bag next to Alan’s bed. We lifted the bag to find a small bat with a broken wing. It was a valiant struggle he made but he was near death when we found him. Not wanting to interfere with the balance of nature, we put him near the cliff wall. Before we left camp, a raven found him and had a small meal.
The sun drove us off the beach early again, we were away by about 9. Down 0.4 miles to Grapevine Rapid (M-84.5, C-7). We pulled off right to scout and as we were looking at it an AZRA group ran it and we followed their line, a right hand run. We had a kind of logjam pulling out and I didn’t pull right fast enough so I bit off more of the middle than I intended to. The E-150 handled it fine, sweet boat. I’m enjoying the Cataract oars, always ran Carlisles in my old boat. The Cataracts are lighter.
A couple of small rapids and 6.5 miles brought us to Phantom Ranch. We ate lunch, filled water containers and hiked the half mile to the Ranch. The Canteen offered swamp cooler air, long tables, postcards, lemonade, candy bars, $3.50 beers, $17.47 breakfast and ice. Also one pay phone. The ice and the phone were the best bargains — $1.00 for 3 liter block (frozen in the lemonade concentrate containers) or $1.50 for a big bag of cube ice. We bought ice and some were able to place phone calls. KT, Arthur wasn’t able to get through and Shauna and Zeke, your phone was busy.
Talked to Doc Thomas and Tom Taylor there, swapping stories and checking campsites. We pulled away not long after Doc’s group left. Followed them down to Horn Creek Rapid (M-90.2, C-8). There was a tongue left and a tongue right, with the most ugly maelstrom you ever saw in the middle top. I think it was water pillowing up against the right “horn” rock. It had a clockwise corkscrew vortex facing upsteam that would have totally eaten anything that entered it. Got there just behind Doc. Watched them run it. Some of us went left and some went right, we all did good. Arthur running them all today in the MaverIK, crazy boy.
At Above Salt Creek Camp (M-92.2) we had to make a choice — stay or go and try for Granite Camp (M-93.4). We debated and some wanted to go on but the majority wanted to stay. Smallish camp but adequate.
It was our kitchen set up night and we had to dig in the legs of the tables to get them level. We put up a River Wing to get some shade. Al made up a batch of Toad Juice and we sat out on the boats and Toaded down. Lots of laughter and good feelings. We’re really bonding into a tight group.
Brian, Jenni and Blake served us up a great meal — watermelon starter course, White Bean Chicken Chili, DO Cornbread and cookies with optional frosting dip for dessert.
Then with the sun down it was back out onto the cool of the boats for relaxation and quiet chat.
This is our third night without the Monsoon Express. The days are now sunny and very hot, more like what we’d prepared for than the rainy cool weather at the first of the trip. Man, does the wind blow down here. We had an upsteam wind this afternoon that stopped us for a bit.
Tomorrow we get lots of biggies — Granite (C-8), Hermit (C-8) and Crystal (C-9). With what happened in my last Crystal run, I’m looking forward to getting beyond it.
My Paco Pad beckons.
SATURDAY, JULY 15, 2006
Days Nine and Ten
Friday Morning, July 14, writing about Day Nine
I awoke this morning at 5:00 a.m. to the over half-full moon, glowing red cliffs, the surging sounds of the river, Canyon Wrens singing and two bats weaving an aerial tapestry above my head. The grin on my face was a mile wide.
Note: Important correction. I think I’ve referred to the group that put in with us on the 5th as the Tom Taylor group. Correction: it’s Tom Young. More later.
Yesterday was a fantastic day, there’s no other way of describing it. We got away from Above Salt Creek Camp in good time, a little after 9. Down to Granite Rapid (M-93.4, C-8). A large motor rig pulled in right behind us, scientists studying river flows. We sized up the rapid and decided on a left of center run.
The entry was locomotive fast. I was a little off my line and took a lot of water from the laterals coming in from the right. Huge waves, water was running out over the top of the tubes. Great run! Everyone made it fine. One of the scientists took photos of us going through and said he would e-mail them to Blake. A big commercial group came in in time to watch us go. When they went through, the boat folded, then flexed back sending three rows of guests ass over tea kettle! Arthur piloted the MaverIK down with Blake and Amy and they all did fine.
On down to Hermit (M-94.9, C-8). Wow! Huge standing waves with two nasty boiling holes two-thirds of the way down. There was a fast slick tongue with strong laterals on both sides. Down the gut! Hit it straight and try to pull left of the biggest hole. It felt like my run was perfect, perhaps the photos will tell if that’s true. Brian and Jenni photoed the run, then Blake photoed while they hit it. Everyone came through good.
On to Crystal (M-98.2, C-9). The river flow is high so it was a frothing monster, huge center holes. Thank goodness there was no strong right lateral line so we decided to hug the right bank with our boats’ butts and smooth it. I went first, tucked in behind the upper rocks along the shore and pulled back. For a few seconds it looked like I might catch the big hole but I kept pulling and the bow pirouetted over the edge of it. Talk about pumped! I was hoopin’ and hollern’ down through the tail waves.
I found out later that Dale and Evan hit the big hole. Amy says she snapped a picture of the boat almost vertical with Evan clambering over the bow tube to keep it upright. Alan and Jim had a visit with the hole also but we all made it through right side up! Arthur kept a perfect record — three runs of Crystal and three swims. On the 1988 trip he dumped the IK in the first run, packed it back up for a second try and dead centered the big hole. This time he made it through the big stuff and lost it in a tail wave!
Then it was read-and-run rapid city for eight miles — Tuna, Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Emerald, Ruby, Serpentine. Fun rapids with standing wave trains. Some big waves in them. In Ruby I hit one big one straight, got near the crest and felt the boat stall and start to slide back. And I did say “Oh, Shit!”, but the wave dropped out from under me and I breathed easier.
We were shooting for Lower Bass Camp (M-108.3) but found Doc Thomas’ group there. Chatted with them for a bit, had a water fight and then pulled down to 110 Mile Camp to find Tom Young’s party there. These beautiful people offered to share their camp with us! We were dead tired and staring at another three miles to the next possible camp. I can’t say Thank You enough to those fine folks.
It was Dave’s Birthday! Or as he likes to say, an anniversery of his 40th Birthday. We celebrated him royally. Liz had a crown, balloons, a banner and some nutty gifts. I told him he has a K-Pump K-200 waiting for him when he gets back home, one with a check valve since his other raft has military valves.
It was our turn for dinner. Steak, baked potatoes w/ all the trimmings, coleslaw and a DO Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt (w/o the Bundt) Cake (recipe at www.americastestkitchen.com) with a raspberry sauce and whipped topping. Arthur and Jim did a great job with the coleslaw (Arthur’s sister Donna’s recipe for the dressing), Jim cooked the steaks to perfection and I baked the cake.
Dishes were done by lantern light and we didn’t stay up late. We were all tired, but happy. We had a Ringtail Cat visit us in camp, got real good looks at him in the headlamps.
Friday, July 14, Day Ten
After the wonderful wake up to the bat ballet we got ready to leave. Went down to talk to Tom and his crew. Tom and Jeannie have big grins on their faces and are really enjoying themselves. The Kuckenfolk are having a great time and send their love. The Irish Rose’s eyes are shining bright and she sends love to all who be desarving it now.
Liz found a scorpion in her swimsuit. Oh, it was the one she’d left out overnight, she didn’t have it on yet. Dale saved the day by removing it.
Tom’s group got away before us and we left at 9:15. Amy got chundered (hope I’m spelling that right Amy) in Walthenberg Rapid (M-112.1). Her bare foot slipped under the bulkhead and gouged her foot. First aid was performed and we chugged on down to Elves Chasm (M-116.5). It is truly an oasis in the desert. A spring runs down over some drops, replete with moss and ferns. We saw Tom’s group there, then hiked up to the upper end where the more adventurous jumped off the upper ledge into the deep pool below. What a beautiful place it is.
On down to Blacktail Canyon (M-119.9). Tom’s group was pulled in at the upper camp so we pulled in below and walked up into the canyon. A beautiful twisting canyon, lined with Tapeats Sandstone, a layered stone. It was totally quiet and shaded in there. Tom’s group was settled in (they’re camping there), so we tried to be quiet as we walked up to the end. I wished for time to just sit in silence but we needed to find camp. Quick in and out.
On down to camp, Below Fossil (M-125.4). Sweet, sun left the beach within 30 minutes of arriving. Still hot but nice.
Note: The raven that made a meal out of the bat also swiped a Power Bar from Amy — protein and carbs for the day. Also, Amy’s watch and a couple of rings are missing and we think the raven may have got them too.
Note: Not going to be able to put photos on here during the trip. They take too much space and make it too long to load. Connection to the satellites is sporadic down here and sometimes I sit here for an hour or more losing connection and getting it back. I’ll tease you though — Jenni is getting some great photos! I’ll put some on here when I get back for you to see.
Note: When I check to see if it posted, I see that some of you have made comments back to the postings. Sorry, I can’t read and respond to them. Sat phone charges are expensive and again it’s time consuming. Will respond to any when I get back.
SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2006
Days Eleven and Twelve
Saturday, July 15, Day Eleven
We had a talk before we left camp about looking for a second layover spot. Everyone agreed they were ready for one. We’ll plan on getting up earlier and making some miles so we can do the layover.
Arthur took the sticks on our boat this morning. On down to Specter Rapid (M-130, C-6). We were going to stop and look at it but Blake and Amy checked it out before we got there and waved us through. No problems.
Bedrock Rapid (M-130.5, C-7) is a sort of S-curve rapid with a large schist island dividing the river into two channels. The current flow right at the island and water really piles up on the upstream end of it. The run is get in the tongue and pull hard to pass the island on the river right side.
Arthur went first, pulled hard and pulled past the tip. We pulled back into the eddy on river right and watched the others come through. Everyone came through fine until Alan and Jim made their run. Jim was rowing and had some problem with the oars. They hit the end of the island and spun backwards into the left channel around the island.
Blake and Amy were in their kayaks up against the island, setting safety as they always do when we’re running big rapids. When they saw the raft go on the other side of the island, Amy peeled out and dashed around the bottom end of the island. Blake got out of his boat, drug it up on the rock, grabbed his throw rope and clambered up and over the island.
From where Arthur and I were we couldn’t see over the island (probably 20-feet high in most of its length) but there was one lower crack in it that we could see water through. The raft wasn’t coming down.
Blake got to the other side of the island and saw the raft washed into a nook in the channel, Jim in the boat trying to help Alan who was out of the boat but hanging on to it. Blake made a daring leap off the rock onto the raft (Mr. Incredible using his super hero powers!), helped support Alan and managed to push the raft back into the current to flush out below. In the meantime, Amy was marshalling help and using her clear voice to let people know what was going on. Brian pulled in with his raft, grabbed ahold of Alan and with Blake and Jim’s help, pulled him into his boat.
In the meantime, Arthur and Dave had rowed across the current and pulled up against the right side of the island. Dave and I clambered up and got Blake’s boat and paddle aboard our boat.
Alan was in pretty good spirits for what he’d been through and Jim was beating up on himself pretty badly. We sorted out gear, got things put together and each in his own way gave thanks that we’d had a positive outcome to a tense situation. A reminder, if any of us needed one, that river running has inherent danger along with the fun and excitement. Maximum kudos to all who helped in the rescue effort, you all performed excellently!
On to Deubendorf Rapid (M-130.5, C-7). We stopped to take a look at it. There was an enter left, pull right run and a right hand entry run. Some did one, some did the other. All did well, Alan back on the sticks, looking good.
We passed the narrowest part of the river, 76-feet, at M-135. Two-tenths of a mile downriver, we stopped at the Christmas Tree Cave. A stalagmite and a stalactite have touched tips back in a little alcove to make the most beautiful little “Christmas Tree” you ever saw. We tarried a bit in the coolness of the cave then reentered the heat to go on to Deer Creek Falls.
We found a clear stream cascading over a hundred feet down into a plunge pool. A beautiful sight indeed. On my first trip (that Alan, Al, Arthur and Elton were on), we saw lightning strike the other side of the canyon (“There go 10,000 lizards!”) and the stream turned brown before we left. On my second trip it was brown when we got there. So we were real lucky. Arthur, Elton, Evan and I made the long hot climb to the top to walk along the Tapeats ledges above the rushing waters.
On down to the Mouth of Kanab Creek Camp at M-145 for the night. Dave, Liz and Al fixed an excellent meal of Beef Stroganoff, corn, biscuits and a yummy DO Cherry Chocolate Cake.
Note: Pam, the gang says “Hi” and Blake says, “Happy Birthday, Mom!” And a Big Happy Birthday to you Abby, from Jenni.
Threatening skies tonight. Hmm, camped at the mouth of a creek with over a hundred mile drainage?
Sunday, July 16, Day Twelve
Well, last night it clouded up, lightning flickered and thunder rolled. Most of us dashed around, put up tents, pulled all the loose gear off the beach and double tied the boats — preparing for the worst case scenario, a flash flood. As soon as I got my tent up I looked up at the sky and saw…stars. I tried to post to the blog but the canyon was too narrow there.
It was hot last night and folks reported not sleeping well at all. Some slept on the boats to try to beat the heat.
We really jumped to it this morning and got away from the beach at 8:00! We agreed to shoot for Upper National Canyon Camp (M-166.5), 22 miles downstream with the thought of taking our second layover there. We decided to skip the Matkatamiba Canyon side hike in order to make miles. It was just as well because a big commercial motor rig was pulled in there. We had a couple of days without the big motor groups but now have several in our area. Haven’t seen another private group since we left Tom Young’s group.
Stopped to scout Upset Rapid (M-149.75, C-6). There was a wave train with big rollers along the left side, a huge hole in the wave train about 2/3 of the way down and a smaller hole to the right of it. We decided to pull hard right and try to get right of te holes. The only debate was which side of a large exposed rock at top right to enter on.
Dave went first, entered to the left of the rock and appeared to have a good run. Brian went next. He’d said before he pushed off that he hadn’t decided which side to go on, and it showed! First it looked like he was going right, then he seemed to decide left — which resulted in him hitting the rock and spinning into the rapid backwards. Ran it backwards all the way and managed to hit where the two holes met. I entered perfectly left but couldn’t pull hard enough to miss the right hole. No problem, we broke right through it. Everyone made it successfully.
On to Havasu Creek Canyon (M-156.7). In addition to two big motor groups, there were two commercial oar powered groups and another private. It was like opening day at DisneyWorld. We hiked up a ways, some further than others but decided not to stay long. Havasu has lost much of its uniqueness with the flash floods washing out all the travertine dams. They were there in 1988, mostly gone in ’93 and all gone now.
Arthur and I left first and put on the power to get a camp. We did the nine miles in two hours even, taking half hour turns at the oars. Upper National! Huge area, lots of sand, some tamarisk for shade. It clouded up and rained for a while, really cooling things off.
Alan, with Codi and Elton’s help, served up a good meal of cheese burgers, bratwurst and french fries. He showed us a neat trick of bringing the patties and sausage precooked and individually wrapped in foil. Heated them in the Coleman ovens, no mess and quick.
Well, the shower awaits and I can hear Brian picking at his guitar. Layover Day!!!!
Note: Toni, Alan is just fine, ornery as ever, not to worry — hope the basement remodel is going well.
Avin, Poppa brought the potholders with the chile pattern that you picked out for him. I hope you and Lane are having a good summer. I look forward to doing some fun things with you when I get home.
TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2006
Layover Day, Lava Day and a Birthday
Monday, July 17, Day Thirteen
I’m sitting up in National Canyon, hoping to draw some inspiration fron this beautiful place. It’s oven hot down on the beach (how hot is it? We had a butane lighter blow up in camp), probably high 80s here in the shade of the high walls. There’s 50 gallons per minute or so of crystal clear water gurgling down from a waterfall a couple of hundred yards up the canyon. Here there are wide creamy gray “patios” of Muav Limestone. It’s quiet except for the water.
Yesterday morning we floated through the upper end of the Muav Gorge. Swift current, Muav down low, Redwall and Temple Butte Limestones above. The river was in shade but the walls above were sunlit. Beautiful reds, creams, ochres, oranges. Arthur and I took turns pointing and exclaiming, “Isn’t that magnificent?!” “That’s so beautiful!” It was like floating through miles of cathedrals.
As we floated along I remarked that we’re often roasting hot, can’t sleep because of the heat, we’re drinking warm water, my legs look like someone worked me over with a motorcycle chain, my feet are sore and I’m bathing them in Bag Balm at night…and I wouldn’t trade it for the finest tropical cruise. Hearing that maggots were found in the last groover sent me into peals of laughter.
What is it that propels people on into trips like this, time and again? I’m sure the reasons are many and individual. I’ve never been able to explain it to someone who hasn’t and wouldn’t do it. Someone said to Dave, “Twenty three days!! I might be able to do the three, but not the extra twenty.” I do believe there has to be a passion for it, for the outdoors, for what’s around the next bend. Certainly getting to experience things like this canyon is part of it for me.
One story that illustrates it to me is a trip several of us planned years ago, a late winter, end of February float down the Lower Salmon in Idaho. About a dozen folks were all excited about it. When we woke on the morning we were leaving there was snow halfway down Lewiston Hill. The phone calls started coming in with people canceling. Only four of us ended up going and we had a great time. The three besides me? Alan, Al and Dave. I think the young folks on this trip have the passion also.
On my last trip to this canyon in 1993, I had a spiritual experience that still sticks with me, that I think of every once in awhile. After the others in our party left, I stayed behind to carve out some solitude. I settled back in a small alcove carved back in the rock, back up near the waterfall. There was this same level of quiet.
I was in a very empty minded contemplative state when a gray robin size bird came fluttering by, dragging a wing. He stopped right in front of me and stared fixedly with his black eye. We held gazes for several seconds and then he fluttered on. In those few seconds two mortal beings observed each other. One left to meet death and one stayed to meet the same fate, more slowly.
The lesson? Don’t take life for granted. Live it fully. Hug those you love and tell them that you care. Don’t turn down the ice cream.
Tuesday, July 18, Day 14
We got up early and were on the water by 8:10. Energy was high, it’s Lava Day! We made good time down river and were there by 11:30. Lava’s at M-179.2, C-9). The anticipation builds as you approach it. Vulkan’s Anvil is a mile upstream, a big plug of lava in the middle of the river. As we slipped past we saw a string of orange beads and a quarter tucked in a crevice of the rock, a gift to the River Gods for luck in Lava.
We pulled in river right and scaled the rock bank to scout. You know a rapid’s big when you’re 200 feet above it and it still looks huge. We talked it over and decided the left side of the Ledge Hole looked best. Blake and Amy thought the right side was their line.
Arthur decided to row it and we took off first. One problem with many of these rapids and Lava in particular is that as you approach, all you see is a horizon line — not markers for your place of entry. You look for bits of froth and estimate your distance from shore.
There is definitely an adreneline rush approaching something this big. Arthur found his line and did fine. We watched from below as one after another of our rafts did great runs. Hooping and hollaring echoed up the canyon walls.
Blake and Amy’s runs were much more eventful. The water was so powerful that they both flipped. Amy rolled up, still on her line. Today’s her birthday and it’s one she’ll always remember!! Blake took more of a pounding. He came up with one side of his Chums still attached, glasses hanging down on his chest, red in the face from holding his breath.
We celebrated with lunch below the rapid, then chugged on downriver. We’re camping at Whitmore Wash, M-188.0, a big nice sandy beach. Gads, the wind did blow when we got here! The gusts had to be at least 40 mph. We had to hold up supper til it moderated.
It was our supper night — Chicken w/ 40 Cloves of Garlic, brown rice, multi-bean salad and we’re going to have Cherry Chocolate Cake ala Gerrie for dessert later. Liz had up the BD banner, a pink fringy tiara for the BD Girl. That Liz she’s a celebrator deluxe.
Right now the wind is blowing ~ 10 mph and feels good. The bull session is in progress and there’s BD cake to frost. Great Day! As Brian said, bittersweet. You anticipate Lava for days and years and it’s over in 20 seconds. Seconds to be savored and recounted for years on other river beaches. We have seen the elephant and we’re here to talk about it.
Note: Ben and Matt, wish you were here! I have this vivid picture in my mind of you two at the bottom of Lava, laughing and celebrating. Best to both of you lovable lunks.
THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006
Days Fifteen, Sixteen and Another Birthday!
Wednesday, July 19, Day 15
Up early, have only seen Jim and Al so far. Great camp. Big, sandy, gentle lulling river sound — just above Whitmore Rapid. Dave just wandered up.
We’re all up early but moving kind of slow. I know there was an emotional letdown after Lava. Several commented it felt like the trip was over. Lava is a focal point, something that’s in the back of everyone’s mind as you go down river. And Brian made the comment, “I don’t want to leave. If you’d told me on Day One or Two that I wouldn’t be ready to get off this river after this long, I’d have said you were nuts!”
I’m tired today but think it’s more not sleeping well than post-Lava letdown. Anyway, energy is low. We shoved off at 9 and floated down to Upper Fat City Camp (M-191). There a couple of big Wilderness River Adventure rigs were taking off their side pontoons after helicoptering out their guests. We stopped and helped Carrie, Julie and Clint derig the pontoons, roll them up and load them up on the boats. It was a good trade, they gave us some much needed ice and water in exchange for our labor! Nice folks, good to meet them.
On to 193 Mile Canyon. Several of us hiked up the cobble creek bed. Arthur and I were ahead. Where the canyon branched, we took the left-hand route. It wound up through tall walls of Mauv and Redwall Limestone. Along the way there were small depressions in the rock holding water from past rains. Around and in each were lots of small and large frogs and toads and some large millipedes. If the drainage gets more water, they’ll probably survive. If not, they won’t.
We came to a narrow crack with a boulder stuck in it. Arthur is a cross between a bighorn sheep and a gecko, so he shimmied up through it and helped me up. We went a ways further and he repeated his finger and toehold tricks and we went on.
What a wonderous place. The rock kept changing and the walls kept curving. Arthur and I share the “I’m curious about what’s around the next bend (ridge top, hillside, etc). It was addictive following the canyon’s course. We’d probably still be treking but we had to set ourselves a stopping point. Actually we set two or three before we got to another climb the walls spot. On our way back we met Jim and Elton who’d made it up the steep spots also. We walked back together, got in the boats and departed.
Down to Parashant Camp (M-198.5) for another side hike. We were looking for an agave roasting pit site (didn’t find it) and the Book of Worms, a piece of Bright Angel Shale with fossil worm borrows. Dale thinks he found the Book, the rest of us came up short.
We got back to the beach and everyone was so low energy we decided to camp here, a whopping 8.5 mile day. Early shade, much needed. Believe it or not it’s humid and muggy today. Saps the get-up-and-go right out of you. While some were taking naps and others were being lazy, Brian blew up the MaverIK and tried to surf a wave across the river. Blake and Amy, not to be outdone took their kayaks across and did it too.
Nice camp. Dale, Evan and Amy on dinner. Lasagna, corn and green beans. Dessert? Their specialty seems to be smores. We’ll see.
Note: Something I forgot to mention was down at Upper National Camp we’re pretty sure we saw Condors. They were riding wind currents above an upriver promontory. Looking at them through binocs and comparing wing shape and flying patterns we’re relatively certain of the id. Great stuff.
Trying to decide whether to take my shower now or wait til before bed. Dave has devised a good system of cantilevering the sunshower bags out to the edge of the water with oars and rope. The rule in the Canyon is all soap goes into the main stream. Tonight they found a spot to hang the bags off a tree limb over a rock in the river.
Dinner was good and yes, smores for dessert. It is still hot enough that Dale just passed out the ingredients and we bypassed the burning up the marshmallows in the fire step.
Getting a breeze now, looks like the monsoon has passed us up tonight. We’re hoping this pattern holds. If it rains in the Diamond Creek drainage, they won’t be able to get Brian’s Explorer down to the river.
Thursday, July 20, Day 16
I went to bed early last night, around 8:30. I was grouchy. I’d tried to get the blog posted and finally got disgusted with the broken connections and everyone else chatting and having a good time. And it had gotten dark. I hadn’t gotten my shower and the last couple of showers I’d taken had been in the dark for similar reason. They’d been a hassle to do stumbling around in the dark — including taking 4-inches of skin off one shin falling over a rock.
So I decided to hell with it and crashed on my Paco Pad. Later in the night, raindrops started falling on my head and sheet and clothes…There was a lightshow of headlamps around camp as people put away stuff and setup tents. I started to pull the tarp over my bedroll, then came out of the grog and realized that all the now damp sand on the tarp would end up on me! I had a heck of a time finding my headlamp because I’d swapped ends of the pad to get my head more uphill. After I finally found it I located my tent bag and pulled out the rainfly to cover myself, I was damned if I was going to set up the tent.
When I got all that accomplished, the sprinkling stopped. I lay back down and looked at my watch — 12:05. My first birthday present, not having to try to survive under a clammy tarp while getting pounded by rain!
I woke a little before 5, still pretty dark. Went to the groover then looked at the still partially full shower bag and said “Yes!” I got my towel and soap, climbed down on the rock with the river surging over it and had the sweetest shower in the dim morning light. And it was made doubly-triply sweet by the serenade I got from an early-rising Canyon Wren in the trees above me. My second birthday present!
We got away from camp around 8:15. Arizona River Runners, an oar powered group had camped right below us and were pulling out as we did. Arthur and I chatted with Julie and Lauren as we floated down. It was Julie’s first time to row the Canyon and they were choosing some power lines.
On down to Lower 202 Mile Camp to look for an agave roasting pit (they seem to be a myth) and some pictographs. ARR pulled in to look at them too and the Grand Canyon Youth Trip group had camped there and were just getting ready to leave. I spoke with Brian who told me that the GCYTs are organized in cooperation with the Grand Canyon River Monitoring Station. The young folk do scientific work as they go downriver, like mapping campgrounds to record changes. Must be a smart group of kids.
I also spoke with John from ARR, chatting about camping and their plans. He gave us some ice! My third birthday present. We looked for the mythical roasting pit to no avail but found the pictographs. Dave and Liz take her fifth graders up Hells Canyon every year and look at pictographs there. They said these are very different.
Arthur rowed us down through 205, 209 and Little Bastard Rapids (C-6,5 & 3). We stopped at Pumpkin Springs (M-213), a warm spring that has formed a travertine dam at river side. It was pretty yucky looking and no one really got into it. We had lunch and pushed off. We decided to head for the 220 Mile area to put us in good position for dropping off the people getting out at Diamond Creek (M-225.7).
We got within a half mile and in sight of the Upper 220 Mile Camp before the wind hit. We struggled down to it and it’s a dandy. Big, sandy with some wind shelter.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s my birthday. The gang did it up right. A beautiful crown for me, a battery powered fan, a glass with battery powered strobe lights in the bottom and a tape of the soundtrack of “Good Morning Vietnam” (there’s a story there that I won’t go into now) and a battery-less flashlight that you shake to charge up — all from Dave and Liz. A maglite with headband holder from Elton and Codi and cards from several. Great times and thanks to all! Having all of you on this great trip is a great birthday present.
I’m going to get this thing posted before dinner and the rest of the celebration!
SATURDAY, JULY 22, 2006
Our Own Separation Canyon
Friday, July 21, Day 17
Ah, my birthday camp just kept getting better! Dave, Liz and Al served up a wonderful meal of boneless pork chops cooked in a gravy, scalloped potatoes and for my BD a “Better Than Sex Cake” — chocolate cake cooked in the DO, coolled, poke holes in it and pour sweetened condensed milk over and through it, then cover w/ whipped topping and cover with Heath Bar bits!
There was no trouble getting the BD candles to stay lit, we had the calmest night so far for wind. No blowing sand whatsoever. After dinner, Brian made a special presentation. With a very nice speech he presented me with a gift from him and Jenni. It’s a Sterling silver amulet made by the Mountain Angel Trading Co. specifically for the Grand Canyon. On one side is a sun symbol, over a deep V figure denoting the depth of the GC and waves below representing the water and rapids. On the back is a pictographic figure of three beings holding hands. The center one has the long horns/antennae of a Kokopeli-type figure. To me this feature represents people helping each other enjoy the canyon. A noble gift.
Before and after dinner there was a spirited Cans Tournament. If you’re not familiar with Cans and would like the rules, drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send them to you.
It was a great evening, sitting around the circle of camp chairs, swapping stories, telling some stretchers and laughing a lot. I tried out my maglite and headband, charged up my battery-less flashlight, had a beer in my strobe light glass and read all the great card messages a second time. We played Good Morning Vietnam a couple of times, great 60-70s music. Liz brought out some slender light sticks that joined into circles for bracelets. We all put on one or two, then made a ball out of some more of them. In the dark we were marked with yellow, blue, orange and purple rings of light.
We didn’t make a real late night of it, we gave it up by 10:30. When I got up in the night, the beach was speckled with still glowing light sticks.
We got out of camp by 9 and rowed down the six miles to Diamond Creek. It didn’t take long to break down Brian’s raft and sort out the poop buckets and trash they were carrying out for us. We scored some more ice from Arizona River Runners, thank you ARR! Ellis, ran into Eric who you’ve worked with on the DragoRossi project. He said you’d given him a Pintail to try. He knows he owes you a story and trip report, has had a family emergency and been working. Will get it to you.
Just when we got everything sorted out, Ralph Goldstein and his friend Dave showed up with Brian’s Explorer and their trailer. Ralph brought us two coolers (one full of ice and the other with fruit, bagged salad, salad dressing and a watermelon). Also a late trip resupply of Tecate. He also had gas for our two motors for the slackwater of Lake Mead.
Ralph is a great guy to work with. He took care of everything we asked for and more. He works with Norm of River Runners Shuttle Service and we highly recommend him. We were admiring his rainbow paneled beach umbrella and he gave it to us! Thanks Ralph and Dave for the fine service. And many thanks to Joseph of the Hualapai Tribe who was managing the comings and goings on the beach — for all your courtesies.
It was a bittersweet parting. We’ll miss Brian, Jenni, Blake, Amy and Jim but know they all have other important places to be.
We left Diamond about 12:30 and floated into unknown territory. You only run a stretch of river for the first time once. I’m looking forward to to new experiences of the lower river and lake.
We passed by Travertine Canyon and its waterfalls because there was a large commercial group there. We stopped at Travertine Falls to inspect the camp and try the water there. A small spring sends water over a 30-40 foot rock face creating sprinkles and ribbons of very cool water you can stand under. I stuck my head in the cascading water and used my comb to root out the sand and tiny gravel that the low volume of the sun showers can’t get out of my hair. Most refreshing. It’s still amazing to me to find places like this in a desert that’s been in drought for several years.
The consensus was that the camp was too small and too hot so we pressed on. We got to run a few more rapids. 231 Mile (C-5), then on to 232 Mile (C-6, aka Killer Fang Falls). We stopped to look at it because the guidebook says beware of the schist fins sticking up at river right. (Earlier Arthur and I labeled the darker schist as bull schist and the lighter variety as chicken schist.) We all did just fine. Then 234 Mile (C-5) and on to camp at Bridge Canyon at M-235, just above the 235 Mile Rapid. Nice sandy pullin, then a hike across the small creek to more tent sites downstream.
We had early shade in camp but it was hot. Ralph had said it was supposed to be the hottest day so far this summer, 115 in Peach Springs. It felt every bit that hot down here. Of course the rocks and sand absorb the sun’s energy and radiate it back in the evening. We’d gotten spoiled the day before floating and camping in a cool overcast.
We sat on the boats and had some cool things to drink, thanks to the resupply of ice. Alan, Codi and Elton whipped up a quick dinner of teriyaki chicken breasts (again Alan brought them precooked wrapped in foil for a quick reheat in the Coleman oven), jasmine rice and the new salad greens. The dessert was a cool green delight of instant white chocolate, vanilla and pistachio pudding mixes, combined together. Some pretended they were eating soft ice cream. Very good.
We sat around in the dark wishing it would cool down. Some were wishing for a shower to cool things down. I had laid my bedding out across the creek and was contemplating getting in the river to cool down when the first drops hit us.
I dashed over to my sleep site to stuff my sheet and pillow back in the dry bag. The cool rain started as a sprinkle and quickly became a real rain. Too late to put up the tent. I lay down on a flatish rock in my L/S HydroSilk shirt and shorts. With the warm rock against my back and kidneys and the cool rain pelting me above I was quite comfy. When the rain got hard I covered my eyes with my arm. I imagined an early Anazazi Indian caught out in a similar situation and felt really connected to the canyon and its wonders. Quite a light display with all the flash lightning outlining the bluffs across the river. I dozed.
This worked for about an hour but the rock didn’t really fit my form and it got uncomfortable. In a lull I pulled out the rainfly and rolled up in it on the Paco Pad. Later when the rain stopped I woke, pulled off the wet clothes to dry on the already dry rocks and got out the sheet and pillow. Nice and cool the rest of the night.
It’s morning now, six o’clock. I’ve been up since before five. the air’s cool and 235 Rapid is roaring right next door. Coffee sounds good, maybe I ought to go make some.
Sounds like my night was pretty peaceful compared to some others. The wind was blowing chairs and other things around the kitchen site. Arthur found one of the Big Basins floating in the river and another one was found up slope from the kitchen. No one got a full night sleep.
We loaded up the boats then several of us hiked up the creek to the natural bridge. Very neat and scenic. The rocks in the creek bed are covered with travertine, it’s like walking up a rough concrete spillway.
We got away from camp at 9:45. We floated down to Separation Canyon (M-239.6) where in 1869 three members of John Wesley Powell’s crew abandoned the trip and walked out. They made it but were killed by members of an upstream tribe. Several Hualapai motorized day excursions joined us there. While there, Doc Thomas’ party passed us. Arthur, Elton, Dale and I walked up the canyon a ways then we pushed on.
We caught up with Doc’s group and chatted for a while. They gave Arthur and me chunks of watermelon, then we parted company at Spencer Canyon Camp (M-246). We’re far enough ahead of schedule that we’re going to take another layover day. The beach is big and the creek is warm. We went up and lay in it, with small fish nibbling at our legs.
It’s pretty open here, I think I’ll try to get this thing out of here. To be continued.
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2006
Sunday, July 23, Day 19
Yesterday we got to the Spencer Canyon Camp early, around 2:30. We worked at staying cool until 4 when Arthur and I started supper. It was supposed to be chicken and dumplings but the broth the chicken had been cooked in mostly leaked in the cooler. So, Arthur made up a roux, flavored it w/ seasoning salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and garlic, then threw the chicken in to mix all the flavors. I made some biscuits and cornbread in the Dutch ovens. We put the chicken gravy over the biscuits, ate a couple of bags of our new lettuce mixes and put butter and honey on the cornbread for dessert. Mighty good if I do say so myself.
The sky clouded up and we saw a few flickers of lightning, so we put up the tents for insurance. I slept out on my tarp and Paco Pad where I could get any breeze there was. Others reported having trouble sleeping because of the heat but I slept pretty good.
This morning we were all up by 7, except for Dale. Can that boy sleep! Dave made up the coffee and we sat in the shade of the cliffs across the river talking and laughing. Then we started to talk about breakfast. We hadn’t planned for this layover so had no community breakfast scheduled.
We found some biscuit mix, added freeze-dried raspberries that Arthur brought and some canned milk — voila, pancake batter. We used brown and white sugar, some more of the raspberries, vanilla and water — voila, pancake syrup. We got started too late and the sun peaked over the cliff. Up went the River Wing. Then we used Ralph’s beach umbrella to shade Dave while he cooked up some scrumptious pancakes.
Laundry, checking out the fit of the motors on the boat frames, staying cool has kept us occupied. There’s definitely a different feel to the trip now. One, we’re missing our friends who left earlier. Their energy kept things more hopping. Two, we’re now in the clutches of the lake. There’s still good current but we’re in the headwaters of Lake Mead. Right in front of us is what the guidebook describes as one of the most difficult pre-dam rapids. There were a couple of similar descriptions yesterday. I felt a sadness for what we’ve lost in the name of progress.
Speaking of the guidebook, if you’re planning on running this river, don’t do it without the “Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon” by Tom Martin and Duwain Whitis. It’s an excellent, must-have guide, for the descriptions and the reproductions of USGS topo maps. Tom Martin’s companion book, “Side Hikes From the River” has been very useful for our side trips.
Sounds like folks are making preparations for lunch so I better see what I’m missing.
Lunch was tuna salad in tortillas or last night’s chicken gravy, w/ or w/o tortilla.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of hiking, chasing tents across the beach in the predictable winds and lazing in the river under Ralph’s umbrella.
Appetizers consisted of nachos made by cutting pita bread into eights, drying it in the sun, then putting cheese and salsa over it. We thought some hashbrowns were cheese so we had whole wheat pita, potato, salsa (and jalapeno) and cheese nachos. Hmm, good.
Supper by Dale and Evan was canned stew and DO cornbread along with the last of the salad. Cold beverages all around and folks are feeling good. Arthur pulled out some fig and raspberry Newtons.
Currently it’s dishwashing and hacky sack action. Some discussion about what we’re going to do from now on. Some are ready to get out of this hot canyon and some want to stay as long as we can. Hmmm, I can see some decision making coming up. Well, we’re up to it I’m sure.
Tomorrow we’ll leave here and who knows what we’ll do from here. Waiting Is.
MONDAY, JULY 24, 2006
Monday, July 24, Day 20
We found another use for our Drag Bag last night. Arthur put rocks in it and moored the raft out in the river so we weren’t high and dry this morning when the water dropped.
We chatted at breakfast about plans for the rest of the trip. We agreed we’d float today to save
gas and then put the motors on tomorrow and try to get out a day early. We’ll still stop at any
interesting side hikes. We left camp at 9 and floated on down two miles to Surprise Canyon. A
small stream of water ran into the river from the canyon. As we followed it up there were hundreds of small fish. In a deeper pool we saw several 6-8 inchers. Birds flitted through the willow and salt cedar. A half mile or so up the water disappeared. In one dry pool there was the carapace of a turtle, 10-inches across. About a mile in we turned back. It’s hard to turn around when there are more bends beaconing.
The character of the river has really changed. No rapids of course and it’s quite wide with
correspondingly slower current. The lake is down another 12 feet this year so there are high
cutbanks along the shore, making it impossible to get up to the benches to camp.
We started to get concerned about camping, not seeing any possibilities. Around M-257 we decided to put the motors on and make some miles to a camp. One on the River Cat using a Cat Motor Mount and one on my E-150 using Stern Side Rails and a Raft Motor Mount. We strapped a boat on either side of them and headed downriver.
Around M-260 we spotted a high sloping sand bank and pulled in to investigate. It was too steep to get gear up but Arthur and I walked down and found a lower spot with a more gentle slope. We pulled in there to thunder and sprinkles. By the time we tied up it began to rain. We pulled out the last jug of Toad Juice and formed a circle in the hard driving monsoon rain. It lasted a half hour, then we brought up the minimum of kitchen gear and Liz, Dave and Al made up a quick meal of chili and flour tortillas, followed by chocolate pudding cups donated by Elton and Codi and crumbled brownies provided by Arthur. We’ve still got enough food left for another week. The meals would be strange but we’d stay nourished.
It’s still cloudy and has sprinkled again. Lightning is flickering downstream. I’ve put up the tent for insurance. The black flies are biting, time to get this out before bed.
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006
Day Twenty One and We Didn’t Get to Heaven
Tuesday, July 25, Day 21
A very nice night! The rain didn’t visit us and it was much cooler than it has been. I actually covered up with the sheet for the first time in several days.
Lots of breakfast burritos to eat and we sold them to everyone who’d partake. Banana bread from Codi, Diamond resupply oranges, coffee.
We got away at 8:40, lashed the boats together and started motoring. Dave and Dale (the two AIREs) tied up with Al in the River Cat. The other flotilla was all NRS, old and new school — the two 1983 Sport IIs linked up with the new E-150. Six hp 4-stroke on the cat and 9.9 hp 2-stroke on the 150.
Last night’s camp was at Quartermaster Springs. The Hualapai have some sort of sightseeing venture going there, with a fleet of helicopters buzzing around the buttes and landing at various helipads. They started their daily rounds about the time we left camp.
We timed ourselves and found we were making about 8 mph. The fastest we managed up in the areas with whitewater was 4 mph, so we felt like we were crusing. At M-266 we passed Bat Cave. In the 40s and 50s there was a commercial mining operation there removing the bat guano for fertilizer. The operation closed by 1960 and the cave is now off limits to protect the bats. There are still tall towers there from the aerial tramway they used to transport the bat poop to the South Rim.
At M- 270.5 the guidebook talks about Evans Heaven, a spring with hanging gardens 1/2 mile from the river. We had wanted to get a picture of Evan in his Heaven. Our flotilla tried at what would have been the mouth of the canyon but the banks were too high. We found a place further down and managed to tie up and Arthur, Elton, Codi and I scrambled up to the top of the bank.
After crashing our way through 100 yards of salt cedar jungle we reached the steep rocky slope. we climbed up 6-800 feet above the floor trying to see a way back up into the canyon. We got high enough to tell that working our way there and back would take at least 4 hours. Since Evan was in the other flotilla and they didn’t pull in we decided to bag it.
However, from up there we had a grand view up and downriver. Every canyon mouth has been silted in when the lake was at full pool and the mud flats are now choked with salt cedar. For those of you unfamiliar with Southwest ecosystems, Salt Cedar or the more correct common name, Tamarisk, is a non-native species that has invaded waterways all over the SW. Bad news for many native species.
Now with the low lake levels, the edges of the waterway are largely 10-60 foot high walls of earlier deposited silt. I know the lake has profited people with its electricity, water distribution and lake recreation, but I’m a non-motorized recreationist who likes free flowing water and I feel a deep sadness to see what impounding this beautiful canyon has done to it. I know that Lake Powell would affect me the same way.
We caught up with the other folks down around M-276, the first sandbar they’d found. We had lunch and kept on chugging. I don’t know where Pearce Ferry (the old takeout) is. It’s silted in and invisible from the current channel.
Just past Paiute Point at M-285.2 we found camp. And here I want to thank Tom Barry (Tom, I hope I have the spelling right on your last name, don’t have it written here and am going from memory). I met Tom over the phone while he was making an order. He’s a guide all over this country and has a love for this lower canyon. He gave us lots of valuable info for the post-Diamond stretch.
Anyway this is a camp he’d told me about. We landed with some difficulty and talked it over. Five of us wanted to stay here and five wanted to go further down to be closer to tomorrow’s takeout at South Cove. Elton had found a penny on the beach when we landed so he flipped it — heads we stay, tails we go. We’re staying.
The trip nears an end. It’s been great and I’m not ready to leave. That’s been my experience on every long river trip I’ve ever taken. I get into a groove with the river and I want to stay with it.
I’ll add more to this blog down the road but this will be the last post from the river bank. Thanks for following along with us. Let me say that all this scribbling has just hit the high points of the trip, there’s much more we saw and did.
Arthur has plans for a pasta dinner, biscuits, sliced fruit and an ice cold watermelon, thanks to Ralph.
That’s all for now, more down the road, more thoughts, more insights. I do love this river running and indeed it’s been a Grand Canyon.
FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2006
And Then We Were Eight
Wednesday, July 26, Day 22
Dinner was indeed a hit. Arthur used jarred Coppola (as in Francis Ford) pasta sauce w/ capers and Kalamata olives, jars of marinated artichoke hearts and some hot Italian sausages. He made biscuits and we baked them in the Coleman oven. Sliced apples and oranges for appetizers, our cold watermelon for dessert. Served with a boxed French wine, no less. Mighty fine eating for our 21st night on the river!
Our camp was a nice one, large and sandy with good shade from a bank of willows. We packed up the kitchen and stowed it on the boats for an early departure. It was hot during the night, sweaty sleeping.
Up at 5, on the water by 6:40, no breakfast, no coffee. Alan ran his motor yesterday but hurt his foot during the night so I took over piloting the flotilla. The water this morning was the ugliest of the trip, a dark gray/black. At first the channel was relative narrow and winding, then widened up into the open lake.
We motored into a strong headwind with a 1-foot chop and 2-foot whitecapped swells when the wind exposure was right. Water splashed up over the front of the boats and sprayed us. In the open water and spray I kept expecting to smell salt air! At one point in the journey a strange thing occurred. We hit some wierd currents and went from the dark muddy water of the river into clear lake water.
By all means if you decide to run to South Cove after a GC trip, bring motors or be prepared for wind delays. We’d have been totally stopped by the wind we encountered.
The South Cove takeout is only visible when you get across from it. We arrived about 8:45. There was a bit of powerboat activity but the float boat area was empty. The derigging and loading process took about three hours. It’s going to take a lot of work back home to get all the red mud off our gear. Up in the canyon beaches were sandy but down in the lake were a red viscous mud that sticks to everything.
A final group photo was taken for us by a young fellow who’d delivered a shuttle vehicle for a group that pulled in right as we were finishing packing up. He didn’t have a ride so we offered to take him with us. Not too far up the road we met Arthur’s lovely wife Kathy, who had cold bottled water for all of us. So we parted company with Arthur. I do love that fellow. He’s one hard working guy and the perfect outdoor companion. And then we were nine.
We stopped in Meadview to clean out the two crapper buckets in the SCAT Machine. It was a much less than satisfactory experience. ‘Nuf said.
At Dolan Springs we stopped for lunch at the B&B Cafe. Ah, swamp cooled air and flush toilets! After the SCAT Machine fiasco I washed my hands three times and sat down to the lunch special, mushroom cheese burger with fries and my own pitcher of ice water. A nice waitress, good service, good food.
A much gentler reintroduction to civilization than on my first GC trip. We got out at Diamond in the afternoon and got to Las Vegas after dark. We pulled into Circus Circus to eat at their buffet. I walked into that casino in my river grubbys with all the lights flashing and the slot machines kachinging and I was dazed.
Out across Hoover Dam to Vegas. Liz is flying out to California, so the other pickup and trailer went into the airport to drop her off. We cruised on through and hung out in a truck stop to wait for them. I bought triple antibiotic ointment to start resurrecting my sore feet. Outside we got treated to an airshow of F-15s and F-22s taking off and landing at Nellis AFB. Evan says to G-Seub it was a great show! And now we are eight, heading north on US 93 looking at a nice sunset. Seems strange being able to see this far after being down in the steep walled canyons for so long.
Thursday, July 27
Well now, what would a raft trip be like without some crazy guys with guns messing with your peace of mind. Remember the movie Deliverance?
We’d set Ely as our get-a-motel-and-get-a-hot-shower-and-a-bed-without-sand destination for the night. We pulled into town just ahead of midnight, cruised down through the casino block (not as grand as LV but still hopping) into the “clean and affordable, HBO in the rooms” motel district. We stopped by the El Rancho and DesertWest Inn to size up the competition.
Well, across the street at the DesertWest there was some sort of altercation going on, complete with yelling, swearing and at least one handgun in sight. Somehow they seemed to associate us with their problems. “I think it was them!” they were heard to say, accompanied with angry gestures. I suspect that whatever alcohol or controlled or non-controlled substances they were enjoying was clouding their judgement at this point or maybe they just needed anyone to blame for what must be their miserable existance.
Anyway we decided it was time to move on. we drove on back to the main part of town to survey the room and shower and bed options there. I went into the biggest casino/hotel (mind you these dens of sin aren’t the Luxor or Caesar’s Palace-types, they’re the original buildings from the old days). At past midnight there was lots of action going on. The slots were busy and glasses of dark liquid and ice were being carried about. Gary, the night manager, said there were four rooms left. Two single bed units at $29.95 and two family rooms with multiple beds, $39.95, with $5.00 per person extra over 2-person occupancy.
I went back out with the good news to learn that the DesertWest Mafia had followed us. They were cruising back and forth giving us hard stares and dirty looks. The consensus was that Ely was too hot for us, that leaving two trailers out for the night loaded with multi-thousands of dollars of gear with the DesertWest Mob on the prowl was asking for trouble. So we reluctantly tucked our tails and went north. May the DesertWest Gang’s showers all run dry and their beds go sandy and lumpy.
We were hoping for a nice little roadside motel with lighted parking, friendly management and deluxe beds and showers, but alas it wasn’t to be. As Al observed, “Nevada is full of miles and miles of miles and miles.” At Lages Station the fuel guages read low and the sign on the north edge of town read “Next Gas 70 Miles”. The only gas pumps in town, at the only business in town, were at the Stage Stop Bar Cafe Motel and RV Park and it was closed and locked tight.
“Well, folks, it looks like we’re camping for the night.” So off we pulled into the desert next to the Stage Stop. Of course we’d packed our motel-type bags on top and buried our river camping-type bags under frames, oars and twelve dozen cam straps. We managed to pull enough stuff out of the load to make do. And so we laid ourselves down to sleep to the background sounds of the trucks idling across the road near the gravel pile. Something about the curve of the highway there made every highballing truck that passed sound like it was going to barrel right over us. But anyway, I dropped off to sleep quickly.
Lages Station is 6,000 feet in elevation and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was crisp and cool so the sleeping from 2-6 was pleasant. I woke to the sun creeping up on us and some strange bird calls. They were familiar but I couldn’t place them. Others stirred and I reluctantly rolled out. Miles and miles of miles and miles, it’s one huge flat valley. Pretty soon the source of the bird calls walked up to visit, a big ol’ pea foul hen. We fed her some bread and she wandered off to eat bugs for dessert, I suppose.
Well eventually the Stage Stop opened and we fueled up. And lo and behold the cook was open for breakfast! If you ever get by the Stage Stop, you ought to go in for a visit. It’s the sort of place that we’ve lost too often in this Walmart/Starbucks/McDonalds homogonized world. Pool table doing double duty this morning supporting some cases of bottled water and big packs of hamburger buns. Lunch counter with stools, two booths and bar with stools. Couple of nice mule deer mounts, photos stapled to the walls.
It’s stocked with all the basics of living. There are toys for the kids, jello, peanut butter, milk and bread, refrigerated goodies ranging from lunch meat to little packets of organic baby carrots. Up high you can find your Carlo Rossi wine and the hard stuff for tastes from Old Crow to J&B. You can get windshield wipers and rearview mirror adhesive for your car or truck, JB Weld for the broken things in your life and a new P-trap for the kitchen sink. The menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and for sure the breakfast and coffee are good. And there are a few slot machines for them that want to bet against the house.
It’s the kind of place with Gramma cooking and two little towheaded boys helping her and a sign on the wall that gives the definition of a “Go Getter” — Get your wife a job, take her to work and go getter. Reminds me of the sign in the Salmon River Inn in Riggins, “This ain’t Burger King, you’ll get the SOB my way or you won’t get it at all!”
We had a good long conversation with the first customer after us, Bobby Hooper, of Hooper Alfalfa Farms. He had time on his hands for coffee and talk while waiting a bit to go and bale his second cutting. Bobby’s a transplanted Texan, long time back from around Amarillo. Came out here in the 60s to prove up on some BLM land, “They bet you 320 acres you can’t make a living off it” as he puts it. Times got tough so he went to work in a copper mine for 19 1/2 years, now farming alfalfa hay with center-pivot irrigation. Bobby has some good stories and homespun wisdom. He’s worked hard, sent two kids through college and lived til they’ve come around to realizing he’s a lot smarter than they thought he was.
I’m sure Lages Station has it’s warts and life and work is hard but the Stage Stop was a pleasant oasis for us and again a much better reentry point back into the hustle bustle world we’re headed back to.
Did I tell you I was a romantic?
THURSDAY, AUGUST 03, 2006
Back Home Again
We’ve been home a few days now. It’s tough making the transition back to this world after living so long in the other one. As with any other long trip I’ve ever taken, I could have just kept going. I get into the rythum of the trip and that becomes my norm. It’s not that every aspect of the experience is enjoyable but the experience is worth the hardships and minor pains that accompany it.
I had thought I’d be able to respond individually to those of you who put comments on the blog but that doesn’t seem to be possible. If any of you have specific questions or just want to chat about something, drop me a line at email@example.com.
One question I did see in a comment was whether or not it would have been as cheap to purchase our food from one of the companies that provide that service for GC parties. On my second trip that is how the group did the food. I can’t truly compare the costs of doing it both ways but here are my thoughts on it.
Going the “purchase from a company” way certainly gave us good meals and generous portions. One consideration was that means you do all or most of your cooking on the river. For some meals that means you spend more of your time cooking in camp. Another thing is you need to get your coolers to the company in advance if you want to have them freeze up things in them. As for cost, I think it would have to be higher for the comparable meal because you’re paying others to do your shopping and packing.
Going the “do it all at home” way lets the different cooking groups choose the expense of their contributions. Those on tighter budgets can still fix a good meal but do it more economically. And they can fix those special favorite dishes. This also lets you cook things ahead, speeding up meal prep.
There’s no one-perfect-way to do the food, each group needs to decide what’s best for their needs. And there’s certainly the option to combine the two methods, packing part of the food at home and getting part of it supplied by a vendor.
Let’s see, here are some humdrum details:
— We used 7-8 gallons of propane. Can’t say for sure because we used from various bottles, but that’s close. As you can see from our menus we did quite a bit of cooking in the evenings and heating of dishwater. Mornings we just made coffee and heated water for tea/cocoa and heated food in the folding oven.
— About a roll of Costco toilet paper a day worked out for our size group. We helped the ladies with the “all pee goes into the river” rule by having a 5-gal. plastic pail w/ its own seat that we put at the groover site.
— A large roll of paper towels lasted us at least a couple of days, even w/ using them for meal napkins (usually torn in half). FYI — 2 gallon Ziploc bags work well for waterproofing TP and PT.
— We packed our charcoal in the clean empty groovers to save on space. For lighting the charcoal we brought along one of the metal chimneys that you burn paper in the base to get the coals going. A few paper towels or some of the other burnable garbage did the trick and we didn’t have to pack and worry about spillage of charcoal lighter fluid. Also, we brought along a metal can to snuff out coals that weren’t totally consumed during cooking. Then we could reuse them.
— Speaking of burnable garbage, we did segregate garbage into burnable, non-burnable and aluminum cans. We periodically burned the burnables (usually after we’d used the firepan for grilling or DO cooking) to cut down on volume. As coolers got emptied they did double duty as garbage haulers.
— We brought along a propane lantern but I also had a flouresent one that runs quite a while on C-cells. Much more convenient, instant on and no breaking of the fragile mantles.
— If you’ve never used a solar/sun shower, they work great for this type of trip — one w/ lots of sun. Definitely feels good to wash off the sunscreen and clean the hair at the end of the day. Look for ones that are pretty ruggedly built. We had 6-7 when we started and were down to a couple by the end.
— This was my first time using Sun Protection Factor clothing. Some of our party were working on their tans but I’ve had several pre-cancerous bumps and lumps carved or burned off me because of all the years I’ve spent in the sun. I wore a brimmed hat, long-sleeve HydroSilk tops and Boaters Gloves to keep the sun off the upper body and applied SPF 50 sunscreen 3-4 times a day to face, neck and legs. I don’t think anyone got badly sunburned.
— Your feet really take a beating on a long trip like this. They’re softened by the wet most of the day and then you get to shore and they’re dried out by sand and heat. So, they crack and sand and river gunge works it. You can lotion them as much as possible during the day but on shore lotions attract sand. At night you can goop them up and slip on a pair of socks to keep the sand at bay. Bag Balm is a time honored river runner cure — lots of lanolin and other goodies. Big hint: take the BB out of its container and put it in something with a good sealing lid — in the heat the stuff migrates out of the packaging and makes a hell of a mess. I also found that Neosporin (generic: triple antibiotic ointment) really helped heal my hooves after the trip.
Hmm, I think that’s all the wisdom?? I have for now. I do hope to get some photos posted here. We’re still collecting pics from our folks.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2006
Photos — Rapid Action
These photos are from a series of photos taken in Hermit Rapid.
Here I am in the trough of a wave. You can see Freddie’s red tongue just to my left; he’s diggin’ it. (Brian)
Here are Brian and Jenni climbing one of the big haystack waves. (Blake)
Blake approaching a huge wave. (Brian)
Arthur in the MaverIK. He made IKing the big stuff look easy. (Brian)
Al punching through the waves in the River Cat. (Brian)
Dave and Liz in their stylish red boat. Dave’s taking this rapid seriously, he’s taken on his precious hat. (Brian)
Elton and Codi in lots of whitewater action. They’re in my 1983 NRS Sport II, on its third trip through the Canyon. Elton had to reglue a couple of wear patches during the trip but it did fine in its twenty third year! (Brian)
Photos — People and Critters — 1
I’m finally getting around to posting a few of the many photos taken on our trip.
Here’s the cast of characters (and I do mean characters): Back row (l-r): Dave, Liz, Jim, Arthur, Elton, Codi, Dale and Evan Middle: Clyde, Al (behind in red shirt) and Alan (kneeling), Amy and Blake (standing) Front: Brian and Jenni (Taken by a nice tourist who came by as we got ready to launch)
Oops, Freddie didn’t make the group photo. He’s the 16th member of our group. It’s his third trip through the Grand Canyon and he’s still wide eyed and bushy tongued. A real trooper.
I had to go off to myself to write on the blog. It often felt a bit crummy because I was missing out on the camptime camaraderie.
But what writer ever had a more magnificent studio! (Jenni)
We saw Desert Bighorn Sheep fairly often. In the protective environment of the Park, they paid scant attention to the boats floating by. (Jenni)
Photos — People and Critters — 2
Here’s Jenni at the oars of the Hualapai. The boat’s big — 17' 7" long and 7' 7" wide. It makes a great gear boat and was very stable in the big water of the Canyon.
Brian announced at one point that they were postponing the wedding so they could buy the boat. Jenni was not amused. (Brian)
Brian poised at the jumping spot on the Elves Chasm waterfall. How the heck did he keep that hat in such good shape after all the wind and wet? (Jenni)
Amy and Blake, our two intrepid kayakers. They ran it all and set safety for us at all the big rapids. They were a definite asset to the team. (Brian)
Elton and Codi. “What, you’re taking my picture?!” (Brian)
Arthur ran many of the big ones in the MaverIK, usually along with Amy and Blake. He got to wondering what it would be like to hardshell. So, on a layover day, Amy gave him a few lessons. (Brian)
One of the many lizards we shared the Canyon with. One of our amusements in camp was watching them catch ants and other insects (we weren’t hard to entertain). Jenni loves lizards and took a bizillon photos of them.
After lizards, snakes ranked right up there for Jenni’s attention. Here’s a California King Snake.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2006
Scenic Photos — 1Here are some scenic photos. They’re not totally in order of where they were taken on the trip.
Here we are at the Lees Ferry put-in with the three trailers loaded with gear. (Jenni)
Floating under the Navajo Bridges, the last sign of wheeled motor vechicles for the next 221 miles! (Jenni)
The great thing about the scenery is it’s never humdrum. Everywhere you look it’s just magnificent! (Jenni)
The scale of the place is really hard to express in words and hard to take in with the eye. I remember one feature that was described in the guidebook as being 1000 feet above the river. It was only about 1/3 of the way up the vertical! (Brian)
It does put you in perspective. (Jenni)
One of the places where it looks like the river disappears. (Jenni)
The Anazazi graneries at Nankoweap. These ancient people stored food here, to keep it away from critters that were much more plentiful near the water. It’s a steep hike up to this point but totally worth it — if for no other reason than the view of…
This awesome vista when looking downstream. If it looks familiar, it’s been featured in a number of print ads in national magazines. (both these by Brian)
Scenic Photos — 2
Nearing Redwall Cavern. An amazing place where you’ll want to spend some time. It’s best enjoyed in quiet contemplation. Brian had already gotten there when Arthur and I arrived. He was playing softly on the harmonica, it was beautiful. I’d love to hear a flute played there. (Jenni)
Rainbow colored walls. (Jenni)
At the Hopi Salt Mines, a sacred site. Water seeping from the walls leaves thick salt deposits, in some very interesting crystalline shapes. (Jenni)
Deer Creek Falls, its clear water plunging into a great swimming pool. (Brian)
Crusing around Vulcan’s Anvil, a huge lava plug out in the river just above Lava Falls Rapid. It’s a common tradition to leave “offerings” on ledges in the rock in hopes of a good run at Lava. We saw beads and coins deposited there. (Jenni)
The big one, Lava Falls. (Jenni)
Early morning and late afternoon often brought some of the most beautiful view, as the sun painted the walls with its advancing and retreating brush. (Jenni)
The picture says it all. I can’t enhance it with words. (Jenni)