Sixth river day 13 miles Upper Rattlesnake 3/31/2019
We scouted Hance Rapid this morning, the biggest rapid we have encountered so far. The plan was to start right and push left to some calmer water to set us up for the wave train while avoiding the pourovers river right down stream. As I tried to push left I quickly realized that the current was too strong. I tried to swing the raft to straighten it up for some of the water features I was trying to avoid while attempting to now pull towards the left. The butterflies that were in my stomach on the scout became a palpable fear as I hit the first pour over sideways because I was only halfway through correcting my angle. Luckily the 18 ft rafts were extremely forgiving, their size making them resilient in the large rapids. Everyone got pushed off course on this rapid because we were not used to oar rigging. After every raft made it through Hance the group read and ran Sockdolager and Grapvine Rapids, the only two significant rapids between us and Horn our next big one.
Pulling into Phantom Ranch, a historic oasis nestled at the bottom of Grand Canyon, is the north side of the Colorado River tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek. It is the only lodging below the canyon rim, and can only be reached by mule, on foot, or by floating the Colorado River. Of course we took the easy way and floated in. I set a brief time limit needing everyone back shortly. I was concerned with the amount of time we spent figuring things out at the beginning of the trip. I really wanted to expedite the trip a little to be proactive, so we were a day ahead instead of a behind. Before everyone left I wanted to start filling water jugs at the tap. This is way easier than filtering it. To filter the water one had to get buckets of water from the river the night before. This allowed the sediment settle over night in the bucket. Next the filter was taken to the settled water and hooked to the battery. The filtering then began, taking care not to bump the bucket or lower the filter intake to near the settled sediment. Your drinkable water is limited to how many buckets worth of river water you let settle.
I chose to stay behind a forgo the rumors of ice cream, beer and pay phones, to fill the remainder of the water jugs because I wanted to give everyone else as much time as possible, since most of the group really wanted to send post cards. Ben also stayed behind helping me fill and carry the remaining water jugs before eating lunch on the boats.
While eating and discussing April fools pranks, since he had brought saran wrap and Smirnoff Ice, a women approached interrupting us to asking questions. We didn’t know a lot of the answers and tried to explain that we were on a self supported trip with a group of friends had never been down the canyon before. She seemed to get a little frustrated we couldn’t answer her questions. She left abruptly, angrily saying “I hope you don’t tell your clients you don’t know anything!” We probably should have explained what self supported was a little better, though she should have payed more attention instead of being so demanding with her questions.
Wishing we had time to saran wrap someones kayak now, we to decided to ice someone instead. The idea behind the wrap was to seal off someones cockpit with the clear plastic. Instead we stuck a Smirnoff Ice wrapped up in duct tape in case the glass broke, the duct tape would keep the glass contained so we did’t litter in Grant’s kayak. The group started trickling in finally. Grant found the Smirnoff in the bottom of his boat. He grabbed the bottle unceremoniously took a knee as he twisted the red cap off to chants of chug… chug…, throwing his head back and downed the bottle as the gathering group cheered.
Finishing up at Phantom Ranch we head towards Monument Valley where we would stay the next two nights. In between us and our destination is Horn Rapid. After scouting Horn Rapid, Grant was supposed to run the line we discussed in his kayak and signal us by raising his paddle when he passed through the horns, two rocks which were under water at the time. At some point he decided he did not like the the way the line we had discussed looked because he went right on another possible line we had talked about running. Micah followed Grant as I followed Ben down the original line. When I dropped in, the hole was so big and steep the nose of the raft actually came forward and hit Jackie, who was sitting in the raft in the front compartment, in the head.
We stopped just above Grant Rapid at Monument Creek camp for the night. The site was occupied by another group who was heading down river in the morning. We managed to set our camp up in up river corner section of the beach where it ended the sheer canyon wall.