Tenth river day 11.7 miles Upper Black Tail 4/04/2019
Eleventh and twelfth river day 14.2 miles Above Owls Eyes 4/05/2019 and 4/06/2019
We rowed to Elves Chasm, a magical oasis in a side canyon composed of polished travertine rock, clear refreshing water, and striking greenery abutting upon the red rock. The stoke was high as the group entered the canyon and hiked deeper towards the iconic waterfall and pool. Everyone climbed up then leapt from the waterfall into the pool below with the exception of Brett. He chilled at the boats and probably did some fishing while we explored the canyon. The access to the jumping point was a slick arch creating a spout of water cascading down from the side and above. This span was covered in brilliant green moss where the water collected briefly before plunging into the pool below like we aspired to do. To reach this crest one had to boulder beneath twisting around and onto an arch from behind. As we were leaving, the girls decided to do an all ladies naked photo in the pool. Photos completed and everyone feeling electrified we head to the next campsite: Upper Blacktail. Upon our arrival at camp, we discover that we have both the upper and lower campsites to ourselves. Dispersing we set up camp for the night.
Day 11 we set off for our second layover of the trip at Below Tapeats Camp, I rowed the two major rapids of the day: Specter and Deubendorff (pronounced Dumbledore by most the group). Deubendorff had some big waves, one of which I unfortunately hit sideways. Fortunately, we stayed upright but got really wet. The group eddied out just below the rapid at the long beach of Stone Creek Camp to hike to a waterfall, eat, and play Frisbee. Most the crew rinsed off under the cool powerful water of the falls that dropped down the canyon a quarter of a mile into the hike. We pass on Tapeats Camp because it was supposed to be a large sandbar. Alas, it must have washed away in the experimental high flows, or our guidebooks were really outdated. Most of the camps that were labeled large in the books have changed because every time we planned to camp at one it was unquestionably a small camp.
We then had a major problem because we wanted to hike Thunder River and we were about to blow by Tapeats, the camp below the hike. Pulling over we engaged in a huge debate of how we were going to get back to the mouth of Thunder River to do the waterfall hike if we kept going. Some parties involved wanted to go down stream and camp on river left at Above Owls Eyes, which was the best option at this point, but they wanted to just swim across the river and hike back upstream to get to the Thunder River trail for the hike tomorrow. I was not a fan of this option because as some people were capable of this, I did not feel the whole group was. I made sure the boats stayed where they were and hiked downstream to see if there was a place to swim or ferry the boats across to hike back up. It might have been possible because there were some trails, and one went along the river on one of the maps we brought. I scouted this scenario while a majority of the group continued to drink. The trail followed the river and the possibility of being able to hike back up was looking good! Then right before I got to the last drop in the river, at a pool with slacker current and small eddy on river left where we could camp and ferry rafts to hike back to Thunder River, the trail shot steeply up a drainage avoiding an impassable cliff towards the top of the canyon. It made this shift right before it would have been convenient to park a raft and hike back to Thunder River from where we were going to end up having to camp for the night. With that plan scratched I headed back to find a majority of the group even more rowdy from drinking and saying that we could just hike up on the other side of the river (river left) from the camp and swim to river right in the morning. All the people that were proficient at swimming across for the most part where very vocal for this plan. I was really against this plan for the group as a whole. I suggested we ferry the boats across from were we were and unload the raft with the least amount of gear needed for the group onto the other boats and leave it to ferry people back across in the morning. This erupted in to another debate of whose boat to unload, I really didn’t care how we went about it just that I got to hike Thunder River. Finally we ferried Brett’s raft across; Micah had volunteered to carry stuff to the campsite if Brett made the ferry. It was on; Brett hulked out pulling like a mad man each rapid stroke getting maximum purchases to move the boat powerfully across the river. He made the ferry, losing very little ground down stream. Well Micah didn’t carry everything which would have been a lot and we ended up stashing another boat up stream of the campsite near Brett’s. The down fall to stashing Brett’s raft was it was the groover boat. We had to carry the all the bathroom stuff, but if I recall correctly it was a new ammo can and wasn’t as full. We got everything we needed to camp eventually. Luckily we were having a layover, so it was a couple days before we needed to load up everything again.
The next morning we lined two boats up the Colorado river to try and make the ferry to the other side a little easier. The idea being that we get them up river a little ways to compensate for the inevitable down river loss as we do the ferry. I had some kayaks go across with throw ropes incase the rafts lose their ferry angle and get blown down stream. I wanted back up to make sure the rafts get to the opposite river bank before the current takes them past the ledged out section, thus making it impossible to do the hike. The rafts made the ferry with no problem, however. We started the hike from Tapeats climbing up to the top of Thunder River canyon and hiked along the rim of slot formed by the creek. After a ways the trail dropped back down to Tapeats creek before heading back up at the confluence of Tapeats and Thunder River. As we hiked up towards the origins of Thunder River, we saw some backpackers coming down the trail. They all had light weight matching packs. I hiked all the way to the Thunder River Spring scaling the wall near the waterfall made by the spring. I was trying to find away to get to a cave I spotted above and to the right of the waterfall. After making it almost level with the cave I turned around having reached beyond the point of my comfort zone. There was a corner with crumbly rock that I would have needed to swing around. I didn’t feel comfortable making this move without being clipped into something. The view was still amazing. I was looking down on most of the waterfall with an oasis of green interspersed with pools of water just to my right on a shelf between me and the cave, before I retreated back the way I came just short of reaching my goal. The sound of the water was deafening, Its was amazing to see this amount of water shooting out of the mostly barren rock environment. After a brief rest we hiked back towards camp, and Jackie and I stopped to talk to the backpackers. They have spent a lot of time hiking around the canyon and were going to try to scramble along the side of the Colorado River to connect to Kanab Canyon and back to a trial system. We told them about the cliffed out section on the Colorado and how it appeared there was a trail that went above it at the mouth of Tapeats Creek. We talked a little while longer then headed back to the rafts. One of the rafts was gone when we got there, a crew having taken it back to camp already with the rest of the group waiting on us before heading back.
At the campsite Brett cooked up some trout he caught, on his camp stove, while we were on the hike as the kitchen crew made dinner. Thanks to him I had two dinners! Costumed up after dinner as everyone was getting ready for another dance party, we witness one of the most magnificent sunsets of the trip.