Sixteenth river day17.5 miles 185 Mile Camp 4/10/2019
Waking up the group prepares to run Lava Falls, the highest rated rapid on the canyon. I rowed this rapid but from scouting some of the other rapids which I didn’t run, I would say Upset and Crystal rapids looked harder.
We finally arrived at the scout for Lava Falls Rapid after fighting headwinds all morning. Another party’s rafts occupied the main pull in for the scout, so we carefully spread out as not to block them in. As we walked to the scout from our rafts, I heard the water’s roar over the pounding of my heart. As we looked out over the rapid, the excitement and nervousness were palpable while we searched for our line. As we discerned the way through the mayhem that was Lava Falls, the other party started to drop in. The first boat went through the drop catching a little more of the humongous hole (that can easily flip a craft) than I would want to. Their boat pivoted to its side and the oars flew from the oar mounts, popping up like a whack-a-mole the instant the boat took the impact from the edge of said hole. Trying to recover, the down steam oar still loose and flapping about, they made it through the entirety of the rapid sideways after the hit at the top of the drop. My nervousness immediately dissipated, with the knowledge that they made it through just fine.
Rowing towards the horizon line, indicating the hole the other boat hit, the entire river seemed to drop into white frothy chaos. The turbulent water kicked up and splashed as I found and focused on the landmark we picked to navigate through the rapid from the scout. A jet boat suddenly roared up beside me directly in line with the massive hole I was trying to avoid. They seemed to hover just above the edge of a place I wouldn’t want to be before backing up and waiting their turn. I got kind of nerves thinking they were trying to run the rapid at the same time as me, but once they backed up, I quickly found the landmark again and focused on it. This indicator I was searching for was a swirling bubble line formed on the right side of the river, by the blending of the downstream and the upstream current made by the lava formations jutting into the Colorado, among the topsy-turviness of the river. Staying on the left edge of this vortex of water was the only indicator I could see for safe passage, suddenly the horizon line dropped away just as I saw I was online on the right edge of the powerful hole consuming the middle of the river and slightly right of the raft we watched from the scout. Busting through with a WHOOOOOOT we rode out the rest of the huge tail waves super pumped waiting for the rest of the crew to make it through. While waiting I reflected on a phrase I read from the guidebook: “Have fun and remember a good run at Lava is less then 20 seconds long. Don’t sweat the little things!” I shuddered imagining what a bad run is.
The boat that had pulled up beside me earlier came through and headed to Jared’s boat. He spoke with them wearing his jockstrap with a raccoon tail and an afro wig. He discovered they were preforming a fish survey. I felt like Jared managed to get some fresh ice for cocktails off of them.
Once everyone was through the rapid, we pulled into Tequila Beach. I hopped out and pounded a sand stake into the beach with our orange mallet that also doubled as a beer can crusher. I hit the stake 1,2,3,4,5 times then gave it a final 6th whack as Oz handed me the bowline to clip into the stake. Tequila Beach is just downstream of Lava Falls, it’s the spot people stop to celebrate making it through the highest rated rapid and last major rapid in the Grand Canyon! As the group poured off the rafts, some already in full costumes others still changing, duct taped glass bottles of tequila were circulated among the group. Bonnie in a blue tutu, wig, and make up to match was the first to start dancing. Soon Courteny also sporting a tutu quickly joined her. Ben in an 80’s style wig, cut off jorts, and pink Subaru headband, sliced limes on a upside down bucket used as a table. The chaos of the moment mimicked the chaos of the rapid above.
More shots of tequila were poured now from plastic soda bottles, which were filled prior to leaving Lees Ferry, in case they were dropped to protect this amazing environment. Jared, still in his jockstrap with a racoon tail attached, picked up the spent lime slices that were tossed after being bitten into doing his part to help, tail shaking as he bent down to pick them up. Jake walked around offering bags of treats and candy for people to grab. We were quickly joined by the women from the party that we watched go through Lava before us. They were setting up camp and staying the night. They partook in the tequila as we discuss our trips. Shortly after someone came up with a plan to ice the group staying there then make a hasty retreat down river. Methods for a distraction were shouted amongst the music and revelry. A Congo line was chosen and we congoed through their camp stashing bottles of Smirnoff Ice scattered throughout. One on the members of the other group got a bottle and immediately started chugging the drink, while the crowed yipped and yelled, some chanting “you got iced!” During the meylay Ryan’s dress, a cat print that would feel at home in a grandmother’s wardrobe, caught on fire as he danced too close to the other camp’s blaster which they were boiling water on. Still chanting “you got iced” and dancing before he noticed the flames coming off his dress. Once noted he instantly started fanning his dress up and down screaming, “I am on fire, I am on fire” with each flap of the dress. He quickly stopped, dropped, and rolled; he performed the actions, moving left to right, with his flaming dress under him once he hit the ground! This was the first time I ever saw anyone actually stop, drop, and roll. In seconds he was up cheering with the crowed as they crescendo into a roar of joy. We thought this was the appropriate time to make our planed escape. Laughing we ran away, Jared saying, “I mean only one person out of sixteen caught on fire. Thats not bad”, untying our boats, and pulling out the sand stakes we realize that the tide had dropped and ruined our hasty escape plan. We were beached. The other group came down to help push us off, probably to get rid of us after congoing through their kitchen and catching on fire. Finally free of the beach still cheering and hollering we got stuck in the eddy and floated back up stream to where we were beached. After what felt like a long time the other group staring at us in disbelief, probably hoping we didn’t decide to come back, we broke free of the eddy and started downstream only for Jared to realize he had left his speaker somewhere at Tequila Beach. He hiked back up and retrieved it for us. Finally, we were on our way 45 min to an hour after our planned quick escape.
We stopped at 185 mile camp, a large camp with a beach for the night. After dinner Ryan, all hyped up, was washing dishes at an extremally fast pace throwing water everywhere. Jamming the dish, fork, or spoon through the 4 wash bins faster than the speed of light or so one would have thought, literally running me over repeatedly in the process. The dish washing system was set up with 2 cold buckets of water in front of 2 warm buckets. The first and second had soap and the fourth had bleach. The idea was the first one was a soak or prewash, the second one being a wash, the third was a rinse, and the last was for sanitation. After you were done with the dishes, one put them in hammocks under the tables made for stuff to dry on. Dish water from all 4 buckets was then strained for food scraps and the particle free water was then dumped into the river while the food scraps were put into the trash. The tables were also setup on large sheets of material that served as strainers catching any wayward food scraps that fell during the cooking process. Every particle this material caught was also put into the garbage. This particular night there was a lot more in the sheets under the table from all the slashing and sloshing accompanied by the hectic pace of the dishwashing. We had dinner then spent the night discussing the difference between yams and sweet potatoes and the units of measurements for fruit. This night was also only the second time I saw Jared sleep. He passed out on the beach looking for his sandles, which were beside him.