(13 miles) Stayed at Upper Rattlesnake 3/31/2019
Ferrying across the Colorado River from the mornings camp we tie up near the mouth of the Little Colorado River. The Little Colorado is a beautiful blue river similar in color to Havasu Creek at certain times, however this was not one of those times. The river was flooded when we got there. The turbidity making the normally blue water dark with sediment. We spent some time there floating down the Little Colorado, on various inflatables we brought along for just such occasions. We tubed and swam a small rapid created by the higher water near the confluence. Wading out into the water, tube in hand, I feel the current trying to take me down stream. Pushing the pedestrian tube in front of me, because the unicorn one was being used, it ungulates fighting between submerging and floating. The tube stands no chance as I press into the flowing water that created these canyons. I smoothed the first float down, however on my second float I smacked a rock with my hip, so I decided that was enough and hung out on the shore until everyone was done. As the group rowed back out into the Colorado river we crossed the Little Colorado river’s outflow, chocolate milk in color, colliding with the lighter color of the Colorado darkening the latter for the rest of the trip.
We stopped above Tanner Rapids on a large beach to check out some Petroglyphs. The Petroglyphs were supposedly scatted about boulders near a very small cave formed by rocks. On the hike in from the the water to find them, Ben and I saw to me what was the prettiest flower of the whole trip. It was enduring by itself growing in sandy soil on a rock shelf. I am amazed at how it survives. The tenacity and adaptation it exhibits is striking.
Desert plants have developed three main adaptive strategies: succulence, drought tolerance, and drought avoidance. Each of these is a different but effective suite of adaptations for prospering under conditions that would kill plants in other climates. The majority of succulents have extensive, shallow root systems. Water is further conserved by reduced surface areas; most succulents have few leaves, no leaves, or leaves that are deciduous in dry seasons.
Drought tolerance (or drought dormancy) refers to a plant’s ability to withstand desiccation without dying. Plants in this category often shed leaves during dry periods and enter a deep dormancy. Most water loss is from transpiration through leaf surfaces, so dropping leaves conserves water in the stems. Some plants that do not normally shed their leaves have resinous coatings that retard water loss.
Rooting depth controls opportunities for growth cycles. In this strategy the plants have deeper roots which differs from succulents. The trade off is that once the deeper soil is wetted by several rains it stays moist much longer than the surface layer, supporting several weeks of growth.
Drought avoidance is seen in annual plants, which escape unfavorable conditions by not existing. They mature in a single season, then die after channeling all of their life energy into producing seeds instead of reserving some for continued survival.
Plant growth is triggered by a certain amount of rain. There is still further insurance: even under the best conditions not all of the seeds will germinate; some remain dormant.
The desert environment may seem hostile, but this is purely an outsider’s viewpoint. Adaptations enable indigenous plants and animals not merely to survive here, but to thrive most of the time.
As humans in life we developed strategies similar to the plants. I would surmise most of use fall into the tolerance category. Where we show up and just do what is expected or needs to be done in most the aspects of our lives. I believe the other ends of the spectrum would be root depth and avoidance.
We can also grow roots in a community or situation there by becoming part of the environment or culture and of an extended period of time evoking change.
The polar opposite would be similar to drought avoidance. Avoiding situations that we don’t like or make use uncomfortable is probably a popular human strategy.
This is a copping mechanism we learn over time from our experiences. I hypothesize that growing deep roots would be the hardest and bravest method where as avoidance is the easiest. May we grow as strong and beautiful as this flower.
Returning to the rafts after exploring around the Petroglyphs, we eat lunch on the boats, which was some type of quinoa wrap stuffed in whatever leftover plastic bags we could find from previous meals. Pro tip BRING a reusable container with you on trips like this! I borough one on a Main Salmon trip after having to use whatever I could scrounge on this trip and it made all the difference. In the mornings when I was eating breakfast I would just pack my lunch in my container and enjoy it when ever I got hungry.
The rest of the day was spent scouting Unkar Rapids and rowing to Upper Rattlesnake were we spent the night. The main reason we scouted this rapid was so we could see the Unkar Ruins, which were on the river right scout.