Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 14

Thirteenth river day 17.3 miles Ledges 4/07/2019

This was scheduled to be a big day, little did we know how long of a day it would end up being. After floating down the Colorado for little bit we pulled into the first hike of the day, and were greeted by Deer Creek Falls plummeting to ground out of the Tapeat narrows, 2 miles from last night’s camp at Above Owls Eyes. After climbing up the canyon again, we repeatedly looked into Deer Creek Narrows searching for the rush of water we heard constantly before finally seeing it again towards the top of our hike before it cascades down the slot canyon out of site again.

Hiking the trail between the canyon wall and the narrows, our path becomes very slender in spots with the right edge dropping into the again unseen rush of water. Snaking our way along the dry, dusty red wall we are suddenly rewarded with an explosion of lush greenery surrounding a pool in Deer Creek before the water rushes forward again disappearing into the harsh red rock narrows.

On the water rowing again, we saw the hikers from before moving slowly picking their way across the rocky, uneven sloping shoreline. They started waving their arms beckoning us to them. They wanted a ride to get back onto a trail! Obliging we piled them into our boats giving them a lift to Kanab Canyon, saving them hours of rough scrambling and route finding in the process. We offered them beer and fruit from our coolers stocked with a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh produce, steak, and cold beer, which they gladly enjoyed on the float. When we stopped to drop them off, we offered them more fruit and beer to take with them, at this point being ultra-light hikers, most of them were appalled. That would add extra weight and they would have to pack out the empty beer cans. Thanking us again they hiked away with their perfectly weighted and rationed meals while we floated away on coolers stuffed with more food then we could eat, cracking fresh ice cold beers.

Next up on the agenda was Matkatamiba Canyon. Half of the rafts missed the eddy for this hike either on purpose or accident. The three boats that made it scoured the walls looking for anchors to tie the boats to. We ended up only finding one piton and tied all three boats to it. Hiking into what I though was the coolest slot canyon we had explored to date, we shimmed, waded and splayed our way deeper into the canyon until it finally opened up. Unfortunately, we were forced to turn around just beyond this point by time constraints. Heading back to the rafts we discussed how we would love to explore this canyon more if we did the Grand Canyon again. Our first surprise of the day was waiting as we approached the mouth of the canyon. Panic arose: we couldn’t see our rafts! The Colorado had risen on our hike and pulled the boats out into the flow, luckily, they were still attached to the piton. Trying to untie them we found that the tension was too great. I climbed on the furthest raft with Oz, we cut the strap lose, and it pinged back flying at him relived of its tension. With our raft free the rest of the remaining boats were able to be pulled back further back into the eddy. Surprisingly with all our fingers still attached I rowed to a downstream eddy to await the unstrapping of the remaining two rafts. We met up with the rest of the group then headed down river to scout Upset Rapid. Walking down the right shore we discussed the two different routes for the rapid. The left one where you run the meat of the rapid and right line that was a sneak, it appeared to us that the sneak line was a little shallow and one had the possibility of bouncing of a shallow rock and being sent into the massive munchy hole in the center of the river. I believe that we had flows between 13,000 and 18,000 for our 21-day trip after looking back at the gauge reading after our trip was over. As the route was debated, we saw Jared in his boat pulling out with his crew. As I was wondering which way he would go, his boat started angling left, moments later he smashed the off the big crashing waves at the top; well guess he’s taking the big line. Coming out the other side he tries to keep his moment to the left of the nasty hole in the center of the river! Powering forward he busts through the left side of the hole settling the debate for the rest of us. We are running the left line!

After the group was all successfully through, we looked at the map and decided to stay at Ledges Camp for the night. Pulling up to the low limestone ledges we hop out and stake our rafts to the small sand area above the low ledge which was cursed as we were soon to find out. After unloading and setting up camp, we wait for a huge steak dinner. The smell of meat cooking on charcoal wafts through the camp drawing spectators to the kitchen, which consist of three foldout aluminum tables, a propane stove with multiple burners, and a blaster, think of a huge jet boil, for heating water quickly. Tonight, the kitchen was lighted by headlamps, Luci lanterns, and strips of Luci solar string lights stretched between a tree and a tripod of Warner kayak paddles lashed together. Brett dressed in a red puffy and swimming trunks watches over the steaks both to cook them and guard them from the pressing group. After dinner with an extremely full belly, I crash out only to be awoken later because one of the rafts had broken free and was missing!

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 13

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.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 12

Ninth river day 15.1 miles Bass Crossing 4/03/2019

Packing up after the much needed layover we prepare for 3 of the bigger rapids rated (8) on the rating scale developed by Otis R. Marston using a 1–10 rating, 10 being the most difficult. As opposed to the International Scale of River Difficulty, which classifies rapids from class I to VI and is more common elsewhere in the US and internationally. There are only 6 runnable rapids out of approximately 80 numbered rapids (According to most estimates) with this (8) or above rating in the Grand Canyon. We will be knocking half of them out by the end of today. Having previously rowed Hance (8) this will leave just Lava (9) and Upset (8) after we make it through Granite (8), Hermit (8) and Crystal (8) before arriving at our home for the night. Having watched the previous group run Granite and Hermit the day before we were ready to run them without further need to scout.

I rowed Hermit which was a fun wave train and ran it “hey didle didle right down the middle”. Ozz was up for Crystal to my relief. He rowed the large yellow raft rolling though the choppy water towards his goal: a massive lateral wave at the top of the rapid. Smashing through the goal on its bottom left, my mouth was dry from anticipation. In that instant, water came flying over my head covering my face, reliving some of the dryness in my mouth. We stayed left not daring look at the large hole on the right for fear that it would somehow suck us in.

Arter running Crystal, the last of the major rapids for the day, we quickly stop at the Ross Wheeler. It’s a small, tippy, and very heavy boat that was designed by Brett Loper in 1914 and abandoned here in 1915 by Charles Russell, August Tadje, and Leslie Clement in a failed attempt to run the canyon. We ended up staying at Bass Crossing Camp because Bass Camp was occupied.

Shortly after unloading the rafts since it was our night off, Jackie and I hiked to Bass Cable Crossing and tried to hike to Shinumo Creek Camp to see the top of the Shinumo waterfall, but decided we didn’t have enough time. Enjoying the view at Bass Crossing for a little while, Jackie decided that we wanted to try and find Bass’s inscription, which we didn’t manage to find, but enjoyed the blooming wild flowers that we were lucky to have seen. In a dessert environment, most plants only flower for a few weeks as their heat and drought resistant seeds remain dormant most of the time until next year’s annual rains. I feel super lucky that our permit coincided with this beautiful display in the overall hostile feeling desert environment.

We hiked back to camp to the smell of kabobs wafting up the valley. Brett and his cooking crew had the hardest dinners, but the best tasting in my opinion. After the delicious dinner I found a secluded spot up above the camp with a clear view of the sky to cowboy camp. I was stoked for some star gazing later in the night, however, right as Jackie and I were laying down to watch the sun set before the stars, I saw a cricket jump into a spider web right by my face. Immediately a huge black widow came charging out right beside me and pounced on the struggling cricket. As she was wrapping up the cricket, we immediately wrapped up our camp pulling out the tent, setting it up, and stuffing all our stuff inside.

For the beginning of the day we hiked up the bottom of Shinumo Creek. The day before Baldy “the chief asshat“, if you remember the guy from day 1, was ,surprise, surprise, still a dick when we saw him and his group again. He gave us a warning, saying the water was too high to hike up and we should do…. Blah, Blah….. Well I zoned out and thought to myself, “how many rafts did you flip?”, as we walked away from him. Well, believe it or not we actually made it to the base of the waterfall. The only casualty we encountered was Micah, he lost his footing wadding backdown the canyon in the current, so he floated the creek laughing and beat us all back to the rafts.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 11

Seventh and eighth river day 19.2 miles Grant (Monument Creek) Camp 4/01/2019 and 4/02/2019

Having spent the night sharing the camp spot with a group that was already there, we had our first layover day here at Monument Valley a week after we pushed off from Lees Ferry. 

As the other group packed up and left the next morning, we hiked down to watch them run Granite Rapid.  Rocks and boulders pushed out of Monument Creek and have constricted the Colorado River forcing the water against the right wall which is composed of Vishnu Schist for you geologist types. This wall produces massive waves converging at 45-degree angles with equally large waves coming from the left shoreline. The crew squared up to the lateral waves coming off the right cliff even though the current was going that direction as well.  The huge laterals splashing over the bow of the rafts after each hit kept them off the wall while simultaneously allowing them to get right of a massive hole at the bottom.

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After watching that crew run the rapid the rest of the layover day was a combination of laundry, bathing, relaxing, and exploring the area. Some of us hiked up Monument Creek trail after a false start up another side canyon because we followed a braided trail that quickly puttered out, which probably led to Cedar Spring.  Upon reaching a fork in Monument creek we turned right intersecting with Cope Butte trail. The group split up here wandering around exploring and taking in different views. While I was headed to yet another side canyon, I encountered hikers who most likely came down from Hermits Rest. I chose to head back to camp by descending the right fork of Monument Creek, a beautiful narrows section that took me back to camp. On the walk back the wind picked up, I immediately sprinted for camp because I had left my solar charger on a chair by the river to charge my battery. By the time I got back to my relief the people in camp had everything secured. My battery still wasn’t charged. I believe the solar charger was actually getting too hot and this was keeping it from charging. I had this same problem to a lesser degree on the Main Salmon in ID. I feel like it wasn’t as hot on that trip. You can see more on my review of the GOAL ZERO NOMAD 13 SOLAR PANEL at this link 2020-gear-review-part-1.

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The group decided it would have a couple of themed events and tonight was river prom.  The schedule seemed to work out so that pretty much every night we had an event, I was cooking. This night began with playing power hour; this is where you drink one shot of beer ever 60 seconds (usually kept track of by varying degrees by the participants). Someone screams drink when they realize a minute has gone by. This is normally deuced by a change in music on a playlist set to change every 60 seconds.  Fully decked out in my best pirate attire, along with Ozz the giraffe, and Ryan in a cat print dress with a pink wig, we charged through making dinner and doing the dishes to join the party. While dancing on the beach, all of a sudden Bonnie disappeared into the water: the beach had crumbled under her feet and she was gone. Luckily, she popped up and made it back to shore. The rest of the night was spent literately dancing the beach away. Towards the very end of the night when most of the peninsula had been danced away and a majority of the people had retreated to the main beach area. A few dedicated souls remained on the edge of the beach and danced with every fourth of fifth move involving a large step forward as more of the beach disintegrated into the water. I drifted to sleep stirred awake by occasional shouts of, “everybody drinks, everybody wins!”

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 10

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.

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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.

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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.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 9

(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.

 

 

 

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 8

(14.3 miles) Stayed at Above Little Colorado 3/30/2019

The next day we stopped at Nakoweap after a 9 a.m. shove off off time. I knew we were getting the group systems down and this showed it! Pulling into an eddy after running one of the longest rapids in the Grand Canyon, we confirmed the group that passed us last evening actually stayed there. The Nankoweap Granary is a series of stone and mortar storage bins situated high up in the cliffs. These bins were constructed by the ancient Anasazi people to store their seed stock and food. The short hike to the graineries rewarded us with yet more amazing views. The canyon rim, at least 5,000 feet above us, was caped with frosted white from a recent snowstorm above.

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After rowing 14 miles we made our home for the night at Above Little Colorado Camp, because we missed the spot we were aiming for. Unfortunately the raft that persisted on passing the lead raft could not read a map. This worked out great because it set us up for the Little Colorado float we were going to do the next day. Setting up a camp takes a lot of work. The group unloads everything from the boats that will be needed. Lets just talk about the kitchen for a moment. The first thing you have to do is put down tarps to catch any food scraps, next you set out tables in a L or U formation on the tarps. If the tables are not stable, luck would have it that there are an abundance of smashed beer cans that can be used as shims for leveling out the tables. We strove to keep and abundant supply available for just such emergency.  Next in the kitchen assembly came the metal boxes filled with the pots, pans, and everything else one would need for cooking if one can find where the last person put things. At this time the stove is being attached to the propane and the grill is being set up. The blaster, a one burner water boiling machine, is hopefully being assembled far enough away that it doesn’t catch anything on fire. Now that things are ready to cook, someone is trying to find all the food. The dry goods are taken out of an ammo can, not to be confused with the groover ammo cans. This can now becomes a trash receptacle. At this point be prepared to fight off the ravens that have been waiting for you to turn around so then can make off with dinner for minimal effort.  At this point every cooler has been looked into twice and still no main course; oh wait, there it is!  Just as the cooking is reaching its crescendo, the cleaning begins.

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Pro cleaning tip: have the trash at the head of the dish line so if by chance there are leftovers they get scrapped off. Next in the system are 3-4 metal buckets, 4 if you want to presoak, 3 is your a normal lazy person setup. The first one is hot soapy water, second is hot rinse water, and the third is a cold bleach soak. SO there were a lot of RULES for the buckets.

    • Heat river water in the metal “chicky pails” directly on the fire blaster. The flames should be UNDER the bucket, and not up around the sides—this ruins the buckets and does not warm the water any faster. Heat—but do not boil—the water to avoid scalding hands.
    • Try not to set buckets in the sand while waiting for the blaster as the sand will burn and ruin the bucket. 

I feel like we cranked the blaster up and set the buckets on the sand….. we also scalded our hands, dammit should have followed one of the rules. After the dishes are washed all the water has to be filtered into mesh to collect the food particles.  The food particles are then forced into the overflowing garbage. Lastly the water is pored into the river.

A lot of work goes into setting up camp; this was just a example of dinner. Meanwhile a fire was set up over a fire pan, since you have collect and pack out the ashes. All of these steps help to minimize the impact and make it feel like you are the only ones there. It’s a hassle but well worth it to keep the area pristine and available for use. That night the wine flowed freely leading into a glow stick party.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 7

(8.7 miles) Stayed at Upper Saddle 3/29/2019

We have another slow start this morning. As I finish strapping down the the last dry bag, I know we are on the verge of getting our routine down, even though we haven’t pulled out of camp much before lunch time yet. The group has our sights set on Nankoweap for the evening which has a nice large camp complete with a beach for all the activities. Stopping for our first hike of the day Buck Farm, most of us fully dressed in costumes, we anchor our rafts. Buck Farm is a popular side canyon hike. The canyon drains the east side of the Kaibab Plateau, also known as Buckskin Mountain. Buckskin is an alteration of the Southern Paiute word Bucksin, meaning mule deer. Hiking up the canyon, the group split half to the left, half to the right, after passing Jared perched on a boulder rocking out to a portable speaker, American flag waving over his captain’s hat. The path I had chosen cliffed out after a short scramble as we tried to it to make higher, flatter ground so as to continue the hike into the canyon. Eventually everyone on the left hiked back. Some tried the right side and those intrepid hikers were rewarded with finding mule deer antlers while the rest were rewarded with the beauty of the place.

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Saddle Canyon was our last stop before Nankoweap. We didn’t make it here until later in the day putting a huge time pressure on the group. The stronger and/or more determined hikers got to the waterfall, took a quick look around, and rushed back. As I was passing people on their pilgrimage towards the waterfall I knew at some point I was going to have to tell people they were going to have to turn around. I know you can’t make everyone happy and let everyone do what they want on a trip with this many people, but I really wanted everyone to have a good time and I felt like the trip just wasn’t set up for that at this point. I was trying to find a little more balance as the trip progressed. I kept checking the time compulsively finally telling people to turn around. Shortly after I realized I didn’t have to have anyone turn around, because I made it back to the boats just in time to see a group pass us. I knew right away they were headed for where we wanted to camp.

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As a result camp was set up where we were at for the night. Tonight was also my group’s turn to cook, I volunteered to set up the groover, which is the toilet, so named because back in the day they didn’t have seats and the metal box would leave grooves on your butt. This particular groover was an olive colored ammo can with a toilet seat attached on it. If you have never used one before let me give a brief description. The ammo can is for solids only, the liquids are what causes most of the smells. A separate container, in this instance a bucket, was beside the groover so you could separate the two. I personally found this difficult to do a first. The reason the liquids went in to a bucket was because on the Grand Canyon your are supposed to go number one directly into the Colorado River. Dilution is the solution to pollution.

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I felt I should take the first turn setting it up in my cook group, being the trip leader. It just happened to be the easiest task to do. I got done with the groover in no time and since we decided to stay where we were instead of pushing on to a different campsite this was the first time in four days I got to relax a little. I highly suggest volunteering to set up the groover so you can enjoy your evening.

 

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 6

(16 miles) Stayed at Martha’s 3/28/2019

Today is a big day according to our itinerary, we plan to stop at Silver Grotto, a popular side canyon involving scrambling, wading, and swimming through deep pools, Redwall Cavern a beautiful canyon with a large beach, and finish the Roaring Twenties 5 miles of river packed closely together by Grand Canyon standards, starting near mile 20.

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We catch the eddy at Silver Grotto, shortly after finishing the Roaring Twenties. Well most of us do, C.J.’s boat just misses it and pulls in downstream in the next eddy, a boulder divides the two eddies keeping the raft from coming back up the river. I asked Oz to row down our eddy, have them jump in and float the eddy back up. Some debate arose on whether he could row back up. While this was happening Grant paddled down in his kayak feet perched on top of the bow with his skirt undone. As I watched him float back up the stream current caused by the eddy he says casually, “I just told them to jump in they will be right up.” Again more debate over why he would do that and if they would make it. I kind of laughed to myself as Grant say’s, something like, “GESH THEY WILL BE FINE I JUST FLOATED UP STEAM WITH MY LEGS OUT!” As the debating continues they arrive in short order which ends it and we set about going on the hike.

The entrance into Silver Grotto Canyon looked kind of tricky. The limestone was worn smooth by flash floods and time, but by the time I got there other people had managed to climb up and were holding a piece of webbing to help others up the smooth face which happened to be extra slippery in this case because 15 water logged people had just climbing up it. My first attempted wasn’t that great as I moved my beer to my left hand with the GoPro. I grabbed the webbing with my right hand and tried to wind the webbing around my hand as I went. As I was almost to the top, I slipped and slid down the wet face of the canyon unfortunately spilling some of my beer. On my second attempt, I made it into this beautiful pool filled slot canyon.

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Continuing downstream we pull into Redwall Canyon. The group goes about taking the classic silhouette group photo, along with some double person panoramic shots. I am not sure how these turned out. I didn’t have the patients to try this for too long. I got tired of trying to run behind the camera and moving to the other side before the camera captures me again. After the photo shoot some of us played Frisbee or Boccie while others just took in the amazing scenery.

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Arriving at Martha’s Camp where we will be making our home for the night, I hop out of the raft, bowline in one hand, sand stake and mallet in the other. I make quick work of hammering the sand stake into the narrow sandy beach, as I tie a figure eight on a bite into the rope and clip it through a carabiner attached to the sand stake. As everyone else does the same, our group quickly discovers that we are down a stake and mallet used to anchor the boats, along with some other stuff that was in a bag that was left at Redwall.

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A few people were still sleeping on the rafts and trying to let line slack in and out with the shifting tide. The dam was not releasing continuously so there were daily ebbs and flows to the river volume. This process kept the rafts from being beached or from being in the current.

I was pretty stressed out that day for a couple of reason, but mostly it was feeling like we were rushing through everything not really getting to enjoy a spot, stopping just long enough to check it off the list before we rushed off to the other one. I still felt like I had some lagging effects from my recent concussion, so I went off to sit at the river and look at the stars, while listening to the water rush down the canyon trying to destress.

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Private River Permit Part 5

(14 miles) Stayed at Indian Dick 3/27/2019

We encountered our first actual rapid today. House Rock, a class 7 on that weird scale that is used for the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River, like several other big-water western rivers, uses a rapids scale developed by Otis R. Marston consisting of 1-10 for rapids, 10 being the most difficult. The International Scale of River Difficulty, which classifies rapids from class I to VI, is more common elsewhere in the US and internationally. Instead of trying to figure out the differences between the scales we just divided by two to get what we thought was an appropriate rating for the International Scale.

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House Rock is on a bend in the river where the current smashes against the left canyon wall. We pulled in at three separate spots to scout because of limited space in the eddies to prevent the possibility of getting washed downstream. This scout took some time for two reasons. The first being the farthest rafts had to cross over rock ledges to get to the closest rafts. The second because people were in different boats from their gear and the rafts were not all in the same eddies making it difficult to get what was needed. We ran this rapid in three groups of two with kayakers setting safety throughout the rapid. I stand on a rock outcropping above the river watching the first two waves of boats pull out and run the rapid. The 18 foot rafts look tiny as they pull away from the left wall and the more immediate obstacle, the huge holes scattered along it. I watch as one of the rafts gets tossed as it comes into contact with one of these holes. It makes it though as Jake, who kayaked ahead and was now standing on a boulder above this massive hydrolic, pumps his fist in the air. Slowly working my way over the slightly crumbling red and black ledge consisting of Supai sandstone, it’s now our turn. We pull into the current almost perpendicular to the ledges, C.J. gives us a double fist pump from his yellow raft that Kelly was keeping in the eddy from shore. The boat starting to angle down stream, pulling hard away from the wall as the current tries to take us towards the holes. We are fighting the flow of the Colorado River as it slowly pushes us left, the angle of the raft changed to square up to the approaching holes of the left shore. Now our raft is facing slightly left at a 11 o’clock angle as we hit the first wave. It was exhilarating to smash into this first huge wave and feel the water explode over the bow of the raft soaking everything only to hit the next two sequential water features before giving a hoot and fist pump to Jake as we passed. The stoke was high having smoothed the first actual rapid.

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Stopping at Indian Dick Camp for the night, we start setting up slowly learning the routine. The sunset was gorgeous! My head was moving fast at first then slowing between the up and down river scenery trying to take in two equally amazing views. Up river had the gold highlights as the last of the suns rays touched the top of the canyon walls. While downstream the sunset caused a pinkish hue, then it faded away to expose a silver river of stars in the canyon sky as the opposing swash of water is slowly consumed by the darkness.

Oz and I discussed how to tie and backup boats into the night, which would be needed later!

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