This is a true story, and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent (and guilty) so go to it! It takes a while to download, but is well worth the effort for the reality of a private river trip down grand canyon. Check it out. To make it easier to read and for the simpletext program to handle the bytes, I have broken the story into parts, based on days.
Weeks and months of preparation have finally paid off. After numerous SNAFUs (Situation normal all fucked up; a very apt term for this organization and trip) we are poised on the brink of adventure. I have been living in Cazadero, avoiding cc, for a month now, and telecommuting to school and to all the various people on the trip. Email and fax and telephone have been humming and it seems all is in place.
Marilyn has been a great help, we have developed a great rapport and support system, hiking the creeks and mountains of Caz, dancing outside to various bands at various events, and generally having a great time.
The core of our group did the original SNAFU Grand extravaganza in 1975, 16 who dared for 25 days in the most beautiful place in the world. Some of us never spoke to each other again, and some of us bonded like superglue to the concept of fluid logistics and doin' what comes naturally in the canyons. We have been looking forward for 8 years to the magic numbers when my permit came up. This was unlike our first permit, where we had to have a postmark after January 6, 1975, and it is was first postmark, first served with permit. I handed our application to my friend who worked in the San Rafael postoffice at night and for a paltry bottle of wine, she postmarked our application 12:01 AM January 6, and we were a shoo-in for the permit. On that trip, we were very disorganized and ended up one less person at the bottom as a result. Stories from that trip and other trips over the last 24 years I have run the canyon flood into mind as I write this. I can't resist telling a few of these as we go along, so bear with me.
People, the main essential ingredient, have been picked carefully for the most part as a result of our experience in 1975. Even so there are a couple of wild cards. Walter and BC are veterans of the 1975 Snafu Grand extravaganza. Walter has gone from eco-freak member of an ashram to a dad with wife and 2 kids living in the east bay, and running an economic consulting business, haulin down the big bucks, and driving himself incessantly to perfection. He is a good organizer, and still a bit crazy, and a great old friend. He has the smallest boat, a 14' Achilles, and is a sure candidate for the flip club. BC was a river hippie with a masters from Stanford when we met in 1974. He was still roamin' the foothills when we went in 1975, but soon became a systems consultant, commuting to DC and the Netherlands for big contracts. He still bubbles with enthusiasm for adventure, and has kayaked the Grand 7 times. He has a great laugh and sense of humor, his presence is always known. I am the TL, coming off of another series of life's adventures proceeding with a 3rd divorce. I have been planning this trip for many years, to fit in with my main life as a geologist and professor, always in seek of adventure on the rivers and mountains. Lucy, my tried and true Avon Pro, is celebrating her 13th birthday on the canyon. I left the bucket floor in, to keep us upright in the big stuff and I have Tom's canopy to keep the blazing sun off our backs. Marilyn is my companion, a great woman, a real camper, in incredibly good shape, and ready to beat me into the ground on any hike. She is a professor of psychology, a fellow academic, with roots in the Free Speech Movement of Berkeley, and feels the same way about life I do; it is meant to be enjoyed and so why not enjoy it to the max? KK, my son is a senior in high school and ready for the big river trip of his dreams. He works hard at having a good time, and is also capable of running my legs off in the canyons.
Heather. my daughter and her new husband Brian, are pitching in to get the trip off and are ready for a major adventure in the canyon. She is taking time off from college and adjusting to married life. Brian is a spa technician, working in his dad's business, short wiry and daring, he passed the kayak test I gave him when he was thinking of being my son-in-law. Mark is coming and I am pleased. He runs an insurance business, and he is big and burly, with a really sweet soul. He has 4 sons, and a big house to renovate, but is off to the canyon with the rest for the adventure of a lifetime. Mark will row Alix's Miwok III a cork of a self-bailer. He has flipped many times, so is a candidate for the inverted boat club. Pete is baby huey, a monster strong dude with a shaved head. He lifts whole rafts with his bare hands, and is a hard partier. He is tried and true, and sometimes gets out there, but that's part of the deal. Pete will row Tom's Havasu, with a big load; he loves doing things like that. Rebecca, his niece is a strong and striking 21 year old boatperson from Oregon. I have only met her over the phone, but she is impressive, responsible and laid back, a great combination. The Stabiles come now from Port Townsend, Wa., with father Bill the great old friend of river adventures and conversations far into the night. Another burly type, he is a fixit man par excellence, and has constructed a sea anchor to drag us down long stretches of upstream winds. He is ready to party too, and brings a load of tequila for the therapy box. He has rented Wayne's old Spirit, an 18' monster, ready to pile high with gear. His oldest son Andy is a vibrant youthful soul, at 24 a free spirit with an engineering degree from Colorado, and a job as ski instructor at Breckenridge, living the life he wants, roaming the west with camera in hand, capturing the best images of wild lands. The younger son, Johnnie is a sophomore at Colorado, a computer whiz, and rollerblade hotshot. He is quiet and somewhat shy, but ready for anything that comes. The Cadys, John and Marith Rehies, are old geology friends from Colorado. John has just retired from the USGS, and is starting a geophysics consulting business. He is a gray-haired sage, and promises to add a touch of philosophy to the proceedings. He also has a short fuse, and I worry about him a little, but with the Snafu attitude we will survive. Marith is a long lanky strong boatperson, with experience in Cataract. She is the USGS main researcher on Death Valley faulting and earthquakes. They have adopted 3 children, natives of South and Central America, which keeps them busy. They have a monster 18' Achilles, complete with a new self-bailing floor and a canopy. The real wildcard is George, the unknown kayaker from the east coast. He called about 2 weeks before the trip and told me his trip had fallen through, and did I have room. He is a systems analyst also, and talks a good kayaker over the phone. He also wants to buy a ground to air radio that could come in real handy if we have any trouble. He sounds ok, but is the only person I am uncertain about, time and stress will tell.
The details are in place, the trailer has two new used tires, Joe repacked the wheel bearings. Heather did the run to Petaluma to Clavey equipment to get the bags, the straps and my new ultrafloat life jacket. H also made a stencil of Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute player, which we put on all the ammos, rocket boxes, the tailgate of the Landcruiser and other equipment used on the trip. KK has been a great help painting, sorting and working with the equipment. Lucy is patched of the hole in her bow abraided by some unknown dark item during the trailer ride back from the American.The T-shirts are finished, picked up and paid for: $9.30 per, $1.30 over budget. Final items to fill in commissary and cooking etc are in place, the therapy box is packed, the library packed in rocket boxes, the drum and guitar are packed and after innumerable other details we are ready to go.
We finally get off at 3 PM from Marilyn's. KK and Brian helped me pack the trailer, tie everything down and attend to all of the things needed, including a run for cpr supplies to Masheks. The phone is ringing constantly, and I try to iron out all details, but we will have a day in Flag to catch up, and do any last minute things. Money is flowing out like water, and the Bank Account is set for the final check, $3 grand plus $2.4 grand, makes the budget big. People have been generous, putting in more than necessary, to make ends meet.
We pull out onto the highway in the beast, the Landcruiser with Heather, Brian, KK, Marilyn and me. BC and Walter leave tmw and Peter, Rebecca and Mark leave tonight. The Cadys and Stabile contingent are already on the road. The unknown kayaker, George, is in the air, ready to land soon at Flag.
We hum through the bay area, opting for the direct route trafficking through Berkeley and Oakland, and out into the valley. Rest stop finds us hot outside, cool inside witht he AC doin' its thing. We come upon a Joad family scene , hippie mother and 2 boys headed from Oregon to LA with a totally overloaded truck, bicycles and barbeques hanging from the sides. We talk with them a little, and one boy throws his foot ball up in a tree and it stays there. He is upset, and trys to climb to get it down, but cant bridge the two main stems. I call KK over and he is up in a flash, football in hand and then down after spiking his hand on a sharp piece of bark. First blood, first injury, first of many, hopefully minor ones.
Stop at the food and gas mall at Coalinga, and adorn the back board of the trailer with SNAFU-GRAND CANYON OR BUST. After a nice rest on the grass, replete with red ants, we are off into the evening.
On down I-5, staring in horror at the bridge that washed out and took 7 lives this spring. It is reconstructed, but the debris of the flood is a stark reminder of tragedy. On to Bkersfield and over the Tehachapis, getting later now, a long dark run across the Mojave to Barstool, and into camp in the wee hours on the plateau off the Ft. Irwin road.
Up with second light and something is odd, a high overcast covers the desert, a very propitious and unusual sign. We will have a cool ride across to Kingman, just what we need at this point, with a loaded trailer and truck. We have the breakfast from Hell at Mcdonalds, with crowds seething from tour buses, and long lines at 5 windows at 7:30 AM. Outta here, we cruise east, gas at Ludlow for $1.65/gallon, ripoff, and then to Needless and the MoabiPark swimming hole to cool down while watching the jetskis zip by. We are on the Colorado here, a cool broad expanse full of sunday boaters. The water here left the canyon years ago, but has travelled the same route we will, we feel a kindred spirit immersing ourselves and feeling its powerful current. Marilyn almost gets swept downstream before she uses her powerful strokes to gain shore.
On to Kingman, and a store stop, lunch and then the long climb to Flag. We get altered and play desert music as we climb. The sage goes by and we don't find any high on the plateau but we stop and get firewood and continue on into the afternoon. We pull into Flag and it is a mess, crowded with tourists. Not finding Stabile at his motel, we go on to Hubbard's and find both Terrys very friendly and receptive, opening their great house and yard to us. We dump the trailer and kick back, making camp in the yard, and taking care of details, fixing frames, packing last minute stuff. I set up my office on the roller table, and soon have the computer humming with agenda for tmws meeting. I set appts with Melville and Michael Collier for tmw and get set for action. The monsoons are here early, with thunderstorms and clouds, wind and cool on the plateau. This is fine, it will be much cooler down there in the ditch. Stabiles show up, Bill, John and Andy, and Pete and Mark and Becca are already there. The kids get to know each other, and we do logistics, me constantly answering questions.
We sleep with rain pattering on the tent occasionally. Marilyn has her tent up in a minute, she is a great camper, and knows what to do and how to do it fast. We are comfortable, and others are snugged down in the house, streached out in the living room.
Up early to coffee and quick bkfst. more organizing of immeasurable amounts of shit, details, details. I take off to stop by Cyn REO, meet Donnie Dove, 5x5 stocky guru of the company and Suzanne, who leads me through the logistical details, we take off tmw in 2 waves, 10 am and 1 pm to the ferry, all our food is packed, waiting on a trailer in white rocket boxes. I give them the final check and take off for Melvilles, finding him same as always, readying his scene transfer to Alaska, where his wife has a job, and he has none. He really knows the canyon, and we spend an intense time going over logistical details and a schedule that will give us 2 layover days instead of one. We have some long river days, but the level is 20k and we will be moving fast on the river just in the current making 4-5 miles per hour just sitting there. Also the rapids sound like they will be easy to do, with the higher level, Lava left run sounds like a cakewalk. We'll see.
Downtown, I find Michael Collier's office, and Rose, his wife and Marilyn have already hit it off. We stride with great legs down the street to a Mexican place and have a great lunch and conversation, with plans for trips, books and information changing hands fast. Then we return to the office, get our stuff and start shopping hard. After 5 or 6 places, we find all the missing details, signal panels, sam splint, mask, headphones and adapter for Marilyns microcassette recorder which I plan to use during side canyon hikes to describe geology for my side canyon book, then back along the freeway to Hubbards, to find Bill champing at the bit to get Wayne's boat, so I cut him loose with the Landcruiser and trailer, and attend to last minute details before our meeting. BC and Walter arrive in a flurry and then leave to pick up George, who has been here several days, touring around. They arrive and
We eat and meet and it gets dark and rainy, with a spectacular double rainbow greeting us at the sunset. During the meeting we go over logistics, and agree to meet the first night on the river to figure out cook crews, etc. Someone asks if we need to buy toilet paper, and I notice it wasn't on the list of things not provided, but call Donnie to reconfirm the 2-wave approach to the ferry and he says, yes, we need to buy tp! That was not clear on the instructions, and would have been a real disaster if we showed up without. Melville arrives and we have a grand reunion with BC, and more talk about the canyon. We screen Briggs' video on history of river runners of the canyon, and all love it, it still drags on and on, but after the Georgie part, I retire to Marilyn's tent and we drift off as the rain pitters down to anguished crys of those who din't set up their tents.
Up with the dawn, cool, cloudy, thank god for small favors. We say ggodbye to the Terrys who are off to Fiji on the morning plane, loaded with Scuba gear. He is an inventor for Gore-tex and she works at the Unversity, they have no kids, bux and time to enjoy it. They have done many canyon trips, and know what we need, and open their lives to us. We load up and in a frenzy we get everything on the trailer and packed off to Canyon REO to transfer to their trailer; 20' long dual axles heavy duty. The load goes on easily and they are off. We park the trailer in their lot and take off for a last shop. Details downtown in the crowds of tourists, we get burlap bags for coolers, shop at Smiths for last minute stuff mainly TP and Tequila, and then fill the propane tank. Brian orders the Mexican dinners for that night at the restaurant, and they flip out, but manage to get it together by 1:30pm and Brian and I borrow Donnie's car to get the food and return to find everything packed and ready to go. Back at Cyn REO the packing process goes on and we move the dinner and personal into Donnie's new white van. I find George, the Latvian who came with his family on the Lodore trip last summer, and intro him around, he and his daughter are working for Donnie. He gives me the recipe for his trout caviar, and we have long conversations about his quest for citizenship, still not happening. We talk of Mike Baron, another missing person on this trip, a great force on our '75 trip. He is in England with his family, gettin' cultchad, taking the summer off from the canyon. We will miss him. He started the saying "its a beautiful day to die" standing on his seat about to plunge over the brink of chaos at Unkar.
Off to the Ferry across the plateau into the desert, finally away from the mass of humanity in Flag. Desert music playing on Donnies new van stereo, and we cruise. Stop at Cameron, the Indian trading post there is huge, and I buy some books and we cruise down by the LC (Little Colorado) and see a coyote making his/her way across the outwash plain. Off again across the painted desert with the echo cliffs rising on the right, and the feeling of Marble canyon to the left. We count the washes going that way, Tanner, Jackass, etc, and know we are close. The new bridge has construction delays, so we walk the old bridge and pee off the middle in tribute to Hayduke and the gang. Mbl Cyn lodge is funky as ever, tourists mobbing it, we tour the great pictures on the walls, a nice new one of Georgie and many beautiful images of the canyon.
Now the final leg to the loading ramp at the ferry. It is mayhem there, with another private trip rigging as well and several commericials, one blaring loud rock and roll. I introduce myself to Mary, TL of the other trip, and set up a dialog to avoid each other. We try to organize loads, Mark and I take the drop bag frames, they have agreat aluminum hatch, and I have to alter my frame in order to take it, hammering off one of TD's carefully welded seat brackets. It fits great, but there is no forward D ring to tie it to. BC and I rig a double strap under the boat to secure it and it looks and feels good. Donnie gives an orientation to the food and the river. We have problmes, and George sure is not afraid to jump into a problem and solve it, he is a rescuer, military background, valuable attribute to have in the canyon.
Donnie finishes after I get the commercials to turn down their music, and we throw everything on the boats and glide down to camp just downstream. This is a great spot, a big camp in the tammies with room for our boats to tie up and we can organize all we want. It is getting dark, so we eat Mexican from the restaurant in flag, have a short logistics meeting.; we have to do an orientation with Ranger Blue in the morning, we agree to do it with the other private group, and he will check our stuff The cycada are buzzing at top volume and it is hot, but we bed down in the tammies and sleep at last with the stars and the canyon wall soaring above us.
Up early again and there is a minimal bkfst, but coffee and cake and fruit get us going and soon loads are being rigged, and the old game of "whos goin to take this?" starts.
I arrange the life jackets, emergency equipment, fire pan etc in a clearing, and we prepare for the appearance of Ranger Blue. He is a tall thin dude, all business, and immediatly starts picking at us and our equipment. The signal mirror is not military type, so George fortunately has a glass mirror with cross hairs, and we pass that test. Fortunately we have a SAM Splint, not an inflatable one, and the first aid kits pass, he even counts them, one for each boat. Then he starts counting life jackets and rejecting several that are frayed a little and one of Marks that has a broken clip. Shit, we are short one life jacket, but Marith sees that we can replace Mark's clip with one from another rejected jacket and that is it. We don't have a daily shitter, so he makes sure Pete's shit boxes are rigged so they can be detached during the day and used if necessary. I start to say I didn't recall in the 28 pages of regulations seeing that, but he starts pawing through his copy, and I see he is business about this. He is finally satisfied with our equipment and is off to check off someone else.
High stress times, I try to relax, but we have yet the orientation to go. We hike to the ranger station and settle down for a long session going over all the rules again, including health and food prep rules taking 1.5 hours, of valuable time we could have been rigging and getting on the rio. We about reach our bursting point when he tells us to suspend the firepan above the sand, because heat will microfracture the sand and promote more erosion.Walter's bullshit meter is about to pop, and we get him out of there fast.
Back to the boats and final tiedowns going on and there is a call for lunch. It is noon so we do it, and chow down on great deli sandwiches and all. but no gatorade, Marith needs gatorade and so I give her some of my private stash. Finally time to go, and one by one we peel out into the current and sail pass the Pariah which was flashing brown yesterday but now is not effecting the main river. We are high, and push on down under the bridges, pushing left out of a big eddy . The layers start appearing one by one, especially the Coconino sandstone, with its wedge-shaped cross beds and vertical cliff. Marilyn is riding with me and we revel in the excitement of being on the river and watch the magnificence develop.
Badger eventually greets us with a roar around the corner, and we are together with the other private group, surveying the rapid. The hole on the right is snappin and growlin , but a huge highway of water runs down the center. Big waves, but no problems and we run through without incident. Memories of Grant high and dry on a boulder in the center at 5,000 cfs in 1989, and the guy who tried to swim the hole in 1975, losing most of his gear and hitching the rest of his way down the canyon.
Coasting down the long aisle past 10 mile rock, and the seeming 2-way canyon as Soap comes in on the right, we debark and climb to the reptile print rock in the Coconino, showing the tracks of ancient reptiles climbing a dune face. Soap is another great ride with major waves, and I stop below on the left not finding the Brown Inscription, to let BC go ahead to scout the next camp. He does and its ok, great, we get one of my favorite camps for the night. Snuggled in a small cove, we stay in Claire's night one camp and get everything set for the party. Walter calls a meeting, and we parcel out and volunteer for jobs. Pete volunteers for the shitter ("groover" in river terms) so he doesn't have to do k.p. and we choose cooking teams. Heather and Brian and I are one team, and we get to cook tonight. They are not into it, and I am not either, so we get out the Peppermint schnapps and go to it. Chicken bbq, big salad, rice, all the fixins. Reo has a great setup, spice box, dry goods box, etc. and we get used to it fast.
We wind down after dinner, with champagne, a campfire in the canyon at last. Marith breaks out her banjo, John and I our guitars and we sing and sing. A few salvos into the night sky signify our arrival, and we crawl into the bed, 2 cotton sheets over our therma rests, and fall into an exhausted sleep under a ring of jagged cliffs.
The coffee is going at first light, Walter up with his Peet's and making delicious supplement to the pot of cowboy coffee made with the REO brew. A long process, 2 hours to get bkfst and then pack and tie down and off on the rio.
We spread out randomly and cruise through higher walls to House Rock. We scout, but there is a huge highway right of the major hole, so I pick my way through some holes on the right, not missing one, just as Pete didn't, filling with water there and having a hard pull to the right, but no problem. Others have close calls, and BC goes out to surf the lower waves and gets a great ride.
We drift on to North cyn and do the hike before lunch. It is spectacular, with a slot canyon and the leakyv pool a treat after a long hike. Lunch is confused, no table available and stuff scattered hither and yon, but we get through it, pump some water, and generally relax. I see a group camped downstream and cross the boulders to find a Hatch trip, camped early, just putin that day and climb up on the motor rig and have a conciousness lowering session with the boatmen. They know my old friend Mondell, and he will be down in a few days, in rig #14, I look forward to seeing him. We trade Mondell stories and then I make my way across the debris fan to SNAFU central and agree to head down to Indian Dick for camp.
We have a few good rapids before camp, which basically submerge Lucy, she is underinflated and over loaded and has no forward thwart, so I determine to do something about this before the major rapids of the roaring 20s that come up tmw. We catch a small eddy at camp, only to find a better eddy and camp below, but we stay in the first place, a great avenue of sand up into the debris flow. Just for the hell of it, I pull out my fishing pole and plop a jointed rapala into the head of the eddy and wham! I have a 3 pound trout tail walking and fighting for his life. I yell out " does he live or does he die?" and get a majority of dies, but I know we will catch many more of these, so Mark and I let him swim off to freedom.
We set up shop and Marilyn sets up her tent over the hill. I open up the pad roll and find everything soaked, so lay it out on a rock to dry . I announce a hike downstream and get some takers, esp Marilyn and Marith, ready for an adventure. I can see the low grey ledges of the top of the Redwall limestone just downstream. We make our way along the talus and sand to the ledges and find Powell's famous shelf "fretted with strange devices" of the fluting carved in the limestone by the river. Powell called this Marble canyon because of the polish the Redwall takes because it is so dense. Really it is limestone, Powell was a lousey petrologist, but a great geomorphologist. We hang out in the heat of the early evening and enjoy the views and the large coral heads preserved here, when out of nowhere, a 50 mph gust of wind screams upstream and we head for camp to find tents bowled over and stuff scattered by the wind. Fortunately, Blue's lecture had warned us to clip our life jackets onto the boats, and nothing is lost, but we are forwarned of gusts to come.
More lowering of conciousness on the boats, Pete has wine flowing from a 5 gallon jug, I have created a new drink, Gatorade and vodka -- godka, and Marilyn makes her way along the tethered boats to open the therapy box and get her bottle of tequila out. I get a great mental picture of her striding back through the water, hair flowing, bottle of Cuervo in her hand and cliffs looming above. "Now theres a real woman I say to Pete, she knows how to get on a boat and into a rocket box and find her tequila".
Mark is discouraged, no matter what, he can't catch any trout, mine was beginners luck, but I know there is at least one monster trout at the head of each eddy. I catch another one for horsdoevres and we cook it up and have a savory morsle.
Dinner is another great feed, fresh veges, salad, 1/2 frozen fish bbq, dessert, campfire, songs and on and on. H. has cut her foot on a rock and is not a happy camper. Despite all the warnings of wearing foot protection around camp, people are still getting dinged. John Stabile has a horrible sunburn on the front of legs and feet, with blisters coming up. Shit, we warned everyone about this, what is the deal? Well, he is not a happy camper either. I take H some peppermint schnapps and she seems better. I ask her and Brian to ride with me tmw, she seeems a little uneasy about the rapids and I want to assure her that it is ok.
We drift asleep with the murmur of the rapids, the scream of cycada and the stars and cliffs swirling overhead.
More coffee! early on the pattern is set, Walter with his Peet's and the blue coffee pot with cowboy coffee sinking under the sprayed cold water. Quite a process. boil water, put 2 handfuls of coffee on top and wait until it saturates, then stir, then drop some cold water on the surface, tap the side of the pot 10 times, wait 5 minutes and then drink. I try for some more trout, but they are not interested. We kick back, with a great egg bkfst, english muffins etc, a great spread. Watching the canyon go by, the cliffs patched with early morning sunlight, the glint of spray from the rapid at our front door, and the promise of adventure to come.
BC takes over tieing down my load, rigged to flip. I wait for the necessary table and bags for the stern and throw the cargo net over it and tie it down. Dozens of details later: making sure the straps are cinched over the rocket boxes in the front of my load, freeing oars from any hindering straps, putting the last items in the mesh bag I use for overflow, cinching down the ammo cans under my legs, including the emergency can and 2 1st aid kits, TL ammo with all the trip maps, permit, schedules, a walkie-talkie radio, the tape box with tapes, Marilyn's personal ammo, my ammo, and then the boat cushion which now has some writing on it, "No flip trip" to remind me of my mission. Then it is time to coil up and check all lines to make sure none are floating or able to get away and act like a snake to snag a leg during a flip, wash off the bow line, coil it and secure it in the front compartment, tie on the daily stuff; my bucket where I stash stuff that can get wet during the day, the bail bucket, and Heather and Brian's daily stuff, several packs and ammos so they have their stuff handy. The last act is to secure the flag by sending it down through the cargo net and along the tube. It flies gaily, yellow square, tied to a tent pole with the word "SNAFU" and a great rendering of the Kokopelli figure of the hunchbacked flute player, our icon for the trip. Heather and Brian fixed this flag for us.
We peel out and set off for great rapids, the roaring 20s long known as sporty tough and tricky, they will be an easy run at 20 k and we know all the obvious bad spots, which can be avoided easily. We run 24 mile rapid, no problem, concentrating on getting left at 24 1/2 mile to avoid Bert Loper's hole, a sure flipper. I watch as the boats dissappear around the corner one by one, and see Bill get a big ride on a wave and I adjust my path so I don't have to deal with that one. It is a rush into the rapid, waves thrashing and the big hole snapping and growling safely off to the right. I am just playing with the waves in the lower part when I hear 3 whistles and look off to the left and there is Walter and Andy with an upside down boat in an eddy. They must have taken the hole on purpose, so easy to miss, and there they are, in need of assistance. Heather is horrified, "Oh Shit" she moans, but I try to assure her that both people are ok and it is no problem. I catch an eddy and work my way back up to them and help right the boat and all is still attached. Walter is very excited, Andy blown away, no problem, but Heather is obviously effected, this is a danger sign for her. I explain that he did it on purpose and there was no harm done, and now we see that flipping is no big deal. We run the rest of the rts and have no further problem.
The long calm stretch down to Silver Grotto is a relaxing time, still in the shade, trying to catch more monster trout, but none are coming to the call. We pull in at the dimunitive beach, I remember it used to be huge, and prepare for the hike. I lead off and find the climb, and then find that it is a lot harder than I remember, and the bolt is no longer there to swing down into silver grotto. We look and talk and try the waterfall route, but it is impossible. Another climbing route appears, but it is late and people can't figure out how to get down. So we repair to the shade of a towering cliff of Redwall for lunch and I catch another beauty trout after throwing some smaller ones back. We mellow out for a while, drinking in the beauty of the sheer redwalls and the fluidity of the river.
Down the rio across the monster eddy, following the current up to the head and then pulling hard across the eddy fence, hitting the downstream current as it whips us around and carries us like a freight train down river, the walls soaring above now, a 300 foot cliff of redwall, with the red steps of the Supai and Coconino sandstone and Toroweap-Kaibab limestones scraping the sky on top. I can see the ledges of the Indian village above and we land at the head of the bar above South Canyon. A short scramble through the tammies and along some ledges and we are cruising along the ledge, with a great view up and down river, a great place to live for the Anasazi. I find the petroglyphs, some shards of pottery and a few foundations. No hidden split twig figurines around, Clair showed me where one was under a rock in the middle of the Petroglyph boulder. I remember Brad in his disheveled Indian headress, weaving a split twig figurine in front of an adoring crowd, carrying on with the Anasazi story. Everyone is impressed, and I point up high to the caves and the skeleton, and KK and crew are off scrambling up a gulley, as I stay down with Marilyn, Bill and some others, slab along and up into South canyon for a scenic vista, clinging to a thin ledge. We can see the boats below, the golden SNAFU flag waving proudly in the breeze. We clamber down the main cleft to the flash flood scar that went upstream, or did the river carve a channel out going downstream?? Oh well, things are strange in the canyon.
I get the fishing pole and start tossing the jointed rapala into the mouth of the side channel and immediately start pulling in all kinds of trout, one hit per cast, and a big 3-pounder, all released. BC kept the one I got at Silver grotto, so we have a trout for this evening. People troop down off the ledges with a little conch prodding, and we are again on the rio, a short float down to Vasey's Paradise.
Vaseys is a hard pull in and I warn everyone, but Bill misses it and is downstream. We are cavorting inthe falls and filling our water jugs when I hear a shout, and George is playing in the hole, surfing back and forth and then down comes Marith, like a freight trail closing fast on him. He gets off a nice backwards endo, and then doesn't roll. Shit, he's going fast, downstream and no one to rescue. His kayak catches the eddy, and he swims to shore. Heather tries to rescue the kayak and falls on the rocks, further injuring herself, another leg scrape, to add to the foot cut. Argh, injuries are happening fast and furious, we should keep track.
Heading down the corridor to Redwall cavern, the mouth of the huge sandy cave looms at the base of a shear red wall. Mary's group is there, I am cruisin' in to shore, catch the eddy at the bottom and work hard to get into it from the main stream. Alone, with the canopy up, and they watch me as I float past, beach in the middle of a long sandy streach, and have Marilyn hold the boat against the current while I pull out a sand stake and the sledge, bound up onto a clean stretch of sand, pound it home, and tie up to the stake, much to the amazement of the gathered multitudes on Mary's trip. We have a short conversation, they are camping just downstream and we are headed to Nautiloid canyon, so no conflicts, all is mellow and they leave to camp as our boats pull in. Naked time, we are all there, running around the sandy sea under a roof of rock, playing the recorder, and the conch and generally relaxing. Pictures taken of the crowd, the kids are burying each other in the sand, and all is mellow. John takes some video, I hold forth in the back, and naked bodies are prancing around. I go down to the boat and find Marilyn's life jacket, put it on my legs, with my jacket on my body, and get into the water. I find the new hi flotation jackets make my body into a boat, with enough of my arms and legs out of water so I am at a comfortable temperature, not freezing in the 45 degree water. I float with the current, up the eddy close to shore, and get out before I get swept out into the eddy. It is tempting to completely circle the eddy, but if I got in trouble out there, I would be in freezing water with no one to rescue me.
People are scattered all over, and it is time to mosey downstream to camp. I take a short hike downstream to look up at the fall that almost got me in a flash flood during a hailstorm. I had wanted to see the Redwall falls, the corridor here becomes a cascade of red water from flash floods off of the Supai above during heavy rain. I had hiked down to this spot and looked up at a fall I was sure was going to flash, a clear thin stream flowed down. Dissappointed, I turned to leave, but took one last look up as a gush of red water rocks and logs came screaming down at me. I ran and got out just in time to see the place I was standing pummelled with falling debris. A close one.
More cavorting, the kids are completely buried, Andy and Becka seem to be a unit, John is quiet and withdrawn, looks like he thought maybe he had a chance at her, but big brother moved in. To add to it, he has severely burned legs and feet , 2nd degreee stuff with blisters, from one day in too much sun. I am careful to wear my sealskinz, water proof big socks, under my sandles. They come 1/3 way up my lower legs, and the skirt covers the rest of my legs, so I have developed a coverup river uniform. I lube up my feet every night and put my heavy shoes and socks on, and my feet are doing real well compared to the people running around camp with sandals, or worse, nothing on their feet. Foot injuries in camp are most common, Blue told us about this, and still, people are doing nasty things to their feet.
We head out into the monster eddy one by one and hesitate on the right at the hanging garden and waterfall contained in a sheath of travertine, listen to the trickle and admire the green patch of maidenhair ferns dripping with wet in the desert-dry wall. The monster calcite crystals are still lurking in cavities above the fall, flashing in the light.
Nautiloid is a nice small camp, with a spectacular view downstream, we settle in and soon a great meal is bubbling on the stove and the smoking and drinking lamps are lit. Marith gets out her banjo, and I my guitar and we sing and sing on into the night, until one by one people fade into the dark and a sweet slumber lulled by the white noise of the river surrounding us.
Heather seems really worried about the rapids. I have tried to assure her there is no problem, and that she can walk Hance, Crystal and Lava, but she repeatedly asks me if I have ever flipped a big boat, and I reply each time with patience, "never". She is still anxious and looks at the guidebook to see where we are on the river relative to the rapids. She asks how many days to Phantom Ranch, I say 4 from here, with the big rapids of the inner gorge between us and it. I say "You can hike out from Phantom, that's always an option" and she sounds like she might do that. I know she will meet her fears before Phantom, and will either be okay the rest of the way down or will hike out.
Up with the first light on the tops of the cliffs downstream. George finds my last happy package and fuzzes it off to be funny. I get pissed and tell him hes being an asshole, and it doesnt seem to sink in. Walter and I have the coffee routine down. I boil a big pot of water, he makes the Peet's into his thermos, and I make cowboy coffee in the blue coffee pot. I get a first cup of Peets and then follow with the cowboy until it is gone. I pack up with the stereo sounding the Goldberg variations, and the Montreaux band, a great set of background to get the day moving. Heather is moving slow and I see her crying, and we try to comfort her, Marilyn brings her some anti-anxiety pills and she seems better as we take off. She puts on the wetsuit to be warm and gets on Pete's boat, the biggest one, for the trip downstream. No big rapids today, just a cruise down the long corridors around Pt. Hansborough to Saddle canyon, looks like amellow day.
We stop for Burt Loper's boat visit, and a short hike up Burt's canyon to the hanging gardens. I am using the microcassette recorder to record observations, this has become a vehicle to record conversations with Marith about geomorphology, and to record personal observations. At Burt's headwall there seems to be a huge boulder that came down and you can almost climb the waterfall. There is a rope inside the greenery, and I am tempted to go up, but we have a schedule.
Past the grins of Temple Butte formation channels, floating into the wind, Bill unleashes the sea anchor, and with 3 boats tied on, we pleasently bump our way downstream, making current speed against the wind without lifting a finger. Noontime and lookin' for shade, we find it around the corner of Pt Hansborough, a great spot with a small beach and grass, time for lunch. Mary's group is there also, and we check campsites; they are on the way to Nankoweap for a layover, so we are clear for Saddle. After cooling off, and recuperating from the stress of sun, we shove off again, and soon hear the roar of Pres Harding rapid. We have an easy run left, with little wave action. Then we hook up again to the sea anchor, and have another nice run against the wind downstream until the currents get too squirrily, and we are on our own again. The three alcoves of trin-alcove bend soar above us, miraculously sapped out by trickles of water over the millenia. The Pleistocene probably provided the majority of the water, at the time when the glaciers raged, and more water was on the land.
Saddle canyon cuts the cliff line on the right, and a motor rig is in the upper camp. They are hiking, so I want the lower camp anyway, a big old sand bar and beach at the bottom of the eddy. We beach there and pound in some more sand stakes, and even so, Marith ties to a tree way up on the beach. Probably safer if the water comes way up, but Ill be near the water line in camp and will know if it does.
We decide to hike now, instead of the morning, and go to LC (Little Colorado) tomorrow. I stay in camp and sleep for a while, then enlist Bill to row around the eddy to catch many fish, which gotta be in there. Mark and the boys see the motor rigs coming down, and break out the Miller High Life Welcome Race Fans banner 15 feet long, and get lots of cheers and laughs. It sails and flaps in the wind, broadcasting its message to all.
I am worried about Heather, but she and Brian have established a little camp on the sand, and are using the second skin to cover their wounds, and seem to be content to hang out in camp. '
Pete has made it known that the remaining 3 gallons of wine are just right and are going to go bad fast, thus must be drunk tonight. He has the 5-gallon container in the water cooling down. Bill and I set off with a mug of Godka. We drift up the eddy , plying the bushes and the center to each side, to no avail. We come around the head of the eddy, and a dory appears from upstream, a woman boatman I don't recognize is rowing, traditonally the TL leading the pack. I ask her who is on the trip, and Elena is, so I wait for her to appear and introduce myself, and she is blown away. We continue up the eddy and fish the head of the eddy for a while, several strikes, but no fish, shit, they used to be all over in here, what is happenin? The Dories are on a 17 day, and they begin to bathe and shower, so we mosey down to the boats, and Bill and I get a tour of new and old boats, and he is impressed. Elena and I get to relive the old days of the dories, and we check out the layout, very impressive.
On down the line to camp, still fishless, but ready to party. People coming back from the hike, Marilyn is running along the trail, she moves fast, and can climb anywhere I can, going strong. We eat well, and drink a lot of wine, making a sizable dent in Peter's wine supply. The dories people had a passenger who brought wine in steel minikegs, they dont get air in to oxidize the stuff. High technology. Still no fish, but a skyful of stars and spectacular cliffs. The skyline in the dark is a great jagged saw of peaks and canyons, a new world to be surrounded by this. I fantasize of having a profile like this on my bedroom wall, so when I wake up its like being in the canyon. We drift off with the swish of the eddy and a far-off note of white noise from the rapid at the mouth of Saddle.
We are up early, nice shady campsite, cool in the morning. I catch another trout and let it go, rig the boats and off down to Nankoweap. Heather is really nervous now, and I tell her all is well to day, no big rapids, but she seems to really be upset about little rapids and eddys and everything seems close to her. She rides on Petes boat again with the wet suit, and Marilyn and I cruise together downstream. The scenery passes by,now a wider canyon with the Bright Angel shale at river level, displaying needles and slopes of soft reds and greens, product of oxidation or reduction of iron in the sediment.
Nankoweap is not big, but it is long, with a few holes and rocks on the left. We float to the bottom of the eddy at Nankoweap and see Mary's group in camp on their layover, at a really hot place in the canyon. We get organized and head up to the graneries, a long steep hot hike, with a spectacular view at the top, down canyon. We watch the dories pass, in an orderly row, and another private who was behind us. They are all headed downstream, I have let the Dories have Carbon tonight, so we will camp above the LC tonight, with a research party in on the right, well have to take potluck on the left, a shitty camp, but handy to the LC.
We cavort at the graneries, and admire the view, tell old SNAFU stories and then prepare to descend. I cut high along the cliff upstream and find the trail that leads down a precarious slope to the big shelf above Nankoweap creek. I am careful, looking for loose rocks or an occasional rattler who might be lurking. After some great shots of debris flows that came out the mouth of the canyon, I descend to the main trail, and make my way through a dense Mesquite forest to the boats and find lunch already in major progress.
Pete takes me for a ride around the eddy, lookin' for trout, but no takers, not even in the every cast hole where they used to hit on every cast. We peel off and head down to Kwagunt, KK and John in the duckie, an inflatable kayak with self-bailing floor. We all give the hole a wide berth, and I get to tell all the story of Terry and Donna's eddy, where I had spent what seemed to be the last moments of my life 7 years ago, dragged down and mercifully spit out again, finally downstream to freedom. A very turbulent eddy, not one I want to visit again.
On down, and the tension mounts, we are fighting an upstream wind coming down on the camp on the left, and it is a piece of shit, rocky, windy, sunny blast, and I look downstream and see that the right camp is abandoned by the field party, we beat it down there in the face of a phalanx of motorboaters, talking on the cbs, trying to beat them out. They are headed for the LC anyway, so we get the sandy beach camp. It is still hot in the sun, so I dive into the water, forgetting that I have the microcassette recorder in my pocket, shit, I am out of the water like a shot, taking the thing out of my pocket, and Marilyn opens it up and puts it on a hot rock to drive off the moisture, and we derig the tape and set it out to dry also. Argh, how stupid, short-term memory loss and all that. We go off on an outstanding hike up a small canyon in the Tapeats, now dominating the shore with brown flaggy outcrops. A stroll up the canyon, then a short scramble up some ledges, and then out into the open again along a twisting narrow channel cut the the Bright Angel shale, and beautiful striped ledgey slopes and curved walls. We get to an impassible fall, and back down to where a rough trail leads up asteep loose slope to where we can traverse over to a ridge and then ridge cruise to a great spot overlooking the LC and kick back for a while, reveling in the warm breeze. I pose and take a timed picture of us sitting on the ridge, with the Redwall soaring behind us. We follow a well-beaten path down back into the canyon and back to camp.
The kitchen is set up high under some overhangs, a great view of the surroundings and the camp. Heather and Brian are spread out on a nice shelf of sand, I lamp out the locale and find a place nearer the river, thus cooler. The microcassette player is working ok, I test it out. Marilyn says "its ok, if it doesn't work you can buy me a new one, for $280" She is calm and matter of fact about it, and I breath easy again. Dinner is another great affair, with much food and drink and talk of the canyon. The kids are awol after , they have taken the duckie and disappeared hours ago up the LC, and people are upset. Pete starts freaking out, motormouthing about how he is responsible for Becka, and how they must really be in trouble. I try to calm everyone down and have little success with Pete, he is really amped, and is really causing everyone else, and Heather more up set. George volunteers to go over and try to track them down with a cb and a flashlight. Soon We hear from him, he has the kids safe and sound, they had hiked 4 miles up the LC, and gotton down late, big deal. Pete is still upset, muttering about organization and discipline. We calm down, tell more stories and sing to the banjo and guitar songs of the river of the wild, fading into the night from our camp.
The morning starts like all mornings, Coffee, a little fishing, the last up here. And a morning planned up the LC, then down to Carbon for lunch, then to Unkar for camp. Heather still looks scared, and I hold on to her for a few minutes and tell her I am proud of "my big strong girl". I am securing the load on my boat when I hear her crying, then moaning, the same moans I heard at her place weeks before the trip. I try to give her vicodan, and Marilyn goes up to comfort her. Marith is upset and I tell her it will pass. She goes up to help, but Heather is really wound up now, and shaking and going into shock. I am trying to concentrate my attention on the loading, not the moaning of my daughter, but I cant pull away. Brian comes down and tells me Heather wants to get flown out of the canyon now, and I call to George to do the radio contact. For the first time, fortunately, there are planes overhead constantly, and we should have no problem getting a chopper down here fast. George still hasn't appeared, so I call again and he comes out of the bushes, he was on the groover, doing his thing. Now he calls and we have contact immediately, the landing place is over on the gravel bar at the mouth of the LC. Mark and Marilyn take Brian and Heather across the river, and I follow suit with KK, after hugging him, and crying a bit with him. We row over to the bar, and follow Mark and Heather across the burning sands to the shade of some tammies. Becka takes the signal panels, 2 3'x10' international orange plastic bands and lays them down out on the sand and boulders in the best place to land. We wait and wait, Heather is calmer now, but still not alert, Mark holds her and Marilyn tends her with water, I pace back and forth, and cool off in the left channel of the LC. Finally the Chopper comes circles and lands in the sand 200 feet from us. The EMT walks out slowly and talks with George for an inordinatly long time, and then comes over, checks vital signs, and explains to Heather what he's gong to do: take her over to the chopper on a streacher, give her valium and fly her out of the canyon. I want him to give her valium now, but he needs to follow protocol, get her a streacher, this takes another 15 minutes, and then she starts cramping up as we transport her to the chopper. Mark holds her on the stretcher in the chopper, talking to her and trying to sooth her fears. The EMT tries to get an iv going, but her veins are so tight and she is screaming she's going to die, and finally the iv pops out, the EMT after several tries finally gets the injection ready and in it goes. Immediate relax, but she is still far a way mentally, We take their packs, the helicopter can't take the two of them and the packs also, and I kiss Heather and tell her I love her, and hug Brian and then they are off, and suddenly all is silent and they are gone. Two guys from Mary's trip come over onto the bar and offer to help, but we are done, off to the coast where the rest are waiting. We trade gear, some was left on the beach as we left fast. Walter says, "Let's go down to Carbon creek and call it a day" I agree and soon we are rowing up the LC, against a slow current. Marilyn and I swim as the boat floats down. I rig the rope ladder, and we climb on board as we drift off to the mouth, past several motor rigs and Mary's boats on our way out to the main stream after conversations with the boatmen hiding in the shade of a Tapeats ledge. They sympathize in short terse sentences, filled with emotion and maning "thank god it's not me running that trip".
On the rio again, cruisin' the mega eddies, Forever eddy and Everready eddy, the Hopi Salt mines and then down to Carbon. A small rocky beach has replaced the monster sand beach I remember from years past. We have a discussion about what to do, and agree finally to camp here, set up the tarp for the sun and hang out, taking a hike in the afternoon up Carbon. We have a great lunch, all kinds of greasy stuff, but good. After a nice nap, we gather a small group together and head off. Bill, Marilyn, Marith and Walter. A great hike up the sidwalk smooth creek. Then big boulders and more sidewalks, and then the steep climb up the talus slope, grokking the thrust faults and evidence of horizontal compression, and into the Tapeats sculptured canyon, the second canyon here. Now admiring the liesegang banding , and the iron stains on the walls. crossbedding is rampant also, until the layers take off for the sky, pushed up by the fault, and the open valley of the Chuar beyond across the fault. We gather around the dinosaur turd aka. stromatolite boulder where we are in awe of the origin of life. Marith tells me the story of her first trip into Saline Valley along the impassable Lippencott mine road. We mellow out and then cruise back into the cool canyon and on down to camp, taking pictures of datura, thrust faults, folds and compressional tectonics. Marilyn and I end up walking alone down the canyon, talking relaxed, and recuperating from the stress of the mornings departure.
Dinner is good, after a reorganization meeting, redistributing the jobs, and I get to get off dinner crew for the rest of the trip. I like this, and look forward for kicking back each evening, and helping when I want. I am mentally and physically exhausted.We do a reading from the Powell, "our boats tied to a common stake, chafe....what falls lie ahead we know not" and a few poems and passages from Raging river, lonely trail. I pass into a dreamless sleep, holding Marilyn for strength.
I awake early to see John, pack on back, taking off up the canyon. Hope he makes it back on time for bkfst. Im up with the sun capping the tops of the cliffs, progressing slowly down as coffee, pancakes, and a host of other delights pass our lips and nourish our bodies. The water is still high, hasn't gone down more than a foot or two the whole trip, this is a welcome change from the 10 foot tides we had to deal with in 1975. We have a boatman's meeting and agree to hit it, and get as far as we can into the gorge, maybe even to Zoroaster, below Clear Creek, but secretly, I lust for the Vishnu camp, the biggest and best down there, above Clear Creek so we can do that hike in the morning.
Off on the rio, leading the way into the great unknown, establishing our order, in two waves, of 3 boats each, with the kayaks on their own. The canyon opens up bigtime after the Butte fault and we glide through the broad valley carved on the less resistant layers of the Chuar, with looming cliffs of black basalt of the Cardenas lavas. All related to the late Precambrian 1100 million year ago rifting of the edge of the continent, forming the present Pacific ocean. A few rapids, big waves, nothing much to concern us, Lava Canyon and Tanner Wash, pass and now the unconformity looms above us to the north, capped with Tapeats sandstone, and far off the rim reaching high into the sky. We see a tower with a bend in it above the Palisades of the desert, and I tell Marilyn this is "the Dick with a Crick".
Unkar announces its presence with a roar and towering cliff of sandstone onthe left. We pull right to the landing for Unkar Delta, and start a tour, with the NPS map of Anasazi sites. Immediately there are pottery shards arranged on rocks with the rocks lined up as the base of the walls of small buildings. this was a large community, with over 200 people and 50 or so dwellings. The great new NPS trail and guide tells about each site, and is a mile or so long. We cut off part of the trail and head over to look at the rapid. It looks easy enough, with some minor holes guarding a clear right run. We survey the monster waves and holes next to the wall, and agree we should run right of the mess. We walk back along the shore, dodging the tammies, and climbing over driftwood piles, breaking out in the clear at the boats.
We all agree "its a beautiful day to die" and one by one with hearts beating fast pull out in to the current. It is a strange community above the rapid, slow current in a pool. We drift together, talking of the rapid and other things that take our mind off the danger ahead. Then one by one we dissappear over the edge reappearing far away travelling at light speed. Pete takes one of the small holes and ends up right of the monsters. I fight for position, but the current is pushing left much stronger than I thought. I aim right of the small hole, but a side current pushes me left and before I realize, I am crashing into the hole, filling up with water and riding the current below, taking me much too far left. A world of water rises before me and I realize we are going to go over one of the monster waves, at an angle. I jerk suddenly on the right oar and the boat comes sluggishly around in the nanno seconds before we hit the steep top and miraculously break through. Shit, more biggies below, but we have slid off the side of monster 1 and are full of water, so we slosh through, and soon are laboring right at the bottom, avoiding the potato patch of rocks on the left down there. I flash back to Jim Whitfield, rowing a monster ARTA snout rig and getting jammed between two boulders on the left here. He put his back on the rock, pushed us off, and then fell into the narrowing crack between the boat and rock. I was waiting to see him milled to a pulp, but he exploded out of the water, doing a hand spring on the spare oar, and was back in the seat in a flash, calmly adjusting our line through the rest of the mess below.
Everyone else is through right side up, with yells of delight and relief, and we start down with a search for the perfect shady lunch spot. It appears on the left just above Nevilles rapid, a grassy beach with large cottonwood shade and an overhanging rock in the back. Marith is upset, she has run out of sugar and needs gatorade, we find some and it starts being made, but she is losing it, yelling about why dont we have it? I tell her to take care of herself, and this causes her more anger and she splits. I go back and find her and apologize and we work out a way to get more gatorade. Reo din't pack gatorade for every day, so we have been running on my supply. We agree to try to get some from motor rigs, and have some available every day.
We snooze and relax, but Hance is looming in our minds, and Neville's is just around the corner, so soon we pack up and are out on the rio, thrashing around in Neville's, getting left to avoid the big holes. There is a superhighway there, plenty of room to cruise, so all is well and we drift into the maw of the Shinumo gorge, into the open and then hear the roar, a different throatier sound, more bass, big holes, of Hance Rapid. Marilyn is preoccupied with her decision to walk around or ride through, she gets her wet suit out and struggles to put it on, and is ready to go. I make the long walk to the overlook and join the others there, shaking their heads. I make the run verbally with them; cut just to the left of the big entrance rock, catch the eddys and ferry right until the boat is right of the rocks and holes on the left, then drift down past them and cut left to avoid themonster hole at the bottom. This hole killed a private boater last year in a self-bailer. He went into the hole, and the boat stayed in there for 7 hours, with his foot caught in his cargo net. Cause for great alarm and care and scaredness. George Wendt used to deflate his boat 1/2 way and bump and grind down the left, while saying "you cant flip a wet noodle" a unique attitude.
I agree to lead off, and walk with heart thumping back to the boats, untie carefully and make sure Marilyn is ensconced with her wet suit in front. All line ends are tied down and the spare bucket is clipped to the back of the net, away from me. Rigged to flip, the by word of the day. With slow deliberate motions, I pull away from shore and commit to the rapid. Everything is in slow motion, the approach to the big rock and a perfect cut across, trying not to look at or think about the mess of rocks and holes directly below. Clair had taken me down through there in 89 and hit several huge rocks, and I dont want to repeat that experience.
I pull very hard, perfect right ferry angle into the slick water behind the big rock and out into the fray. The waves are huge, and threaten to slap me off course, kill my ferry angle and send me crashing into the graveyard below. But I pull harder, straining muscles to the utmost, and Marilyn paddles hard, and then I see a sneak in the mayhem below, a thread of clear water and waves devoid of holes or rocks. I let go and we slide down a glistening thin tongue and into some crasher waves, but we pop out and I can see the monster killer hole snapping and growling below. Now back to the left, breathing hard from the exertion, a left ferry in 5-10 foot waves, rowing with care and all my strength, back away from the danger. I realize that we are clear of the hole and let out a scream of joy, drifting through the big stuff down below, trying to catch the right eddy, but to no avail, drifting down below to the eddy on the right, where we bail, then traverse across to the great unconformity, Hotauta conglomerate sitting on the gneiss.
Everyone is elated, chattering about their runs, and laughing and yellng and generally pleased with the outcome. The walls shoot straight up from the river in the most spectacular notch in the canyon. We marvel at little nooks and crannies above and the hanging water fall in the niche below the next canyon on theleft. The roar of Sockdolager rapid drifts up to us, and we beach on the right to have a peek. The big waves are still there, but there is a path right of center that looks good. We watch as the kayakers take on the wave on the left, the monster one, a side breaker. BC slips through with his paddle high, and George has an easy time of it. One by one the rafts take the right sneak and I marvel at the wall of water that greets us as we run the gates of hell. We bounce around in eddys and powerful boils at the bottom, but we are done. I tell BC to go scout out the Vishnu camp. It is late and if no one is there, we'll take it. If a commercial comes down, we can double camp with them, since we were there first. He goes ahead and we drift through the corrodors of time, I am happy to be back here, to me the gneiss with folds and boudinage are the most spectacular part of the canyon.
I watch BC carefully as he almost passes Vishnu camp, and then quickly paddles over and claims the empty beach for us and our camp. We drift down one by one, and tie up, checking out the beach, about 50-100 feet wide backed up by a shear vertical cliff. We explore around, and I hear a shout, "Come over here, you gotta see this". I arrive to find a boarder of rocks around a message written in the sand. "SNAFU enjoy! we love you!". Cool, Marys group had passed through on their way to camp at Cremation, and left the campsite to us!. We celebrate our good fortune with several group pictures. Shower time, I get the shampoo and head upstream to where walter and marilyn are doing the same. Then a session on the boat with Peter and a round of Godka, some wine and the last of the Tequila. Pigout dinner and then an early bed, resting long and calm after our first big water day.
Another shitty day in paradise, we know its goin' to be blasting hot, so up and away early, cruisin' on the rio, taking a quick look at Grapevine, and plunging in far from the rock Clair and Ellie had smashed their boats into. Ellie was in a dory and it took about 2 hours for Darrell to get it patched up. We drift down, soaring walls straight up from the shore, a narrow slit of a sky rimmed with flaggy Tapeats cliffs. Hard to find the route here, but the sand bars are still there at Clear Creek and we pull in and make fast in the eddy. George and several of the rafts head on down to Phantom, phone calls to make and stuff to buy at the snack bar. Pete shaved his head again this morning, repeating the story that the reason he did it in the first place was that he ran out of shampoo. He is off to Phntom to cherchez les femmes.
KK, Marilyn and Walter, Andy and some others make the long climb over the fins of foliated schist and drop down into the canyon. True to its name, a bubbling clear stream, dancing through the rocks, with the canyon carved straight parallel to the foliation. I take notes with the microcassette player, and hike along, crossing the creek, forging through the tammies, climbing slabs of rock, jumping over boulders, finding fragments of trail, wading through pools and climbing some small waterfalls. All in a day's work exploring the side canyons. We finally break into the corridor that leads to an exquisite grotto with a horizontal waterfall, with a cave with dripping ferns behind. We are at once naked, falling into the fall, leaning back against the horizontal jet and getting thoroughly massaged by the jacuzzi action of the water. We cavort and revel and do the side canyon dance, from waterfall, to grotto, to slab to sun, and back again, getting all the different sensations possible.
We sense it is time to head down the rio, so commence the long walk back to the boats. John is there waiting, he is still hurting from his burn, but seems to be feeling better. Aloe vera ointment has taken most of the redness away and the pain is gone. We cast off and prepare for the entrance into Phantom. Actually we will go to the beach up stream from bright angel creek and walk to the phone at the shitters only about .2 miles. Phantom is .5 miles further up the canyon, and not worth the walk. We drift down through minor rapids at Zoroaster and I get caught in an eddy, and everyone passes me up. We enjoy being alone in the gorge, still like a slit in the earth, awesome cliffs and canyons, going up to the sky.
Now the guaging station cable appears then the black bridge with an occasional hiker on it. Signs of civilization, such as it is. We drift into the eddy and beach with the other boats; we are the only ones there, Mary's group must have made their passenger exchange early and then headed downstream toward Crystal. I am anxious to find out about Heather and Brian, so we head off to the phone, carrying water jugs. We find that there is a shortage of water. The flush groovers are closed, and we are not supposed to get water here, but the faucet works, so we do it anyway. We sit around watching people come and go, hikers of various shapes and sizes. A group of Japanese comes by and giggiles because they had seen BC up at Phantom with painted toenails, and George had told them he was gay. This really freaked them out, and we all had a good time with it. We talk with a grizzled NPS ranger who is the caretaker of the water system and he tells us a horror story of 3 breaks in the water line, costing 8 million to repair. Thats why the groovers are closed, and we're not supposed to take their water. I finally get a turn at the phone and call H at home, no answer, so I call Marge and tell her what happened, and she has no idea that H flew out. She wants to know every detail, and I don't have time, so I let her go to find out herself. I call Cindy and leave a message, and finish up my calls. We use a water wagon Moki Mac has stashed behind the shitters to haul the water to the boats, and walk slowly down the creek bed taking pictures of flash flood debris.
Clouds have come over the sun, so we set up lunch on the beach. Pete has picked up a young woman who works at Phantom, and is going to give her a ride down to Hermit, and she will walk out from there. We hang half in the water to stay cool, and to let any stray parts of sandwiches fall into the river. After replenishing the gatorade supply, we peel off and head downstream under the silver bridge with the water pipe carryng the water from the north rim tothe south rim. We glide past King Edward eddy a monster sharp eddy on the right that has trapped many a boat in its clutches. The walls close in again as we hear the muffled roar from downstream announcing the approach to Horn Creek rapid. We gather on boatman's rock, one of many in the canyon, and watch the currents. The jet wave is there bigtime, starting from a dish in the tounge and rising like a sharks fin, and spreading out at the top, in to a beautiful mushroom shape. I want to ride it but it looks big. We watch Pete run to the left of the wave and have an easy time of it. Our turn, drifting again into the still above the chaos, the calm before the storm. I ferry left to get away from the wave and then the current grabs us and shoots us down. It looks like we would miss the wave on the left, but the dish in the surface catches us and sucks us right into the mushroom, crashing through the wave and over the top, and down into the sidecurlers below. We are through before we know it and way downstream, Pete has caught an eddy at the bottom and waits as the others come bobbing through, like little ducks on the water. We yell elated, a great rush to run the wave, something legendary about it, and very asthetically pleasing.
Drifting down again, same old vertical walls, I catch significant geology scenes, the folds and boudinage in the same quartz vein, the outcrop of the Cardenas lavas cutting up through the schist, the major folds framed by a cave on the right, with BC in his kayak dwarfed by the mondo structure. The canyon turns right into a granite wall, and the roar of Granite rapid greets us wafting upstream. Another monster rapid, trying to plaster us against the right wall. We pull in at the camp on the left, and find a group of hikers there, eager for some action. We set up John with the video and check out the waves. One eddy on the right at the bottom is an infamous keeper, motor rigs have derigged there. The waves are a crazy mess of jets and standing waves thrashing back and forth. The word is stay left, after the rocks at the top, and just deal with the chaos of waves crashing back and forth with no apparent pattern. Pete leads and dissappears from our calm pool at the top. I can see him being thrashed about below, but he is upright and in the safety eddy, always in the right place at the right time. I follow, cooking with a momentum move to the left, to cut away from the monster waves. We have a rush of a run, towering waves all around, a fast video game of moving the bow right and left to quarter or full on into the waves. We take on lots of water, and yell our lungs out at the bottom. We catch an eddy way down on the right, We can barely see the other boats coming through, bouncing along. Mark dissappears for a while and Marith joins him in the right eddy, circulating a few times, then they appear, looking relieved to be out of the clutches of the eddy. We pull out into the main current and start the calm drift down stream.
Ninety eight mile canyon with its monster eddy on the left goes by and we see the shadows of Hermit Creek on the left. I am hoping to camp there, and peer anxiously through the binocs to see if anyone is there. I see 2 people on the shore and say "Shit", but then there are no boats, so these must be hikers. I check out the camp and find a nice stairway up to the main camp, and we move in with a human chain moving the kitchen and duffel up to the flat. I explore for a camp and find a beauty across the stream, past a patch of datura blossoms just opening up. We can hear the rapid, Hermit of the big waves, next door, and it is hot. The rocks here soak up the sun during the day, and release it slowly at night, so the temp is 80 at the lowest. The creek is bubbling and after dinner Marilyn and I hike through some brush and find a nice pool, replete with shampoo and bucket so we take a thorough shower in the warm water, and cruise to our nest with the stars tinkling above the frame of cliffs.
Big day ahead, we mush early. Peter is sprawled out in mid kitchen, he was sleeping on his boat and was awakened suddenly by a pull on his bowline and freaked out. John walks by him and mutters, "Homeless, they're everywhere", and Pete doesn't stir. Coffee scene brewing, and a quick bkfst to get us on early. We have a long way to go, to mile 114 camp, and Hermit and Crystal right off the bat. KK and Becka are wet-suited up, two life jackets apiece, ready to swim the big ones. I have done this several times and now my son is up to the challenge.
We are rigged to flip, and wait patiently while Pete gets ready. He isn't usually like this, delaying, he's usually the first on the river. He is the lead boat in the first wave, so we wait, cooling in the river, checking the straps, tightening all points and putting on extra straps for good measure. Pete is freaked, he is still delaying, finally I go up and prod him a little, but he is adamant. "I'm freaked" he says, I say "ok, let's just do it!" Finally he puts his life jacket on slowly, and ever so slowly unties the Havasu and is on the way. I follow at a respectful distance, drifting in the pool slowly toward the wave train of 15-20 footers.
We have studied number 5 carefully and it is a crapshoot with about a 50-50 chance of flipping our boats. It is a towering crashing wave, breaking randomly to the left and right, no real plan, utter chaos. You have to hit it just right, and if it decides to fold over in the wrong way, its a flipper. Pete shoots out of sight down the tongue and I watch as he takes the waves straight on, no effort to avoid the big shit, hes in for the big ride. He appears on number 2, 3, 4, and then dissappears in to the trough for a long time, suddenly shooting like a rocket up the face of number 5 and crashes through the top his whole 17' boat framed in white foam. He does a tail stand, totally vertical, but his weight and momentum carries him through and he is upright, screaming down into the tail waves.
Now I'm gathering momentum, pulling from right to left with a moderate downstream ferry, building a momentum move Moki style. I cross the tongue and hit my line to the left of all the big ones, and settle in to deal with the shoulders of the waves, quartering the bow into the crests, passing a good 10' to the left of the crest of number 5 which collapses violently just as we pass. We shout our joy and relief down the tailwaves and catch the right eddy to watch the rest. KK and Becka swim down bobbing like orange corks, alternately disappearing and reappearing as they break through the tops of the waves. "Breathe when you can, with your upper lip over your mouth to keep the water out", was my last message to them. They bob out happily, shouting and yelling, and climb on board Pete's boat. Now we are all through, bailed and ready to drift on down.
Boucher is a rollicking rollercoaster ride, now nothing occupies my mind but Crystal. Mary's group is camped at Boucher, and they want to discuss camps, but I am headed to Crystal. I shout that we're headed for 114, and they can have Bass. The familiar granite dikes high on the right cliff appear, the mark that Crystal is ahead. The rapid is tucked away to the left, the result of many debris flows from Crystal Creek on the right. Ponderosa pine logs in the debris speak of a violent descent from the heights of the north rim, 10 miles away and 6000 feet above us. Hell of a flash flood! The throaty roar of the hole greets us from around the corner and we tie up in the tammies and take the long walk up to the viewpoint. Several folks, including the kayakers, are down by the rapid, getting a closer look at the raging holes, 3 of them in a row, recirculating waves, certain to stop you dead, turn you and flip you without saying so much as thank you.
In the high water of '83 we were at Dubie downstream and Mondell shouted "look" as a couple of big boat boxes and some jerry cans floated by on the flood. "Western bit the big one at Crystal" he muttered in his characteristic low voice when he is really pissed. "That'll teach 'em to run the hole at Crystal". We were shocked when the naked J-rig caught up to us under tow below Deer Creek, with life jackets and an assortment of boxes on board and no frame. They could't flip the boat right side up even with a helicopter, so they deep 6ed the frame in deep water and headed down stream.
Pete is calmer now, admitting "I was really spooked by Hermit". "That's ok, but now we have to deal with Crystal" I reply. The problem is obvious; you have to enter the tongue on the left, with a severe downstream right ferry angle, cut all the way across the tongue in a big momentum move on a catwalk above hell, and then hit the "Big wave" as far right as possible without going on the rocks. Any way to the left the wave will surf you right into the clutches of the big hole which now looks like 3 big cresting holes in a row. John is doing video, so we arrange our order and I lead off, shaking hands all around and agreeing "its a beautiful day to die". Marilyn is wet- suited up, and we drift slowly, down the interminable millpond above the thrashing white monsters below.
I honk the conch, my release of tension at the top of all big rapids, and head to the left side. There are vertical cliffs on the left, and nothing but a horizontal glistening rim of water below, we are alone, no other boats around, pushing left. in a no mans land of glassy pool with oblivion below. I pivot to the downstream ferry angle and start honking right, I blow my tension out and pull with great smooth strokes and instantly we are cooking to the right, slicing across the current, which now is accelerating to warp speed. The angle, speed and direction of the boat are just perfect and we back into the big wave at the right corner, exactly where I want to be. With a crash and spray of foam, we hit and are enveloped in white. The boat pivots downstream from the impact and we are far right of the big holes, yelling and singing, slipping by the danger. We have time, and a light boat, so I start pulling left, a dangerous maneuver, above the rock garden. I can see the boulders that have snagged many a boat rising above the waves downstream. I can visualise the ghosts of dories, motor rigs and assorted other crafts stranded in this graveyard, with puzzled boatmen trying to figure out how to get them off. Cutting to the left, I avoid some big holes on the far left and point the bow into the big waves downstream. Marilyn bails furiously, I labor into the right eddy, and we breath sighs of relief at our own good fortune, and that of the others who come bobbing down over the waves, alternately appearing and disappearing. BC paddles up and wears a grin "ABC, alive below Crystal" he chortles. John goes back up to get his video cam, Mary's group took film of them running. And times awastin', so I get on current and we head down after shouting for people to miss Nixon rock (a sneaky bastard) smack dab in the middle of the current. I pull hard left, we find a superhighway there, and slide by, headin' to the jewels.
We drift on ahead, far ahead, all alone, cruisin'down the aisle of vertical rock, flowing water and sun. The jewels are a set of rapids named for their side canyons. We remember them by the mnemonic device TASTERS. Tuna, Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby and Serpentine. Ruby is actually ruA, RuB, and ruC, the latter being the rapid before serpentine, which was called "pre-serpentine" until I told Bego that this should be named after the rock serpentine comes from which is peridotite. Now it is Peridotite instead of pre-serpentine in my personal guidebook. The rapids pack a punch and the river moves along rapidly in this stretch, and we make good time, one or two boats visible far upstream. I see that we can make Shinimo Creek in time for a late lunch, and keep pushing on downstream. I hope people see the hole in Serpentine, right top, before it is too late, it is a keeper. I am even surprised by it, and have to crank left to get out of its clutches, a real nasty pourover rock, with a sharp flipper hole downstream. We drift and marvel at the vertical cliffs, the Yosemite like wall below Ruby that Bego climbed in the off season. Big wall climbing in the canyon, man what a crazy thing.
Approaching Bass camp, we can see the metal boat from the film crew that Bass used high on the left bank, then we pass Bass, Mary's group's target for camp, and then pull into the mouth of Shinimo, and row upstream in a slot canyon of gneiss, to an anchorage at the first falls. I go back and post a sign for the rest and then make way upstream over smooth, waterpolished slabs to the thundering falls. It is another shitty day in paradise all over again, out of the sun's relentless rays, tucked into a grotto of green maidenhairs and moss, reveling in the cool of the rushing water. We dive under the falls, climb into the caves, and the thinner of us squeeze through the hole up to the top, jumping off of the high ledge into the crystal pool below. I have the mask and snorkle, and spend time marveling at the beauty of rocks and palpitating light patterns on the bottom. A few trout swim deep, not big enuf to get the rod. The others arrive, Marith mellow, but still upset about the long time before lunch. I gave her a charge of gatorade, so shes doing better now, able to hold off for a late lunch. We repair to the boats and set up the lunch table under a nice overhang, out of the relentless glare. Chicken salad, fruit, which is going bad fast, and a large cooler of gatorade. We logisticize, and decide to go to mile 114 where there are 2 good camps, we will get at least one of them if we head out soon. Who knows who is competing from behind. Motor trips often camp in this stretch because Elves chasm is just down stream. I want to hike Hakatai canyon, as do some others. John takes on the task of finding the camp with guidebook in hand and we head off fighting our way through a crowd of motor boaters who have pulled in at the mouth. They look real funny, each with a different outlandish outfit. The boatmen tanned and lean with necklaces with teeth and rocks and other fetishes, moving smoothly, their passengers slipping and sliding all smeared with oil, all shapes and sizes, sunburned and happy, loving the Grand experience.
On the rio again, must be a good song in that one, we cruise the easy rapids down to Hakatai, tieing up on the sand beach upstream, and feeling the intense heat of the afternoon. The others go on down, and feeling the heat, most potential hikers head down also. Marith, BC, Marilyn and I are the only ones left, and we climb carefully over the river slickened gneiss boulders to the mouth. The high cliff road looks very risky, although I remember it as being an easy climb, so we descend the steps to the very mouth of the canyon and wade through the backwater to the first fall and find an easy route up the ledges to the right. This leads to a slot canyon in the silver schist. A rambling hike up ledges to pass waterfalls and along long reaches of sand and boulders. It is hot, and the wind is cooking down the canyon, more evaporation. We pound down water and gatorade, but can feel the moisture being sucked out of our bodies as fast as we can drink to replenish our fluids. We see the vestiges of layers of graded beds in turbidites, masked by metamorphism to glossy schists, cut by anastomosing kink bands, showing up as dark slashes where the foliation abruptly changes orientation. After a long hike, at least a mile, we come to the parting of the ways. In the canyon a 50' vertical waterfall blocks the way, so we follow the faint path up the left slope and top off on a rocky point with a spectacular panorama of the clefts upstream. We can see the mine in the white rock of the Bass Limestone, fried Bass, I tell my companions. Fried by the hot intruding fluids of diabase, or coarse grained Basalt, changing the limestone to serpentine with the fibrous form of asbestos. This is what Bass came for, a vein of 2-3" fibers of the most fireproof natural material. There was a big market for this before artificial substitutes like fiberglass knocked asbestos out of the running for practical mining profits.
We descend into the cool shade of the valley, noting numerous faults from displacement of the vein, and looking for the camp Bass kept. We climb up to an overhanging boulder and there the remains of Bass' belongings lie scattered around in the shade. An old rusty frypan and coffee pot just like the one we have lie next to a ledge with all the mining tools lined up, ready to use in tomorrow's toil. You could almost imagine Bass, appearing around the corner, coming back from the shitter to stoke up the fire for another meal of beans and coffee and unleavened bread.
It is hot and we are getting more dehydrated by the minute, so off up the trail and down the canyon we go . Marith continues with stories of FOP field trips and songs and tales of geology of the desert. We admire the graded bedding again and find Marilyn where we left her at the mouth of the canyon. She had almost given up hope of our return, and that we had forgotten her and come down some other way and left her to fend for herself. Our presence reassures her. Marith guides us across the high road cliff on an easy rock climb with about 100 feet of exposure. Marilyn does great, a tribute to her having conquered her fear of heights. We slither and slide over the boulders back to the boats and I break out the emergency rehydrating salts from my ammo can, a special blend designed to rehydrate victims of acute dehydration. It tastes awful, like salt and other chemicals, but we pound it down to the very last drop, passing the jug around, and immediatly feel better, ready for another go at the river. Marith rides with us, and BC says, "Dont wait for me, I'll be along in a bit". My envy goes out to him, alone in a kayak in the canyon, a great feeleing of independence, and confidence. But Waltenburg rapid is downstream with a lurking hole or two, should be fairly easy to do at this level, but solo means taking a chance. BC has kayaked the canyon 7 times, so he knows what the odds are, so we drift off, suddenly accelerating into the rapid below and being swallowed by the vast landscape.
Shadows on the river, cool at last with the rapid evaporation from the river air conditioning to 4' above water level. We drift through higher vertical walls, black gneiss here, criss-crossed with granite dikes arranged like a spiderweb etched into the cliff. Really the gneiss came first and the granite later, but here there are several sets of dikes, the younger ones cutting the older ones breaking the cliff up into a mozaic of black gneiss laced with veins of red granite. We admire the art of the rock and forget that we are in a natural canyon, not an art gallery.
The roar of Waltenberg rapid greets us around the corner, and we are set for another rollicking ride. I have been lax in preparing for big water after Crystal, because there is very little danger downstream. This is party time on the boats, time to relax after the tension of the big water of the inner gorge. I tie a few loose things down, and we plunge forward, Marith putting her muscled body hard into her strokes, and moving us along with equal force to the oars. We roll around, slipping past the holes, and bouncing through the tailwaves, laboring through the boils and eddys below and emerging into a different canyon, with the gneiss lowered almost to river level. The motor boaters are camped downstream and our group got the camp upstream, tied into the slick gneiss and polished granite. We beach and unload and prepare ourselves for the evening.
Steak bbq for dinner, and Mark is cooking. Pete is incensed and getting nasty on alcohol, mouthing off about how a vegitarian shouldn't cook steak, and Mark is pissed. He tells Pete to back off, and Pete continues. Finally the Mark and Pete show crowns, he tells Pete very quietly that he won't tell Pete how to cook if Pete doesn't tell him how to cook, in a very mellow but meaningful tone. He gives Pete his steak and tells him to cook it himself. I am getting settled, and Marilyn can't find her belt pack with all her important stuff. I scour the boat for it, and can't find it. She is upset, until KK goes to bed and lies down on the tarp Marilyn has laid out and he finds the pack under the tarp. I read from the Powell, tales of the rapids and cliffs and rocks we have passed. Also from the "Raging river, lonely trail" book a poem about Elve's chasm, our first grotto of the day tomorrow, replete with images of little hooded people dancing in the moonlight. Marith and John pick up the beat and play and sing into the night, and I fade away into the dark and searing heat of the evening, staring at the stars whirling above. George has visited the motor boaters camp below and come back with tales of prowess, how they all got off on his mohawk and his stories of the canyon for 10 days.
Up early to the lightening of the sky and the touch of red on the rims surrounding us. An easy day ahead, canyon exploration and easy rapids, and the duckie is unfurled, KK is in it and off down the river. Mark cooks a scrumptous long bkfst, and we pack it up and move it down to the boats. The labor of the morning pack session is getting to me, bending, stooping, but Marilyn and KK are helping and BC is tying down the front load, making things easier. I look forward to laying over at Stone tomorrow, recalling a great beach and beautiful view far downstream.
I am alone in Lucy as we forge out into the current, and drift down, past the Monument monocline, a great fault and fold combination, and pull in at Elve's, avoiding the motorboaters filling the beach. They are some sight, I haven't run into many this trip, but they are amazed at us, our varied boats and costumes. I now have a big feather in my cap from a raven, picked up in Hakatai Canyon, and a red and white fishing bobber to keep it from sinking if it gets blown in to the water. I am questioned by one of the passengers; "How long have you been running the river?" "Since 1971" I reply, and it becomes obvious that he wanted to know how long we have been on this trip. A boatman says "I was thinking that too, how many years". I realize that it has been 24 years since my first river trip down here and 26 years since I first hiked the canyon. Wow, that is some time. " This is day 10 of 18 on this trip" Murmers of impressedness, and have a friendly camp conversation with the boatmen and head up the creek.
John has the pumping crew hard at work above the first waterfall, and the sqreek sqreek of the shaft accompanies me as I pass up the trail to the chasm of elves. It is pristine, with waterfalls dripping and hanging gardens hanging. The kids immediatly climb behind the falls and jump out. KK and Marith and Andy and Becka naked cavorting on the rocks, our own elves. I show kk the route above the falls, but he is not interested, some other time maybe, the climb to the tapestry wall 3 falls up will be done. I head down with the word to trail down to Blacktail canyon, I am alone in my boat, Marilyn is with Marith and John, and feel the immensity of the canyon, drifting by myself, nothing to do but admire the scenery and do what I want. The beach at Blacktail looms up and I tie up to a sand steak, when along comes some others. I give directions and head up into the slot canyon.
I think of Mike, who died here when a ledge gave way beneath him, and the place takes on a new meaning, a shrine to him, Mike's canyon. I relive the wide-eyed look on his face as his ferry angle in Crystal got killed by a wave on the high water of "83. He cranked totally, and we rode the shoulder of the monster wall of water and got a good look at river hell, 10 fee to the right.
We find the unconformity and study it intently, trying to fit quartz crystals back into their homes beneath the erosion surface. I have the microcassette recorder and impart a long lecture, and Marith is very impressed, bubbling about the monster amount of time missing, and the power that it took to effect this change.
We continue up, John is videoing, and setting up scenes. We top out at the little fall, and return, startled by a reflection of sunlight from a pool on the under side of a dark ledge, stripes of light seemingly from nowhere, shimmering in space projected on the shadowy screen. Hoo hah, we all take a spiritual break and admire the trompe d'oiel nature has provided us. We reluctently leave the cool depths, walking into a blast of sunlight, then guiding the boats down a rock slalom and around the corner into a monster eddy with an equally large shaded beach for a perfect lunch spot. The current in the eddy is tricky and we end up landing upstream in the rocks, Marith has some trouble getting tied up against the current, but soon we are snackin at the base of a cliff, marvelling at the large blocks scattered about us that could have only come from above us high up the cliff face. KK and John are off in the duckie, and everyone else leaves except me and BC. We float down the Conquistadore aisle in scenic splendor, partaking and talking about the canyon and the trip and the river taking us there. Pete wants to head on down to camp, so I tell him to be careful, stop at the top of Dubendorff, and scout the camp below at Stone, to make sure no one is in there, so we can camp above if another private trip is down there. Otherwise we will miss the planned layover hike at Stone creek, a honey of a hike , and worth the whole layover day. He seems to understand, but I send George with him, just to keep an eye on him. I feel uneasy any time someone goes ahead, I know the canyon better than anyone except maybe BC, and I know the logistics. If we miss this one, we will miss the high point of the trip, and I don't want to do that. Still alone, I float the aisle, and rapids down through Fossil, with no boats near, all alone. Then Marith wants to take the duckie alone, and KK comes aboard, and doesnt want to row. We enter the middle Amphibolite gorge, with jet-black rocks all around. The Unconformity rises above us and a narrow gorge closes in. Specter appears after a false start, and consists of major waves and eddys, but soon we pull down and to the right above Bedrock. KK wants to get off and go with Mark, so I let him off and float down. Everyone says come back, looking at the fantastic forms of the Dolls house, a series of arches and potholes 20' deep cut in the granite bedrock. Ive been there done that, and am worried about where Peter finally stopped down below.
Approaching the top of Dubendorff, I see George's Life Jacket on shore, and know that something is wrong. Pete's boat is not here, nor is George's, so they must have gone on down and found someone camped at Stone. Shit, I knew that might happen, well, we are backed up with the camp at the top of Dube. I walk down toward Stone, and George is on his way up, saying that they looked, but couldn't see the camp below, so since they didn't see anyone, they ran the rapid, only to find a private trip tucked in out of sight at Stone. Pete is still down there, so I walk down and find him sitting on his boat, and a bunch of private trippers, very cold and unfriendly and into their own trip. I talk to one guy and he is sitting under a bush, surrounded by the debris of hard partying, and is not receptive to camping with us. So Pete agrees to bring up a bucket for the shitter, which is all he has on his boat. The people want him to take his boat upstream so they don't have to look at it, so he grumbles a bit, and heads off up stream in the eddy. I hike back up .5 miles to the upper camp and people are fanning out, George has already spread the word we are camping here. A narrow riverside camp in the tammies with some great perches right next to the river to provide some relief from the heat. I stay on my boat and relax with some Godka. Pete comes down, "Vodka for the poor" he prays, and I give him a dram for his pain and suffering.
Well we are settled in with a good shot at Stone tomorrow, a great hike. The clouds are coming in, so the tents go up. Marilyn sets hers up in a jiffy at our camp next to the river downstream at the mouth of Galloway canyon. Dinner is humming as I get back to the kitchen, and we have another feast, chicken bbq and all the trimmings. We are all tired, so after a few songs, I retreat to our pallet on the sand, the white noise of Dubendorff filling in the gaps of my conciousness.
Another shitty day in paradise, and this one for the first time in more than a week we don't have to pack up, load up tie down, all we gotta do is play, hike Stone and do all the other things one does with a free day in the Canyon. It takes a while to get lunch packed and organize people for the day. I am out on my boat, getting set, and a Hatch trip comes down, and I see Mondell's blonde ponytail flaming at the helm of number 14, I yell at him and he says "see you down below" . Shit I missed him, but soon George comes up and says he is camped below with his group and is doing a day up Stone also, great, we will interact. I step it up and leave camp ahead of the others, to make a visitation. The other private trip is slowly getting ready to cruise, their debris still scattered around the camp. Mondell has moved in on them, and his passengers are setting up camp. We have the strong greeting of old friends on the river, the brotherhood of boatmen, of meeting fear during the high water of '83 when we spent 14 days on the rio together with an excerinque crew, at 70,000 cfs. I met Mike on that trip, and Mondell and I talk about old times, I introduce him to KK, who is impressed. I meet his passengers, a group of alums from Colorado school of mines, all geologists, oil types, with their families. One guy has an excess of gatorade, so I hit him up for that.
Mondell is heading out with his hikers, so I go along to the first waterfall, and wait for the rest of my crew. They show up one by one, Marilyn all decked out for a serious hike/run up the canyon. I talk to one old dude with Mondell, and he is Robert Weimer, one of the deans of Colorado Geology, an emeritus prof at CSM, and we have a great conversation. I ask him if he knew Wally Cady, he was an old friend it seems, so I tell him John, his son, and Marith are with us, and his eyes light up. I take a bite powerbar from the sock, and settle down to enjoy the day.
The crowds from other trips start arriving, and it gets very busy. Pete is performing for the young women there, so we beat a hasty retreat away from the crowds. The trail climbs precariously up over weathered diabase cliffs and up to the fried Bass, marble from the heat of the diabase sill that intrudes the section here. We surmount the first cliff, and have a great view down into the narrow canyon below, replete with dozens of waterfalls. This is waterfall heaven, more than I can count. My powerbar kicks in and I am flying, lightly treading over the cacti and rocks. Every pool beckons and it is hot. I pull over at a likely looking spot with a waterfall and pools and slide into the cool depths, my mind making circles around the beauty, the coolness, and Walter and Marilyn join in the fun. We end up floating in a great pool, feeling weightless, tingly and very high on the experience. Pete shows up and he has a powerbar, and soon we head up the trail. I hear footsteps behind me, going fast, and thinking it is Marilyn I turn on the steam, almost running up the trail. I hear heavy breathing behind, not Marilyn's sound, and turn around, and there's Pete, cooking up the trail behind me. Shit, Im trying to outrun Pete! well I let him go by and take in the beauty and relax.
The trail makes its way across a monster debris flow, I'm starting to recognize these things easily with the tutelege of Marith. This is one of her specialties. Big boulders, moved in an instant from miles up the canyon. The power and scope of the process is awesome, in the true sense of the word. I spy another waterfall, and take another cooling shower, say a few words into the microcassette recorder, and set it down on a rock. Marilyn and Walter arrive and we cavort in the water for a while, taking in the scene, getting higher and higher. I look up and notice the clouds are coming in, and its getting cool, just what we need for what usually is a long hot hike. I lead on above the falls and soon recognize the trail leading up to the right past the next waterfall and cliff. This stopped us in 1975, but I have been up here a few times since, and follow the high road. Soon I am scaling the Shinumo quartzite cliffs and cruising along the ledge leading to the upper canyon, on a catwalk above the depths below. I see Pete and some others below, and yell at them to come up this way. KK has gone straight up the cliff of the fall, intercepting Mondell and his crew above. "That's a unique way of getting up here" is Mondells comment.
I am high above the canyon now and can look up and see the slot canyon of the Shinumo above. The twin towers of Mordor are down canyon, the rounded turrets look like bulbous towers of a mosque, add a touch of mysticism to the scene. I see another falls a little off the trail, and immerse myself, cooling off and becoming one with the flow. Soon Pete, Marilyn Walter, John and Marith join in, and we cavort some more in the cascading water. Back to the pack, now one strap is broken, Pete looks at it and says "easy fix" and ties the strap to the defunct belt loop and I am looking through the pack for the microcassette recorder, and not finding it. Shit, my heart sinks, I'd better not tell Marilyn, she'll be upset, a second time lost. I gotta pay attention to things, hard to do up here.
We scale some cliffs and are back on the trail again, in the creek. Pete lies down in the creek and finds some pink roots of a plant and puts them over his head like pink hair. We all go crazy with laughter and glee. I take a picture and "I'm glad I'm here becomes the theme song of the day. We are closing in on the ultimate slot canyon, up ahead the cliffs are closing in. I hear a shout and look high up in a cave on the left and there is King KK, sitting on a throne, surveying his domain. Finally I close in on the final steps up over the boulder and into a slot grotto, 20 feet wide and 500 feet straight up on the sides to overhanging cliffs of Shinumo and Tapeats. The falls is a steep cascade which has carved a funnel on the rock of the cliff. It is full of people from other trips, so we wait them out, and soon they are gone. The sun bathes the slot for only about 1 hour of the day and as soon as they leave, it hits the creek and we are warm and toasty. We munch some of John's power bar and cruise up into the falls. Pete finds that with his shaved head he can stand under a dripping fall and the drops spraying out catch the light creating thousands of tiny rainbows. We all try it, and come away having seen god. Walter has eased in on a rock, with his towel made a bed and is generally relaxing, reading. I nap next to him, determined to bring a towel on my next trip. We cavort naked, now that the commercials have gone, and partake of our supply of food and powerbars to stimulate the mind and body.
But our minds turn to thoughts of the long trail down, about 5 miles to the river, and soon we make preparations to leave. I tell Marilyn about the cassette recorder, so we determine to make a stop at that falls. The clouds have come in and the wind is blustering, I hope it didn't blow our tent away, we emerge from the canyon to spectacular vistas of sun and shade on rock miles and miles of rock. The wind dehydrates us, and we pound down more gatorade, and partake in a few waterfall cooling episodes enroute. It is a hard trail and I am getting tired, so slow down the pace and take many rest stops. We reach the waterfall of the microcassette and it is nowhere to be found, shit, I can only hope someone picked it up and gave it to another one of our group, or to Mondell.
We pass the cooling spots of the day, and then over the cliff down to the river and to Mondell's camp. He is rustling up dinner on a great Hatch kitchen setup, and we talk of the river and the day. Someone brought the microcassette player to him, and one of our people took it back to camp. The big news is that their second boatman was sitting on their big motor rig and looked up stream to see a tent running Dubendorff rapid! He fired up the rig and went out and pulled it out of the water and rescued a waterproof bag full of gear. It belonged to BC, and blew into the river from the wind. We talk some more, but he is getting dinner on, and we are anxious to see what other damage the wind has wreaked on our camp.
We arrive to find Bill rescuing his tent which had blown about 50 meters across the debris flow. Marilyn's tent is lying in a shambles with poles stickingout every which way. We set it up again and all is recovered. Back at camp, BC tells his story of setting up the tent on a nice little ledge above the river, weighed down by his bag,and some rocks, only to see it heading downstream after a 50 mph gust ripped through camp. Blue had warned us about this one, but there we are. George had watched the water being blown vertically back up the lower falls, and had run back to camp and knocked all the tents over to save them. BCs was already running the rapid when he got back. The tent has a big rip in the floor, and he is missing a small bag with his wallet and meds in it, but all is recovered, including the microcassette player. I make up some Godka, and Pete is after some like flies on shit. He can sense when the therapy box is being opened, and is there with his cup out "Vodka for the poor" he begs. and is fulfilled. I have heard that he is hurting because he has lost a crown on one of his teeth. He says its ok, I'll just use ibuprofin. I tell him we have Vicodan, but he can't drink if he takes it. "F... that" he says and goes off to fix up the groover. He brought a bailing bucket and the seat up with him from his boat, and we are shtting in that. He will transfert the doo doo into a rocket box back at his boat when we leave camp.
We are settling down to another awesome meal, when an old man with a cane and a bag of ice-cold beer and pop shows up. It is Robert Weimer, coming to say hi to John and Marith. It is almost dark, so he doesn't stay long, but we are all impressed that he came the rough 1/2 mile just to greet old friends.
Marith tunes up again and we sing into the night, and fall asleep exhausted and aching from a 10 mile hike in paradise.
Another shitty day in paradise, this is getting repetitive, but it is true. We pack, eat and head off, hitting Deubendorff first thing, getting very cold. Mondell is long gone, he's going to do Tapeats Creek-Thunder Falls bakin' hike today, hellaceous hikers them. We drift down the long corridor to Tapeats and catch the small eddy to find it full of boats, commercial OU oar trip with monster boats. One boat woman is there and BC is asking about his bag. She fishes into a locker and pulls out the very thing BC was asking about, found in an eddy by these people and retained because it looked important. The TL is there too, pentultimate Grand boatman with a necklace of teeth and feathers, he is smart, kicking back under an umbrella while the less smart are frying their brains up the canyon, headed for the nirvanah at Thunder Falls.
We kick back and take a short hike up to the gates of the gorge, black towering walls of basalt broken in vertical columns and there's gotta be trout in there. I rig up and catch one at the mouth and head upstream in search of the big one. I get to the group at the gates and hang for a while, plying the current with various lure, finally hooking one small one. I surmise thats the general size we are going to find, and keep it. Down at the mouth again I catch another one. Marilyn approaches, struggling in the water and it seems she wants to go. So we are off, again into the fray, Tapeats Rapid and past Helicopter eddy, where boats get stranded at high water and destroyed.
We slide smoothly into the mouth of the lower middle Granite gorge, pink Zoroaster walls juttimg up to the sky. The others have pulled over into the Christmas Tree cave and we follow suit. After a complicated tie in and struggle up the steep gully, we emerge into the huge cave, collapsed under the foliation and several dikes of Zoroaster holding up the ceilng. I take a picture of the Christmas tree formation and then marvel at the cave's formation and size as the kids scale the walls, hanging from the ledges and generally providing great entertainment.
We engage in the great pastime of talk about the canyon, the history of fractures and the cause of the cave and are very relaxed when a deep throated "Thwap" echos loud and clear up from the river. Only one thing makes that sound in my experience, the bursting of a tube on a big raft. Chills run down my spine as I yell, "what was that?" and I crane my neck from a ledge to see my raft riding high and dry, and all the others too. KK has thrown the duckie from a ledge and then jumped into it. Great idea, and now I know another thing that sounds like a bursted tube. Thank god, we sigh and slide down the grassy gulch to the impossible knot where the boats are all tied together. We get untangled and drift one by one out into the current, Deer Creek bound.
Time to play again! Now under a 200' high waterfall with a river's worth of water pouring over. We tie up alongside several motor rigs, and I overhear the honcho making a comment about "SNAFU, you know what that means?" obviously knowing the stories of our trip. I head up to the falls, rod and reel in hand and am immediatly hauling in trout after trout, and adding them to the string. I bring the mask and snorkle, and KK tries them out in the pool under the thundering falls, a sheet of water falling free 200' from the Tapeats high above. Mark borrows the rig and hooks another good trout, these are the most tasty ones on the canyon, and we plan a great snack of fried trout before dinner.
time for lunch, and we repair to an overhang in the cliff; shelter from the fall's spray, munching on great sandwiches and pickles and cookies, yum. John is pumping downstream in the clear stream, the Katdyn filter giving us the staff of life, clean water. I bypass the task to the boats and gather together goods for the hike into the Deer Creek gorge. Many beauties await us there and I wanna get on the road, so I do, up over the ledges under the p.i. bushes and traversing the ledges up to the overlook. Now I can look straight down onto the boats in the eddy and across at a motor trip, gone into camp, ferrying the passengers across to the falls. I realize they are probably headed up this way, so I determine to seek the upper falls in the gorge in solitude and head off.
I am alone, Walter has gone before, and BC and KK intent on the source spring and its falls high up toward Surprise Valley. I am content to cruise the main canyon, fantastically layered in red and brown Tapeats, with glimpses down to the falls and pools of the deep slot canyon below. I check out the handprint-pictographs under the ledge, thoughtfully indicated by an arrow in the dust of the trial. I find the upper falls abandoned, and settle in, settng up a bed on a ledge, with tshirt and pack for a pillow, next to the most perfect waterfalls and cascade. Walter comes and takes a picture of me, streached out and John is doing video. Marilyn comes down from upstream and lolls in the sculptured creek bed, looking more beautiful than the total scene, arms extended, rolling in the pools like a nymph.
We agree that the clouds are collecting and head down, spending time at the hand imprints, taking pictures of Marilyn jogging the trail through the canyon. I make a note to bring my climbing rope next time because I can see the route down into the slot gorge below. At the overlook, we burst onto the canyon scene with rolling thunder clouds, and threatening winds. We face the gale and head down to the boats, pushing off one by one into the racing current, with a downstream wind, blowing us down current. Thunder rolls, lightening flashes and I crank up the volume on the stereo with Jackson Browne "Thunder and rain" echoing in the canyon as we race past all the camps, Mondell with his folks, and other commercials, wondering who are those crazys playing music and screamng down the river at this late hour. KK is in the duckie, enjoying the great canyon from a miniscule perspective.
Flying downstream, we drift the long corridors leading to "lower Marble" as I call it, the same stratigraphy as in Marble canyon, with the Muav at river level, and the towering cliffs of Redwall, Supai up to the Kaibab above us all. I am worried about Pete and George, they headed out before us, looking for Kanab Creek. We find them tucked in at the river landing, and Pete says there is a better camp up stream and carries me there to check it out. Other parties have slashed a small camp out of the tammies, and I am not impressed, but soon am very impressed by a narrow trail that leads to an expansive sand bar with many great sleeping places. We make the decision to camp here and tie back some more tammies to honor Martin Litton, who used to burn them at every opportunity. It is getting dark fast, but chef Mark is set, and we bbq pork chops, cook a mountain of food, and I fry up the trouts for appetizers. We are exhausted, and Marilyn and I find a remote camp half way down the bar away from snake country and I spread out the tarp. She gets lost coming back in the dark, and I guide her back to the trail. Back at camp, someone has found a rattler, and all attention is focused on this rascal, tucked away under a tammie trunk. George is freaked, "we have to move camp" he insists, but cooler heads prevail, after all this is our planned second layover camp, and it is a dandy one, close at hand to the mighty mysterious Kanab Creek canyon. We had gone up here less than a mile in 1975, so now is the time to explore. Tales of a great grotto and falls up the canyon echo in my mind as I drift off to the roar of the rapids and the castle turrets of the cliffs around our happy home.
Another layover day! Sleep in! great joy and anticipation of things to come up the canyon. I luxuriate around camp and let Marilyn forge the path to the others. I arrive ready for a day of it, the sock is ready and so are we. After a quick bkfst, sitting around planning the day, it is time for a powerbar. George is upset, he wants to go several miles down to Olo and camp away from the rattlers, but he is outvoted by me. This is the major layover we planned, and an unknown canyon awaits us, with rumors of grottos and waterfalls lying upstream. The only rattler is safely curled away for the day under a tammie trunk next to the trail to the sleeping places, and as long as we don't bother him, he won't bother us.
BC and Peter are roaring, they have analyzed the food situation. Someone left the main remaining food cooler ajar with a piece of the burlap sack covering it stuck in the cover when we laid over at Dubie, and all the ice is gone! They have hacked a trail through the tammies to access the cold water of the main river and buried 2 bailing buckets full of the remaining stuff that needs to be cool and covered them with burlap and tammie bushes. It is a Vietnam scene getting to the cache, and we all check it out. BC gives a hilarious presentation of the facts of the situation and the solution, as if he were giving a presentation to a business meeting in the high halls of corporate tension. We all agree they have served their purpose and BC is allowed to resign from the post of Food Uberlord.
Time to head off. Some are ensconced on bars in the creek near camp. George and John have set up camp under an overhang covered with dancing spiders across from our main camp. BC is giving kayak rolling lessons in the warm creek, and we are anxious to go exploring. Marilyn, Peter and I head off, cutting through a cactus forest each with a succulent bud on top, colorful red dots on the landscape. We immediately see this is a different kind of canyon, low gradient, wide, still with soaring cliffs. The size of the bed load is smaller, we notice immediately because it sticks in our sandles and lodges under our feet, making things very uncomfortable.. Powell left the canyon by this route at the end of his second expedition, brought out by pack train from Kanab, 90 miles to the north. It is like a highway compared to Stone Creek or Deer, and we make good time, flying along, feeling the energy and being fed by the beauty of it all.
We round a major sweeping bend and find BC, KK and others lying in a long pool of clear warm water, surrounded by cliffs. KK says"primordial soup", he's got my sense of humor, um de loo lah! (praise the lord in arabic). We slide into the soup, and are immediatly transported back to the womb, and we can't leave. Conversations are becoming increasingly disjointed, and everything seems very significant and at the same time, directions of thoughts grab hold of us and we are soaring in concepts and theories and we end up with the Greeks, the wax and feather wings story of Prometheus, brings on a discussion of hubris, the concept of being taken by oneself into the space of being better than you are. It has a nice ring, so I say out loud "Hubris", drawing it out into a canyon yell, and it echos off the walls and feels very good. I try it again "Heeeeeuuuuuuwwwwwbbrissssssss" at top volume , with great gonging echos feeding on the walls and running into and across each other until they tail out. I can't stand the silence, and develop this into a major canyon yelling session, until John moves his chair downstream and people start to move away from me. What a cathartic sound, it feels as if my inner soul is projecting outward and mingling with the cliffs and towers around us. Finally I calm down, Peter, BC and KK have left, Marilyn, Walter John and I continue on one by one, stopping at times to admire the wares the canyon has to offer. Marilyn stops to sketch, I continue at my own pace, wandering the bars, looking for scraps of paths in the sand, and long curved ledges of Muav Limestone for a sidewalk
The canyon closes in, I find a catwalk on Muav ledges 1/2 mile long along a sweeping bend. Looking down into long pools, reflections emerge against a background of immersed boulders and monster catfish lazily turning in the tepid water. Walter and I walk along sandy bank and study the flash flood deposits in layers high above the normal creek bed. These must have been monster floods, with boulders feet in diameter. I find pebbles wrapped with grass jammed into cracks above the ledge. An unusual sight, formed by a more recent flood, at least 20 feet above the creek. We keep a wary eye on the sky, no clouds yet, but we will watch to see if thumpers build up in the afternoon as they did yesterday.
Travertine dripping with water and hanging gardens appears upstream and we take the opportunity to fill water bottles and climb into the dripscape to get cool. We marvel at the intricate rock formations, similar to the Sharksmouth cliff on the Stanislaus River in California, where we cut our teeth on the river and developed our abilities to follow the paths into places like this. Now we are running out of steam, and Walter finds a nice slot in the canyon with pools and sand and we snooze, taking a load off our bodies and doin' a siesta thing as all sensible things do in this environment. We munch on munchies and continue our rambling conversations..
Marilyn arrives, always doing her thing and catching up in due time. She wants to continue on, and I join her, trying to find the mythical side canyon with the waterfall. The map isn't much help, there are a million bends in the canyon and each one looks like the last before the canyon. The canyon is narrrower now and choked with house-sized boulders with a steep gradient. This must be a great rapid during the flash floods, I wonder if anyone has ever run this one! We meet up with Pete, BC and KK descending and it is another 1/2 mile to the canyon, and I am out of steam. They tell tales of "Whispering falls" in a grotto with hanging gardens. Been there, done that, Marilyn and I turn and head down, resting with Walter at his spot, then carrying on down the canyon many weary miles to camp.
We arrive to find Mark rustling up dinner and Pete finished with all the hot water for the shower. He has a great setup with 4 oars set through holes in one of his frame plywood pieces, and a big hole in the middle for the sunshower nozzles. I bath in the ice cold river and make the scene at camp, weary and satisfied with our accomplishments. It is still hot, and we sit around after dinner and sing with Marith and finally head off to our camp to sleep with the roar of the rapids in our ears.
We discuss the schedule over bkfst, and finally decide to get as far downstream below Havasu as possible, then a medium day the next to Cove, above Lava, then Lava the next day, then a long 25 mile day to Pumpkin spring and out early the last. There are some moans about a 25 mile day, but at 20k we should be in good shape if we don't dwadle and hit the rio early.
I am tieing down the load, in memory of G's flip in Upset last time, and suddenly there is a roar in the air and the NPS helicopter appears, banks, and lands on the sand bar below camp. I am pissed, yelling at the chopper "go away, we don't want any!" and telling Marilyn that the only reason they would land would be for an emergency or to take someone with a family emergency out there. I am shaking with the thought that something has happened to Heather or my parents. Marilyn and everyone else hotfoots it up through the trees to the chopper, and I stay behind fuming. Marilyn comes running back "wrong number! wrong number!" she yells to me, I am still shaking. The last thing I need now is another helicopter in my life. They were looking for another party, 5 blue boats and a dory, obviously not us, and wanted to know if we'd seen them. Shit! Scare the crap out of us to ask directions in the canyon! They can find people by flying along the canyon, they don't need to ask us! We tie down the last of the loads and drag our boats across the sand bar and out into the rapid, running a rocky slalom on the right to get into the waves, coasting the 1/2 mile to the bottom in minutes.
We slide by Olo, with a rope fixed in place now to climb. A huge flash flood has come down since 1975, and the sand level is much higher. Rumor is that someone fell off the top of the rope recently and was evacuated with a pelvis dislocation. Don Briggs tells the story later that a friend had seen that a flash flood had dumped a pile of rocks right at the base of the rope, and he moved them 2 weeks before the fall to prevent injury. We climbed a painter's ladder in "75, and spent a great morning exploring the slot canyon above. Now no time, we glide on, the high water carrying us swiftly to Matkat. We all tuck in the entrance as I described in our morning meeting, and soon are embarked up the Muav narrows toward the rooms above. I want to duplicate a picture of BC I took in '75, bridging the canyon, so we start up the creek bottom, and reach the first waterfall. One by one we do the tricky move up, but I go brain dead in the middle of my move, and my foot slips on the algae and I fall, my head hitting the solid rock with a thwack! and I see stars and sit for a while with Pete holding me. "I dont think I'll chance it up there" I say to Pete and we walk out toward the climb to the high road.
Marilyn and Bill meet us as we walk back toward the river and I tell my tale. Marilyn decides descretion is the better part of valor, and joins me scrambling up the exposed ledges to the high trail, a catwalk in places with cliffs on both sides and echos of the voices of the canyon rats below. I hope no one else has any trouble, the risk of injury seems high here, much higher than 20 years ago. The rooms open up and soon we are cavorting in the cathedral, with a trickling creek and warm pools, deep shade under soaring overhangs and a place to worship the creator of the canyons. Marith and Mark find little pools to lie in, I play the recorder amplified by the echos, and John videos everything. I am snoozing when I hear the rumble of thunder, and look up to see clear blue sky. Mark shouts from below, he has found a ledge with a hollow underneath and he and Pete are rolling boulders around on it creating a booming, crashing noise just like thunder. A new play place! Soon all are joined in the frolic, creating a thunderstorm worthy of Paul Bunyans bowling alley.
One by one the others emerge from the depths, having seen god in the slot
canyon of Muav. We are just ready to relax more when George appears, very
agitated, and tells a tale of Bill having dislocated his shoulder in a fall
in the very place I had my mishap. Adrenalin soars and we pack up. I have
no whistle, it is attached to my life jacket, but Marilyn's is secured to
her bra, so I give 3 toots and soon people appear from the upper canyon. Marith
comes up "I hope that's just time to leave the canyon". I tell her what happened
to Bill "Oh shit, not again!" is her response. We hurry down to find a group
at the bottom of the canyon on a broad ledge assembled around Bill. I come
up and take a look and say "Some people will do anything to get out of running
Lava!". I look carefully at his shoulder and observe a big bump on top of
his right one. "Well, another one of the bump brothers!" I exclaim. "You have
an AC separation". Bob and George disagree, "This is an arm socket shoulder
dislocation and we are going to reduce it!" The kayakers have done this before,
and are eager to do it again. I disagree and tell them I had the same injury
from a mt biking accident 4 years ago, but to no avail. The difference in
treatment is major. A dislocation endangers nerves and ligaments and is a
sure evac. An AC separation is a no-brainer,pain for 4-5 days, then physical
therapy to rebuild the muscles for 6 weeks; no point to evac, we have vicodan
pain killers and Bill is already doped up on them. The kayakers want to have
their way though, and are convinced that it must be treated as a dislocation
and nothing I can say will convince them. They rehearse the motion on George
and then lay Bill down to great groans and shouts of pain to no avail. I refuse
to get upset and swim out to the mouth of the canyon to flag down a motor
rig to see if there is a doctor on board who can back my diagnosis with some
certainty. I sit for a half hour, and no one comes by, finally Mark comes
out and I tell him to go down to Havasu and wait for us, ask if there is a
doctor in the house, and if needed there is a helicopter pad there and we
could get Bill out if he wants to go.
One by one, people emerge from the slot and I talk to Bill. The attempted reduction did little good for the pain, and the bump is still there. I push on it and it is mushy, whereas the other shoulder is solid, confirming my diagnosis. Bill is still unconvinced, and we bundle his arm up in a sling and head off down the rio. The water is moving us cooking downstream. I say to the others we should look at Upset, but it is washed out and we run on through without looking.
BC paddles by, and I say "Go catch up to George and make sure he doesn't do something crazy, like call a chopper when we don't need it". He cranks up and paddles off around the corner. conversation
In '75 we ranUpset at Sunday low water, a cool day with no football games on in Arizona, so the power gates of Glen Canyon shut down. The days of tides, seemingly gone at least for now. Walter and G had been fighting about the boat they were sharing, Walter had bought it for the trip, and G had joined at the last minute. I had assigned him to Walter's boat thinking he had more experience. He had experience, but not the ability, and he had been developing a mental condition of inferiority on the way down. He was not universally liked, and regarded generally as a pain in the ass. When we arrived at Upset, we all went down to look at the raging hole and the narrow passage on the right. It looked easily doable, if you got momentum crossing the tongue, a major Crystal move. The hole was awesome, a 4 foot pourover with a backwash fully 100 feet below carrying water at freight train speed upstream into the hole. I took a long look at this obvious danger and turned to call the boatmen together and to my amazement saw a boat in the tongue, headed right for the hole. G had decided to go ahead and run it, with no conference, and was ignoring Walter's pleas to get right. Boatman's ego, I call the condition. The reaction to someone else telling you how to run a rapid is to run it any way but, even though it is obvious where you shouldn't be. Walter was in his face, yelling at him all the way to the edge of the pourover, where he had to hang on for dear life as they entered the hole. They made it through, but got caught in the backwash below and shoved solidly upstream into the hole and flipped slicker than owl snot. Walter took the longest to come up, and the three floated downstream with Ladd in hot pursuit in his kayak with the first aid kit. They were all right, but when the boat was righted, Gs ammo can was in two pieces, tied insecurely with parachute cord, it had flopped around int he water and come open, dumping Gs camera, lenses car keys and Willy's hilarious journal of the trip into the river to become bed load. Barbara had snagged his film, floating in a plastic bag full of air. Walter's climbing rope was gone, as was Gs ego, He hiked out the next day at Havasu and beat a hasty retreat back to California after paying a locksmith $50 to open his VW at GC Caverns. SNAFU, such are the memories of '75 trip, and more seem to be in the makings of this trip.
We glide past the old camps; Ledges, Last Chance, Last Last Chance, and finally see the bulge of the cliff above Havasu. I round the corner to find a gaggle of oar boats, tied to a common stake, with little room for us. After some tense moments, we get ties into a high piton and prepare for lunch. The only place in the shade is a tiny ledge and John and Marith think it unsafe, so we fry in the sun getting the food, while various would be MDs examine Bill's shoulder. A boatwoman takes one look and pronounces it a dislocation; I show everyone the test I have devised to prove it is a separation, and explain that I have had the injury myself, but she is unconvinced. Another passenger comes up, and she is a masseuse. She does my test and agrees with me, trying to explain to the boatwoman, but to no avail. It is very tense, so I take my mask and snorkel and Marilyn and tell Bill that I am convinced it is ok to stay if he wants, but it is his decision. If he goes out he can drive Mark's truck down the the river and save him the cost of a shuttle. I tell him to call Marge and try to find out what Heather is doing, as we have had no word.
We flop across the raft of rafts and into the blue-green waters of Havasu. The current is strong at the mouth, but we make it into the pools upstream exploring with mask and snorkle the Henry Moore sculptures of under water boulders and ledges covered with feathers of travertine. We are in another world, no injuries, no helicopters, just the beauty of the canyon. After catching the eddy on the far side of the falls, we battle the current across and climb out on the rocks and enjoy the canyon, hiking up aways, running into other trips, in their outlandish garb, we must look equally strange to them. By now everyone has adopted a canyon costume, the lean tanned boatmen in their tevas, worn shorts and beaded necklaces and baseball hats, the passengers in all kinds of stuff, colorful and finally practical, having tried out muu muus, bikinis, long pants, etc. I have on my standard garb: Alp sandals with waterproof high socks underneath to pad my feet, bathing suit under long shorts, the silk long-sleeved shirt that has been on the whole trip and the bear "courage" sign t-shirt bought on the res in 1991. My battered Moki Mac hat has a fly in it, and one long raven feather. The mask and snorkel drip from around my neck, ready for a further plunge into nirvanah pool. We talk to some of the other privates and head on upstream to partake of the first likely looking unpopulated pool, and find it, content to cavort here and not do a mondo hike to Beaver or even Mooney this trip. The accident has taken time and we are now in late afternoon, time to head into camp. We head down to the boats along the high road, past the first ocotillo in bloom, a sure sign of the lower canyon.
Bill has told George to radio for the helicopter, he is hurting and still thinks he needs to get to the hospital to be checked over. George, his sons and Becka stay to help, with the signal panels set out for a landing. I organize the troops for the run to camp, and we are off, down the small rapid below, drifting through lower Marble, vertical walls reaching to the blue sky. We find Mark, he has been cooling his heels in the shade a mile below Havasu, having missed the entrance and thinking that the helipad was downstream. Our first bighorn, a dead one, is plastered to the rocks above his shelter, mute evidence of the hard life in the canyon.
Lookin' for a camp, the lower ledges is taken by a large commercial group, and we push on, scanning the banks for home. No camps noted along here in Stevens' guidebook, but Andy and I spot a long grassy bar on the left with some overhangs and sandy spots. We land and find little room to spread out, but with a few pieces of rope, the large branching tufts of grass become small vertical haystacks, and we have reasonable room to set up our kitchen and living room. "Not Larry Stevens' camp" I name it in honor of one of the few things he missed in his guidbook. BC paddles up and says "You were right Terry, an orthopedic surgeon materialized magically on a hiking fishing trip and checked Bill's injury out and said it was an AC separation, type B, and there was nothing we could do about it" Bill was upset but the helicopter was in the air, and he had to go. Andy and John are upset, so we drink Bill's last bottle of tequila in honor of him, slide the bottle into the river, "If Dad can't run lava, at least his tequila can!" Andy says. Now he is the one who has to run Lava, with little boatman experience. "We'll look at it, but it should be easy. If not, I'll run the boat through" I volunteer, knowing that Andy will feel great once he is through.
Evening comes quickly, with more great food and showers and songs and tired emotionally and physically. Marilyn and I make our bed on a sand beach with the water lapping at our feet as far as possible from the base of the cliff. The overhang has too many recent rock impacts, and unless it is going to rain, I see no reason to be in danger of a ledge dropping on our heads. We watch the stars swirl and listen to the quiet gurgling of the river, no rapids near here, so no roar or even whisper of rushing water, a first on this trip. I recall the evening spent drifting the river here with Gary Bolton in 1977, pitch dark heading to camp at National after a day's hike to Mooney Falls. Chris had started in on the mad scene from MacBeth just to add some dimension to the experience. We ran rapids in the dark, Gary saying "Let's not use the flashlight unless we have to", and making it to camp just as the others were lining up for supper.
A long day ahead, we rise early and follow the routine, Peet's followed by cowboy coffee. It is obvious now we have too much coffee, like Powell it was the only thing they had left. But we have plenty of food, having to throw out mounds by the day, but better too much than too little down here. We peel out into the quiet current, Marith lagging in the duckie, keeping tabs on the late boats. We gain National, and are alone in our trek up the broad flash-flooded mouth and into the narrows. We spend a great cool time tucked into the grotto with water sprinkling all around, diamond crystals in the sunlight, and awestruck gazes and slowly getting in touch with the exquisite beauty of it all. My poster of Donna Cattoti's hangs at home a reminder of this place and our mutual great friend Pat, who passed on in the Vegas airport after the 2nd dories trip. Anurism, unforseen, and deadly, on top of a perfect canyon journey, what a way to go out.
We return to the river and follow alone down to Fern Glen, where a shady tammie lunch spot awaits, and find that Marith has scored some beer. Really she found 3 cases of beer stashed in a plastic bag in the rocks just below camp. Wow, what a find, we down a few and revel as the cool liquid courses down our throats and anesthesizes our senses. Now the Lava stories start in ernest, "Remember that time we got hosed in the left run? Shit! and Wanda got eddied out above the black rock! Man, at 75k it was a wash with the black rock a pourover" and on and on. The first timers are getting edgy, but I reassure them, all I've heard is that it is an easy run to the left now at high water, which we will have. After feeding our faces, we head up the canyon, John with the pump in search of clear water. The climb up the ridge is as exciting as ever and the cool quietude of the grotto calming and pleasing to the eye as ever. We find rocks filled with fossils, echos of the recorders against the walls and a nice nap after the rush of morning's beauty. I marvel at the miles we have done, and still have to do, and the constantly changing scenery on a grand scale. This is truly one of the world's great scenic wilderness experiences, a privilege to be able to enjoy it.
John is recuiting pumpers and carriers for the full 5-gallon water jugs. Andy and I share one and find one lying in the wash, Becka had dropped hers. Andy carries it on his shoulder a ways and then leaves it for someone else to finish off its journey. We cool off in the river, now an almost comfortable 56 degrees. We drink more of Marith's find and comfortably numb, we head off to Cove. Pete is leading, with the beer supply, and I tell him not to miss camp. He has a map, but it is questionable he can read it. I send George with him as a safeguard. We don't want to miss this camp, a great one, for the night before Lava.
After a long afternoon drift along the corridor to Cove, we find Pete happily ensconced at our camp. We have an incredible amount of room for the first time to spread out into large bedrooms behind tammies and next to the river. For the first time also we see trash; cigarette butts, candy wrappers and all sorts of stuff left behind by the large groups that use this place. I guess it is easier to litter if you are inconspicuous or else the city mentality permeates these groups more easily, or maybe it is such a large site that people think they can get away with it. I clean up until weary of it, find a great spot, then notice Pete has placed the groover right next door and it is smelling downwind. I find a nice spot next to the river and Marilyn finds it also, so we agree. Rush of the river next door and cool air rising and bathing our bedroom, relief from the incessent heat that is starting to wear on us. I see thoughts popping into my head, like "I can take this for a few more days, then the sand and heat and the flip side the river, the canyon will be gone". Tomorrow is Lava, and that is the end of the excitement. The people are starting to wear thin, certain members of the group are starting to bug others, thank god it is an 18 day trip and not 24, we would have 9 days left instead of 3. I begin to think that 18 days is an excellent trip length.
Back to the camp, a stew is going and we all sit around and tell Lava stories, aimed at spreading the lore built up around this legendary spot. A great dinner is consumed and John is interviewing everyone on video to get preliminary hits of Lava paranoia. Andy is on the spot, this will be his first big rapid, and talks about his river resume: the only river he has really done is Grand Canyon and the only major rapid run will be Lava. He is thinking of applying for a position as river guide with these credentials, that'll blow their minds. We scarf dinner and there are the hoverers, hanging around the pot, finishing it off. Several people get left out of seconds, "the quick and the hungry, 2 kinds of people on this trip", and are pissed, granola is broken out and all is well again. I read from the Powell his descriptions of this part of the canyon "what a conflict of fire and water was here, a river of molten lava meeting a river of melted snow". I talk of the dams, that filled this part of the canyon and give a preview of tomorrow's activities. We will rig to flip, go down and look at the left side, and run it if it looks good, otherwise we will take our chances on the middle or (shudder) the right run. After a campfire program with wheels of fire to great mirth and Marith's songs, we retire in the early light, watching the moon finally appear above the cliffs, playing the moonrise game, each trying to guess where the moon is going to rise. We retire to our nest and make the evening very worthwhile at last.
Up with the first light glowing on the rim, the quiet coffee time and then the gradual change to scarfing bkfst, sitting in chairs, looking at the developing beauty. Rig to flip is the byword, and we all take our work seriously, I even tie the flagpole down securely, no hope of it surviving in a flip, but it'll look great in the video as we enter. People are quiet, more tense than before, but we keep telling Lava stories and fueling our strength. I pass out the last of the powerbars, one to each boatman, and a few left over for the others.
Now we glide on the rio, the shadows growing short as we progress downstream. Soon scraps of lava show on the banks, and as we round the last bend, the cascades and the black finger of Vulcan's anvil appear and slide past. I see and hear the throaty roar of the big one downstream, and land on the right too far upstream, heeding Melville's warning that it is difficult to scout the left run from the right, and difficult to get over to the left side to scout after landing at the regular spot on the right. I find that the right landing is fine, and tell Mark to get someone to bring my boat down, and head for boatman's rock, directly above the right run. The right looks ferocious, and something I've never wanted to deal with in a small boat. The left is a series of thrashing waves, but it looks like the way left of the ledge hole, close to the bank is a clear shot, with some monster waves, but no flipper holes or other such danger. We debate and watch George run down the right in his kayak, rolling once and getting tremendous surf rides off of the tail waves. Pete elects himself to become the sacrificial lamb and be the first to run the left. We watch with apprehension as he slowly pulls out and positions himself close to the left bank. He backs into a sidecurler hole and swings around into the jaws of hell, bucking straight up and over the first, second and third big waves, and is home free, with hardly a bucket of water in his boat!
High water left run is the one now. The debris flow that came down last March pushed the fan out into the middle of the river, and choked the flow into a maelstrom. The crew that happened on it the morning after found the rapid impassable, and watched the erosion process for 3 days as it ate away at the obstruction. The flow must have had fewer boulders on the left side and got reamed out by the concentrated flow after the constriction of the river, and at high flows, now there are no holes, only thrasher waves. I am relieved, and head for Lucy, checking all the straps and securing all tails and lines. Marilyn is secure in her new wetsuit, and ready for the rush. Andy prepares his craft, the monster spirit of Wayne, and asks questions. "Just follow me and point that thing straight into the waves" I tell him, hoping the light bow of his boat doesn't do anything too strange. I say nothing of this thought, can't frighten the rookie now, above his ultimate test.
We cut loose and drift out toward the rim of the world, everything drops away into oblivion. Occasional explosions of foam shoot above the center and right side and the lowest frequencies booming in our ears, heralding the presence of the Ledge hole. I pull out and head for the left side, trusting in intuition to get to the right spot at the right time. The current picks up speed and my trajectory looks good, ferrying hard left now, looking for the side curler hole that is my target. I stand up blast the conch and take a quick look, and see it snapping and growling pushing out from the left bank. I'm headed right for it and can hear Andy behind me breathing hard, pulling the beast with all his strength. I look up to the rim on the right and see the Eye of Odin, the small natural bridge only visible from the tongue of Lava, and point it out to Marilyn, who is amazed at everything happening so fast, to take time to look up, away from the hell below is to experience an Om, peace in the middle of chaos.
Now all my energy is focused on the path leading over the edge, I still can't see the target wave, but know where it is based on a rock on shore above. Now the slope of the water breaks and the rapid is in full view, and I crank left a few more mondo strokes, and watch as the differential equations of flow, momentum and velocity come to a crashing solution as I back into the side-curler. It has its desired effect, stopping the left momentum dead, and swinging the bow into perfect postion for the first wave. It is an wild wave, a jet swinging back and forth at the crest, but it opens as I enter and we slide through. Now another monster and we climb, climb until all I can see is sky, then crashing through the crest, and down into the depths of the next trough. Another monster to come, with the same result and we are screaming our relief at the river gods, working our way right into the recovery eddy and to shore where black logs of columnar basalt litter the beach.
I climb up to talk with the others and find Marith and John through, and heading for a hike back up to the camera. BC has run right also and had a great ride. It looks like it will be a long while before the others come down, Walter, and Mark and it is very hot here. So back to the boat and we head out into the current and pull hard for the left bank, miss the eddy at the hot pond, and pull in just above lower Lava in a small eddy. Marilyn and I find a great patch of deep green grass and stretch out in the shade, keeping an eye on our mates across the river, standing on a high rock taking in the proceedings. By their gestures and talk, I percieve some one running the rapid, and crane my neck to see the lower waves. A motorboat is coming down, backwards, and the boatman is making futile gestures at his outboard, trying to start it after it was drowned out by backsplash. I remember Dennis doing this, a cup of ether in one hand and a quick flip open of the engine compartment, tosses the ether into the carb and one jerk on the starter line and we're off. No such luck or skill here, after many frenzied jerks on the starter, the boatman is reconciled to seeing his 20 ton craft at the mercy of Lavas fickle currents, headed right at us. I fear the monster will cream poor little Lucy, but it passes 10' offshore and the people stare at us in surprise, snuggled down in the den of eden, with their hell within a stone's throw. The boatman looks very anxious as he sees the craft headed backwards onto the rocks just below, and pulls on the jackass just before he lands with a loud clanging crunch of steel on rock. The crowd across the street looks and scurries around to see what has happened, they could hear it 1/2 mile away. The 32' rig is high and dry, jammed by the current back into two major rocks and up on two more rocks under the hull. I see Pete leap into action and soon he is cranking across the current into my eddy and I tell the boatman help is here, just tell us what he wants us to do. Pete brings an oar, and I take a picture of some of the passengers with their camera as he gets it in place and we try to pry the rig loose. If we can push the outer tube over the rock it is hung on, the current will take the nose out and pry the rest of the hull loose. Great idea but the two of us and the oar arn't enough. An active passenger comes on shore and the three of us pry and finally Pete gets down with his feet on shore and back against the tube and we all shove at once, and off it goes. I grab Pete's life jacket and pull him out of the river and the passenger jumps on shore as the disabled boat peels off into the current. Its boatmate has come down and is in the eddy and nudges them out into the current and down stream out of sight. Pete takes off with the passenger in hot pursuit and I yell to him to get beer and eggs and gatorade as a reward.
Now time to relax and watch the rest of our crew come down. We can't see the entrance, but can tell by the antics of our crew across the way someone is on the way. Walter appears, pulling hard to the right, and he is unscathed, KK is holding the bow down, and they are ecstatic, yelling and screaming at their victory. Now Mark must be on the way. I hear 3 whistles clearly and see the contingent across the way running around in a Chinese fire drill. Something is up with Mark, so we jump onto the boat and I get ready to rescue, untieing the leash and poised at the oars. Mark appears riding his boat, upside down, like a bucking bronco, headed right into lower Lava. I pull hard out and try to catch him, but the trajectory is not correct and he slips by into the maelstrom of boils and waves pushing off the wall on the left. I follow, and admonish him to hang on, and he does. We connect at the bottom and I try to pull him out of the main current, but he is heavy, his load immersed in the water, being dragged on by its whims. I finally give up trying to get him into an eddy, and follow the main stream linked up with Mark. We drift by Pete and the motor boaters, and he sees the problem and pulls out with several 6ers of beer on his deck. We join up downstream and find a big eddy. Mark and I try to flip his boat, but it is flaccid, deflated because the main tubes are underwater and deflated. It is like a wet noodle, and it is impossible for 2 to flip. Pete catches up and he makes the difference, three is enough and over it comes. There are some tense moments as John and Marith check out the pelikin case with all the video stuff in it, but it is intact.
We beach at a narrow cliff and Mark tells his story again and again in detail. He hadn't been oriented correctly at the left hole, and it flipped him slickern' owl snot. We forge on looking for a shady lunch spot, and soon are stretched out over 2 miles of river. We drift quietly, and are really getting hungry when we see Marith, Pete and Andy in the shade of a basalt overhang, and they motion us over. Soon we are smoking my cigar, and drinking Pete's beer. Cooler heads prevail and we head downstream to find the rest. They are just around the corner, I would have drifted by if someone hadn't cleared their throat. More beer from Marith's stash, and we are crankin' at lunch. The stories flow, each to tell their own, until Pete cranks up and starts describing his run as if he were screwing, very explicitly. This is kind of boring after a while and people start saying, "c'mon Pete, lighten up", and he gets the message and gets pissed. "Terry, I'm goin' downstream to camp". "OK Pete", I reply, "it's at Whitmore, the next big beach on the right just around the corner. And if you miss it, you're gonna eat shit, because that's all you've got on your boat". " I ain't worried, I'll find that motor trip". And he is off down the rio, alone, wasted and ready for adventure.
I shrug my shoulders and the others standing around have heard our interchange, and we all understand what has happened is not unusual on a SNAFU trip. I slip on my back on some very slick clay near the shore and roll in the mud a bit, part of the game. Now the short shot down the Whitmore, and then a hike to the pictographs, and party time. We pass down the corridor with walls festooned with Warbonnet columnar jointing, and many river gravels preserved under the lava. We round the corner at Whitmore beach and find it empty. No Pete. No Re-Pete, he ain't here, and I pull in and wave everyone else over. George paddles up "What are you doing? Pete is downstream, we can't let him go down alone!" "Look George, I told Pete that if he missed camp he was on his own, and that's what he did, and so thats where he is, and we are camping here." George is pissed and makes some remark about abandonment, so I toss him a powerbar and some chocolate milk and he paddles off around the corner. We get together and meet and take a vote after I explain what happened. We all agree that Pete made his own clear decision to go downstream knowing the consequences, and he has gone, and we are staying here. Moki Mac crew drifts by with Matt in a huge white sombrero, I walk out to greet them in my hat and skirt and find they are camping below, and we'll visit.
It is very hot on the beach, so we get wet and form a contingent to hike into the shade of the cliffs and the pictographs. We are almost dry after crossing the debris fan, but it is cool up against the cliff and we gather in the grotto under the red figures. Marith points out mega cross bedding across the canyon, the kind formed only in huge, sudden floods. She wonders if this was deposited when one of the lava dams broke and unleashed a wall of water hundreds of feet high down the river.
I am anxious to visit with the Moki Mac crew, so I depart for the downstream bar where they are camped. I can smell them before I see them, their groover is set up up wind which is blowing up stream, and I nose them as I come through the tammies. The passengers are scattered about, but are relaxed friendly and used to the routine. I walk up to the kitchen, invading their space, but Matt comes out with apron and gives me a big hug. Scottie is there also, the little devil, and we exchange memories and stories of past trips. I get a cold beer for my troubles, and an invite to party and sing one more round of Pancho and Lefty, but I have my own party tonight, the night after Lava party, and we have to do Sockdolager punch, and no fruit cocktail. I bum some peaches and have a sort of punch in the making. I talk with the "new guys" two big young bucks, one from Auburn, who make up the rest of the crew. They are interesting, and I leave with the impression that the crew is a good balance. Cruising back to camp, my attention is elsewhere, reveling in the beauty and I take a short cut with my foot through a prickly pear cactus, the pain registering my mistake immediately. I pull the spines out of my waterproof (now not!) sock and limp on into camp. It is still hot there, but the sun goes down soon and I administer my wounds and it is time to party.
The kids are in the bushes doing something and people finally drift back from the hike. We dig around and find the bomblets of propane and set up my stove ready to cook. Not much lost with Pete's passing, the main propane bomb we were using. John is upset, grumbling about banning Pete from future trips. SNAFU systems say this is unneccessary, but there you go, people are people and they have their reactions. We rustle up a good feed and I manufacture the Sockdolager punch, without alcohol. The bottle marked "X" that has resided in the Therapy box the whole trip is broken out now, containing the Everclear that Brian donated. We douse our punch and are off. Costumes come out, with Becka naked except for a grass bikini bottom and an emergency whistle in her navel ring. John appears in a blue Muu- muu flowing and walks up to her and blows the whistle. The video is humming, and Dire Straits is blasting on the stereo, and we are all dancing on the sand. KK has a black bowler and a long nose and H's bikini bottoms, and is slugging down a beer. Great to see him getting loose. We all trade costumes around and have great mirth playing and venting our relief. I notice that the absence of Pete and George makes this a very mellow group, no contraryness, or fear that someone is going to get too wasted and pop into negative-land. The flag is a work of art in progress; Pete and George are added to it as "missing persons" and the flips are recorded (Walter and Mark) giving us a visual record of the high (or low?) points of our journey.
It gets dark and the real fun starts, great happy stuff fuzzing our vision. We finally settle down, the kids off to bed and the older set still partying. We even get a complaint that we are being too loud, the tables turned. Marith sings and we all join in, glad to be ABL, Alive below Lava. I have set the bedding up right next to the boats and the water and we drift off staring at the waxing moon with one full day left and then takeout.
Up with first light, we are sheltered here in the morning from the sun, and pack up and are on the road early, but not as early as Moki Mac, they are on the rio and down the way before we round the bend. Quiet and everyone into their heads about what the outside world is going to be like. Who will be at takeout, Pete? maybe he'll miss takeout and go on down to the lake, then he'd be in really deep shit, and very much alone, we aren't going to follow him there. We find George at a small camp. He had caught up to Pete there and had joined Mary's group for dinner. Pete got up at first light and was out of there, leaving George in the dust. Hmm, definately anti-social behavoir, fueled by alcohol, SNAFU. I am not worried, we still have bomblets left so we can do dinner. We lunch at Spring canyon, drawing water from the clear source. We stay snuggled in the bushes to cool off and then hit the rio with strong upstream winds. The sea anchor is broken out and we are pulled by the current handily downstream to Granite Park, where the current now all goes to the right, the left channel abandoned. We pass the surfing hole I got stuck in years ago in a borrowed kayak, and round the interminable corridors of Tapeats to the harbor at Pumpkin spring, traditional last SNAFU camping place.
We check out the spring and it has lots of yuck in it, and George preaches the presence of microorganisms, Mary's group had said they stay away from the nice warm water because of that. I say "every hot pool in the world has microorganisms, they have to say that to scare you away so they don't get sued if someone gets sick". The same with Kanab Creek: evidently Mary's group stayed away from there because there was a rumor of a radioactive spill at a uranium mine 40 miles upstream. George is ready to sue me because I didn't tell the group about this, and we may be glowing in the dark. Argh, the bureaucracy rears its ugly head. They are saving us from ourselves.
The SNAFU stalwarts along with Marith and Marilyn slide into the mire and enjoy the warmth and play with the foot monument to reenact another major triumph of the '75 trip. The others soon leave and I remain, digging my body deep into the source of warmth, jumping into the river and then returning to the pool. KK comes up and reports a major row going on with George and BC, and I decide to stay a little longer to avoid the conflict. BC has finally unloaded all his frustration with George and the threat to sue over Kanab Creek popped his cork. When I return, people are calmed down, but George is by himself, talking about going downstream alone. Marilyn pursuades him not to do such a foolish thing, and we proceed with another great dinner by Chef Mark. Walter, BC and I have a retrospective meeting on a point of rock in mid-current, and agree that SNAFU has prevailed and that people's reactions now are from the fact we have to leave this place, and go out into another reality, devoid of the natural beauty we have immersed ourselves in for the last 17 days. It hardly seems real that it is almost over, but all good things must end and we have to face the takeout tomorrow.
Walter breaks out a bottle of Rabbit Ridge Zin and we have a great wine tasting, and drinking and I get some godka and am flying soon. After pounding down a last DO cake, we flake out and get organized for an early departure.
Up real early after admiring first light on the Patagonia spires across from camp. After a quick bkfst, we are packed and the first on the river. We run 117 mile and cut over to the Moki camp, with their blue boats neatly lined up on the right bank. Matt and Scotty greet us and I pour some coffee from the huge pot laid out. Talk of the canyon, takeout and future and past trips, and I cop a dump in their groover, to follow the rules, and we push off, ready for whatever lies ahead.
Diamond Creek takeout materializes with its lining of shady spots and officialdom laid out on tables. We have been warned about their groover, very ungroovy, and can nose them as we approach. Pete is there, big as life, with his boat almost derigged. We start in the labor, trying to organize our stuff into as few containers as possible. The others arrive and we start piling the stuff higher. I scour the coolers and boxes and get as much food as possible into one cooler, to be transferred to my cooler in Flagstaff. The Canyon REO dudes show up with mondo trailers and Bill drives Mark's truck out onto the bar. Great, another logistical problem solved. We are all here, with all the equipment. Marith has rescued the flag that I left in the bushes at Pumpkin spring, and we display that, and add to the pile.
After a group photo in front of a pile of rafts it is getting very hot, so we rapidly throw stuff on the trailers and are out of there. Pete and Mark lead the way to a great pond and we have greasy fried chicken and all kinds of cold pop and beer for lunch. Then we say farewells to Pete, Mark and Becka, John keeping as far from Pete, and BC and Walter keeping as far from George as possible. The long trip home to Flag, we finally arrive at the vehicles and the trailer gets hitched and I back up next to REO's rig with George flipping out because I ran the end of the trailer over his gear. Man, he is an excitable boy! Everyone is on edge and snapping, and George finally goes away and we are mellow until one of the REO crew accuses us of having one of their coolers. I had emptied it of their food and put it in my cooler with the remaining ice, but they don't believe me. Finally I convince them and they fetch our remaining stuff that came back from the ferry. I rescue the drinks from their van and we pull out, heading off to a new reality of traffic jams, motels, vehicles and lots and lots of people.
32328 words Copyright 1995, Terry Wright
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