Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 2nd

We woke up early in the morning to that pitter-patter of rain on the tent. Joel insisted on getting up as soon as he heard people in the kitchen area. I wanted to sleep in more. The rain had kept me awake a bit last night. But we got up at about 6 a.m. in the rain.

Mule train at Phantom Ranch
It was a pancake morning so I had some of my dad's puffed cereal and one of his nondairy buckwheat pancakes. Not the most appetizing meal, but at least edible to me.

My toe was slowly getting better. I could balance with it today. I couldn't before. The pain was too bad. It still looked bad with all the bruising, but bruising always takes a while to go down.

It started raining harder after breakfast. I slipped into my tent to write and packed up. It was decided that we should leave at about 10 a.m. to get to Phantom Ranch. Charles left sometime while I was in the tent. He was hiking out today. His brother Ben was hiking in to replace him. Ben was 16. Judy S. was a little worried about a boatman she had never seen that will take her through the gorge, especially such a young one. Alex assured her that Ben knows what he is doing, but Alex also told Joel and I that Ben wants to run the center of Horn. Judy may not be up to a thrill seeking teenager.

Ben rowing Horn
At about 9 a.m. there was a short break in the rain so Joel and I packed up the tent. Everything was dry except for the tarp. Joel put it in his wet bag. At 9:30 a.m. the sun started peeking through the clouds. It got very is sunny for awhile and the others packed up.

Just around the corner was Phantom Ranch, the only real sign of civilization after Lees Ferry. The hike from the boat beach up to the Ranch was about half a mile. When I got there, I bought Oreos and LifeSavers for desserts since most desserts I couldn't eat. I also bought a postcard and stamp and mailed it to my kids. They packed the mail out on mules.

While we were at the ranch, a microburst exploded around us. Luckily we were inside. Not all of our party was so lucky and got caught. Judy S. said she hugged at tree to keep from being blown away. Outside there were large branches down all over.

When I got back to the boat Ben Y. was there, he looked much like Charles, but a younger version.

Below Phantom Ranch our first rapid was Horn (mile 90, rating 8) which we scouted. Ben Y. wanted to split the horn with his two pontoons. Alex our oarsman wanted to ride with Ben. So he asked me if I would take the boat down. After scouting the rapid, it didn't look like I could flip the boat even if I wasn't strong enough to straighten it up. So I thought about it and said yes.

I went straight down the elevator run and had no problems. The most annoying part of the run was the rain and the wind blowing into my eyes while I was trying to see. For the first two boats there had been no rain and it started just as I left the shore. The last two boats must have been hit full force with it. Despite the rain we all had great runs. I found out later that my mother told Alex that I couldn't row since I hadn't rowed for 20 years. In fact it had been seven years but rowing is like riding a bike. Once you learn you never forget.

It kept raining until we stopped for lunch. Once we get out of the boats and set up the table, the sun came out again and we had a nice lunch in the sun, praying it would hold for some time.

Paul rowing Hermit
When we hit Granite (mile 94, rating 9) it looked hairy. There was a large breaking wave on the tongue on the right hand side. We all wanted to miss that wave. Dave Y. went first, and hit the wave right in the middle. Alex went next. His intention was to go to the left of the tongue and pull like mad but the current was too strong and sucked him in. We had started down backwards so Alex could row harder, but when he saw that he wasn't going to make it he spun the boat around. The waves right before the worst wave hit us partly on the side and almost washed Joel out of the boat. He made it back in however before the main wave hit.

After seeing our run, Paul who was next, tried to start even more to the left, but he too was pulled in. The last two boats took the holes on the left to try to miss the wave, but even they were pulled in.

Left, no farther left!
The kayakers (Ben H. shown here) sneaked Hermit on the left
Well, with the photography it took us quite awhile to get all of the rafts through Granite. And we let two commercial J-rigs go down in the middle of us, which took some extra time. But everybody made it through without flipping just before the rain started.

We thought we might take the camp right above Hermit but it was too small. So we ran Hermit (mile 95, rating 9). Alex had told us days before that he was running it straight down the middle, but when he saw the wave in the middle he changed his mind. At high water which we had most of the trip (up to 21K cfs) the wave in the middle broke quite severely. It was also huge. It really looked like a flipper, but Ben proved us wrong by going sideways through the wave, though it did surf him a while before letting him through. Our run was perfectly done. Alex rowed left and caught the eddy behind a rock and missed the whole wave train.

Earl rowing Hermit
We passed the next camp we wanted since another party already occupied it. Luckily the Crystal camp (mile 98) was still open, because there are not many sites below Crystal. Because of the threat of rain, the number of tents had multiplied. Normally a number of the boatman actually sleep either on the sandy beach, or on their boats. But when rain threatens, all the tents come out. In this campground, as with most, there are just small patches of sand spread among the rocks or bushes. Each little patch of sand has a little tent on it, sometimes blocking the pathways making it difficult to get around.

We heard about two disasters on some commercial trips. First, we saw a helicopter buzzing down the canyon. Helicopters are not allowed to fly that low so we debated why it would. At Hermit we found out that a lady on a commercial trip had broken her arm trying to hold on through Granite. The commercial trip pulled in at Hermit, and radioed for a helicopter evacuation. After about 2 hours of waiting, a helicopter was able to land and evacuate the woman with the broken arm. Second, we heard some disturbing news from an e-mail message brought in by Ben our newest group member. It seems that on May 30th, just a couple of days ago, one of the members of a different commercial group actually drowned in the river. According to the e-mail message, he had walked away from the campsite to go fishing downstream, and had fallen in. Without a lifejacket, in the cold water, he went under. And after the motor boat went chasing him and brought him out, they were unable to revive him. Always wear your lifejacket!

Despite the awful rainy weather today, the views were spectacular. The vertical walls of schist and granite dikes glistened and whenever the sun peeked out for minute. Occasionally we got beautiful views of the rim.

Dinner was spaghetti and coleslaw. I had some lifesavers for dessert. During dinner preparation we laid out our wet gear and it mostly got dry before dark. It threatened occasionally but finally cleared up.

Joel on the kitchen

The kitchen box is a large aluminum box approximately two feet deep, one foot wide, and perhaps five feet long. It doubles as a storage container, in which most of the kitchen supplies go, and also as the primary stove surface. Inside of it are four legs. They allowed the box to be raised up in the air as a table, with the opening facing the chef, providing a convenient shelf for the storage of various supplies. On top of the cooking box go two propane stoves for a total of four burners with the propane tank hidden conveniently behind.

We also have a fire-pan, which gets propped up on its own two legs and is used for a variety of grilling tasks and also for baking. We have a Dutch oven that gets covered with charcoal for baking the various desserts, cakes and muffins that we eat during the trip. (As I am dictating, Earl comments that the muffins and other baked goods were very good, and Ben, wants, lots, of, commas.)

We also have four blue roll-up tables with detachable legs, which we use both for dinner and for lunch.

In addition to the various cook pots and utensils we have a variety of buckets, all of which serve purposes during the meal. We have four metal buckets, which are used for washing of dishes. A four bucket system consists of the first bucket being used to rinse off food particles (those of which you did not scrape off into the trash). The second bucket is usually hot water with soap and is used to wash off things. The third bucket is rinse water, sometimes warm, sometimes cold depending on how lazy the kitchen staff is. In the fourth bucket is river water mixed with some bleach in order to sanitize the dishes. You always move the dishes through all four buckets in the downstream direction and leave them in the chlorinated water for at least 30 seconds, often more.

As with most of the trip, a line forms at the bucket brigade as well as at the food dispensers. And with the case of washing, there is generally a large backup at the chlorinated bucket where everyone lets things soak until it basically overflows with various dishes and utensils.

We have big white buckets, which are used to hold river water for pumping. We pump the river water through a specially designed filter in order to purify it for drinking. This is an ongoing activity. We have a number of plastic water jugs, which are used to hold group water from which you can fill your own little canteens. And we try keep these filled at the pumping station.

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Photo Index | June 2nd Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

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Contents copyright © 1999 by Daphne and Joel Gould. All rights reserved.
Please contact Daphne Gould for comments or problems.