Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 3rd

This morning was beautiful, no storm clouds in sight. Joel helped make a breakfast of dehydrated eggs and blueberry muffins cooked in the fry pan. I had oatmeal and eggs.

Dave skirting Crystal
Crystal Rapid, the great Crystal Rapid (mile 98, rating 10). Last time we went down the Grand Canyon, our group ported half the boats around Crystal Rapid because it was so tough, and one of the boats we didn't portage flipped. But it has since washed out and there is a very easy run down the right although there are still a lot of waves on the left. It was definitely not the 10 that it was rated in the Steven's Guide. In fact the hardest of all the rapids to date was Granite.

Alex wanted to miss the first wave and catch the edge of the second, but the water didn't try to suck him in at all so he was too far right to get the big waves. We caught a corner of the third wave and didn't get wet at all.

We did our usual photography bit. We were first downriver, and I ran up to take pictures. Meanwhile Earl and Fritz (Diane) were already in position to take pictures from the top, since they were part of the last boat to run.

Everything went smoothly for four boats and one kayak. Then Dad decided to get fancy and surf the waves. Dad got about a third of the way down the rapid when he flipped his kayak, and although he struggled to roll, the water was too strong and he ended up ripping off his spray skirt and swimming clear.

"Let's surf the wave!" "Maybe not"
Then, in the other kayak, Ben zipped away from shore to rescue Bill and bring him safely to shore. The commercial group further downriver pulled the kayak out. A blue bag was never to be seen again.

Then it seemed to take forever before Earl's boat came down. Anytime we have everyone taking photos it is always a long, long wait.

Joel on photography - "Whenever we decide to take pictures at a rapid, we take a very long time. Because we have the group of photographers from the top group, and the group of photographers from the bottom, everything is slowed down immensely. First the photographers get into place, then we run two or three rafts down. Then the people switch, the rafts at the bottom send their photographers up shore, and the photographers already in position (supposedly) board their rafts. Then the final rafts run. This is complicated by the fact that the kayakers run in middle, and both groups take pictures of them. And Earl, in the last raft, always waits until the kayakers are safely down before boarding his boat and doing it at the end. This means that we sometimes spend as much as an hour or more at a given rapid taking pictures."

After Crystal was Tuna (mile 99, rating 5). Then came the rest of the Jewels: Agate (mile 100, rating 4), Sapphire (mile 101, rating 7), Turquoise (mile102, rating 3), 104 Mile Rapid (rating 5), Ruby (mile 105, rating 7) and Serpentine (mile 106, rating 6), all not too hard. Ruby was the most fun. It had large standing waves that broke very little. It was a real kick.

A rock or an elephant's skin?
Joel - "A good rapid can only be judged by the bottom. After we got through Sapphire Rapid which was a wonderful rapid with big shifting waves washing over the front of the boat, we sat back and watched Ben's boat go next. We knew that this was a good rapid because looking upstream you would see Ben's boat crest over the top of a wave and then completely disappear except for the cap of the oarsmen sitting high. Only to have it reappear again (thankfully upright) on top of the next crest. In Serpentine Rapid, Alex, our oarsman took it right down the middle, over every single wave. It was a blast. To put it in perspective, Alex thinks some of those waves were 18 to 20 feet up their face. The boat is only 16 feet long."

Bass's boat
We stopped right above Bass Rapid at a metal boat up on the rocks. The boat belonged to William Bass who prospected at the turn of the century. He mined asbestos and copper but went broke very quickly. While we were there we discussed where to camp and it was decided to go just around the corner to the camp above Shinumo Creek (mile 108). It was the most beautiful camp we have had. Schist and granite, which had been smoothed down by floodwater of years past, surrounded the camp on three sides. In camp was a beautiful sandy section in little tent-sized platforms and surrounded by tamarisk trees.

After we ate lunch at camp, people vegged out for a while. Then Dave motored a large group of us over to the creek. Just up the creek was a fun waterfall in which we played around for a while. We brought a bucket so we could wash up. We got wet in the warm water of the creek and filled a bucket with that warm water. Then we walked to the edge of the Colorado River and rinsed off. It was nice not having to freeze in the main river to get clean.

Alex jumping into Shinumo Creek
At the waterfall Alex and Ben jumped into the thigh deep pool from the ledge above. They got there by walking around from camp. The waterfall was not huge, maybe 15 feet tall or so but still beautiful. It had a small cave behind the falls in which you could walk back, go around the corner and come out on the other side of the falls. We all stood under the falls getting a nice water massage. When we headed back to camp we split into two groups otherwise we would've made the boat too heavy for the motor to pull us back up against the current.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing about, reading, writing and talking. Dave and Earl took off motoring upstream for a while.

The canyon today changed in appearance. The schist and granite layer is probably less than 100 feet here and we can see many different layers of rock above it. We had frequent glimpses of the rim all day. We also passed some of the dark black schist that I love so much. I wanted to take photos of the blackest schist scalloped by the water, but most of the time when I saw such classic pictures we were too close to a rapid to bring the camera out.

Dinner this evening was turkey, couscous, and salad, our last real salad of the trip. I had one of the Oreo snack packs I bought at Phantom Ranch for dessert.

The birds today were of a different variety then the green swallows. I haven't see the tops of them since they were all flying too high but from the bottom they were black with distinct white markings (white-throated swifts).

We had an interesting location for the shitter. Near our kitchen area there is an outcropping of highly polished schist that has a break going down the middle. The break is about 8 feet wide and has a sandy bottom. The shitter was placed at the far end of the break.

Joel on luggage:

"Daphne and I carry two types of luggage, the dry bags and the wet bags. So named because of their contents. The dry bags are big blue rubberized sacks into which we put all of the clothing and bedding material, which we want to keep dry. Their opening is then rolled over and over and over to form a watertight seal, and then the bag is strapped tight to keep the seal secure. The dry bags are lashed in the back of the raft with the rest of the luggage, which we only take out when we get to camp. (Dry bags aren't always 100 percent dry, but we have been lucky so far.) The wet bags contain everything which we want to get to during the day. These are stored in small duffel bags, which are lashed to the side of the boat. They get very wet on the outside, and quite damp on the inside as well. One of the standard rituals after we get to camp is to take out the contents of each of the wet bags and lay it out on the rocks or the bushes to dry, only to get wet again next morning. In addition to our bags, we also have a special Pelican case which is accessible during the day and which stores our electronics in a nice dry cushioned state."

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