Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 7th

Today is my daughter Beth's birthday. I wish I could call her up to say "Happy Birthday"

The group of ravens that occupied this area were very noisy this morning. I woke up quite early and took a hike to the Anasazi ruins. There were two dwellings in decent condition and several granaries. The rocks in the area all had raven droppings on them. The view down the river was beautiful as at most of the ruins. The Anasazi knew how to pick a beautiful location. I took photos, but later in the day it will be more beautiful with the light and shadow within the rock faces.

When I got back only Dave Y. and Joel were out of their bags. I had gotten up way too early this morning. I think the cold actually woke me and not the ravens. I should have put my fleece jacket on last night when I got up to pee.

We cooked the blueberry muffins (made as a cake) last night in the Dutch oven and had it for breakfast this morning. We also had bacon. I only ate muffins, but had two Lactaid pills so hopefully the milk in it won't bother me.

Joel - "Once again disaster struck. For breakfast this morning, we were going to have bacon but one of the big packages had sprung a leak and the bacon was no longer edible (except perhaps to Sue). So, we all had 1 slices of bacon instead, and then filled up the rest of the meal with chicken soup"

My period hit full force this morning. Changing tampons all day long is going to be a pain. Privacy around the rafts and in camp is rather limited.

The ravens have been loud and annoying all morning. Dave took out his sling and started flinging rocks across the bay trying to get the raven's roosting spot. He never got one, but succeeded in scaring them once.

And we are off. For the first morning in quite a while, we did not wear our polypropylene and rain suits because it was quite warm this morning. Joel - "Daphne is even wearing a sleeveless shirt, an invitation to get splashed if I ever saw one." As we drifted downstream, the incessant cackle of the ravens was behind us, replaced by the roar of the upcoming rapid. Prepare to get wet.

Once again the older granite and schist rocks have dropped below the level of the river. We just passed another river level example of the Great Unconformity, and were now staring at walls of tapeats sandstone. This had happened a couple of times in the past couple of days as the top of the oldest rocks appear for a while making small gorges, and then disappear again below river level. Looking downstream, the giant redwall limestone was closer than it has been in many a mile.

Ringtail tracks in Kanab
Human tracks in Kanab
Right before our first stop of the day we saw some large birds circling along the wall. There was some debate over whether they were condors or turkey vultures. When we got close we brought out the binoculars and could see little red heads. Definitely turkey vultures.

At 140 Mile Canyon we made our first stop. About 2 miles up and over 1000' of elevation gain is an arch that Ben H. wanted to hike to. We milled around in confusion for quite a while until we figured out who was hiking and who was going down to Kanab to hike. Our boat went down.

Joel - "We are at the base of Kanab Canyon (mile 143), preparing for a hike. Daphne and I both hike with leather belt pouches. The belt pouches are perfect for putting the camera in. It also has a small compartment where I have started putting my recorder, although it was a direct result of this carrying of the recorder, which caused the great unconformity in my journal. Hanging off of the strap that holds up our belt pouch is a sack in which we put our water bottles. And this time, for the first hike, Daphne is wearing the binoculars around her neck. Well-equipped with optical and electronic gadgets, off we go.

"The water in Kanab Creek is quite warm, making a number of us wish that we had left the soap out of our now well packed dry bags. As is typical for a hike, our group has fractured. And I find myself stuck with -- scratch that -- in the pleasurable company of my wife (Editor's note: And don't forget it). Part of the trail that we are on is well eroded forming its own small little canyon, approximately 15 inches wide, and up to 2 and 1/2 feet deep. As we turn the corner in the canyon, there are a bunch of vines growing out of the bright Angel shale where water seeps through the wall. It's very pretty green wall.

Ferns along the wall at Kanab
"There is not so much a trail, as just a tendency to follow the stream. The canyon is quite flat. Along the banks, Daphne has found some soil, which appears to be perfect pottery clay. Remind me to wash my shoes very carefully before I let them bake in the sun when I get back to the raft. I think when I come away from the Kanab Creek hike, I will bring back memories of lots of red mud. And I'll bring back lots of red mud.

"After a while, we finally decided to turn back. We promised ourselves that we would just go around next bend, but there always seemed to be another bend.

"It is not unusual for members of our group to leave various articles of clothing along the trail as they hike. Pieces of clothing that they don't want to carry anymore and they know they will pick up on the way back. On this hike I left my wife. When I returned, I found her at the pottery clay making a pot.

"The red clay around the Kanab Creek holds a multitude of the footprints. The path of hundreds of fellow hikers is clearly evident in the soil (until the next flood). However we also found some fine examples of some ringtail tracks embedded in the clay like soil."

(Now back to our main programming . . .) At Kanab we hiked up. There was a lot of mud along the canyon. It sucked my shoes down until they were hard to pull back up. It was a pretty canyon, flat on the bottom and not rising much as we walked in. There were huge forests of prickly pear or at least one of its relatives and the barrel cactus was in full bloom.

As we hiked up I noticed under our feet the perfect potting clay. It was under a thin layer of red sand. I started hiking past, but the clay called out to me and I went back and got the driest clay I could find. It was still too wet to work with but I made a pot anyway. I rolled out the clay into coils and slowly built up my little pot. The overly wet clay stuck to my fingers atrociously but I finally got the little pot finished. I burnished the outside with a smooth stone then took a stick to make patterns on it. I brought it back to the mouth of the creek and laid it on a rock to harden.

As we ate lunch the pot squished down farther under its own weight, the victim of the too wet clay. I left the little pot there on the beach when we left, but none of the others in our group that stopped noticed it.

We ate lunch at the mouth of Kanab. Only half our party was there so we ate about half the food. We dithered around after lunch hoping the others would show soon. But Paul indicated that they might be some time. It seems that a commercial group had come by while we were hiking, and left Paul a message from our other half of the party. It seems that someone had hiked a little far and they expected to be much delayed.

Tying up the boats at Matkat
We wanted to spend the afternoon at Matkatamiba (mile 148), but there was no good place to eat lunch there. My dad offered to wait with lunch at Kanab and the rest of us took off down to Matkat. The first rapid right after Kanab was a mild one, Kanab Rapid (mile 144, rating 3), but quite long and it had its own surprises. It cooled us off nicely. Two miles down we saw Olo canyon on the left. Joel wanted to take a photo but there were choppy waves there that might splash.

Chimneying up the walls
The weather had been picture perfect most of the day. There was not a single cloud in the sky, in contrast to the middle of the trip where there was very little sky among the clouds. But recently another strong upwind breeze had started causing our oarsmen to have to earn that extra bag of corn nuts he took at lunch.

We kept a close eye on our location because the pull-in for Matkat is not easy to see until you are past it. The entrance to the canyon is quite small, and it is above a fast moving rapid. We quickly swung the boats in, only to find no convenient places to tie them up. We struggled for a while, finding crevices in the wall and used Pauls chalks to make tie-off places in the cliff. There was room for only three boats in the small eddy, but we are going to try to stagger the boats to allow the rest of our party to fit in when they show up.

Matkatamiba is a sinuous little creek at the bottom with colors of gray, pink and green. It winds its way down a short slot in the Muav limestone. The water is very warm and small minnow and tadpoles ply the water.

Butt dams
Hiking up the canyon requires chimneying up small waterfalls and slipping up a streambed that is often only a couple of feet wide and occasionally less. Alex helped us up anytime we seemed to need it. At the top of the tiny slot canyon it opens up into an overhanging amphitheater in the red limestone. Ferns and other small plants cling to the limestone growing out of every seep in the wall.

The limestone below the redwall at the amphitheater forms small pools and water flows over the smooth rock. The men in our group took after Alex and Ben and formed butt dams to plug up the water then let it all out in a rush. They made the tiny creek roar down some of its waterfalls.

The amphitheater is a wonderful spot to wait for the rest of our group (though a pad might soften the rocks). A breeze blows through that is neither to warm nor too cool. The little stream babbles over the miniature falls making a soothing sound, only broken by the roar of the water and the whoop of the men when their butt dams are opened.

Joel - "This afternoon's entertainment consists of damming the river and letting it go. Alex, Ben, Dave and Paul lie down at various strategic narrow points in the stream. They each let big pools buildup behind them. Then from the top man to the bottom they get up quickly, and the water comes rushing down building up as it passes by each dam point until finally a torrent passes the last person and flushes any unsuspecting bodies downstream."

Different faces of the water
We lounged around for a quite a while. The kayakers showed up just before 5 p.m. The rafters were not far behind. They told us their hike up 140 Mile Canyon took about 5 hours to the bridge. They didn't take very much water and ended up at the rafts tired and dehydrated. It turns out that Judy and Maddy tried to get a lift downstream on the commercial rafts, but the commercials refused. They only took the message instead. So Judy and Maddy sat onshore at the first drop-off point for the whole 5 hours.

We pushed off from Matkat, the three boats that were there for hours, Alex's, Ben's and Paul's. We were going to take the camp right below Matkat, but Paul drifted by it. It didn't look like much of a camp from the river. A commercial trip overtook us and we told them we were going to camp just below Upset Rapid. They said, "Oh, you want the Upset Hotel." It turns out it is a good name for it. The camp is way above the water and it has two stretches of sand 18' wide and both quite long.

Right below Matkat is a gorgeous stretch of river, perfectly flat and the wall of Muav, Supai and Redwall blend together to make one imposing cliff about 2000' high. This tall gorge continues on past our camp for the night.

We had one rapid before camp, Upset Rapid (mile 150, rating 6). Alex missed the big breaking wave on the left, some people called it a hole, but it looked like a breaking wave to me. Our ride was great, large waves that didn't break on us so we didn't even get very wet.

When we got to camp it was a challenge beaching the boats without leaving them on razor sharp rocks, but we succeeded. The previous occupants of this campsite were nice enough to shove sticks into the limestone for us to hang out clothing on, because there are no trees up here in the campsite, just small bushes on the slope down to the water. And oh that slope. We caused immense amounts of erosion every time we went down to the river to get something from the boats. The slope was very steep.

Dave Y. and Earl put the groover right at the end of the large beach. For privacy they erected the tarp in front of it.

Dinner was canned pork and scalloped potatoes. I ate some more of my Oreos for dessert.

Joel - "Every evening before we go to bed, Daphne and I review the photographs from that day. The rest of the group then makes fun of my punctuation (while I dictate into my recorder). The purpose of reviewing photographs is to clear out those photographs, which didn't work, or pick the best of a series of duplicates to free up space in the flash memory."

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