Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 8th

I went to sleep last night to the sound of Paul and Diane talking. I have no idea what they chatted about. The sounds of the voices blended into the canyon. The night was warm but not too hot. For the first time in a while, we didn't have to put on any extra layers to sleep.

This morning was oatmeal and pepperoni, a weird mix. No one noticed that the dishwater hadn't been done so after breakfast we had old dishwater from last night. I figured that the river water was safer so after washing I rinsed in the river, then rinsed in clean water and wiped every last drop out with my bandana.

After packing we had a council about what people would do today. We would pass Havasu, Tuckup, National, and Fern Glen today. Paul decided not to hike and he would snag a campsite. He would try for the Cove. The runners wanted to go up Havasu for quite a while so we would leave a boat for Dave S. to row. Earl's boat didn't want to stop at Havasu at all. The rest of us decided a short hike up Havasu and a short hike up Fern Glen would be fun. All the others took lunch so we wouldn't have to worry about meeting until camp.

Easter Island faces in the walls between camp and Havasu
Last night, on our way to our campsite, a commercial group who asked us where we were staying passed us. We told them that we were staying at the campsite just below Upset. They said they were going to stay at the Ledges, the next large campsite after Upset Hotel. But they wanted to know if we had seen any other commercial trips pass. We honestly said that we did not but that we were up Matkat canyon and would not be watching for them. This morning, we passed the Ledges. A gorgeous campsite (if you do not mind sleeping on rock). However, the commercial trip, which passed us last night, was not there and a different one was there instead. Whoops!

The water today is not the emerald green water of past days. Although we have yet to see the muddy red waters that appear after a side stream flood, today the water is silted gray, reminiscent of the cloudy water at the Little Colorado but without the gorgeous color.

We stopped at Havasu (mile 157). Usually this place is very crowded but there was only one Hatch boat this early in the morning. All the boats were moored at the mouth and none up the creek itself, much more idealic than usual. We took off up the canyon. It was going to be a short hike.

Smoothed travertine
The walls were interesting. The travertine rock high on the walls were smoothed by water of ages ago. This was not the only smoothed rock. The hike up starts among the rocks. There are no cairns here. If you look close you can see several popular paths only indicated by the smoothed and slick rocks. The surrounding rock was sharp and rough. I wondered how many people have walked these steps to wear the stone so smooth.

All along the banks of the stream there are wild grapevines. There is no indication as to whether these vines bear fruit. There are also some tall reeds and thick vegetation but not as thick as had been in previous streams.

I didn't go up far. It was beautiful with its blue-green pools below rock waterfalls, but I remember the travertine pools that are no more and even among the beauty it made it less appealing. I decided to head back early and do something I have never been able to do before because of the previous raft jams. I wanted to swim up from the mouth of Havasu.

My swimming pool
Before I made it all the way down I ran into Ben and Alex. They had jumped off a 50' cliff into the pool below and wanted a photo of their next jump. But Joel had the camera now, not me. I got down to the boats and started wading in. I heard a load yell as Alex leapt in from above. I couldn't see him since he was around the corner. As I walked farther in I saw Ben leaping down. They quickly swam out.

It was a little chilly dunking myself all the way in the water, but it was definitely worth it. The water was barely moving and it was easy to swim against the current. There was a white banding about two feet up the wall and another smaller watermark banding two feet above that. The walls were smooth and undercut in many places. The light danced off the water and sent twirling bands of light onto the undercut walls. Below the water surface it was very deep, how deep I couldn't tell. The water undercut the walls way down underneath. I was curious if it had created any caves down below, but not enough to swim down in the cold water to find out.

The rapid at the mouth of Havasu Creek was nothing to write home about. We had gone through a lot worse, a lot of a lot worse. But still Alex, our intrepid oarsmen, managed to snap off the blade of his oar navigating this minuscule rapid. Metal fatigue was the culprit and sheared the oar right off. But you should have seen the frantic activity as Alex, and Ben who is riding down to Fern Glen with us, quickly brought out the spare oar while we were in the middle of this wimpy little rapid, and replaced it doing an immediate recovery.

Since Dave S. was rowing Ben Y's boat today Ben came down with us. Alex, always the opportunist, took advantage this fact and turned the oars over to Ben in this particularly slow part of the river.

It was a long way to Fern Glen. We passed several canyons on the way. At Tuckup (mile 164) some of our group was just pulling out. A strong upstream breeze had started and we were getting hungry. Dave Y. gave us a tow for a few miles to Fern Glen. It is not nearly as pleasant going down the river with a motor, but it was going to be over 20 miles total today and Alex's back was bothering him, so we were quite happy to take the tow.

At Fern Glen we had a late lunch of cheese and crackers and the leftover pepperoni. We also had a tomato and a pepper, a welcome addition of fresh food, which we get so little of.

After lunch it was up Fern Glen. Fern Glen is a nice little canyon. At the mouth it was a very hot trudge since our beautiful blue skies have continued into today. Then there is a narrow spot where the walls soar up and up, hundreds of feet. Very little sky can be seen when looking straight up and the shade was a welcome respite. The walls were studded with holes and pockets all through the lower levels of Muav Limestone almost as if thousands of animals have been borrowing directly into walls and left their houses behind.

Holes in the wall Or mouse condos?
The canyon is blocked, and broken up into sections by large bolder falls. The first bolder fall, I circumvented by wading through a thigh-deep pool and climbing up on the side. Joel went to the other side and chimneyed up between the boulders and wall. This brought us in to the sun and into the large fern glen. Stalactites dripped from the ceiling onto the large mass of ferns below. It was an enchanting sight. Last time I was here it was more enchanting as the monkey flowers were in bright bloom among the ferns, but even with out the little red jewels, the ferns dripped their beauty over the rocks.

Fern Glen
On the other hand getting down was somewhat more of a circus with us trying to chimney down a tight space. The photographers tried catching inopportune moments at the bottom.

It was 6 miles or so down to Cove (mile 174), our hoped for campsite. Dave towed us most of the way down. We detached only to go through Gateway Rapid, a small rapid with a few nice waves.

Joel - "I want to mention for the record something that happened on the trip between Fern Glen in our campsite this afternoon. Dave was towing our raft behind his, when one of the big commercial rigs (Hatch) came up on us. This, of course, caused Dave's testosterone to run strong and he gunned the motor in an attempt to keep pace with the commercial raft. Needless to say with towing our raft, Dave was unable to put in a decent performance. Note Dave swears that he was gaining on them but I only believe such a thing was possible if he had quickly slashed the rope towing our raft."

Go, Dave Go!
Paul had his umbrella up so we easily recognized the campsite. When we got there it was too hot to do much except perhaps bathe in the river which was cold. So we sat around reading and waited for the sun to go behind the canyon wall. As soon as it did, the kitchen crew got busy and dinner was started.

Our last raft has still had not appeared. This was the raft with Dave Strong, his wife and Jo Ann that took the long hike up Havasu. We didn't expect them until late since they had to do many miles between Havasu and here against a strong head wind. Dave Y. took the motor boat upstream as far as he could (which was just couple miles to the nearest rapid) to wait for Dave S. to give him a tow when he showed up. But Dave S. was stronger then we gave him credit for and rowed the whole way under his own power. They showed up about the same time that we started serving the dinner of falafel, curry, rice, and carrot coleslaw.

Joel on clothing:

On this raft trip I brought three sets of clothing. During the day, while we are on the river and while we are hiking between camps I wear my river clothes. This consists of a set of specially designed high sun blocking nylon long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Under the pants I wear a bathing suit.

When I get to camp, I switch into my evening clothes, which consists of a long sleeve lightweight cotton shirt and either a long pair of cotton pants or a pair of shorts. For sleeping I also have a T-shirt which I do not wear around camp.

I have a complete rainsuit for those cold days on the raft, rain pants, and a rain windbreaker top. Under which I wear a set of polypropylene long underwear bottoms and tops. I have a separate set of polypropylene I use at camp if it gets really cold and which I keep dry. I also have a Gore-Tex rain coat for camp (although I do not have a separate set of rain pants for camp.)

One pair of sneakers is specially designed pair for getting wet. I wear them in the boats and on hikes, using short Coolmax socks. The second set of sneakers I have yet to take out, they stay at the bottom of the dry bag. Usually at camp, I wear my sandals without socks.

For the river, I have a sun hat with a visor and a train, which covers up my neck. I also brought with me my wide-brimmed hat from the trip I made to the Grand Cayman Islands, which I sometimes wear in camp.

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