Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 9th

It dawned bright and clear this morning when Joel got up . . . or it would have if he had gotten up later. He always seems to wake up in that predawn glow. I stayed in bed for 15 more minutes and then started packing up the tent.

Breakfast was pancakes and Yard 'O Beef. Yum Yum.

From above you don't get much of a feel for the size of the rapid.
During breakfast I was reminded that today was Lava Rapid day. I've been down Lava twice before: the first time the boatman (Roger, Alex's uncle) made his passengers walk; the second took us through the ledge hole sideways (the boat flipped three times before being spit out and three of the four D-rings holding the frame on pulled off). Hopefully the third time will be a charm.

Joel - "This is the morning. Just five miles down is Lava Falls Rapid (mile179, rating 10) , the worst rapid on the river. Everyone is a little tense this morning. Daphne gave me new zip-lock bags to seal tight the things I really don't want to get wet. As she says "everything in your day bag is going to get soaked". Paul took his empty drinking water container and filled it with river water. He says that he has never gone down a hard rapid without both of his water containers in the front filled for ballast. And he was not going to break the string now. Earl said that he never went down a tough rapid with filled water containers in the front of his boat."

At Vulcan's Anvil (mile 178) it was calm and peaceful. The torrent below could not be heard. A mile below the anvil the roar of the rapid was deafening.

Dad in Lava
We beached on the right and walked up the path on the lava. Overlooking Lava Falls Rapid there was a nice trail which goes up the side of the slope on the right hand side of the river. Clearly used by countless boaters scouting the rapid. After trudging up the trail, the boatmen discussed the order and how they will safely traverse the rapid. No one liked the look of the run on the right. There was a path through the maelstrom but it would be hard to make. The left run looked easier and missed the really nasty waves. All of our oarsmen decided to run left, far left, no farther left.

Three of us went together first Dave Y, then Earl, then Alex. We saw Dave drop down and then he disappeared. I stood up to see him but I still couldn't find him among the waves. He had cut the motor at the top and couldn't get it started again. Then gotten sideways farther down. Then Earl dropped down disappearing in the waves.

Ben in Lava
When we were looking at the rapid Alex asked me if I was nervous after my last experience with lava I said not yet. A few boat lengths before we dropped down into the rapid I told him, "OK now I'm nervous"

Alex's run was good except for one wave that hit us sideways (and got water up my nose). The first little drop folded the front half of the boat towards us and slammed Joel and I against the metal boxes (ouch). We were just a little bruised at the bottom, but elated we made it upright.

We stopped right below and I ran up with the camera to take photos of the last two rafts and the kayakers. Paul went so far to the left he almost got caught on a rock, a little excitement for Jo Ann his passenger.

Paul in Lava
Joel - "A funny thing happening during Paul's run at Lava Falls which I wanted to relate. After Paul had made his run, and pulled over in the eddy at the bottom, I had commented that I thought he had a good run. But then I jokingly added that he needed more work with his right oar. To that Paul responded, yes he knew that. But his pants saved his raft. It seems that he lost his right oar during the ride, but the blade stuck in the water and the handle stuck in his pants and that was just enough extra blade work to pull his raft free from beaching on one of the rocks."

My mother was elated. This was the first trip that no one had flipped in Lava on any of the four trips she had taken down the Grand. In fact to date, none of the rafts have flipped at all.

About a mile below Lava Falls rapid, we picked up a trophy. Some unlucky oarsmen had lost an oar and it had washed up against bank. We parked the boat and I scrambled across the lava rocks to pick up the oar, and the hand that rowed it which was still attached (a glove washed up near the oar).

After Lava we went down about 1 hours to lunch where we finished our Yard O' Beef. We also had Velveeta (ick) and three bean salad.

Commercial hoard
Joel - "Everyday we get passed, or we pass, a couple of commercial trips. Most of the commercial companies run very large boats, packed with people like cattle cars. They also use outboard motors to go quickly down the river and easily through rapids. I can't see being packed like sardines on one of their rafts listening to the drone of the motor all day long. Of course, on the other hand, their trips are mercifully (for them) short. I talked to one commercial passenger who said that they had a five-day trip starting at Phantom Ranch and ending at Peach Springs (where we end our trip). In contrast, ours trip is 18 days and only Dave has a motor."

After lunch, about a mile downriver, we stopped to look at some Indian pictographs at Whitmore Wash (mile 188). At first, the party followed Dave Y's lead. He led an intrepid group of Mom, Maddy, JoAnn, Dave S. and Joel, up the Whitmore Trail in search of the Indian pictographs. I believe that Dave felt if there was a trail, there was a reason. Joel joined him for about 15 minutes of hiking through the hot sun, and when Joel got his beautiful vista pictures, he turned around and walked back by himself.

Joel - "The hike back was long and arduous, but Paul had put up his umbrella which guided me faithfully to the rafts like a beacon in the light."

Meanwhile Earl drifted his raft a couple hundred feet down. There, very close the river on a limestone wall, were the elusive Anasazi pictographs. As soon as Joel came back, our boat went down to look at them too.

Joel - " Earlier today, probably on one of my hikes, disaster struck. I now have a small tear in the right leg of my pants. This will have to be repaired this evening lest I let sunlight in to darken my beautiful fair skin."

Lava flow
The canyon's character changed today. On river left were the towering limestone cliffs, which had been our constant companion for the past couple days. But river right was like alien landscape. Ancient lava flows left eerie patterned rocks all along the cliff faces on the right hand side. The most interesting rocks were the basalt columns, in several different sizes. Some would go straight up for tens of feet others would twist and warp and break off into even-sided rocks.

Basalt columns
The afternoon was hot and peaceful, no clouds in the sky. We drifted down with Alex occasionally rowing against the wind.

We haven't seen many swallows the last couple of days. Another bird has taken its place. It is brown and unlike the swifts and swallows it perches on the side of the river and then takes off for short flights over the water, presumably to catch insects.

We saw a large colony of teddybear chollas on river right just above mile 193. The spines were glowing in the sun and they were almost fuzzy. The plant grows almost like a palm tree, the lower leaves dying and the trunk below that. We also saw an ocotillo in bloom. The bloom was bright red and lit up the end of each branch like a torch.

We camped in a large camp in a wash just above 194 Mile Wash. The shade in the tammies was still hot, but better than the sun. Paul broke out his beer and offered it to everyone. I broke out my wine. We had a good time reading, talking and just mellowing out in the shade. It was quite a while before we started dinner.

I made dinner for my dad and I, a Mediterranean fish stew. OK it was salmon and rice, but it was good enough. We couldn't eat the group dinner due to our food restrictions. Maddy couldn't either because she eats no fish, so she had chicken.

Our camp had its own resident humming bird. It liked the red bandana next to the shitter. Maddy found a humming bird's nest, but it had nothing but broken eggshells. She never saw a bird around any of the three nests that she found in the tammies.

This evening after dinner just as it started getting dark the toads came out again, making us look closely where we step.

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Photo Index | June 9th Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

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