Rafting the Grand Canyon

May 26th

First day on the river!

Last night we stayed at the campground at Lees Ferry. The campground was very hard, with curved shapes metal protectors for the picnic tables. It was not a particularly inviting place for us to camp, but we had little choice. Four of our group didn't stay at the campground. They slept on the rafts to keep an eye on them overnight.

We woke up early in the morning (Colorado time, which we will stay on for the whole trip). Breakfast this morning was doughnuts and orange juice, although we were too lazy to dirty any dishes to make the orange juice. So people just scooped their own concentrate out of the cans and added it to their waterbottles.

The sun had just risen over the canyon wall, and we were going to pack up the boats and head on downstream. We have five rafts to pack up. Alex was the oarsman on our raft. Earl, Alex's dad, had Sue and Diane as passengers. Dave Y. brought his cataraft. This was the only raft in the group with a motor. Since it was the largest and safest of the boats my mother took that one with Maddy. My mother was not supposed to be on the trip according to her doctor and she was not supposed to get her eye wet. Paul rowed his cataraft with Jo Ann as a passenger, and Charles took Dave and Judy Strong down. Our group is filled with rowing expertise. Three of us who are passengers could probably take a boat down without too much trouble.

Navaho Bridge
Alex's dad, Earl, wanted to leave as soon as possible so our boats took off a few minutes before the others. The two kayaks drifted in the front the group. The only sound was our own talking, and the oarsmen moving the boat along slowly. (Except for that annoying plane that flew over the canyon earlier this morning.) Once into Marble Canyon we laid back on the raft looking up. The small birds were zipping back and forth.

Badger (mile 8, rating 5) was our first real rapid. Not that dangerous, but a lot of good, wet, cold water. Because the rafts were separated, we went down with the first group. We went down on the right side and had a fun ride. But it was COLD. Forty-five degree water is hard to take right in the face. Then we pulled into the eddy at the bottom, and ran upstream so that we could catch some pictures of the two trailing rafts. They ran the left tongue and stayed mostly dry, but their run was not nearly as fun.

We lunched on a small little beach on river left, just after the rapid. Mom was trying to find all the lunch food people had stashed all over. In the end we found it all but the Swiss cheese. We ate American cheese instead, such great sacrifices we make.

At lunch Earl and Dave gave our party the environmental dangers talk. After talk about Hanta virus, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and velvet ants some of the crew decided they would sleep in a tent the whole way.

We got to the campsite in the early afternoon, and unloaded the boats. We actually had a very short day, only traveling approximately 11 miles to Soap Creek. The campground is relatively small, really just a series of clearings with a path connecting them.

After unloading the boats and picking a campsite I walked over to Soap Creek. It was dry, but might not remain that way. Clouds were forming farther up the creek, and some looked very threatening. Soap Creek looked like a nice hike. Close to the river the creek had a large drop. The sides of the creek at that spot were not made from the hermit shale that covered the area, but it was made from boulders of all sizes that looked like they had been laid by a stone mason. The creek had been built up by previous flooding of the creek, then eroded away again. Farther up I saw the typical canyon walls of hermit shale. Many of the boulders near the creek had quartz embedded in them. One looked like it had geodes studded through. A couple of the geodes were open. The crystals were not as perfect as the ones you see in the stores, but pretty nonetheless.

Later Joel, Judy S., and I went up Soap Creek. Since the creek was dry it was hot, no place to get wet to cool off. It wasn't long before a small rivelet came out of the ground. It came and went for the mile we hiked. Each time the ground started getting wet, it would also become white. The water would bring salt up from the ground, then evaporate. The salt crystals that came up would encrust any object in the wash. The small pebbles encrusted with salt made beautiful patterns in the sand.

The rock along the side of the canyon also made beautiful patterns. The shale itself with the sun shining down the length made patterns of light and dark red. Occasionally intrusions within the shale would dart down the side of the cliffs disappearing under the sand of the wash itself.

Apache Plume
Prince's Plume lined the sides of the wash. Graceful arcs of yellow flowers dipped down and sideways. The cacti had just finished blooming and bits of red petals could still be seen. The cacti themselves had purple tints along the edges making them beautiful even without their flowers.

The plants and flowers were not the only signs of life. Small lizards darted among the rocks above the wash. Inside small tadpoles swam in the rivulet. We wondered if it would dry up in June before they matured.

Joel thought the canyon that we hiked in was not particularly remarkable, and in some ways that was true, but I always look at the small things as I hike and each one I find enchanting. We hiked until we got to where it forked and there was a large rock formation that we called the castle. Then it was time to turn around and start dinner.

The "castle" up Soap Creek
When we started making dinner, Joel volunteered to cook the hamburgers. I went up to camp to set up our tent. One of us for the group help, one of us to deal with our personal stuff. The hamburgers took a while to cook since they were so thick and also frozen. We could only cook approximately four of them at a time. But eventually we all ate, and with the sun behind the canyon wall, it was a very pleasant evening. The rapids provided background noise, since it was just below the campsite. There were no bugs, and it was all in all a very pleasant time.

After dinner we ate dessert which included pecan pie, one of my all time favorites. Then we each washed our personal dishes, as we were to do for all our meals. We used four buckets. The first was a rinse to get off the worst of the mess. The second hot water with detergent. The third hot water rinse. And the last cold water with chlorine. The dishes need to sit in the last for 60 seconds to sterilize them.

Joel noticed that the entire campsite was covered with a sticky red clay substance that turned everything we owned red. The tent had big splotches of red sticking to the side, and it was almost impossible to wash out of clothes. Joel: "I hope that at some of the downstream campsites there will be a chance to try to get things clean." Me too, but I want to get the smell of old sweat out. The dirt doesn't bother me.

Upstream   Downstream
Photo Index | May 26th Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

May 26 May 27 May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 1 June 2 June 3
June 4 June 5 June 6 June 7 June 8 June 9 June 10 June 11 June 12

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Please contact Daphne Gould for comments or problems.