Rafting the Grand Canyon

May 27th

When my mom sent me out in the store buying food, my list said muffins. I assumed this meant blueberry muffins, corn muffins, bran muffins and the like. What she really wanted was english muffins. The group appreciated mine, but we never touched the apple butter my mom packed for them.

Boats in the morning light
Joel and I woke up early about 6:00. My mom was up and a few others. Joel and I wanted breakfast so we took over. I prepared the eggs with ham, pepper, tomato and onions all minced up, and Joel cooked them. And of course we ate the muffins.

Right after breakfast we packed up the rafts and left for the first rapid, Soap Creek Rapid (mile 11, rating 5), which was right after the camp.
Calm after Soap Creek
The Perrys were the first to get their rafts packed and into the river, so once again we have split into two groups, with Joel and I in one of the two lead rafts. It was early in the morning, and still cold. So we put on our polypropylene underwear and our rain gear to try keep dry. But our oarsmen had other plans. Brrrr.

After Soap Creek Rapid the river was relatively calm. And we just drifted along lazily in the shade. The play of the shadows on the wall of the canyon was very pretty as the sun came up and illuminated some sections and kept others in darkness.

Charles rowing House Rock Rapid
House Rock Rapid (mile 17, rating 7) interrupted our peace. A significant enough rapid with the possibility of flipping, so both Joel and I took off our glasses and hats and stowed them in a safe spot. Alex did his usual good job of bringing us safely through although for some reason he wanted to get a peek at the big hole on the left from its rim. After the first couple of rafts got through, we all jumped out in order to get our Kodak moments of the trailing rafts.

North Canyon
We had a long day planned. We went down the river to North Canyon (mile 21) for lunch. Before we actually broke out the food, we all went for a hike up the canyon. I had never been up this canyon before. I had heard that it was beautiful in a rainstorm. I would think if the stream were running it would be hard getting up onto some of the ledges that dominate the lower part of the canyon. It became more beautiful as we climbed up farther.

Frog climbing out of the scummy water
We stopped at a large scummy pool. No one was brave enough to swim through it to go farther. The surface was spotted with algae and there was a scum floating on top. Frogs inhabited the pond. The most interesting frogs were not in the pool but clinging to the rock wall above the pool. The canyon was blazing hot. Yet they did not swim in the pool. They seemed to have some sort of mucus membrane that kept them hydrated. Small lizards were also in abundance on the wall. They zipped in and out among the frogs.

The walls around the pond were not the flat layers of the lower canyon. Here the layers turned and twisted. With the sun shining down the bright walls and the dark in the shadows made beautiful abstract patterns.

Our first cactus bloom found in North Canyon
We hiked back to the beach area and ate a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. Then we pushed off for another seven or so miles. The sun had disappeared behind some storm clouds, which made the string of small but wet rapids extremely cold. A polypro day for sure. The rapids came quickly, only 1/2 to a mile apart, 23 Mile Rapid (rating 4), 23 1/2 Mile Rapid (rating 4), 24 Mile Rapid (rating 6), 24 1/2 Mile Rapid (rating 5), 25 Mile Rapid (rating 5), etc. I would just start to get warm then another would hit. Most of the waves were not too spectacular but the waves in Soap and 24 1/2-mile rapid were large and quite fun.

As it was an overcast day, it was rather wet and cold. Although earlier in the morning I had put on my warm clothing. I didn't bother for the afternoon since we had gotten so hot during the hike. But these rapids made me change my mind. We raced down towards Shinumo Wash where there was a rock climb to get up into the Silver Grotto.

The grotto was very pretty, reminding me of those areas in New Hampshire where years of river action has smoothed out basins. -Joel
At mile 29 we pulled over to go up Shinumo Wash. A short climb up the right side of the wash began the hike. Then we walked up to where the descent into the wash began. I wasn't too happy with the descent. It looked too dangerous to me. The two younger guys, Charles and Alex made it down but the rest of us weren't going. Dave Y. told us there was a clip you could hook a rope into if you reach around the corner. So we got a bowline off a raft and Diane, Joel, Dad and I rappelled down the smooth face. I decided my sandals didn't have enough traction for the rest of the climb up the wash so I took them off along with my long shirt and pants and left them on the ledge for later. The climb involved swimming through cold red pools, one of which had a dead scorpion floating in it. We shinnied up the washes and climbed around one pool. The last ascent into silver grotto was too difficult for me. I've done it before with a rope but we didn't bring one up with us this time. Diane, Alex and Charles made it up. The decent was much easier than the ascent. We could butt slide all the way down the wash. Some of the slides were fun, some annoying. The last one I have always hated. The drop is very vertical and you can't control your descent well. Luckily the pool below is deep.

The drop for which I wanted the rope. The boys said, "It's easy just run down the face."
Joel - "I should mention relative to our previous hike up to Silver Grotto, that I am not as young or as bold as I used to be. Daphne tells me that last time I made this trek, I had no problem and in fact we had a group of about fourteen people make it. This time, I spent most of it rather nervous; especially scampering across steeply sloped rocky walls going from one part to another. The climb up was the tough part, since you basically stayed on the rock walls over the pools trying to scamper around them. On the way back, we could just slide down the smooth rock surfaces into the pools, swim across, and continue. There were about six pools like this, each one getting progressively colder as we made our way back. But all in all in all it was an interesting experience, and although my muscles are sore, I'm happy I did it."

By the time we got down it was late, about 5:00 p.m. Dave had waited for us just in case someone had gotten hurt. Two of the boats had left early to grab the campsite we wanted at South Canyon (mile 32). Maddy really wanted to hike up South Canyon and wished we hadn't taken so long, but climbing is slow business.

As we were making that last couple of miles on the river, it started to drizzle. When we got to the campsite, which was one very large beach sloping upwards somewhat, we rushed to set up the tent with the tarp just in case it started raining harder. This particular campsite was very, very sandy. There was no purchase for the tent stakes, so our tent was held up entirely by rocks. After pitching the tent, the rain had let up somewhat.

After our tent was up, we looked for something that needed doing. Joel pumped some water. Earl told Maddy and I to figure out how to serve dinner to the group. Make-work, but at least something. We decided to serve the beans on the table so the stove wouldn't get messy with spills, but the table has a plastic top so we went in search of rocks to use as a trivet. Dinner was barbecued chicken, salad, rolls and beans, but the piece-de-resistance was the apple spice cake at the end.

Mom ended up getting annoyed because the cooks hadn't saved out a piece of chicken without sauce for my dad. Dad is very allergic to grains and milk products. People didn't realize that this was a problem but now everyone knows and hopefully will save him uncontaminated food in the future. My dad ended up eating salad and almonds for dinner.

We discussed hiking up South Canyon where we were camped this evening, but we decided to wait until morning since we would have more time. I'm glad because frankly I'm pooped after all the activity and the cold.

The storm we had earlier had cleared up. And the sky was almost blue. It was getting darker and the bats had come out in incredible numbers up in the sky. The swallows were out too, circling above the cliffs.

Upstream   Downstream
Photo Index | May 27th 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.