Rafting the Grand Canyon

May 28th

This morning Joel and I woke up at 5:30. It was just getting light out. We stayed in the tent to review our photos of the previous days. We deleted 30 photos to make more room to take photos today.

Joel and I went down to help out with breakfast. French Toast and sausage. I mixed the batter and Joel cooked them. Diane and Earl cooked the sausage.

After breakfast we hiked up near the canyon. We were in search of petroglyphs and ruins. Our initial discovery was the first Datura I had seen in bloom. Though the plant is quite toxic, its flowers are beautiful, like stark white morning glories. These flowers fade and die in the heat of the day and can only be found in the morning or on cold days. Next we found some striking yucca with seedpods. We had to stop for the requisite photos. Joel took one when they were in the shade. Then I took another later when they were lit by the sun. Our next find was some Indian petroglyphs carved into a rock about 10 minutes from the camp. Then we climbed up farther and found what appeared to be some Anasazi ruins. We weren't quite sure whether the ruins were real or not. They may have been partially rebuilt by someone.

Once we got past the upper ruin, we went around the corner and squeezed into a cave. You have to crawl for about 10 feet and then it opens up as a balcony over a larger cave. The larger cave is opened at the far end with a view of South Canyon.

Just downstream of our camp was Vasey's Paradise (mile 32). It was a small little Eden, with water pouring directly out of the redwall. Two large cascades and numerous small ones studded the wall. The serpent in this Eden is the poison ivy. The water nourishes many plants and the poison ivy creeps among all of them. We spent some time floating around at the base capturing our Kodak moments and letting one of our group members wash their head in the stream water.

After stopping for a short time to enjoy the view we were off to Redwall Cavern (mile 33) just around the bend. The large cavern right at the river was filled with a group of Hatchlings (passengers from the Hatch commercial trip), but they started leaving as we arrived. Numerous small tracks filled the sand floor. We couldn't tell if the tracks were mouse or lizard. Another strange kind of track looked like little worm tracks. They spiraled all over the sand, but were most numerous near the back wall where the rain and the people couldn't get to them. We spent a considerable amount of time at the cavern, giving everyone a chance to take photos, as the views were gorgeous.

The canyon can be very deceiving. As you travel in the canyon it looks like the walls are only perhaps 100 or 200 feet high, but when you get a chance to look downstream, you see that the 100 foot cliff is really only the first cliff of many, comprising thousands of feet. It almost looks like you can just throw a rope over the top and hike out but we know that's not true.

We stopped for lunch at Nautiloid Canyon (mile 35), a small canyon on river left. Before we ate, we took a short hike and scramble up into the smooth side canyon. The floor of the side canyon was imprinted with the outline of the skeletons of some prehistoric creatures, nautiloids.
View from Nautiliod Canyon
The skeletons were between six inches and twenty-four inches long, and were tough to spot unless you knew what you were looking for. We brought up a bucket of water because when wet the fossils become more obvious in relief.

After the short hike up we ate lunch, bagels and Swiss cheese. Joel was more interested in the processed cheese squeeze and the cream cheese. I stole a handful of tootsie rolls for Joel and Alex to eat on the long raft trip to our next camp. And it was a long and flat trip, just two rapids and 14 miles, slow flat miles.

The scenery was spectacular though. We followed the tall redwall cliffs down the river. The redwall was filled with grottos and caves. We floated past a natural bridge surrounded by the caves. This was the Bridge of Sighs. It was a small wash with a bridge of redwall over it. We floated farther down past the old proposed dam site. Luckily they were forced to abandon the idea of a dam in this area. There were many seeps and grottos along the way including Royal Arches and Triple Alcoves, the last one visible from our camp at Saddle Canyon.

When we landed at Saddle Canyon (mile 47) above the camp we were worried that both camps were taken. We had rowed against a strong wind for miles and were tired. I rowed for a while when Alex's back started to hurt. When the wind was its strongest it was stalling me. I asked Joel to come up and help row, him on one side and me on the other. With both of us we made progress. Maneuvering was a little bit of a problem. Joel doesn't read water, so didn't know where we wanted to be. For the most part I controlled the raft by rowing at different speeds with Joel always rowing the same speed. With all the rowing most of the oarsmen were tired. Dave of course had his motor so had little problem with the wind and, at the same time, pushed one of the oar boats. The rest of us arrived exhausted.

Earl rowing into the wind
Dave pushing Charles
We saw a commercial group spread out in camp and we didn't see the lower camp yet. But when we went around the bend, the camp we were hoping for was empty. Yea! Camps along the river can't be reserved. It is all done on a first come first served basis. For the most part we were well off with this rule. We tended to arrive in camp early and hike the nearby side canyons. Many of the commercial groups go very late into the afternoon and can't hope to always get good sites. We also had our late days and this would not be the last time we prayed for an empty camp.

Lower Saddle Canyon was a very pretty campsite. There was a large beach area with the usual amount of sand. But behind the beach there was a lot of scrub brush, and a bunch of very, very pretty old Mesquite trees.

After quickly unloading we started making dinner. We were all hungry even though it wasn't that late. While dinner was being made Joel and I set up the tent. There was a break in the rain that had started a while ago. After setting up the tent it started to clear.

Dinner was pleasant, shrimp rice and broccoli. A lemon poppy seed cake with strawberries was the dessert. Paul used his dutch oven to cook it.

The weather today was a repeat of the day before. We got afternoon drizzle, which limited our ability to take pictures and made for a cold ride. When we arrived in camp, it was also drizzling lightly although we still set up for dinner. But before dinner had to be made, the drizzle ended, and as the sun was setting it looked like it would be another clear night.

Joel on Sand. - "There is sand everywhere, not only is it on the ground, but it is in the tent, it is in my shoes, it is in my socks. There is sand in our clothes, there is even occasional sand in the toothbrush. We don't seem to be able to get rid of it, and Daphne says that we will not be able to until we leave the river."

Joel - "One of the most interesting nightly rituals is lying in the tent reviewing the pictures in the camera. We take plenty of pictures during the day, and in the evenings we use the LCD panel on the digital camera to decide which ones we like and which ones we don't. It's actually quite fun to be able to take pictures during the day and then see them that evening to see how they came out."


Our most common bird is the violet-green swallow. It has black wings, a green body and a white stripe between the body and the black tail. On the rare occasions that I've seen it perched it looks like a nondescript little black bird. When it flies it is stunning because you see the iridescent green and the white markings. These birds fly in flocks and fly very quickly making it hard to catch glimpses of them. One morning in the semi-darkness these birds zipped by at head level making calls. It was disconcerting because I could barely see them in the dim light.

At the put in we saw a heron (it looked like a blue heron from the distance) and what looked like a snowy egret. Farther down we encountered peregrine falcons and what we thought was a condor. Turkey vultures would show up in force farther down the canyon. We would often debate on what large birds we were seeing high up in the sky. Even when a bird is large, you can't see it well a thousand feet away.

Ducks were fairly common on the upper part of the canyon. We saw the common mallard variety and ducks with a white body and black heads (though they may not be ducks but some close relative).

At our current camp (Saddle Canyon) we are surrounded by ravens. There are actually only a few, but they make their presence well known. My father had a large bag of almonds in his kayak. After he got out, one raven was trying to take off with the bag. On the morning of the 28th one of the ravens flew very close and landed on the tree right next to me. I could hear the beat of the wings quite well, sounding a little like the thwap, thwap of a helicopter. When it landed on the branch there was a big thunk. The ravens are quite large and heavy.

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Photo Index | May 28th Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

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