Archive for the ‘The Dream Trip’ Category

The Dream Trip: Camp 19, March 25…end of the trip.

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

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I awoke at about 4:30 and lay awake for another hour before untying the boat so we could drift down stream as we watched the stars twirl over head. In and out of sleep we drank in the beginning of our last day on the river or what was left of it now that we were well below the last of anything resembling a river bed not mired in silt. The light that had been gathering on the eastern horizon started to form shapes and shadows on the upper layers of rock. I thought about how long it had been since we first slipped below those cliffs of sandstone, limestone and shale almost a month ago. I fired up the little stove we use on the boat and made cocoa which we had with biscotti and grapefruit.

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Before long we were coming up on Quartermaster Canyon where the Hualapai have allowed concessionaires to set up helicopter landing pads, picnic areas and boat docks. They fly their people in from the Vegas strip and give them an hour long “Grand Canyon River Experience”. It was nonstop chopper action. We were still in bed and not looking quite like the Colorado River Runners they were expecting, just two old people in a sleeping bag. Once again we were the object of touristas attention. For as long as it took us to pass through this zone we were gawked at and asked all manner of questions. They would get off the choppers, walk down to the “river” and board a pontoon raft for a 20 minute ride on the river and then back to the choppers and off to the casinos.
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“You guys have been on the river how long?”
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The Skywalk, another Hualapai amenity.
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I wish I could say that I looked as good as she did after 27 days on the river.
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After the whole air show thing we pushed hard through the day watching the silt banks grow on either side. Often the banks would calve away and there would be a big crash as the clay splashed into the river. There were almost no places to camp due to the silt banks.
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Looking west from the Grand Wash Cliffs the Nevada desert opens up. It is the most amazing thing after 277 miles of canyon wall to have them just drop away like that. Looking bak the Grand Canyon looks like a mountain range with a canyon carved into it. Our river journey was fast ending. It seemed tobe falling away like the banks around us.
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A few miles beyond the Grand Wash Cliffs we came upon the new Pearce Ferry boat ramp. It had only been opened a few days and we were very glad to have access to it as the rapids right below the ramp were quick becoming un-runnable. When we got to the ramp it was open so we got right after derigging. With in a few minutes the first Hualapai boats began showing up. I was glad for our little piece of ramp. It is an under sized ramp for a amount of traffic it will see now that the new rapid is so bad. It took us about two hours to tear the boat apart and get it loaded. Some of the Hualapai guys helped me load the rubber into the truck. The rest I was able to manage while Lee rested.
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We drove carefully to Meadview not wanting to blow out a tire on the rocky road. At Meadview we used the “scat machine” to send all our crap from the month packing. It is always such a ceremony at the end of a trip.
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Our last camp, number 19 was at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, Nevada. We got dinner of prime rib and settled into our two Queen bedroom and listened as the wind howled in the desert outside. We had gotten off the river just ahead of a bad storm that whacked the river runners behind us. Though we missed the star canopy we were glad for the shelter and hot showers….did I mention hot showers.
In the morning we ate a big breakfast and drove through Las Vegas and out toward Utah stopping in Mesquite for gas. At the gas station in Mesquite the gas pump refused our credit card. I went in and was told by the service station attendant that it was not being accepted. Lee called visa customer service and they told us that the account had been frozen due to unusual activity. We explained that we had been on the river for a month and that was why there had been no activity until the night before. I had paid for our meals at the Hacienda Hotel with cash but had used the visa card to pay for the room. The customer service person said that the concern was not the long break and then one purchase far from where we live but a $7.00 purchase made in Ohio the night before. Strange. I remembered that when I handed the card to the hotel clerk he had spent an unusually long time examining the card before hand ing it back to me.
When we got home I tried to contact the hotel management. My phone calls and emails have never been returned. I explained in both the problem. FYI, not only can this happen at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, NV, the management doesn’t care to stop it. A rather bummer ending to an otherwise sweet trip.
At the take out we had met two boatmen from Canyoneers. They were there to scope out the new ramp. Their comment was that with a 39 foot raft no matter how you do it your butt end will be way out in the current. There is not a nice eddy there to pull into as you take out. You are just in the current.
When we explained the nature of our trip to the fellows from Canyoneers they said “That is a dream trip”. From then on we have talked about it as the Dream Trip.
I don’t know if we will do it just like that again, just the two of us. We are getting older and have physical limits. Lee broke her pelvis a few days ago.(October 27) I have bad knees and other complaints. We are rather spoiled for running with large groups on a private trip., THree boats and maybe six people seems like a reasonable limit right now. We will continue to charter commercial trips through my employer, Tour West for larger groups. That is work and it has to be that way but for private trips it will ever more be very small.

The Dream Trip: Camp 18, March 23-24

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Sleeping out was nice. It was warm enough that no tent was needed and the stars put on another amazing show for us. As the stars winked out we watched the light growing in the east. We didn’t get up until 7 am just watching it all begin and knowing that by the next night we would be off of the natural river and somewhere on the silt bed canal of Lake Mead. There is current all the way out to Pearce Ferry and beyond but it is a different river. It moves sluggishly and the sounds are all wrong for a river.
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Morning was lovely. We worked our way through breakfast of Spam with french toast and rigged the boat, getting on the water by 10 am. The rapids at Bridge Canyon and Gneiss Canyon were big and demanded some attention.We got hosed in both of them. 237 mile rapids was little more than a wave but it is coming back as the silt goes out. At Separation and Spencer Canyons the rapids are just starting to reassert themselves. It won’t be long….
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It doesn’t look like much but it was just about the meanest rapid on the Colorado at one time.
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It was a very pleasant sunny March day and we moved right along, stopping at Spencer canyon to look around at the improvements the Hualapai have made there. While floating we were passed by six boats full of tourists outfitted by the Hualapai. They were doing the daily from Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry. We were the subject of many photographs as they hurried by.Shortly after we left there the wind came up and soon was howling up canyon. We had to really push to make any progress. Lee did her part by keeping a low profile. We took camp at Surprise Canyon on the lower end of a long sand bar. At least the wind coming up the river was not carrying sand as it blasted us. As we were putting up the tent a group of boaters passed us rowing like Trojans into the gale.
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Lee really is a great boating companion. She loves it even when it is blowing and cold. I made us a dinner of hot spicy tomato soup with grilled cheese. For dessert we broke out some home canned peaches….yum.
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I first rowed past Surprise Canyon in 1994. At that time it was flooded and choked with willows and tamarisk so badly that entering was near impossible. As the water has gone down and the silt has gone out with the increasing current the mouth has reopened and hiking is an option, so on this last full day of our trip we decided to hike as far up Surprise as we could. I made breakfast of Spam,egg and cheese muffin sandwiches. I made extra so we could pack them for lunch.
We had an amazing beautiful day hiking up Surprise. It is a gem. We had been reading about Harvey Butchart’s forays down into Surprise from the top. We really hoped to get up at least to the Redwall narrows. It was not to be. It is long canyon without the kind of gradient we were seeing up around 210 and thereabouts. For the first mile or so we could see the bath tub ring left by Lake Mead with banks of silt still clinging to the stone walls here and there. For the first two hours we were in the granite and schist narrows. The light was dramatic. We stopped for a snack break in some Tapeats ledges by a deep clear pool where the canyon cut through that sandstone formation. From there we hiked another couple of hours through a much wider canyon as it opened up in the Bright Angel. The stream braided and wandered through Fremont Cottonwoods and some sort of ash trees in a wide open valley until it began to close in as we entered the lower limestone layers ahead of the Redwall. As we left the wide open area we came into a slumped area. The geology was all gone to heck, everything upside down and backwards. There were hundreds of huge limestone boulders choking the creek bed and slowing our progress. As we reached our turnaround time we came to some beautiful deep clear pools that begged a dip. We ate our Spam sandwiches and bathed soaplessly in the warm afternoon sun. After we dried off we dressed and headed down. The desert has more blooms here in the lower end especially brittle bush, Whipple’s Yucca and cactus. The walk down took slightly less time that going up, probably because I took less pictures going into the sun.
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We were pretty bushed back at camp. I made tuna sandwiches while Lee lay down in the tent to rest her back. Ten I began packing up and loading the boat so that we could start early in the morning. When she got up we ate the sandwiches with more canned peaches and cottage cheese. MNot bad for a no ice trip on day 27, eh? We finished loading the boat and made up our bed on the deck leaving nothing on shore. Even the groover was on board but close to the top for morning use. I moved the boat to a rock tie up and we settled in for our first night on the boat on this trip. The moon was in the last quarter but would be in our eyes before morning.
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The Dream Trip: Camp 17, March 22

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

We pulled out of our layover camp at mile 210 at 9:30 hoping to make some miles. After just a half mile or so I pulled into some very nice fluted schist on rivewr right and while Lee held the boat I scrambled all over the place snapping photos while the light was good.
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Lee was very patient, in fact she encourages my image making. Years ago I took photography classes in college thinking I would go that direction but gave it up for clay. A few years ago she got me a digital SLR for a christmas gift and I have been snapping away ever since.
The morning was warm and sunny but not hot. We floated along taking note of places we might stop and hike next time we get down this far in the canyon on a shoulder season trip. We noted that if we do a trip in the cool season again we will spend less time in Marble Canyon and the Granite Gorge and try to save more time for the lower end where it would be warmer. We ate a floating lunch above 117 mile rapids and stopped for some beach combing in “six pack eddy”. We passed Diamond Creek at 2 pm, stopping briefly there to talk to some tourists who had come down the road from Peach Springs to see the mighty Colorado. They were with some sort of jeep safari group and it was clear that we were the hight light of their vist…real river rats.
Below Diamond Creek the lower Granite Gorge is very impressive. The only stop we made was to scout mile 232 rapids, “Killer Fang Falls”. It was a good one to look at especially with the low flows we had that day. The difficulty of this one lies in the fact that the river all piles up on a cluster of nasty sharp rocks that are exposed at lower flows. At the upper left there is a pour over with a churning hole and a lateral wave that wants to surf you to the right into the wave train that piles up on the fangs. I entered right pulling left for all I was worth in an attempt to break through the lateral and miss the whole lower end of the rapid. Luck was with us and by the second wave I could feel the boat breaking out of the wave train and heading left of everything below that.
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The rapid at mile 234 was an easy cheat and we took our camp on a small unused patch of sand nestled in some amazing polished schist boulders. We named the place “Ernie Camp” for our big black dog. Dinner was canned chili and corn bread. It was warm and dry so we slept out on our tarp and enjoyed the Milky Way.
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My camera battery finally died as did the recharger I had brought, so I hot wired the battery from my electric bilge pump so I could get a charge. Thank heaven I and well versed in redneck rigging.

The Dream Trip: Camp 16, March 20-21

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

We moved camp again on day twenty three, taking a quick breakfast of cold cereal and apples before pushing off at 9:30. The night had been warm and clear with no wind so we slept out.
On the water we floated down to Spring Canyon at mile 204. We filled our six gallon jug in the clear side stream there and commenced a hike up the canyon.
The first quarter mile of Spring Canyon is a jungle of willows and bramble infested with snakes that come to feed on the abundant rodents living in the brush. It is slow going and weeds out all but the most curious boaters. Past the water source things open up and the vegetation returns to its usual desert flora. We hiked a ways and stopped to rest, eating what snacks were left in Lee’s day pack. We had not consciously taken any food thinking that the whole hike would be two hours or less. We kept thinking we would go just a little farther to see what was around the next bend and things looked so good that we would decide to go a little more. It began eating up the whole day. Below are some of the small wonders we ran into.

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About the time we thought we would turn around we came to a fork in the canyon and just had to see what was up the right side. Almost imedeately we entered into some very nice narrows in the Bright Angel Formation. It was a wonderland. I still can’t get over how beautiful it was. We had not expected anything this sweet up Spring Canyon so there was that sense of discovery again.

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Back at the boat we ran Mile 205 and had a late floating lunch as we drifted toward 209. We had planned to stop at 209 (Granite Park) but there was a group there so we floated down to 210 and made camp. Our bed was very near this Sand Verbena and the smell was heavenly as we bedded down under the stars again.
Day twenty four was Sunday and a layover. We had been affording ourselves the luxury of a Sunday layover all the way along, but with as much slack time as we now had they were becoming more frequent. As mentioned above many trips by this point in the canyon are :smelling the barn” and moving through at a pretty good clip, partly because the trip is winding down and they are focused on home and partly because, at least in the warm weather, it is beginning to be pretty hot that far down the canyon. For us it was finally getting warm enough to really enjoy.
After a grand slam breakfast of eggs, blueberry pancakes, fruit and Spam we held a devotional service of sorts and went for a walk up the side canyon coming in at mile 110.

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Looking down there were little wonders like these acacia roots wandering through breaks in the bedrock and the big view if the towering layers above.

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Soon after starting up we stopped to sit around in some lovely limestone narrows with nice pools and narrows.

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As we moved up through the BA layers we came to a dramatic pour over in the Muav that formed a bowl with amazing acoustics where our exploration terminated. We stayed there for a long time eventually eating a lunch of dried meat, fruit and nuts. We watched the light change as the day flowed by talking, not talking and reading from the Butchart book. It was a very nice way to spend the time in our “fun bank”. Of course naps were in order.

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Heading down there was no need to hurry so we lolled around checking out pools from last week’s rain and taking lots of photographs. I was agin impressed by the endless variety in the Bright Angel in this lower end of the canyon.

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Endless variety in the jumble of geological decay as the forces of gravity have their way on the material laid down and lifted up over the past…wow, and wow again.
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Back in camp we bathed and made two pizzas, one with red sauce and one with caramelized onion and pine nuts. We made sure that there would be enough for the next day’s lunch. Even with Lee’s pizza appetite is the best sauce. Later we read by fire light, burning a piece of pinyon we had been hoarding since the eddy below Badger Creek at mile 8. The stars came out in force and chased us up the hill to bed next to the Sand Verbena.

The Dream Trip: Camp 15, March 18-19

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Breakfast the second morning at Whitmore was egg, cheese and spam muffin sandwiches with grapefruit after a cozy sleep in. While I cleaned up and broke camp down Lee went walking up Whitmore Wash in the morning cool. By the time she was back I had most of the rigging done and we got on the water by 11:30. Happy Birthday Lee.
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We spent the day drifting in a rather lazy fashion. There were no rapids to speak of and we were in no great hurry. I’d stroke every so often as needed to keep us more or less in the current. We talked some and did a lot of looking. We stopped to check out a cave in the lava at about mile 190. It is a place where lava likely flowed out over sand and the sand has long since blown away leaving a cavity that is amazingly cool in hot weather. Lee had not seen it before and I wanted a break from the grind of letting the boat drift. We talked with a couple of groups we met along the way. Most have a keen interest in the kind of trip we are running. Though not unheard of a one boat trip is still a bit out of the ordinary. We talked for a while with a small group of men camped at Parashant Wash.
Above Parashant we pulled over and took a nap in the shade after a floating lunch. It was actually nice to have it warm enough to feel like looking for shade in the afternoon. Lee slept on the boat. I went ashore and found a very nice spot that probably never gets sunlight and was very mossy and soft.
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We took camp at mile 202 on river right where there is a nice beach next to some basalt cliffs. The evening was very nice and we had a fine dinner of pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, avocados with lime juice and french fries. Dessert was leftover apple crisp from Whitmore camp.

With the trip now a week from finishing time actually felt like it was spreading out instead of compressing like it usually does at the end. Usually by the time we are at 202 we are a day or two away from the takeout. When we launched we thought we might have to go all the way to South Cove at mile 297. We called out with the sat-phone earlier in the day and found out that the new boat ramp at Pearce Ferry is now open. That means we would take out at mile 280 so we were fat on time. Below Diamond Creek (mile 226) we would have 3 days. We also would not have to run Pearce Ferry Rapids which have become pretty nasty though runnable.

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We decided to layover again at 202 since the time was not an issue. We got up at 7:30 and put together a breakfast of eggs, ham, corn bread and grape fruit. Just as we were pulling the corn bread out of the dutch oven the boyos from Parashant came by so we called them over and gave them fresh hot corn bread with honey and butter on it. They were OK with that.
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After our breakfast Lee and I went exploring down stream. We hiked up on top of the lava cliffs and followed game trails through what can be accurately described as a desert botanical and rock garden. The heavy rains in January had greened things up and it was a route that probably sees very little traffic. It was splendid. The rocks all had a great dark shiny desert varnish on them. We made our way up a little drainage that terminated in a dry waterfall where we found some shade. It was really starting to act like March in the lower canyon and the shade was welcome.
On the way back we watched a small group drift by from the cliffs above them. They were all very young and trying to get as darkened by the sun as possible, a habit most thinking boatmen get over after a few years on the river. They never new we were up there watching.
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Back in camp Lee made a pizza while I baked a cake. The evening light was wonderful and the moon set as we bedded down in the open air. As the moon set the stars began coming out in ernest.
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“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.”
Psalm 19:1-2

The Dream Trip: Camp 14, March 16-17

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

After lunch with Raven’s group we packed up and went across the river to look at what has become of the Shady Ledges. The Shady Ledges is a favorite post Lava lunch spot used by many river trips. Sometime since the last time I was there a huge bunch of limestone fell down bisecting the spot. It is quite impressive. From there we floated lazily down to the Whitmore Wash Camp. ON the way we saw the first ocotillo flowers and one Whipple’s Yucca in bloom. The dessert in general is very green from the winter rains but we have seen few blooming plants yet.
At Whitmore Wash we encountered a group from Colorado laid over there. It was the same bunch we had seen at Matkatamiba. Since we had yielded the Matkat Hotel Camp to them they invited us to share the beach with them. They would be leaving in the morning and we could stay there for a lay over. We had a good time visiting with them and swapping more river tales. One of their group had just finished a biography of Harvey Butchart and couldn’t find any takers for it in his group so he passed it to us and we spent the rest of the trip reading it together. It was a great read and what better place to read it than the Canyon.
Our hosts left us in the morning by about 9:30. We buttoned down our camp and went hiking. Lee wanted to do the Whitmore Wash mule trail so she went that way. I angled southwest and summited the twin peaks visible from camp. It was a strenuous hike and I made the peaks in 2.5 hours. The desert was very beautiful. Everything was green and the ocotillos blooming a little.

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The twin peaks are visible in the back ground of this image.
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Looking west and then north from the summit. Note all of the lava flows coming from the rim down.
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From the summit I descended a very steep chute to the saddle west of the peaks. There are a lot of faults in the area and I found myself on the Esplanade Sandstone. I contoured around to an alcove I had seen from above that has a huge juniper tree in it. In the alcove was a very old bee colony. A long time ago someone, Indian or cowboy fashioned a crude ladder from some of the long branches of the juniper tree and harvested honey from the cliff above. I couldn’t tell how old the ladder was. TYhe bee colony still had bees buzzing around it.

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A very tenacious little tobacco plant growing out of the rock.

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From the bee alcove I descended a talus slope to the valley below and picked up an old cowboy trail back to our camp. The decsent reminded me of my age. Thank heaven for ibuprofin. Lee has also had a great day. We enjoyed swapping stories as we made our dinner. It was Lee’s 54th birthday and we celebrated with roast beef, mashers with gravy and a cabbage salad with red bell peppers in it. Can you believe it, red peppers on day 20 with no ice on the trip? Dessert was apple crisp with canned whipped cream….again, no ice!

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Our camp at Whitmore Wash. With the stars as our canopy we slept hard after such a good day.

The Dream Trip: Camp 13, March 15

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Beware the Ides of March. Two moments define this day on our river journey: Sitting with Lee in the alcove in Fern Glen Canyon by the waterfall talking about our relationship, where we have been in terms of accomplishments and time, the changes and commitment, where we are going and recommitment; and standing with her at the Lava Falls scout looking down on 8,000 cfs of chaos and violence. I have run that rapid 40 times now. This run was easily the most challenging of them all because we were there alone. There would be no one to spot us, no one to help us if we got into trouble, just the two of us trusting each other and God to pull through. The right side looks pretty good at 8K but the tail waves are HUGE and sharp. Lee offered a short sweet prayer and we shoved off with a kiss for good luck. A couple of minutes later it was over except for the bailing. The actual time from the brink of the falls to the safe zone below the “Black Rock” is 12-15 seconds that feel like a lifetime.
We went intentionally slow that morning not wanting to get to Lava early. The water drops as the day goes on and we felt it would be a better run later in the day at the lower flows. We stopped at Fern Galen and hiked/climbed up into her unique terminus where we just sat at talked and then didn’t talk.
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Fern Glen is a world within a world. The silence there is only disturbed by the little water noises and occasional raven’s cries. The only place that compares to it in my mind is Whispering Falls up Kanab Creek. We have a lot of memories stored up from our visits to Fern Glen over the years. With my eyes closed I could almost hear Louisa’s “The Gray Horse” echoing around in the alcove. We stayed along time listening, watching and discussing “us”.
I had a tight gut all day thinking about Lava. I would have felt a lot more relaxed it it had just been me. I could see the anxiety in Lee’s face. I wouldn’t call it out and out fear, just a certain uneasiness. When it was over we both expressed how glad we were that we had done it solo. It meant a lot to us and always will. It certainly was the crux move of this trip, this trip that seems a metaphor for our life. After the run Lee demonstrated her feelings with one of her world class kisses that I have come to look for over the years.
Lee talked about how all of our other trips together and apart in the Grand Canyon have been preparing us for this one. I felt that every other run of Lava over the years has been a rehearsal for this one. It was a text book run. I have had some ugly runs there. I have never tipped a boat over in Lava but we have both taken unscheduled swims there. This one was not ugly at all, it was perfect. Every oar stroke was where it needed to be threading us through the holes and waves. Lee’s prayer was echoing in my mind as we hit the Vee Wave dead in the middle, submerged momentarily in the boiling foam, and ran right of the tail waves almost missing them completely. It was indeed a providential run.

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After Lava we took camp on river right below at what some have called “Tequila Beach”. We celebrated with some home grown plum juice from the trees in our back yard. We ate hot dogs and enjoyed a loaf of bread Lee baked in the dutch oven with dough she had been working on since the night before. The light on the rocks and in the sky was as good as it gets. We also broke out some of our supply of pre-March firewood and indulged in a little blaze…atmosphere you know. The stars were amazing and the distant roar of Lava Falls only another night noise.

Day nineteen began before light. We had retired pretty early after our Lava run and woke at at 4:30. We just laid in bed watching the day begin and talking. What excess! As the stars blinked out a pair of wrens trilled back and forth and up the beach we watched a couple of ravens mating. Lee wanted to feed them so that the little ravens would hatch out strong. I assured her that ravens get plenty to eat and that the little guys would be as strong as ravens need to be.
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After breakfast of hot oatmeal and grapefruit we decided to venture back up to Lava Falls and watch the water for a while. Every other time we have looked at Lava it has been with the knowledge that in just a few minutes we would be in the middle of it. It seemed good to go back and look at it a little more objectively for a while.

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On the way up to look at the falls we came upon a little cavity in the rock that bore witness of human occupation at two very different times both with inscriptions in the rock and evidence of domestic life.
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We watched the falls for a long time. It is rather hypnotic, maybe mind bending. As we were leaving to get to the boat and on down the river we saw a group of other boaters pulling in to the scout at Lava. It turned out to be the bunch we had run Bedrock with last week. We decided to stick around and watch the festivities. We were not dissapointed. No one flipped but there were some moments when I wondered. They put on a fine show and made us all the more glad we had worked at hitting Lava the night before at lower water.
As with many groups they scouted for a long time. I hate long scouts. It gives the stomach acid too much time to work. I like to look at it and run. To each his or her own.
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After the entertainment we made our way back to Tequila Beach where our friends had pulled over to eat lunch and relive the adventure of Lava Falls. We had a great time catching up, looking at my photos on replay (Isn’t digital fun?) and swapping tales of the happenings since we saw them last at Deubendorf. The invited us to have lunch with them and we hungrily joined in.

The Dream Trip: Camp 12, March 13-14

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

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We both woke up glad that we had run Upset the night before. It was a beautiful starry night and warm enough that we slept out under it. It was the first night this trip that we were completely out under the stars and not sheltered by some ledge or cave opening. Above is the view looking upstream from the Upper Ledges Camp.
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After a breakfast of Sausage, cheese and egg sandwiches with citrus fruit we got on the water at the crack of 10 am. We enjoyed floating in the morning light past Sinyala Butte and Havasu Creek. We had no great desire to stop at Havasu. If it had been a hot day and swimming was a possibility we might have gone far enough up to take some of that in, but it was cool enough to keep us in our boat. It was a very pleasant time, just floating, taking pictures and talking on and on.
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Our first stop was on river right just above mile 158. The camp there is commonly refered to as First Chance as it is the first viable camp after Havasu Creek. We stopped to look around and climb up into the little drainage that empties into the river there.
In 1994 while on our first trip through the Canyon in our own boat we spent a Sunday afternoon here alone just visiting and catching up. Lee had been flown out of the Canyon at mile 131 just below Bedrock with a kidney stone attack. At the time we didn’t know what was wrong but were sure that if she was not evacuated she would die. She was vomiting and it was over 100 degrees. After passing a kidney stone that night at a motel in Grand Canyon Village she hitched a ride to Flagstaff and stayed with Bob Melville and Jan Carpenter who we had met at the Little Colorado the year before on ourfirst trip through the Canyon as passengers. While there she had decided that if she got right on it and was lucky she could hike in at Havasu Creek and catch up with the group. None of us even knew how things had gone for her. She borrowed a day pack from Jan and got her to drive her out to Hualapai Hilltop where the trail to Supai Village starts. Lee hiked until she could not see anymore and slept under a ledge. She tiptoed through Supai Village before dawn as she had no permit to be hiking there. She finally reached the river at about 11 am, just fifteen minutes before we got there. As we came around the corner into the mouth of the creek we were totally unprepared for the sight of Lee, looking like an angel, standing on the sand bar waving us in. I was in such a state of shock that I almost missed the pull in. The rest of the group went hiking. Lee had done plenty of that already, thank you, so we went down and waited for them at First Chance.
While we were there on that day back in 1994 I found a life jacket from Georgie White’s flip in Crystal back in 1983. It was wedged back up under a rock up high away from the river. I deduced that it was from that flip because the Jacket said Georgie on it and the inspection date on it was 1983. It was in mint condition and hangs today on the wall in my boat house.
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After leaving First Chance we had a floating lunch of home canned peaches, cottage cheese, corn chips and guacamole. At Tuckup Canyon we stopped again to visit with Ray Bush’s group. We had not seen them since the put in and were eager to catch up and swap stories. They were on the last day of a four night layover there. They were all sitting around in shorts and tee shirst. We felt a little over dressed in our water proof gear. Their water filter was malfunctioning so we loaned them ours. They dropped it off to us the next day as were were laying over.
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As we left Tuckup the wind started up and it turn very cold. By the time we had pushed down to National it was raining and sleeting. We no longer felt over dressed. Right after we got into camp the group we had seen at Matkatamiba came struggling down the canyon and took camp below us at Lower National. Just as they were getting their stuff off the boats a wall of dust and wind came down out of National Canyon, missing us and right into them. It was a sand storm of biblical proportions. I went down to see how they were doing after things settled down and found that the recent storms of January had totally reworked the camp. The beach was mostly gone and the wash coming out of National was now going right through the former camp. Their boats were moored to a single rock sitting in the middle of the wash’s path. I suggested they move the boats over to one side or the other and tie them to multiple anchors.
With the storm settling in Lee and I decided on a quick dinner of pork chili stew and retired to our tent to read and write in our journals.
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March 14 was a Sunday and we decided to take a day of rest; layover day. We ate chocholate chip cookie bars in bed with milk and then took an early walk up National Canyon to catch the amazing morning light.
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On our first trip through the Canyon in 1992 we stopped at National. i don’t know why because everyone was so freaked out about the prospect of running Lava falls later that day that they stayed on the boats while Lee and I went exploring. We didn’t know if we would ever do this again and we didn’t want to miss anything. It was a bit special to get to see it alone that day. This morning 18 years later was just as sweet. The only sound was the little water noises that speak about eons and patience. We wandered slowly up to where the canyon narrowed and became too much trouble to negotiate further.
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Back in camp we had a pancake and sausage brunch and watched the river roll by. We read from our scriptures some and discussed what we read and felt. This trip was special. It was so nice to have the time and freedom to go slow and take a Sunday off to just look around and rest up. We lived a dream down there and talked about how to bring some of that feeling back with us to our home by the brook in the trees in Spring City. It is just the two of us there too, but with the added pleasure of community if we want to engage. This trip was a ceremony for us. It asked some things of us and it showed us things we had been missing in out mundane life, things that can be there if looked for.
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It was warm and sunny so we bathed and did laundry thinking I would be the last time we would need to wash before the end of the trip that was only ten days away. On some trips that seems like a lot of time but we were already seventeen days into it. Ray Bush’s group had dropped off the water fdilter we loaned them and I pumped water for the first time since starting the trip. We were only carrying a six gallon jug but the temps were cool enough that refilling a one spring and Phantom Ranch had gotten us by OK.
Lee made her famous onion, pine nuts and gorgonzola cheese pizza and we had it with a salad and more of those cookie bars.

The Dream Trip: Camp 11, March 12

Monday, May 31st, 2010

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Day fifteen started real slow. I loved sleeping in at Poncho’s Kitchen and letting the morning start itself. We just didn’t feel like moving fast. Poncho’s is so nice and the bright sun was so mellow. Poncho’s might be one of the best groover sites we had on this trip. There is nothing like great morning sun and a view up and down the river. I’d hate to have someone come by and not be able to wave to them.
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A small colony of Organ Pipe Cactus and Paul’s holey rocks.
After a great breakfast we finally launched at 11:20 and worked a staying dry in Doris and Fishtail. We were moving into what is called the “Muav Gorge” which lasts from about mile 139 to somewhere below National Canyon. Here the canyon has 1500′ deep walls of Redwall, Temple Butte and Muav limestone. The walls are quite vertical. If someone tells you to “park it where the sun don’t shine”, the Muav Gorge would be the likely place to try it. Some call it the “Ice Box”.
Passing the mouth of Kanab Creek just below mile 143 we thought of Major Powell’s second journey in 1872 which ended there. They had hiked out to Kanab for supplies. While there jacob Hamblin, Lee’s great great grandfather, advised Powell to abort saying that the Indians downstream were hostile. The Utah Blackhawk War had been raging since 1864 and Hamblin felt going on would be unwise. I don’t know why he didn’t give them the same advice in 1869. The Blackhawk War ended in 1872. The last skirmish was just a few miles from Spring City near the town of Fountain Green. A large group of Indians from all over the west had gathered near Fountain Green for a Ghost Dance. The US Army gathered them up without much of a fight and they were all shipped off to reservations.
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We pulled into Matkatamiba thinking we would have it to ourselves like we had had Deer Creek the day before. My habit is to always tie up as if someone is coming in on top of you so I tied the boat upstream both bow and stern. Just as we were starting to hike up the creek in came a group we had not seen yet came charging in. The young woman at the oars asked “Is this Olo already?” I informed her that Olo was three miles back upstream. The rest of her group came in in very close formation. I jumped to and Lee and I helped them get their boats secured. One old guy came in wide flailing at the oars and cursing. Unable to make the pull in, he went on down to Matkat Hotel to wait for them.
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We thought,”Well there goes our privacy.” We went on up to grab what solitude we could while they phutzed around with their gear. To our surprise they never did come up to the patio area. They climbed up the narrows and went back out on the high trail, never entering the area where we were.
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Needless to say we had a great time hanging out. As we were leaving the boats we had told them to go ahead and take the first camp if they wanted it and we would find something smaller down stream.
As we floated down from Matkat to Upset we just didn’t see anything even big enough for our one boat so we ran Upset in the late afternoon light. It is a beautiful rapid in the sun. It was nice not have it looking at us in the morning chill.
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We decided to go on down to Upper Ledges for camp. I prefer this camp to the main Ledges Camp. No one else was in the area so I didn’t feel bad about taking a large camp for our little group.
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Dinner was chili dawgs, eaten with gusto. On the side were homemade thick cut potato chips with fry sauce and sliced avocados in lime juice. Not bad for day fifteen on a no-ice trip.

The Dream Trip: Camp 10, March 11

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

I think someone at Glen Canyon Dam has been smoking crack rock. I can make no sense of the flow regimen at this point. The night we spent at Randy’s Rock the water started coming up around 8 pm. When I got up at 5:30 am to check the water had already gone out again. ?????

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Camped away from the water it took us a while to get the gear to the boat and ready to launch. We were rigged and launched by 9 am. It was a clear crisp morning. We enjoyed the float down to Specter Rapid. I was able to stay fairly dry in Specter by cutting left through the lateral waves at the top. Below Specter we stopped to look at the waterfall on river right between Specter and Bedrock.

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We scouted Bedrock and decided to take a stroll up the creek there. I have always thought I should do that but have never taken the time. As you can see from these pics it is sweet. There is a lot of variety in the rock. She looks good in her Kokatat, eh?
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As we were getting back to the boat a party we had not encountered yet came up to scout. They launched on Monday, March 1. The permit holder was a guy named Raven. We scouted with them and asked if we could run with them through Bedrock and Dubendorff. We ran first and had a very clean run staying way right of the rock. My last encounter with BR I ran left and was not keen to do it again. Above is an image from that run. Note how FULL the boat is. We were bailing for a long time. We also ran Dubendorf with the Raven group. My run was good except that when I made it past the Table Rock I got too much into celebrating and almost hung up on the rock below on rive right.

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Raven tried to get us to lunch with them at Stone Creek but we prefered to have a floating lunch. We stopped and looked at a nice little ephemeral waterfall on river right above mile 133 Mile Creek. Above Tapeats Creek was saw the group who launched on February 28. They were laid over at Racetrack, a small and miserable camp who’s only virtue is its proximity to Tapeats Creek. In Granite Narrows we stopped to check out some cool rocks and take pictures of the view upstream looking at Powell Plateau.

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Though we had planned to mostly only stop and hike places we had not tried before we decided to stop at Deer Creek. It was late in the day and there was no one else there. Having a place like Deer Creek to ourselves was something not to be missed.
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The Deer Creek Narrows are sacred to the Southern Paiute peoples. Their belief is that this is where the spirits of the dead come to pass out of this world and into the next. It is the portal. The hand pictographs found here represent the ones who have passed on. Many people visit this beautiful place each year unaware of its significance. Some lower themselves on ropes into the narrows below the foot path. This is offensive to the Paiute. This is their most sacred site. Some rappel out of the narrows down the path of the waterfall. This is illegal and can end in a citation and fine.
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How often do you see this? Deer creek is usually a circus. After the stop at deer creek we floated down and made out camp at Poncho’s Kitchen, a lovely over hung beach on river left at mile 137. Poncho’s is special to us. It was Paul Frisby’s favorite camp. Paul passed away in 1998 while preparing for a Grand Canyon trip that he was not able to make.
Dinner was red enchilada casserole in the dutch oven. It was warm so we slept out watching the stars pinwheel around Polaris.