I woke up in the cave watching the stars fading away. Lee was sleeping beside me as I thought about the rock formed 1.7 billion years ago that surrounded us. It was hard to want to get up but I did……eventually.
The schist in the Inner Gorge is the most rugged looking stuff I have ever seen. It is like we had transitioned out of one world and into another. The shapes and orientation of the rock is completely different from the orderly sedimentary layers of the past 80 miles. Between the Tapeats Sandstone and the Vishnu Schist is a gap in the time line of about 950,000,000 years called “The Great Unconformity” . That is a lot of missing data and, as I said, it looks like another world, a gothic world.
About six months after our first Grand Canyon river trip in 1992 Lee began painting images of that trip. I think it took her that long to process the experience. All the way through that trip she and another woman on the trip who was also a mother kept comparing the experience to the only other really big life changing thing they had done, giving birth. Above is a painting Lee calls “Woman in the River: Baptism”. Set in the schist of the Inner Gorge it depicts the emotional experience of being worn down to bedrock and then reborn in the river. It was a life altering experience. I am beginning to see this trip in the same way.
We were rigged and on the water by 10:15 after a breakfast of muffin, sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches. We ran Sockdolager and Grapevine without incident. It was cold and a little windy. Clouds were beginning to darken the sky. The good news is that the wind was blowing down canyon, always a blessing. We ate lunch on the boat after running 85 mile rapid while we floated toward Phantom Ranch. The schist provided an amazing floor show for our repast.
At PR we walked up to the cantina where Lee posted dozens of messages she had written to friends about the trip. There was a fat letter there from our oldest, Louisa, who lives in France and has been traveling in Ireland for a couple of months. Louisa works on the river with me sometimes and knows how nice letters at Phantom are. I called Zina to let her know we were alright, checked in with our house sitter and talked with our friend Christa about the rapids and camps. It was getting late (4 pm) by the time we were back on the water.
Below Pipe Creek there was a group camped on a cobble bar. They invited us to bunk in with them but we declined. I wanted to run Horn Creek on afternoon water. In the morning the water would be lower and I always prefer Horn at higher water. At Horn Creek I did something I have not done in years. I got out of the boat and scouted it. It looked to me like the run could be done between the horns or from right to left. I thought about it and as I pushed off decided to do the momentum run from right to left. It was fine. Either way you get rather wet in that one.
Below Horn Creek we began thinking about camp. We had been talking about Trinity Creek or Salt Creek but decided instead on a little granite landing on river right below Trinity and above Salt. I doubt anyone has ever used it as camp. There was one small place up in the boulders where we could pitch a tent and enough of a ledge by the shore for a kitchen. It was a lovely camp, one we will remember. The next day was Sunday so we decided to layover and rest. I love running with other people, even on commercial trips, but I liked very much being with someone who also liked to take one day in seven off and watch the river go by and think about its Creator. On that Sunday we read from Genesis as we sat on rocks as old as any I have visited. Being the son of a geologist who was also a church man I have never had much problem reconciling the story of Genesis with science. I find them both rather exciting.
This was one of our most visually rich camps, but we seemed to say that about most of them. The granite and schist are amazing. Just upstream of our camp was a little stream coming into the river with beautiful pools and flora.
The rain started up around 9:30 pm and drummed on most of the night driven by hard wind. We were already asleep and were awakened when it started. We were very glad we had buttoned everything down in the kitchen and had the rain fly on the tent. It was nice and cozy in there. We were awake until about 11:30 talking and reading until we got sleepy again.
The cold, wind and rain continued the next day. We were glad to be laying over. We both went exploring in different directions. I found some cool jetsam at the traditional high water line, very old plywood, bottles and cans that also had some antiquity. Lee spent some time when it wasn’t too rainy drawing. Around 11:30 the group from up Pipe Creek way came by. They had spent most of the day before waiting for a hiker who was coming in to join their group. Don’t ask me why I hate exchanges. They mean you have to hit Phantom on a certain day and if the hiker isn’t there you have to wait. No thanks. They also told us of their flip in Horn Creek Rapid just minutes before. What a rotten day to have an unscheduled swim. As the day went on and the storm persisted we thought of them running the gorge and heading into the Gems.
During one of the rainy spells we took shelter under a house rock and listened to some podcasts and read the fat letter from France. It was nice and cozy once again. In our spiritual tradition it is customary to fast on the first Sunday of the month so we observed that. Our fast was dedicated to gratitude. We feel so lucky to get to do this with just the two of us. We sat in the shelter of our rock and listed the things that we are grateful for. It was a long list. Lucky us.
Later we put up the rain fly over our kitchen area and built a small warming fire from our drift wood stores. We got some Mozart going on the iPod and Lee baked a lasagna and some biscuits. Later we made strawberry shortcake using the biscuits, home made strawberry freezer jam and canned whipped cream. This all went down very nicely on our empty stomachs. We sat up for a while after dark watching the fire die and talking.