Archive for June, 2010

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.
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

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.