Archive for June 8th, 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.
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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.