Archive for November 7th, 2010

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.
“You guys have been on the river how long?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.