Posts Tagged ‘Nankoweep’

The Dream Trip: Camp 5, March 3

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Duck n Quack is such a nice quiet camp. I can’t believe I have never used it. I suppose that its proximity to the very popular hike and camps of Saddle Canyon has made it easy to bypass. From the river it looks like nothing, just a narrow break in the dense tamarisk choked shore with a trail heading steeply up. If the camp had not been noted in Dwayne Whitis and Tom Martin’s excellent guide book I would have never guessed that there was such a nice camp in there.
Our breakfast on this morning was simple fare; cracked nine grain cereal and grapefruit with my famous cocoa noir. Lee was able to help a lot more with rigging this day and we set a record by being on the water by 10:30. This is a quote from my journal for that day:
“Every day at least once Lee gives me a hug and tells me how much she loves this trip. How can I argue with that? I must be doing something right. Lee seems as alive as I have ever seen her. It reminds me of our early trips down here especially the first one. Though we were with a group on all of those trips we were running pretty close to the river with people who knew little about it. We were not so sure we would make it OK through all the rapids and challenges. It drew us together in ways that our familiar routine at home usually doesn’t.
The past few years of working commercial trips with me have been hard for her. The work is just too much. People we take down here appreciate us but really have no clue how much we have to put out to keep them safe and comfortable and make it look easy. I love the commercial work, but I am a bit of an extrovert. Not so with Lee. This trip is very hard work but it is different. There is an ease between us. We don’t have to look good or be impressive for the sake of anyone else who is paying to see this wonder of the world. We are just here together in this place that we, after 18 years, are still in awe of, this place that has become a member of our family of sorts. I guess it is like the rest of our life. We don’t work for anyone or have real jobs but the work is really hard. What makes it good and even easy is that it is our work whether we are working in our separate studios or in our orchard, garden or the house we share. This trip is ours, no one else’s.We have been a unit for so long that we just know how to be together. There are a lot of questions that were answered decades ago. We are adept at over looking irritation and enjoying the places where the fit is right.
We are starting to hit our stride on this trip. The camp chores seem to have settled into his and hers. There are some things that we both do and some that we may alternate on but there are many that one or the other always does, just like at home.”

We didn’t bother to stop at Saddle Canyon. It has a lovely hike to a little waterfall in tight narrows abounding with ferns, monkey flowers and columbine. The first time we went there we were alone. The rest of the group stayed in camp sleeping. We went up early in the pre-dawn light to see where the trail we had noticed coming into camp went. There was a wonderful sense of discovery about it that built as we ascended to the terminus. About the time we got to the narrows we were overtaken by Art Vawter and Jude Irwin, two of the others in the group. Art and Jude, who have since married and have a lovely family, had met at Lee’s Ferry four days earlier and were fast falling in love. We were likewise falling in love with them as a couple so it was right that they were there to share this discovery with us. It is different when someone else, even a guide book writer takes you to a sweet little place like this one. Discovery has its own feeling that is hard to duplicate. Add to that sharing it with the one you would most like to run home and tell about it and you have a peak experience.
My first experience with Whispering Falls in Kanab Creek was like that. I was hiking with my daughter Louisa. We had turned up a side canyon coming in from the right about 2.5 miles up the canyon. She was scrambling up ahead of my older plod and came back to where I was and said, “Take off your shoes Dad, it is one of those places.” I knew just what she meant and complied. Those of you who have been there will know. In my mind Saddle Canyon will always belong to me and Lee and Whispering Fall to me and Louisa. That is what discovery does.
Below Saddle Canyon we drifted on still water until we came to the head of Nankoweep Rapid. Looking up there was the snow on Nankoweep Mesa. We pulled into the upper Nanko camp around mid-day. We chose that camp because neither of us have used it before and it is the least popular of the three camps there. We didn’t want take a camp that other parties were gunning for. Sure enough before we were even through unpacking the group we had seen at Redwall Cavern two days before floated by and took the middle camp. Later we saw that the lower camp was occupied by Mike Glasgow’s group who we had met at Lee’s Ferry and who launched the day after us.

After a quick lunch we set off for an afternoon hike up into Nankoweep Valley. It was a very pleasant hike. We were in no particular hurry. I had hoped to get up into the valley and perhaps hike up to the saddle between Nankoweep and Kwagunt but that was not to be. Lee had to go slow and by the time our turn around time had come we were still short of the valley. It was just the same a very pleasant afternoon together. We could see the upper elevations of Nankoweep Valley and it looked like a ski resort. I have never seen that much snow in GC.
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Nankoweep is one of the most beautiful places on this earth. The canyon walls are massive and colored in warm hues from the Kaibab down to the Bright Angel formation. The camp we chose has about the best wall paper in the canyon. We sat on our private beach eating more 1/2 lb cheese burgers with home made fries and watching the light change on the wall in front of us. Once again we concluded that this was the best day and the best place we had yet had.