Posts Tagged ‘Surprise Canyon’

The Dream Trip: Camp 18, March 23-24

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Sleeping out was nice. It was warm enough that no tent was needed and the stars put on another amazing show for us. As the stars winked out we watched the light growing in the east. We didn’t get up until 7 am just watching it all begin and knowing that by the next night we would be off of the natural river and somewhere on the silt bed canal of Lake Mead. There is current all the way out to Pearce Ferry and beyond but it is a different river. It moves sluggishly and the sounds are all wrong for a river.
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Morning was lovely. We worked our way through breakfast of Spam with french toast and rigged the boat, getting on the water by 10 am. The rapids at Bridge Canyon and Gneiss Canyon were big and demanded some attention.We got hosed in both of them. 237 mile rapids was little more than a wave but it is coming back as the silt goes out. At Separation and Spencer Canyons the rapids are just starting to reassert themselves. It won’t be long….
It doesn’t look like much but it was just about the meanest rapid on the Colorado at one time.
It was a very pleasant sunny March day and we moved right along, stopping at Spencer canyon to look around at the improvements the Hualapai have made there. While floating we were passed by six boats full of tourists outfitted by the Hualapai. They were doing the daily from Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry. We were the subject of many photographs as they hurried by.Shortly after we left there the wind came up and soon was howling up canyon. We had to really push to make any progress. Lee did her part by keeping a low profile. We took camp at Surprise Canyon on the lower end of a long sand bar. At least the wind coming up the river was not carrying sand as it blasted us. As we were putting up the tent a group of boaters passed us rowing like Trojans into the gale.
Lee really is a great boating companion. She loves it even when it is blowing and cold. I made us a dinner of hot spicy tomato soup with grilled cheese. For dessert we broke out some home canned peaches….yum.
I first rowed past Surprise Canyon in 1994. At that time it was flooded and choked with willows and tamarisk so badly that entering was near impossible. As the water has gone down and the silt has gone out with the increasing current the mouth has reopened and hiking is an option, so on this last full day of our trip we decided to hike as far up Surprise as we could. I made breakfast of Spam,egg and cheese muffin sandwiches. I made extra so we could pack them for lunch.
We had an amazing beautiful day hiking up Surprise. It is a gem. We had been reading about Harvey Butchart’s forays down into Surprise from the top. We really hoped to get up at least to the Redwall narrows. It was not to be. It is long canyon without the kind of gradient we were seeing up around 210 and thereabouts. For the first mile or so we could see the bath tub ring left by Lake Mead with banks of silt still clinging to the stone walls here and there. For the first two hours we were in the granite and schist narrows. The light was dramatic. We stopped for a snack break in some Tapeats ledges by a deep clear pool where the canyon cut through that sandstone formation. From there we hiked another couple of hours through a much wider canyon as it opened up in the Bright Angel. The stream braided and wandered through Fremont Cottonwoods and some sort of ash trees in a wide open valley until it began to close in as we entered the lower limestone layers ahead of the Redwall. As we left the wide open area we came into a slumped area. The geology was all gone to heck, everything upside down and backwards. There were hundreds of huge limestone boulders choking the creek bed and slowing our progress. As we reached our turnaround time we came to some beautiful deep clear pools that begged a dip. We ate our Spam sandwiches and bathed soaplessly in the warm afternoon sun. After we dried off we dressed and headed down. The desert has more blooms here in the lower end especially brittle bush, Whipple’s Yucca and cactus. The walk down took slightly less time that going up, probably because I took less pictures going into the sun.
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We were pretty bushed back at camp. I made tuna sandwiches while Lee lay down in the tent to rest her back. Ten I began packing up and loading the boat so that we could start early in the morning. When she got up we ate the sandwiches with more canned peaches and cottage cheese. MNot bad for a no ice trip on day 27, eh? We finished loading the boat and made up our bed on the deck leaving nothing on shore. Even the groover was on board but close to the top for morning use. I moved the boat to a rock tie up and we settled in for our first night on the boat on this trip. The moon was in the last quarter but would be in our eyes before morning.