Posts Tagged ‘Winter River Running’

The Dream Trip: Camp 11, March 10

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

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Stephen’s Aisle is named for a Moorish guy named Esteban who traveled with the Spanish who came into the American Southwest. I don’t think he ever got to the Grand Canyon, in fact he was killed by the people at Zuni Pueblo. Conquistador Aisle is similarly misnamed but who cares?
We were not contemplating these ideas as we arose on the day after the cold and rainy day. We had slept somewhat poorly. We went to bed at 8 pm and went right to sleep. We were awakened at 11:30 pm by a strange crashing noise. I scrambled up and ran down to the boat to make sure all was well. I couldn’t find out what made the noise but it set me on edge and I didn’t relax very well after that. We didn’t get on the water until 11:30 am. The weather was improved but not warm and sunny.
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Right on the corner where Stephens Aisle turns into Conquistador Aisle Lee spied a cool garden of mosses and saw grass. We pulled over and I spent some time getting shots of the plants for her to paint from at home.

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As we floated down Conquistador Aisle the clouds kept pouring down over the Kaibab rim to the west as the sun was trying to make headway in the eastern sky. I was doing my best to keep Lee dry as we worked our way through the small splashy rapids in that section. Years ago she and I were floating through Conquistador Aisle not paying attention when I was bucked out in 122 mile rapid. I had drifted in sideways and rolled right out of the boat, Of course Lee jumped to the oars and handles the boat until I could pull my soggy bottom back into the boat.

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We stopped at Randy’s Rock for lunch and decided to make it camp as the sky darkened and snow poured over the rim into the canyon. Randy’s has nice sandstone ledges that overhang the camp and make for a nice sheltered kitchen and sitting area.

Randy’s Rock is one of those pieces of real estate in Grand Canyon that is named for a hapless boatman who messed up there. Here is the story of Randy Breckenridge. The version of this story that I am familiar with was not written by one of Randy’s friends and has Randy handing the oars over to a passenger and then going to sleep as the peop takes the boat left at the infamous rock.

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After setting up camp, which was a grunt because of the distance from the boat to the ledges, we had lunch and Lee convinced me to go for a walk up through the Tapeats ledges onto the Tonto platform above. We got some great views up and down stream and I found a like new pair of NorthFace gloves….river booty. By then the snow had pulled back and it was OK for an overcast day.

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After the hike Lee made her favorite pasta dish which consists of fresh broccoli with spaghetti, garlic, hard cheese and olive oil. We supplemented the dish with some spicy precooked chicken sausage. This was day thirteen and we were still able to have fresh broccoli without ice. That is one of the nice things about winter trips.

The Dream Trip: Camp 10, March 9 “The Cold and Windy Day”

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

It is always hard for me to want to get up early when it is raining outside the tent. Staying in bed and talking is great morning stuff. Breakfast was cold rice pudding, (The coconut milk idea was a good one.) hot cocoa and biscotti. We finally got on the river by about 11 am.
I was proud of my totally dry run of Ruby Rapid and nearly dry run of Serpentine. Serpentine is a big and violent rapid. Our first trip through it in 1992 we were totally clueless and our boatman took us over one of the big ledge pour overs on the upper right side of things. I broke my tail bone in that kerchunk. It took most of the next winter to get right again.

As the day went on the rain got worse. Lee suffered from the cold even with her dry suit on so I put her to rowing so she could generate some warmth. It didn’t work out so well because the rowing was stressing he back so she went back into passenger mode. She didn’t complain at all and kept remarking on how totally beautiful the Canyon is in winter. It truly was one of the most beautiful days either of us have spent in the Canyon. I guess that rain and cold was the price of admission. It reminded us of a day in December 2002 when we floated along from the Little Colorado to Carbon Creek where the rest of our group had gone to set up camp and get warm while we hiked up the south side of the LC. We were spellbound as we watched the snow swirl around us in the eddies. It was magic. A lot of this day was like that. The clouds, heavy with rain and ice, hung low on the ramparts sometimes obscuring them and sometimes revealing them. The lost and found quality of the scenery was wonderful even when we had to row into driving rain laced with sleet. We kept remarking at how lucky we were to get to be there and do it on that day.

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This last image is of a rock on river right just above Bass Rapid that Lee describes as her favorite rock in the canyon. It is the one she wants in our back yard.
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After a short stop at mile 111 to look at some amazing fluted rocks we ran Hakatai, Waltenberg and Rancid Tuna Rapids as dry as possible on a cold and rainy day. Around the corner at about mile 113-114 I shot these scenes as the light and clouds changed.

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The fluting, did I mention the fluting?

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It was a day for craning the neck.
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After passing Elves Chasm with out stopping we started looking for camp in ernest in Stephens Aisle. There are some ledgy places there and I hoped we would find a sheltered camp big enough for one boat. No luck so we camped at mile 118 which is a big camp with a flat sandy beach. It does have some ledges but not close to the river and we were not excited about humping all our kitchen gear way up under the sandstone so we set up our kitchen right by the boat. By the time we got to camp Lee was in early stages of hypothermia. I set up the tent as quickly as I could and got her into dry long johns and the sleeping bag. Being out of the wind was a big help. I threw together a green chili stew made from a can of green chili with pork chunks and some potatoes and onions. She was very happy with that and cheered up a lot as we ate in the tent. Lee does not complain much about anything but I could tell her back was hurting and she was obviously very cold. I’d have been howling like a baby.
Sitting in the tent together was very nice. It was really nice to have a bomb proof tent. The rain continued through the evening as we journaled and read. It was a truly glorious day despite the weather. We both expressed how great it is to share a place like this with someone who sees it the way you do. Around every bend was another painting or photograph waiting for us. Even if we didn’t make any images the memories will be fresh for a long time.