September-October 2007 Grand Canyon Trip

Day 4 through 7

Day 4 - Sept. 20 - Thursday - Shinumo Wash via Vesey's Paradise to Nautiloid Canyon mile 34.8

We made breakfast at Shinumo, packed up our gear and floated down past South Canyon where we saw a USGS survey rafting party on the beach. We pulled into the eddy at Vesey's below South Canyon and tied up so that we could refill our water jugs and throw some clean water over our canyon powdered bodies. I was on the beach talking to Eva when I glanced over my right shoulder to see Anne sitting down at the base of the short waterfall above us and Rebecca crouched at her side talking to her. Anne's face was ashen.

Dory approaching South Canyon  Rebecca at Vesey's Paradise  Vesey's before the fall

I made my way up to Anne as Ken joined the small group. Apparently, she had slipped and fallen on the rock and appeared to be hurt. Ron soon joined us and returned shortly with the major medical kit. With assistance, we coached her to her feet and gingerly moved her down to the beach. With every halting step she tried to take, her pain increased. We managed to lower her onto several Paco pads but she was unable to fully recline because of the intensity of her pain. Ken got out his satellite phone and made the first of several calls to the South Rim dispatch call center. After more than three calls, interrupted by the short satellite overhead window, we were assured that a helicopter would shortly be on its way.

By this time, a raft from the USGS party had landed on the beach and some of the other USGS personnel had walked down from South Canyon. Our crew was clustered around Anne supporting her legs and upper body as we tried to make her comfortable. We supported her lower body by wrapping it with two yoga mats that Rebecca and Jennifer had brought along and gently cinched the mats in place with a couple of cam straps. One of the guys from the scientific group came over to help and knelt by her head. He told Anne that he had broken his leg in the Grand Canyon the previous year while he gently stroked her head in an effort to not only talk to her but physically reassure her that help was indeed on the way. You never know the kind of help or people that might appear when you need them. We were most fortunate.

NPS Helicopter lands on sandbar  Medical technicians prepare Anne  We loaded Anne onto a raft

In about 45 minutes, the helicopter flew over us heading downstream and eventually landed on a sandbar about 300 yards below Vesey's. Several medical technicians made their way upriver on the rocky shoreline and shortly arrived at the scene of the fall. We handed over our recorded observations of her vital signs and moved back so that they could assess Anne and prepare her for the evacuation effort. After they administered a dose of heavy-duty painkiller, we helped them place her on a vacuum litter and then, using a hand pump, evacuated the air from the litter so that she was fully supported. After another dose of painkiller, we then lifted her onto the front deck of Josha's raft accompanied by one of the medical technicians to monitor her signs and Bill who held her IV supply. The other medical technicians made their way back to the helicopter by walking down the shoreline.

Josha then rowed Anne and her helpers down to the beach where she was lifted up from the raft, carried over to and placed into the helicopter. The USGS people who remained on the beach at Vesey's offered to guide Craig up from the Colorado river, up *several* levels where a gentleman from Northern Arizona University would be waiting (by sat phone arrangement) to guide Craig up to his vehicle and then drive him to Flagstaff where he could be with Anne at the hospital. After the helicopter took off, the rest of us gathered up our gear, loaded the remaining rafts and rowed down to the helicopter beach. Ken rowed Bill's raft for the first time.

We re-distributed the gear among the rafts and then got back on the water. After floating a short distance, we stopped at Redwall Cavern and had a bite to eat and sort of continued to discuss Anne's fall and the subsequent evacuation at Vesey's. The trip was only a few days old and we had experienced two flips and an evacuation. Our mood was somber but not for long. We looked for a frisbee to toss around but realized that it had been lost during the flips a few days ago. A passing commercial group asked how our day was going and I replied that it had been a long one. "Yeah, we heard", was his reply.

approaching Redwall Cavern  evening Nautiloid campsite

We made an early camp at Nautiloid and once again enjoyed a fabulous dinner. Marilyn did a great job getting the groceries and Brady had provided a bullet proof menu and cooking instructions. It was our first quiet camp - as in no rapid or riffle noises. Simple pleasures. The events of the day somewhat colored our trip for the rest of the week though. We washed our dishes and put away the kitchen gear before making an evening cup of coffee for the regulars.

Craig and Anne

Both Craig and Anne brought enthusiasm and energy to daily camp life. Craig was an early volunteer in the kitchen as cook and Anne was decidedly active in camp clean-up activities. Both seemed to have great camping skills but after Anne was helicoptered out at Vesey's, we went through their gear to see if it could be of any use to the trip. As we saw, they had brought gear that was appropriate for backpackers. Craig's tent was very small and their collapsible chairs were quite light. One of our party broke his chair sitting down in it maybe the fourth or fifth night. He appropriated Craig's chair as a replacement and we watched every evening to see if this light backpacker style chair would last. It never ripped out, none of the pins or rivets popped, but as we watched, it seemed to gradually but gently bend.

Day 5 - Sept. 21 - Friday - Nautiloid to Lower Saddle Canyon mile 47.2

Coyote trotting along the beach at tunnel  Deer on shore  NPS researchers

Today's rapids were expected to be a little quieter. We stopped at the site of a proposed dam on the Colorado, river left and investigated a tunnel that had several branches. When we emerged, a pair of either foxes or coyotes trotted downstream below us on the beach. We passed Anasazi Bridge and ran President Harding Rapid and then arrived at upper Saddle Canyon camp but it was occupied. We beached our rafts and dory at Lower Saddle and unloaded our gear. It was a nice large sandy beach with an easy harbor - a nice place to call home for a while.

Josha at the oars  A nice downstream shot  kitchen at Lower Saddle

That evening, the winds came up as a weather system moved in and we erected a tarp over the kitchen area. It began to rain a bit and the noise inside the kitchen tarp became quite loud. My pillow was left drying outside our tent but when I went to put it inside a few minutes after the rain began, it was only damp on the top. (I love the desert.) I borrowed some stakes from Bill (who had a similar Eureka tent) and ran a piece of hoopee from the leading ridge top to a massive rock in hopes that our shelter would resist the impulse to become a kite. That night, the wind howled but our tent stayed up. The sound of the flapping rainfly was so loud that I figured that we would probably do better if we slept under a tarp in the future. However, dry is dry - we got along.

Bill and Ken

When Bill was enlisted as a last minute boatman, he brought a friend with him, Ken Tolces, who was a sales rep. for several high-end glass and ceramic artists. Ken loved hiking, had done various stretches of the Appalachian Trail and was slated to join a trip up Kilimanjaro immediately after the canyon trip. He also had taken wilderness responder training and brought a satellite phone with him to keep abreast with his business. This was not something that either Ron or I particularly cared for but, as Ken was willing to conduct business off to the side of our evening campsites, we agreed to his bringing it along. It was a good thing to have when the accident occurred at Vesey's.

Ken initially rode in Bill's raft and in the flip at House Rock, his gear took on some water. After drying out his clothing and sleeping bag, Ken began double bagging everything. He also swapped places with Lars, who had a great deal of experience in ocean boating. Lars may have commented on the two flips at House but as far as I know, Craig was in Bill's boat that day as a lot of his stuff was on the drying lines too. Bill lost his beer bag at House and possibly a pair of glasses. It all worked out.

Day 6 - Sept. 22 - Saturday - layover at Lower Saddle mile 47.2

The next morning, we decided to lay over here. Several hikers went up Saddle Canyon but I don't recall just exactly who. Perhaps Josha, Jenn, Ken, Eva and Lars - the usual hikers in any case. The pictures that they brought back were quite nice. Saddle camp was an unexpected pleasure. I'll spare you the description of our evening coffee drinking and accompanying rowdyness. Caffeine!

Saddle Canyon  Swedish flag in Saddle camp  view downstream from Lower Saddle

Day 7 - Sept. 23 - Sunday - Saddle to Upper Carbon Creek mile 64.7

above the Little Colorado  Brown water in the Little Colorado

After packing up and loading the rafts, we floated past Nankoweap, Kwagunt and Malgosa to the Little Colorado where the river began running a chocolate brown. Several people (Lars, Eva, Ken and probably Bill - maybe Josha and certainly Jennifer) went upstream to investigate the Little Colorado but soon returned. Floating downstream, we passed the Hopi Salt Mine area on river left and beached our boats at the eddy at Carbon Creek, river right. We saw another raft tied up at the upstream end of the eddy right at the mouth of the canyon but nothing was unloaded. We waited a while before we unloaded our gear, just in case. After we were done unloading, we sent hikers up Carbon Canyon to see the sights.

Eva walking up Carbon Canyon  boat beach at Carbon Canyon

Later that afternoon, as we were setting up the kitchen, three hikers came down and ambled over to their raft. I went over to see how their day had been and to ask what their plans were. Their group hailed mostly from New Braunfels, Texas and the guy who did most of the talking was named Jamie. He said that their party was camped downstream at Lava Canyon. We said we'd be happy to share this campsite if need be. He liked our attitude and said that their next night's destination was above Grapevine, the same as our's. It was good that those guys were willing to share. We mentioned that the Miller group, the folks that we launched with, had talked to us about making camp at Grapevine - it might be a little crowded. We all would do our best to see that no one was crowded out.

Our hikers returned at dusk. Ken said that this canyon was, without a doubt, the most beautiful hike he'd been on yet in the Grand Canyon. Its always good to have people who are new to the canyon - they show the rest of us the old miracles.

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© 2008 Michael Dooley