We made breakfast and loaded the boats. This was going to be a big rapid day. We ran Tanner, scouted Unkar and watched Jamie's group (that included a naked guy) run it. The naked guy was rowing a smaller solo raft, appeared to be 65 years or older and apparently enjoyed running the rapids unimpeded by clothing. He did wear his life jacket however. We ran Unkar and then Nevill's, and arrived at Hance, one of the big rapids in the canyon, where we tied up our boats and scouted on river left. The apparent run was entering right at the top and then rowing hard over to the left to (1) avoid the lower right where there were rocks and sharp nasty looking holes and (2) to try to run left of the large hole at the bottom of Hance. Just after scouting, the naked guy asked us if his rapid running style bothered any of us - it was OK with everyone. We watched as Jamies' group all ran Hance, if not elegantly, at least upright. It was nice to go to school on these folks. The pull left after entering top right looked do-able but strenuous.
Ron and Josha went first and then I preceded Bill. I made the entrance pulling left and rowed as hard as I could but I could see that it wasn't going to be quite good enough to avoid the hole at the bottom. I pivoted the raft just above the white stuff and shouted "We're gonna get chundered" as we dropped into the hole. We did get a little wet but stayed upright and floated right on through. If I remember correctly, Josha said he took the hole almost entirely sideways. Ron thought that he may have touched a rock somewhere in Hance and Bill looked like he did a pretty good run.
We boatscouted Sockdolager from above and ran it going left of the top hole and doing our best to minimize the wetness experience and enjoy the waves. My run here was mostly dry in contrast to the run at Hance. We caught the eddy at the camp above Grapevine where we found Jamie's group setting up camp. We bunched up our rafts and gear downstream to make room in the middle if the Miller group showed up.
A raft from their group was going over to the other side of the river to explore Vishnu Creek and they invited anyone interested to accompany them. Ken, Jenn, Eva and Lars gratefully accepted their invitation. The rest of us made dinner and set up our sleeping gear. The hikers returned just after dusk saying that the hike up Vishnu was really nice. The Miller group did not show up that night. Maybe they were extending their visit in Marble Canyon?
The next morning, we ran Grapevine down the center and it was pretty showy. Lots of big waves and some holes at the bottom. We pulled over river right at Clear Creek to let our hikers out to investigate the side canyon. While sitting there awaiting their return, I opened Rebecca's ammo can to forage for some paper for Bill who wanted to compose a letter to his wife which he intended to mail at Phantom. After the hikers returned, we shoved off and ran Zoroaster and eventually drifted down to the boat beach at Phantom Ranch where we all pulled ashore.
We carried our empty 5 gallon water containers up the trail to reload them at the water tap a hundred yards up from boat beach and then carried the full containers back to the rafts to stash them as best we could. Our Phantom Ranch hikers returned, we had a lunch, and after another group volunteered to take a few pictures, we launched into the current. We ran Pipe Creek rapid without much fanfare.
We stopped at Horn Creek and scouted it on the right with an AZRA commercial group that had a number of very good kayakers from Europe. In fact, Josha knew one of them from his time in Central America qualifying for America's Olympic team. We watched as one of the AZRA boatmen ran her baggage boat downstream on the left side of Horn. She dropped her stern into the top left hole, which then pivoted her raft bow downstream but she managed to pop both of her oars. She went through the two holes at the bottom of Horn sideways but remained upright. The kayakers had fun with Horn trying to catch and surf various holes. Our run was a right entrance and a pull to the left. As in Hance, I pivoted at the last moment and ran the left edge of the hole at the bottom. Horn Creek was a gnarly looking rapid - all that thrashing chocolate foam was racing downstream quite fast. I was glad to have it behind us.
Eric, the AZRA kayaking TL (trip leader), paddled over to us at the bottom of Horn and recommended that we do the left run at Crystal tomorrow - which I'd never done before. I thanked him for his detailed description of the run and the things to avoid. Knowing that my ability to maneuver an 18 foot raft loaded with rocket boxes was not the best, I figured that I would be trying something new tomorrow. We made camp at false Trinity river right and cooked dinner. It was a quiet camp with a nice boat harbor type eddy.
While unloading and setting up camp, Rebecca thought she had misplaced her reading glasses but it turned out otherwise. When I had been looking through her ammo can at Clear Creek, above Phantom, I had inadvertently left her glasses case on the oar frame behind the can and there I found it resting still. The case had managed to remain with the boat through Zoroaster, Pipe Springs and Horn Creek rapids. It was also at this beach that I dropped my pocket knife in the water as I was wading over to the raft. Eva managed to find it with her toes after the rest of us gave up the chase.
That night, we celebrated Jennifer's 29th birthday with a pineapple upside down cake cooked in the DO. Brady provided us with party favors and a birthday banner. Always the extra mile.
After breakfast and loading the boats, we launched into the current. This was to be another big water day. The AZRA kayaker group was just ahead of us on the river. We scouted Granite on the left and watched the AZRA kayakers surf the waves. We did much the same at Hermit - the kayakers were having a field day. We ran Boucher and then pulled in river right to scout Crystal - the big rapid of the day. We watched as AZRA did Crystal and went to school on them. Their baggage boat did another memorable run left, a little bit too far left though, and hit the Slate Creek wall. The boat went up the face of the wall nose first tumbling the boatman and her passenger out of the raft at the rear. She quickly managed to climb back in and immediately pulled in her passenger. By this time the boat was off the wall and careening stern first down the rest of Crystal close to the left side. It was a thing of beauty to watch - you just had to have been there.
Josha and I ran left, Ron and Bill ran right, the two of them running Crystal first. Ron did his usual elegant run in the dory. Bill made a heroic pull to river right and avoided all the holes - a great run. Josha began his run left of the upper hole first, and watching him go through the top, I ran a little closer to the center hole. He may have touched the wall below the Slate Creek eddy but just barely. I was ferrying to river center and pivoted just as I was coming up to that wall. I was close enough that one of the cam straps holding down two ammo cans behind my right oar tower was cut clean through by a snag of some sort. We ran stern first until I had enough room to do a 180 and steer left of the wrap rock at the bottom of Crystal. And left of the rock garden.
We ran Tuna and the Gems and made it down to the Ross Wheeler, river left, where we made camp. There is a beautiful alcove upstream from the wreckage of the boat. The AZRA group camped above us and we could faintly hear the sounds of revelry as their lanterns slowly winked out after dark. Another beautiful day on the water.
Rebecca and Jenn
After the flip in House Rock, Rebecca was a bit spooked. However, after running Horn Creek, she figured that we could do the rest of the rapids right side up. Jennifer was still a bit iffy until we did Crystal on the left side. After passing the rock island, we could see Eric and his gang of kayakers below us as we finished our run. Jennifer dug through our canned drinks and passed out more tea and sodas.
© 2008 Michael Dooley