September-October 2007 Grand Canyon Trip

Day 11 through 17

Day 11 - Sept. 27 - Thursday - Ross Wheeler to upper Blacktail mile 119.9

Elves waterfall  Elves Chasm  Jenn at Elves

We floated down river until we reached Elves Chasm at river mile 116.5. We pulled in river left at a small tie-up ledge about 400 yards above Royal Arch Creek and lunched as several of our hikers went to investigate the waterfall at Elves. They had it all to themselves - how nice. After leaving Elves, we made camp at upper Blacktail beach. While several of our party went to see the narrow slot canyon, the rest of us organized dinner and rolled out our sleeping gear. This place is very special to me.

Blacktail Canyon

Day 12 - Sept. 28 - Friday - upper Blacktail to above Tapeats mile 133.5

Blacktail at morning  Walking out of Blacktail  Looking out of Blacktail

After breakfast, Rebecca, Jenn and I left camp and explored Blacktail Canyon by ourselves. It was utterly quiet after the first few turns away from the river. We returned to camp in about 45 minutes and joined in the effort to rig and launch the boats. We scouted Spector on river left and ran it.

We scouted Bedrock on river right, and were joined there by another private group from Sacramento. The run here is to set up at the top to pull right going with the current until you are about to hit a massive boulder at the bottom of the rapid where the current is split. You do not want to go left here. Ron went first, made the pull and caught the eddy behind the massive boulder, river left. I went second but was too far right at the top and wound up lodged on a rock in the current. Rebecca rocked the front of the raft with heroic bouncing movements from side to side but no matter what she did, we stayed aground. I maintained my position at the oars knowing that if we managed to get free, I'd have to pull right to make it.

Josha threw us a line and with the assistance of the other scouters attempted to pull our bow off the rock from slightly upstream. The raft moved but did not float free. One of the guys from the Sacramento group then used the rope line to wade out to the raft and relocate the line's tie down point and orchestrate another pull from the shore. This time we floated free. He climbed aboard the raft and reeled in the throw bag as I maneuvered trying to avoid running aground again. We made the eddy below Bedrock, river right. He hopped out, we thanked him, and he walked off to rejoin his group.

We watched as Josha and Bill did the run pulling right at the big rock. At Josha's signal, we pulled out of the eddy and rejoined our group. We scouted and ran Deubendorff and pulled in river right to Racetrack Camp just above Tapeats Creek. The usual hikers went up on the trail to see Tapeats Creek and some went as far as Thunder River. We made dinner and rolled out our bedding.

Approach to Thunder River  Thunder River  Looking at the mouth of Tapeats Creek

It must be someone else's party tied up at the mouth of Tapeats, our rafts are yellow.

Day 13 - Sept. 29 - Saturday - above Tapeats to across from Deer Creek mile 136.2

The next day was a short one that involved packing up our gear, launching the boats and floating about 2 1/2 miles of river down to a nice camp just across from Deer Creek on river left. We made our kitchen well up on the beach as we intended to lay over here. It was a nice sunny camp with a beautiful view of the cascade pouring out from the cliff across the river.

Across from Deer Creek

Day 14 - Sept. 30 - Sunday - layover across from Deer Creek

In the morning, several of our rafts pulled across the Colorado to get water while hikers went up the Deer Creek trail to investigate the patio. Jennifer and Ken climbed down a preset rope (rigged by someone in the Sacramento group?) to look at the narrows real close. Josha used Brady's battery powered water filtering device to fill our empty five gallon water containers at the base of Deer Creek falls. Neither yesterday nor today was crowded at Deer Creek. I spent time prowling around the campsite looking at rock formations. It was nice to spend a little time alone.

Deer Creek Patio  Looking at our camp across the river  Top of Deer Creek Falls


We must have been standing around on a beach somewhere around this part of the river when Josha remarked that the only way that most people should see the Grand Canyon from the bottom looking up was to be transported - in some kind of Star Trek transporter fashion - to the front tubes of one of our rafts for about three hours - certainly no more than four hours - so that they could experience the essence of our daily float downstream. The rock walls and sandy beaches crowded by tamarisk, the occasional rapid, the scrambling about on one shore or the other to scout a significant rapid - all these things could be made understandable and enjoyed but preferably only in small doses. The people who are actually down here are folks who had passed a difficult test - those who were willing to endure hour after hour and day after day of canyon style weather, living and sleeping on sandy beaches or rocky ledges and having an almost complete dependence on the river.

Most people could probably take one or two days of the canyon but would be uncomfortable without the conveniences of their ordinary life for more than a few days. The essence of our temporary way of living could easily be conveyed with a short three hour visit to the front of a raft. I agreed with Josha but figured that evening meals and the sunsets would also be worthwhile. It would be nice to allow the transportees to join in on the chores that tended to pull our group together.

Day 15 - Oct. 1 - Monday - Deer Creek to Upset Hotel mile 150.3

After loading up the rafts and launching into the current, we stopped at Olo Canyon to use the water filtering device again to top off some water containers that were forgotten the previous day. It was getting a little rainy as we passed Matkatamiba and we paused to scout Upset rapid river right - the Sacramento group joined us. The rapid involves missing a large center hole at the bottom and there are holes on the left at the top. The general maneuver is to enter right center and pull right. I ran that route but knew that I had little chance of completely avoiding the bottom hole. I pivoted early above and ran it down the center - we got wet but stayed topside up.

Upset Hotel camp  Lars at Upset Hotel

We pulled in at river left at mile 150.3 to make camp at Upset Hotel - the Sacramento group had claimed Ledges when we talked to them because their group was larger than ours. Upset Hotel involves a steep haul up a sandy slope to a long but narrow beach area at the base of a cliff. It was a hard shlep but everyone pulled their weight. We set up the kitchen, made dinner and avoided getting wet. The slight misty drizzle apparently evaporated somewhere above us.

Day 16 - Oct. 2 - Tuesday - Upset Hotel to Tuckup Canyon mile 164.5

We broke camp and loaded the boats. As we had so many times before, I guess from about Day 2, lunch sandwiches were pre-made to avoid the inconvenience of breaking out gear to just make lunch. We all made the pull into the Havasu eddy on river left and from there we moved our boats deep into the boat harbor area and tied off to avoid blocking our fellow travelers should they want to leave before us. Most folks gathered their lunch and went up Havasu Canyon on canyon right until it became easier to wade across the creek to walk on either side.

Above the Havasu pull-in  Havasu harbour

Havasu trail  Havasu

I remained with the rafts and the dory, intending to reconfigure the weight in my raft so that I could have some advantage in Lava. I moved the root cellar from the front drop bag to the rear after moving the rear drop bag rocket boxes out and up onto the oar frame. After getting all this to my liking, I moved the rescue rung I acquired from Dave Yeamons onto the stern of Bill's raft so that the returning hikers could more easily climb up onto the boats. It worked like a charm - it's a great thing for swimmers.

The Sacramento group returned and began pulling out one by one into the main Colorado current. I was surprised that several of them chose to make a rather hard pull out of the eddy pulling river right to avoid a rock island that was closer to river left. There was clearly a passage to the left of the rocks. No one foundered however. I heard that a few weeks later that a dory somehow managed to pile up here and eventually sink. Its always one thing or another...

Below Havasu  Tuckup campsite

We left Havasu going left past the rock island - it was easy but shallow. We pulled into the eddy below Tuckup Rapid and made camp there at a roomy beach. Some of the remnants of the Sacramento group passed us on their way to National Canyon, another large roomy campsite. One of their people had maintained that National was now a boulder field. That rumor was squelched when we drifted past National the next day - plenty of sand.

Day 17 - Oct. 3 - Wednesday - Tuckup via Lava to Hell's Hollow mile 182.3

Jennifer and Michael  Rebecca and Jennifer  Josha in his Necky

We got an early start from Tuckup and drifted down stream to Lava where we pulled in to scout on river right. We were just about finished with the scout when the Sacramento group began joining us overlooking the rapid. The right run was the only real option at this water level as far as we could see. I requested that both Jenn and Rebecca please join me in the raft so that they could avoid a class 4 walk-around here. Luckily for me, they accepted and we prepared to run Lava together. Josha and I would go first and then Ron and Bill would follow.


I followed Josha, whose instincts I completely trusted at this point. Watching his entry, I took a line that was a little bit more toward the center. As our boat passed the Ledge hole, I pivoted slightly left to meet the lateral and then pivoted right to meet the next one - we were through that part and hardly wet. We rode over the next wave and down into the next set of diagonals. Pivot, pivot, through the last part - we barely (for Lava) got wet. Josha and I pulled into the eddy at the right above Lower Lava and began watching the others. Ron came through right-side up but full of water and then Bill appeared, also right side up. Ron managed to get his battery powered bilge pump working and in a short time he was (mostly) dry.

Ron after Lava

We watched the group following us come through and saw a catamaran almost get flipped at the last hole. The boatman was dancing on the upstream tube and the boat made it through right side up - utterly amazing. We then floated down to mile 182.3 where we camped at Hell's Hollow river river left. Below Lava and still kicking. We probably had two doses of coffee *that* night.

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© 2008 Michael Dooley