First Grand Canyon Trip - June 1985

Trinity Creek to Tapeats

day 9
15 June - Saturday morning - Trinity Creek to Mile 104

We're getting the 39,000 rise this morning. The sand is wet clear up to our air mattresses from the small waves lapping on the inlet at the mouth of Trinity Creek (dry). The boats are bobbing out in the eddy. Big water day today - Granite(9+), Hermit(9+), Boucher and then Crystal(10), which is just about lethal at any level. Hope we do them fast and slick. And upright.

The Idaho group was camped at Granite when we got there, filling the tamarisk glens with tents, bags, and the other assorted gear that they carried down the canyon. They bitched and complained when we scouted but they should have known better than to camp in this spot and not expect visitors. They have a lot of film equipment and they got 'shots' of us as we went through Granite.

We met some hikers at Hermit rapid who turned out to be NPS (National Park) personnel. One of them was the doctor who worked on David when the copter landed at the South Rim. The doc said that his finger was dislocated. Some foot bones (unspecified) were fractured. Four ribs were fractured, two of them twice. Internal bleeding was slight if at all. He was kept for observation one night at Flagstaff. When the nature of his injuries was clear, he was allowed to fly back to California.

Ron and I elected to portage Crystal. We also carried some of Fred's baggage so his boat wouldn't be too cumbersome for evasive maneuvers. It didn't do him a whole lot of good. He did a down-stream ferry, stroking hard right in order to punch through the powerful diagonal wave that leads into the heart of Crystal. He still entered on the tongue but slightly to the right. Whaling away on the oars in a wave trough, he managed to pivot the boat 180 degrees before reaching the crest of the wave in Crystal. Going through that mess, he took on only a tad bit of water, most of which must've fallen out when the boat was straight up and down.

Another group also carried. The Udisco gang got to Crystal about an hour and a half after we did. We were still portaging our gear. We saw their unladen boats that were floated down to the creek before they carried. One of their guys said they'd probably camp on the lower beach (ig!) and wait for the water to rise making a right entry (to the rapid) and a hard (frantic) pull a more viable option. Camping at a rapid like Crystal sure doesn't help it get easier and, of course, you never forget, for long, that a problem is looming.

Some big baloney snouts went through while we were carrying our gear, their motors were going full blast. The sound of the rapid changes when one of those things is in it and I thought at first that Crystal had an accompanying foot pump organ playing opera, but when I turned to listen, I saw the snout writhing over the waves, singing its own weird music to the frothing current. As we were slogging back to carry the boats, we glanced up to see the entire Udisco crew standing cheek to jowl on a huge rock cliff. This sort of reminded me of a scene from a western where the Indians come over the horizon and just stare down at the wagon train, unmoved and unmoving.

What a hard day. Major rapids. Good runs. The portage around Crystal took an hour and a half but seemed longer. There was plenty of hard labor at Crystal portage but it was worth the effort.

Boats rock at foot of Crystal rapid
Boats rock at the foot of Crystal rapid

The giant waves from the rapid's run out on lower Crystal beach was like ocean surf. It threatened to flip our empty boats.

day 10
16 June - Sunday - Mile 104 to 122 Mile Creek

Another big day, but for off river adventure... We stopped first at Shinumo Creek and cooled off in a waterfall. It was a lovely swim to the waterfall. There was a little cave behind the fall. Sculptured stone. Smooth side schist. What can I say? Not a bad way to spend time.

Elve's Chasm was next. We ate lunch in the scanty side shade while a Hatch baloney boat trip straggled out. We went up over boulders and sandstone to various levels and pools; ending at yet another waterfall with a multi-level cave that twisted up behind it. This one featured maidenhair ferns and a creeping ivy plant that held in place sprays of yellow columbine flowers. Ron and Dana attempted to lead a path up the side of the escarpment to reach the top of the fall; it looked as if they were tip toeing on a smooth face. God, it was beautiful.

Elves Chasm
Tourists explore the cavity behind
the waterfall at Elve's Chasm

The next stop was at Blacktail Canyon where we swam and hiked up a sand and gravel packed canyon floor with sheer walls never closer than twelve feet and never further than twenty. Very serpentine and cool. The waterfall was a mere trickle. No cavorting here. Just plain nice. The beach at the mouth was hot, hot, hot as the hinges. Since sunset was looking to be three hours away, we boogied down to camp at 122 Mile Creek and lay down under some tamarisk shade. Ron says tomorrow we'll float down to Tapeats and do a layover day.

day 11
17 June - Monday morning - 122 Mile Creek to lower Tapeats Creek (mile 133.8)

Today, we scouted Bedrock rapid through the "doll house" - called that because of a room sized sculpted black granite bowl that pokes out of the hillside just above Bedrock rapid. Most rapids appear to be washed out at this flow; we don't believe that Glen Canyon has really released the 45,000 cfs flow that was posted on the Phantom bulletin board. But, as was pointed out, the water has friction to overcome, the eddies are getting worse yet, and any time during or after a rapid, whirlpool holes of three to four feet can suck a raft tube down considerably. At this point, the river height above sea level is 1950 feet. At Lee's Ferry the river height is 3107 feet. The river map and guide says that a pulse of water should take 24 hours to arrive at Phantom and another 6 hours to appear at Tapeats. That pulse probably was not measured at 40,000 cfs because the guide refers to these kinds of numbers as levels of flow:
1,000 to 3,000 cfs - very low
3,000 to 9,000 cfs - low
9,000 to 16,000 cfs - medium
16,000 to 35,000 cfs - high
New generator windings have permitted Glen Canyon to release more than 35,000 cfs.

Tapeats Creek is, of course, a great swim and hike and has a separate little map on the guide for those who seek the headwaters. We set up a parasol with Ron's big green tarp and five oars, one for each corner and a center big top pole. For additional shade we hung another little green tarp tied on with Charley's shoelaces on the downstream side. It was all cozy, if cozy is the proper word in such unrelenting heat and sunshine, surrounded as we are by sand and rock, granite boulders and eroded Tapeats drainage sand. And lizards.

Tapeats Creek view
View from the hillside up the Tapeats
drainage to Tapeats rapid

What a sunset! Upriver we saw rain pouring from a group of clouds that never quite reached the ground, even high up on the canyon's rim. The guide book refers to this as virga, a word not found in the Random House Dictionary that Rebecca brought with her. We lazed around under the tarp. Ron, Dana and Jerry hiked up Tapeats Creek; Daniel, Charley, Ken and Fred played Scrabble; Rebecca and I read.

Ron proposed another small side hike to the group. He wants to go up Tapeats to the confluence of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, then go left up past Thunder River's origin (shooting like a water cannon out of the cliff face) and then walk over into Surprise Valley, there to sleep and then to rejoin the rest of the group at Deer Creek the next day. In anticipation of this scheme, he has applied for and received a permit from Park headquarters for this very hike. Anyhow, Ron, Dana and Jerry think seriously of doing it.

Sunshade set-up
Sunshade set-up at lower Tapeats beach

Fred is making minestrone soup from scratch this evening. This is a heavily provisioned trip. The ice from Phantom Ranch is still here with us in the one functioning cooler. I smell another Dutch Oven cake. Ah, wilderness! The soup was superb as was the cake later. Rebecca went on to sleep without eating and I stayed up and listened to Fred's classical flute. Bach, Telemann, Handel - I spaced out watching stars. The music continued as I made my way to the sack, there was a nice segueway into reggae. The Canyon; how could I see all these places and not be affected. It is a heaven on earth, but all the same, it could use air-conditioning in a few spots.

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© 1996 Michael Dooley