First Grand Canyon Trip - June 1985

Tapeats to Havasu


day 12
18 June - Tuesday - Tapeats


Ron, Dana and Jerry took the overland route to Deer Creek this morning. A little earlier, Ken and Charley went up canyon to see Thunder River and explore the cave that is either next to or on top of Thunder Burst. After watching the others load up and move out, Daniel and Fred went hiking with the intent to commit watercolor and sloth. I cleaned up cooking gear and reorganized our food and junk, dinked around and fiddled while Rebecca read some and then helped clean up the campsite. We were not in a hurry to do any walking and were content to cool off in the Colorado. Tapeats Creek was saved for this afternoon.

I talked to the Udisco group when they passed this morning. They portaged two boats and set them up at the end of Crystal to wait for the other three boats to come through. Two out of the three boats flipped at Crystal, the successful one was the 14 foot shorty Udisco which became utterly waterlogged and twisted out of shape, but ultimately emerged right side up. They chased their overturned boats downstream. One of the portaged boats then flipped in a later rapid (they claim it was Ruby). They spent a hell of a day chasing people and gear. They seem real enthusiastic, however.

The Idaho group landed at lower Tapeats momentarily before bickering amongst themselves and then rowing back out into the current. No improvement there.

Two backpackers that came down to the river's edge reported seeing Charley and Ken somewhere up Tapeats canyon, and requested a back-up ride down to Deer Creek tomorrow. They want to hike back up to the rim with a change of scenery and will make contact with us at breakfast if their expected rides haven't shown. We gave them a couple of empty wine sacks to use as canteens. They were happy to get the extra water capacity for that stroll up the severe grade out of here. They looked elderly when we first saw them but that was mainly because they took care to shield almost all of their skin from the sun.

Our hikers came back with reports of hot steep trails with scary overlooks of Tapeats. One fall would be your last. Hope Ron, Dana and Jerry are well enough. Hope they have all the water they need too. I took some pictures of our tarp shaded camp.

day 13
19 June - Wednesday - Tapeats to 140 Mile Canyon


I stayed up late with the gang - Rebecca went to bed early. There were lots of drums, a little flute music, a candle lit tarp. We listeners sprawled on the sand with duffel under our heads. There was no real effort at supper, everyone was tired from the heat.

This morning, we pumped up my boat and then bailed Fred's. Breakfast was made. We moved slowly. Timelessly. Solstice is coming.

It seemed to take forever to get the boats rigged with Fred doing both his and helping Charley with Ron's. The reorganization done during layover pleased Charley as the smell of the rotting garbage just about drove him nuts. I played with it enough to get the small Gott cooler packed solidly and duct-taped shut. Ron's 80 qt. cooler is pretty much packed with garbage but it also contains a camera tripod of his so I didn't tape it shut.

We floated on down to Deer Creek where we met scads of baloney boats parked at the mouth of the creek not 100 yards from the falls. The fall itself was about 130 feet tall, pouring from a crack in the cliff face. The falling water creates its own wind which carries with it fine discrete beads of water which renders a sort of sandblasting effect on the bather. We got cold enough to shiver just standing in waist deep water close to the falls.

We came upon Charley, sunbathing a short distance away, recuperating from the chill acquired next to the falls by spreading himself on the hot rocks. A bunch of us hung out there alternating the cool with the warm. Suddenly, at a shouted warning, we turned to look upward at a massive rock that was slowly accelerating downhill in our direction. Somehow, it had become uncoupled from the cliff walls and was now lurching down straight at us. Yelling, we ran and dove for Deer Creek to escape the rock slide. No one was hurt. The guy who had been up on the boulder the moment before claimed that he had merely leaned on the sandstone and that did it. It almost got him too.

On our hike up the hill and into Deer Creek Canyon, Rebecca had grumbled at another of Ron's short hikes but gamely continued walking. At the top of the slope, we entered a serpentine canyon with the creek hidden below in a crack in the canyon floor. The canyon walls were rarely over 25 feet apart but the creek itself was a good 200 feet down from us. Unseen but heard. When the footpath dwindled to no wider than a shoe is long, Rebecca could go no further because of her fear of heights. We both returned to the river after a short pause.

Upper Deer Creek
Upper Deer Creek

The overnight hikers did pretty good. They started their hike down from Thunder River at the crack of dawn and walked mostly without any direct sun on their heads. On arriving at Deer Creek, they hung out at the head of the canyon in the pools and pumped water through their water filter contraptions. Fred raced back up to the head of the canyon just to tell them we were there to meet them.

Fred is exploring 140 Mile Canyon right now. A storm is developing overhead, we can hear the thunder yet see no raindrops.

day 14
20 June - Thursday morning - 140 Mile Canyon to Kanab Canyon (mile 143.4)


We got a small rain yesterday afternoon, blue-black clouds boiling overhead, Daniel seeing streak lightning in back of us up 140 Mile Canyon. Upon erecting our tent, I discovered that the absence of bugs and hot-rodding lizards was a delightful change. We had dinner late and watched a big lightning storm upstream that was so far away that we heard no thunder. The lightening strikes that Daniel saw were 24 seconds away and more. Very little of that rain ever reached us.

The red ant population suffered all the viciousness that a human stung on the tender insides of the thigh could deliver using the age-old weapons of Coleman fuel and Lucifer matches. Burn their young and crippled!

We won't be going as far as Havasu today because the baloney boats will be there along with the transit masses that they carry. Its all a lot better when there are fewer of us to clot things up. Lessen distraction.

We only travel a few miles downstream as it turns out. The orange Rogues are parked at Kanab, their owner occupants out hiking. They return shortly and move on downstream. Ron decides that he wants to camp here. After a small unloading effort, all of us scattered, Ron and Dana up Kanab Canyon, then Fred, then Daniel, myself, then Ken, I came back, then Jerry left, Charley went next - oh well. A great canyon hike not to be missed. Rebecca and I just went to the first jacuzzi pour over. It was in the shade and we sat and read with our feet in the cool current.

Kanab is a beautiful canyon, yet I could not respond to its beckoning twists and secret lovelynesses as if it were the first or the only such place. We each worship things or objects or ideas that echo something that lives within us. Most folks can easily recognize that the Grand Canyon is a special place. There is so much beauty here that exists on so large a scale. I love being here but I do not have to see it all to know that it is here and available to be loved.

Charley, Ken, Rebecca and myself de-rig the boats and organize camp - we also begin cooking. The others wander back from Kanab Canyon with space between their eyes. The canyon walls. Everywhere there are the walls. Frangible walls-rock-sand-igneous stuff. It all cracks off and falls and gathers in rock piles at the foot of the walls. Slow changes. Creeks. Lizards. Fish. Bugs. And us humans. Exploring the past, defining the prologue.

day 15
21 June - Friday - Kanab to ledge camp below Havasu (mile 162.5)


We've just made camp after a day spent in Havasu Canyon. Our campsite is a rock ledge protruding from the sheer canyon walls that define the course of the Colorado in this part of the Canyon. Opposite our campsite is the same kind of gray granite rock wall and at odd times it almost seems we are dwelling in a prison. Yeah, right! Fred is playing with his bongo set and the drum sounds roll satisfyingly off the canyon walls. Ron joins in with his Congo drum and a "e;Boy's Night Out"e; starts to shape up. The gurgling water's noise joins the usual domestic sounds of dinner, conversation, and occasional hoots of joy that echo from the far side of the river. Another big day in canyon country.

We got on the river early, for us, and see only one group of baloney boats, a Hatch commercial outing, on the river. We pass a private group consisting of an Avon, a Caligari, and a River Rider. We made fast in a small eddy at the mouth of Havasu Canyon, tethering the boats to climbing gear affixed to a crack in one of the granite walls guarding Havasu from casual inspection by river traffic. The boats were lined up sausage style so we too could fit in the narrow space. Boaties sprawled in the orange Rogues gave us good advice in how best to go about seeing what Havasu had to offer us.

Havasu boat parking
The parking lot at Havasu

The hike up Havasu was long but worth it. Travertine pools with glamorous waterfalls cascading into more travertine pools. Lush foliage. Wild grapes. Tamarisk, alamo, cottonwood, and cactus of course. Pools so deep the bottom could only be reached by those with courage as well as a set of lungs that wouldn't quit.

We went up as far as Beaver Falls and dove beneath the falls to find the entrance to the Green Room. A tunnel mouth about 8 to 10 feet beneath the surface leads about 8 feet slantwise up into the rock supporting the falls and then turns upward into a real fairy chuckle of a space. The green room has room enough for about 4 or maybe 5 real friendly people that are busy treading water and trying to find out where the light is coming from that gives this place its distinctive name. Maybe the sandy bottom below the falls has something to do with it. About five of us could fit in there awaiting a sixth. That sixth would more than likely bring on claustrophobia. Ken tried to swim in but in spite of knowing of the room's existence, and knowing that we were in there and seeing us swim in, and back out, he just couldn't bring himself to commit.

Havasu was extraordinarily beautiful in a land of that sort of thing, but I feel now that I am in a reactionary sensory shut down. I can see this vision of heaven from a distance, I know that I am here and have an appreciation of the paradise realized, but I do not have the capability to continue to take all of the Grand Canyon in without becoming completely and thoroughly sated. I need rest and reflection before something like this trip can be internalized. Yet, the trip is not over. We get Lava tomorrow.

We rowed to Havasu in shade and we row away in shade. This was the first completely cool day we have had in the Canyon. Rebecca taught Charley the rudiments of tortilla making this evening. The last of the wine died. Beer is (supposedly) low. Less than half a duffel bag. Maybe. Brandy is down but not out. The drums devolve into shouts and curses as people try to rouse the otherside echo. The revelry is called on account of tiredness. People poop out early and just plain fall into the sack. Calcium pills are dispensed for the needy sleepy to quell leg cramps.


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© 1996 Michael Dooley