We pack our personal and sleeping gear in dry bags, load up the vehicles with all our stuff and drive down to the asphalt boat ramp. We have moored our assembled rafts in a quiet spot downstream from the ramp to avoid contending with another private trip launch from Seattle, I believe, and several commercial trips launching their massive baloney boats. Tom Workman comes by as we are loading our gear and asks rather pointedly for some forms to be returned to him ASAP. I attempt to comply and find out that Kathleen has left her driver's license in the rental car parked at the South Rim. Even though all of us must have personal ID, she manages to convince Tom that she is who she says she is by drawing his attention to the similarity in our noses and, by God, our eyes! She puts her head on one side of mine and then Rosemary places her face on the other side. This is a family joke but Tom buys it just the same. "Why's her last name different from yours?" he says. "Married some guy," I murmur as he agrees that Kathleen and I should not have to drive to Page to find a notary public to attest to what is obviously so, that we are related, brother and sister. After the acceptation of our "bona-fides", we attend the slide show at the Park Service trailer. I note that they do not have literature to sell anymore and will require some form of port-a-potty next year of private trips - no more plastic bagged feces. Tom had already passed us on our gear requirements yesterday. Willy and Gerry showed him around our medical kits, patch kits and other required emergency paraphernalia.
It feels good to emerge from the air conditioning of the trailer and walk down to the ramp to finally launch. We get into the rafts, push them off the rocks and row out into the current that will carry us downstream. We are finally on the Colorado! I hope that being trip leader gets easier. I don't remember any lunch although we probably ate just below Navaho Bridge. The low clouds and blustery day gives us some rainy moments but the experienced members of the party see only a benign cover from June's mostly merciless sunshine. We make camp at Jackass Beach just below Badger Creek rapid on river left.
Willy begins his joke campaign, too bad Maggie is not here to pin his ears back. Dinner goes mostly as planned and rain squalls continue to threaten that evening. Kathleen is worried that she hasn't brought enough gear to survive the expected rain. All assure my sisters that they have a place to go if it rains (but passing out some tube tents as I make these assurances). I erect our tent and the girls put up theirs. The beach is littered with small pieces of trash; this is a real pretty place, but we want to get further into the Canyon and away from civilization. No rain that night.
After a little rain the day before, we are greeted with cloudy skies and a gorgeous day for floating. Nobody got rained on last night, probably the result of so many tents being erected. People eat a hearty breakfast and I notice that the usual feeding frenzy has yet to make an appearance. Pack up gear, load the rafts and float down stream. We drift mostly against the wind through Soap Creek and then do House Rock rapid. Scouting House Rock (probably a conservative run well to the right of the tongue that ends in a big hole) is advisable. This is the highest rated rapid we have come to yet, although the numbers printed in our guidebooks really don't determine the amount of attention and regard that we accord the individual rapids.
Mostly we each remember our past experiences and performance records and those determine our outlook, the respect that we give the rapids and the river in general. We all have our favorite lists of "red-line warning" rapids, on the first trip I chanted this list mostly as a mantra, "Hance, Crystal, Lava!" Gerry has especially fond memories of Crystal where he flipped on Greg's 1985 trip and I of Coal Mine on the Middle Fork of the Eel where I went for a swim under some rocks. We all like to check out rapids before running them, though Willy generally says that he will decide how to run the rapid once he has entered it. It takes all kinds.
After a windy day we make camp river right at mile 19. Flank steak and pesto noodles for dinner tonight. Willy complimented Charley in an aside to me as he noted "This guy will work out just fine!" Charley has evidently impressed Willy with his general demeanor and competent attitude. Looks like Charley's the cook tonight too. Never hurts to be on the right side of the cook. Lots of steak left over; have we cooked another meal's meat along with tonight's? The kitchen was well protected behind a dune loaded with a massive growth of tammis. Star watching tonight with comments and instruction from Gerry and Martha. It was a great day on the river.
Today, we did the roaring twenties. There was not as much upstream wind so we made relatively effortless miles. We scouted 24 1/2 Mile rapid, passed up a visit to Silver Grotto at Shinumo Wash and lunched at South Canyon under the lone beach tree at the head of the eddy.
lunch - an asideLunch is the mid-day kick-back and eating stop that is characterized by its definite beginning and end. Willy has lunch on his raft and has seen to it that morning, before packing up the food and breaking camp, that the lunch cooler has that day's complete lunch menu offerings in the cooler. Lunch paraphernalia also include plates and utensils, cutting board(s) and knives, sacks for waste and garbage created by lunch, special containers for mixing lemonade or tea or perhaps tuna salad, and, on this trip, 2 folding tables (an idea that has taken firm root in the rafting community - "I'll never eat lunch on a rock again!"). So this stuff comes off the boat and is set up, usually in a shady spot, if there is one in the usual Grand Canyon noon-time sunblast, and folks start grabbing crackers and sardines, cookies or whatever and begin building some sort of serious sandwich.
And usually there is a line or at least a crowd lingering at the edges of the tables for the first five to ten minutes, enough for the first to gobble their food and make plans for seconds while watching the late comers load up their firsts. Beer is consumed, sodas get their licks too, and a pile of empty aluminum containers grows on the beach just like tamarisk, which is to say fast. Gradually the tables no longer have lines or a crowd around them and the food piles look tattered and the waste bags look bulging, people are either picking their teeth or eating cookies and appear to be done with lunch. Some one (usually Willy) calls for lunch finishers and scroungers to get the last pickings before it all gets packed up, assembled into gear packs and restored back onto the raft. Someone also has to either crush cans or gather and store them for the evening's crush. New beer and soda is hauled from storage and loaded into drag bags that enable the canned stuff to be cooled to river temperature. Lunch and tables are put away and the beach is scoured for foreign trash matter, folks walk around looking for stuff that shouldn't be in a natural wilderness setting. Pop-tops and cigarette butts are usually encountered on any normal river and sometimes on the Colorado too. Lunch sometimes features side hikes, beer can throwing contests, swimming and splashing plagues which break out from time to time, pointing out objects of special interest, ("Look, there's that cave that David fell out of 8 years ago.") or maybe just a game of Frisbee. But its usually typified by short violent feeding.
back to the tripWe casually wade out into the cold Colorado to adjust our loads and frolic. Willy and Gerry fish and instruct onlookers in the art of casting line. Charley, Pam and the girls hike up to some Anasazi ruins and from there see an NPS helicopter pick up a survey group at a rock shelf below Stanton's cave, just about where David was sheltered and tended to after his fall seven years ago.
Vasey's Paradise Tanking up on water Water slides at Vasey's
Just downstream, we stop at Vasey's Paradise to stock up on water and watch the kids slide down the slick rock, then drift downstream to check out the massive cavity at Redwall Cavern.
Redwall Cavern below Redwall Cavern
People passing through before us had left some interesting sand floor murals. We play cave Frisbee, the girls bury Georgia under a pile of sand. We camp just downstream from Redwall at Nautiloid Canyon, mile 35. Kathleen and Rose go hiking up the canyon with the kids (Rachel, Maureen, and Georgia). They report seeing some rocksquid fossils back in the canyon. Chinese stir fried chicken breasts tonight cause more desertion from the ranks of the vegetarians. Kathleen and Rosemary drink not only diet Coke, but also beer. The trip is building.
© 1996 Michael Dooley