We were able to launch by 8:00 after breakfast, and, after passing the former dam site proposed for Marble Canyon, we have lunch just below President Harding rapid. I catch a beautiful trout and release it but Willy says it doesn't count as I failed to get a qualifying picture taken and therefore he is still the leader in the fish sweepstakes. Bummer! We float down through a long Nankoweap rapid and come ashore so that the first timers can trudge up to see the Anasazi Granaries.
View from granaries Anasazi granaries
Willy and I fish while Gerry naps. Rebecca once again fails to make it to the top of that dusty, long, steep, hot trail. They all come tripping down the trail as a baloney boat unloads its elder passengers to begin their clamber up the hill to the granary.
After lunching we launch and drift down past mile 56 and camp that evening at Kwagunt Creek. Tom Workman had recommended this as a way better place to spend time than South Canyon, it has a lovely long sandy beach and there are also more beaches above and below. Looks excellent for fishing efforts. The kitchen is put back in the tammis away from the blowing sand. So far it has been a cool trip with a lot of overcast sky, we congratulate ourselves on this bit of luck. Dessert is a neat yellow cake with ginger and mandarin orange glaze; well it oozes really, but everybody likes it. I while away the evening asking after everyone in Oklahoma; Kathleen and Rosemary have lots to tell, none of it too strange or different.
We fish the upper and lower riffles and I get nary a bite; Willy says he had a few tentative nudges. Gerry totes the Dairy cooler up on the sand under the tammis to keep it cool. Willy notes that the move will obviously kill it as a working cooler; others hike up Kwagunt Creek. Charley says that the hike up the canyon, a gentle slope, was about 3 to 4 miles but they turned back when it became apparent that there was no pot of gold at the end.
Kwagunt sunshade Kwagunt beach
Willy and Charley then erected a shade tarp with bailers full of water and sand used as deadmen but they were lifted up off the sand and out of their holes when the gusts grew too strong. The ever present flapping clatter of green polyethylene turning good sunlight into jungle haze...Ah, sand engineering. Willy makes bets about doing a double flip for two beers each, don't let him get away with this again! Others of us spent the afternoon snoozing under the tammis and getting sandier and sandier. I finally take a dive into the river and put my head under the surface of the Colorado for the first time this trip. What a great way to cool off. That evening I get a surprise birthday party complete with cake, candles, presents and a neat card concerning a cat, tuna and "pooping" in a box. River literature is always a little weird. It keeps intruding into the "real" world.
We launch early as usual and at the confluence at mile 61 1/2 pull hard river left to go up the mouth of the Little Colorado to pass the moored baloney boats and also to check out the turquoise waters. Kathleen, Rose and the girls (Rachel, Jennifer and Georgia) all hike up to the fall area with a gaggle of baloney boat tourists, form up in a line and slip into the rushing waters of the Little Colorado to float down through the gentle falls in tandem style.
waters of the Little Colorado
These guys all seem to be in summer camp heaven with Kathleen teaching Jennifer various chants and camp songs; Jennifer knows some stuff in this vein that Katy receives enthusiastically too. Willy as usual is swapping tales with other boatmen parked at the confluence. We call him the group spokesperson, our ambassador of goodwill. After about an hour and a half of fun and frolic we summon everyone back to the boats so we can find a quiet, lonesome place to have our mid-day snack. After a very windy passage that really begins to wear me out, we lunch at Carbon Creek at mile 64 1/2. Kathleen finds that there is no substitute for quality in footwear when her fake Tevas come apart in the sucking mud. I agree to try and glue them back together with contact cement. We pull hard against an upstream wind with very little downstream current through the late afternoon, stopping once at a bushy sandbar at mile 66 and finally make camp below Lava Canyon and Tanner Rapids at mile 69 on river right above Basalt. Wear me out!
Trade D8 for D7 as waiting for sandy kabobs was going to be difficult, shepherd's pie fits the situation better. We try to shield the kitchen area from the ever present wind. After yesterday's sun, the overcast sky is welcome but rowing against this wind is a bit hard. The wine was really hit on this evening by the cooks! Great food and great people.
Our first day of wall to wall whitewater! Yee-hahh! We launch and drift for three miles until we get to Unkar, which we scout on the right. It is a big bend kind of rapid that I have always wanted to do real close to the cliff in the midst of foaming cauldrons of whitewater. There are possibly nasty reversals there too but I submerse thoughts of glory in preference for prudence and draw right of the main tongue. I think Charley went right down the middle...how I wish I had a nice BIG boat like that! Gerry and Willy also run right. Next, Nevill's rapid almost ejects me from my seat, somehow I always find myself sideways somewhere in here, this one always wakes me up. We get a lot more fun floating through these big rapids instead of fighting the wind. Hance is the big one of the day and we pull in at the head and begin our scout on the left. Gerry and I find that the creek has washed a flat trail of gravel from way back in Red Canyon somewhere clear to the water's edge, most likely pushing some sizable boulders into Hance and making it just that much nicer. (Hance Creek is downstream right above Sock.) The rapid is the same... catch the eddy behind the boulder with your ass end pulling hard astern, use the eddy to move to river center, then watch out for the various snag rocks and avoid the holes!
We watch the OARS group & Liz Hymen do it every which way and that was fun, going to school on them. One green boatman had his very own scourge in the raft with him, yelling all the way through the rapid. After Hance ,we did Sockdolager rapid, featuring a cliffside scout, big waves and a lot of water to bail at the end.
unloading at Grapevine searching for kitchen gear at Grapevine
We camped at the beach above Grapevine. This time we get to camp alone and really appreciate it. Our shish kebob fire is sheltered from occasional light winds in a small alcove at the downstream end of the beach, there was some light complaining when we moved the kitchen gear from one place to the other. We all try to get Rose and Kathleen to give up their plans and stay with the trip past Phantom. Kathleen is a definite "leaner" and this infuriates Rose, I wish both of them had been able to see their way clear to doing the whole trip. We eat at dusk, do the dishes and spend the evening pointing at the whirling star map above us and delighting in being here at this wonderful time and place.
After an emotional morning at Kathleen's and Rosemary's decision not to stay, we build a good breakfast and linger on the beach wandering if the water is up or down. After a short pause, we pack up our gear and launch the boats downstream to do Grapevine first, rocking, diving and shipping water between the Vishnu schist and Zoroaster granite walls and then a few miles later, we sail through Zoroaster. After three miles, we park at Phantom Ranch for lunch and an exploratory walk to the Ranch for a few curious souls. Our group is questioned by a serious ranger concerning an escaped felon. Some sort of manhunt is in progress up on the Rim; the ranger was packing a pistol. A group that had launched a couple of days behind us let us know that they intended to pick up passengers at Monument for a wedding they were performing at Matkatamiba later. We tell them that we'll probably camp above Monument, or at least ambassador Willy tells them that. We wave good-bye to Rosemary and Kathleen leaving them with a backpack and our good wishes. It would have been delightful if they could have continued on with us.
The canyon that had widened out just a little to provide an opening for the Bright Angel trail has closed down again; I think we are back in the inner gorge. Shortly downstream, we pass OARS, who has collected new passengers at Phantom and then floated down to Pipe Springs beach to organize and pack. We pull out to scout Horn Creek, watching the remnants of the Seattle group go through and then watch OARS go through. After going to school on them yet another time, Gerry runs it closer to the center and so does Charley. I do the far left run next to the horns. I think Willy tries to go left of the horns, can't remember. Probably a lot of bailing after this one on everybody's part. We make camp down around Trinity Creek, mile 92 or so. Much more sand here at this water level, we look at the vast difference that 20,000 cfs can make in a camping area. Lots of space for kitchen and sleeping areas. Excitement prevails, we'll be at Crystal tomorrow, probably to camp.
© 1996 Michael Dooley