Today we started out with a major rapid, Granite, at which we found our friends from Seattle camping. They were arrayed at the head of the rapid on the left side, looks like a pretty good camping spot should I ever get back. Granite appeared to be some variant of an S-turn rapid surging toward the left bank from river right and then center, then dropping right aimed at a reversal filled run out. Big holes on the left where the water piles up, the attempt to go right is made pretty tough by the river which wants to carry you left regardless. There is a freight train track through all this though, you have to see it to believe just how it works. None of us believed in what we saw and thus we all carried some water downstream as we fought our way through.
before Granite after Hermit
I should make some remark about the island at the right-side bottom of Granite where I saw both Charley and Willy bailing like mad dogs. Myself, I had too much water to pause at that point. Granite is a "real washtub" in Charley's words, he claims to have taken on the most water of any rapid thus far, and it was closely followed by another big one, Hermit. The route at Hermit was to enter at the center, point your nose straight down the waves, fight through the huge haystacks at the bottom, and find a quiet spot to piss water from your boat. Charley's big boat was almost vertical; he claimed that there were 20' waves in Hermit.
We floated down to the upper camp at Crystal by noon, where we had lunch in the tammis trying to find some kind of shade. We hung out in the sparseness of that shade, not really wanting to unload and admit that the day was over. The strategy at this point was to wait for the water to go down. Willy said that in the early AM when the water is lower, Crystal looks more like a South Fork (of the American) type rapid than the muncher hole it is right now. We spread ourselves along the shoreline monitoring the water level (looks to be dropping) and waited to see if any one will just run Crystal. We made contact with the Seattle group again and talked a little more to some nice and friendly people who use parasols. Looks like portable shade to us. Not a bad idea. The "TL" and his girlfriend are getting married at Matkatamiba and they want to avoid scheduling conflicts so "spokesman Willy" does our talking for us. We confirm plans so as to not step in on their trip and the big event.
We also meet Dog Puss, (Georgia's name, by the way,) an uncouth boater who is boastful in his casual conversation and who is driving a brand new purple dory. We watched as he snapped an oar in an earlier rapid and here he was trying to rope and tape it back together at Crystal.
As we were standing there just taking a gander, we saw a 2 boat rental group do a run through Crystal and encounter a little drama. The first guy runs left past the muncher hole way over next to the cliff, then he bucks like a mad bull while going through the waves next to the left wall. At the end of the rapid, we watch his raft get sucked hard left and then flip over. With that lesson, all thought of attempting the left run here dies. After watching the second rented Sotar run right and successfully land at the foot of Crystal beach, I look at Gerry and Willy. My thought is that now is our chance, we should do it right now at this runable level; perhaps we won't add to the congestion at the foot of the rapid and maybe we can help. Gerry, who hates watching others run rapids, since he regards this as a waste of time, readily agrees and is the first one through. Our tactic is the same as the last time, and the time before that. Hard right down-stream ferry in the hope that it will enable you to bust through the transverse wave close enough to the shore on river right. Then pivot, and ferry right just enough to keep from being pulled into the heart of the rapid out in the middle. Charley follows Gerry and I follow Charley. Willy brings up the rear and we all stop at the lower beach to pick up our passengers and consider our options.
The beach looks mighty good for camp this evening, it doesn't have a boat crunching surf at this water level and no one else is there. At Gerry and Charley's urging though, we continue downstream to provide ferry service to the walkers and swimmers from the flip trip. After reuniting everyone, (their trip leader wants us to take his aged father down to camp with us, I decline citing trip cohesiveness), we leave Charley to advise the flipees on proper boat righting techniques. They declined our offer of assistance and so we hurried downstream to find some sort of camp before the evening overtook us. We made a real "surf" camp a mile downstream at Lower Tuna rapid and after unloading, barely got dinner out, cooked and eaten before dark-fall. The boats pitched and rolled as we derigged and unloaded in a teeny confined space along a rocky shore in an unavoidably high surf area. It was not the most comfortable port and only because we had to. Not recommended except in emergency. The dinner filled us and we all slept soundly. Hey, alive after Crystal!
The shitter was placed at the head of Tuna rapid and could only be reached by trudging over an ankle wrenching boulder field. I took a tumble coming back while negotiating my way down a boulder packed slope and was reminded that we can not afford to get any injuries on this trip as we have no replacement boatmen. Packing up our gear is as strenuous as the de-rigging was last evening, the boats are bouncing every which way and we can only accommodate three of them at a time in the "harbor".
he only drank three of those Oranginas
After putting onto the river, we ran the jewel rapids and parked on the left to take a look at the Ross Wheeler, an old river boat stranded and chained down to a boulder about 30 feet above the Colorado. A very sunny day ensued and we managed to miss getting some noontime shade which we needed very much at this point. Many lunches are spent competing for scant shade, this appeared to be one of them.
view from Elve's
That afternoon, we stopped at Elves Chasm which the girls liked very much, a shady fern glen with falling water and pools to wade in. Rebecca can't bring herself to boulder hop up to the falls, (How did we do this the last time?) so we spent some time cooling off in the lower pools. Floating just a short couple of miles afterward, we camped at mile 119 on a large sandbar above Blacktail Canyon on river right. Good spot.
The river has become much easier to do after passing Crystal. Shade, dear shade, arrives as we land and unpack. We are definitely hunting for the cool spots now. It is great to have this nice open campsite with plenty of space and a quiet raft mooring after yesterday's "forced landing" below Lower Tuna. The evening progresses into star gazing and soft singing issues from the girl's sleeping area.
Right after breakfast next morning, I scattered Danny's ashes into the Colorado following a short service from the Book of Common Prayer (which was hastily penciled down by Kathleen who phoned our sister Molly at Lee's Ferry and also from another penciled note via Pam from Pam's father).
"I am the Resurrection and the Life..."Hugs were exchanged all around. I'm relieved to have this particular awaited part of the trip over with; it was good to get it finally done. The thought of his ashes resting in the Canyon has been with me since Los Angeles. I so wanted to get to the end of this miserable sequence of events. I think we have done the right thing in coming on this trip, and being here so shortly after his death. No other place is like this one. It seems to possess healing and majestic powers. I'd bet this sounds a little confused, but you too might feel this way once you'd seen the Grand Canyon. I have always thought of it as Heaven.
"We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can take nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken..."
"For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."
"Unto Almighty God, we commend the soul of our brother, and we commit their bodies to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust-"
The Canyon is breathtakingly beautiful now, more colors show themselves as the day grows older and the clouds roll by with sunlight streaming through to illuminate the canyon walls and show brilliant reds and greens, browns and pinks verging on purple. The day becomes more and more sunny which means a real hot float trip past Randy's rock, a few other rapids and then the cauldera that is Bedrock rapid. What a keeper eddy! Willy says that he has done the left run... Boy Howdy! After Deubendorf, we land and scout the upper Tapeats campsite. Willy walks downstream, hops and skips actually due to the hot rock, barefoot like always, to see if anyone has yet taken the camp at Tapeats. They haven't and so we do. After derigging and unloading in the tiny harbor on river right, the girls and Charley walk up Tapeats Creek to check out Thunder River.
expert fishing techniques
Willy fishes as the rest of us take a chair break and drink beer. Other groups saunter through camp on their way to the springs. Seems a little crowded here as well as being over-run by red ants, especially in the kitchen area up in the tammis. I spread out Kathleen's drybag contents, they were soaked due to the fact that the bag wasn't closed very well. The red dye from her tee shirt has infused itself into everything else... We sleep beside the burble of Tapeats Creek.
© 1996 Michael Dooley