August 28 - Saturday
Not a bad night's sleep. Dad and I stayed in the tent all night. Now the sky is crystal-clear and this may be a warm day. Looks like pancakes for breakfast. I just had coffee (?!?)
Let's talk about yesterday after lunch. We dropped out of the redwall limestone into the Mauv limestone and then into the Bright Angel Shale. The canyon is getting much deeper now as you'd expect) and from my geology book we should expect to be into the last few formations and the black Vishnu Schist soon.
Mike and I rode in the front for most of the day with Dad and Gary and Douglas on the second row. We even stood through some of the smaller stuff. We passed Hansbrough Point (where Hansbrough surfaced a few months after he drowned) and President Harding Rapid - nothing big. We started looking for a place to camp soon after and I think that Saddle Canyo was our first option at MILE 47. However, it was already taken. So were another couple of spots (and the Saddle Canyon hike looked neat.) I then got excited because I thought that we'd be camping at Nankoweap Creek/Canyon/Rapids and would be able to hike up to the Indian granary ruins (and take a photo just like the National Geographic one) (PIC from book) but all three of the sites there were taken, too. We'd started looking at around 3:45 and it was now around 4:30 (and we were at MILE 52). We continued to motor along and Mike and I kept spotting sure camping sites that Bear passed on by. We shot through Kwagunt rapids, which was a pretty good one but without the big wall of water that has been the mark of a really big one. I am not sure if Bear is keeping us away from the big stuff since our group is somewhat conservative. I'll try to ask him about that.
We did finally stop to camp here at MILE 59, at around 5:30 or 5:45, so we traveled these last 12 miles in somewhat of a distracted hurry. But Bear seemed only a little surprised at the series of occupied campsites and didn't seem to hurried himself.
Our site has very nice view up- and downriver. Our toilet is in somewhat of a precarious place, which made last night's visit more exciting.
Awatubi Canyon is right behind us and Dad climbed up to the top of a small hill in its direction and took pix of the views we have here (upstream and downstream) and of me and I took one of him (see him with open arms?) I took a picture with the day cam of the view from my and Dad's campsite.
The two of us camped a long way on a sandy point that we identified from the top of the hill we climbed for the pictures. The sound of moving water was strong and might have contributed to the good sleep. I only remember waking three or four times.
About to load up
A few people have asked about my journal/diary and I have said that I might put it on the Web. I wonder if I should be more of a group documentarian or continue the way I have with less group-oriented commentary. I am thinking that group commentary might be for the best, but group consumption of what I write might not. I think I'll write without worrying about that - honesty is always best an it's only my opinion. Opinions of others have always been interesting to me. This group is interesting. Other than the Germans (who I'm not sure about), all the older men were in the military. I just asked and the Germans weren't. They joked that if they had been, then not only would the group be as organized as it is (due to our guys) but we'd all be marching everywhere, too. Mike and Gary put some effort into keeping the boat sand-free when we get on, which most people wouldn't do but I think everyone appreciates it. And almost without fail, everyone is very helpful, both to Bear and to each other. They are also thoughtful and considerate. It all makes for a very comfortable trip for me - I like orderliness and cooperation. You can tell that Mike and Gary have officer backgrounds - they are organizers by nature. But unlike some officers, they don't hesitate to throw their back into whatever needs doing.
Across from Carbon Creek
We've found a smallish place on the South Wall in the rocks and more importantly in the shade. A few of us can climb up into the rocks but the kitchen table just barely has room at the riverside. I've found two small shelves for a seat and a desk.
Soon after we put in the morning we pulled just barely upstream in the Little Colorado. I took a couple of pix with Dad's camera of up- and downstream and a raft-only shot just before this.
(Little Colorado Junction pictures by Dad: of a National Geologic Survey team taking sediment samples, the big Colorado upstream, and a look up the Little Colorado at its mouth.)
The Little Colorado was VERY muddy - the color of chocolate milk, almost. Where eddys formed, you could see semi-clear areas that emphasized the amount of soil in the water. (Here's a good picture by Dad of the place where the brown and muddy Little Colorado meets the green and clear Colorado.)
Also, the water was warmer - not warm, but warmer. Enough warmer that we could stay in it without the near-pain that long stays in the Colorado causes. It really can be almost too much, from just a short stay. A long-term full dunking would be very bad news. Everyone is very careful not to fall in for that reason.
The whole group walked up the left side of the Little Colorado Canyon, which was a neat walk along sandstone shelves. About a quarter-mile up, there was a small rapid which we could float down. All of us were a little reluctant to immerse ourselves in the very dirty (and still a little chilly) water. Bear gave instructions about the channel to take and Mike was the first the chance it. It looked like a fun run. He had a big smile at the bottom. When I saw how well he'd make it, I got in without any more hesitation. Dad took pictures of me from a ledge above. The first chute was the best drop, then a few waves of soil-filled water would hit you in the face. After about fifty yards, you could swim to shore. We wore our life jackets upside down like diapers to give our rear ends more protection. Mike and I went up for another run.
Dad came down and got ready to go. I got in soon behind him and took three pix with the water cam - one at the start, one at the middle that might just show a mud wave about to hit me (actually it didn't turn out too well), and one at the end with Dad looking back up for me. I made one more run and so did Dad. The Germans went down almost together and that looked like fun.
Bear had pointed out a miner's cabin on the opposite bank that looked very interesting, so Dad and I thought we'd try to get over to it.
We walked further upstream looking for a place to cross. Nothing was obvious, and the oppostite side's formations made us choose a swift-moving section above some minor rapids. Dad had the camera in a possibly-leaking ziploc and needed to keep it above water. I crossed on all fours (this would have been impossible for so long in the main river) to be very cautious since we'd left our life jackets back at the rapid-swim. A few spots almost were too much to push against - easier for me down low than Dad standing - and I gave him a hand once I was in a slow-moving place behind a rock. We made it to the other side after probably ten fast minutes and just plowed into the bullrushes. We made it onto clearer land and walked through the brush towards the cabin.
The cabin was very cool - about 15' by 8', I guess, with a solid rock overhand for a roof. There were a few artifacts still there, like a hat with a hole in the top which Dad wore for a picture. There were some shelves, and the door was natural and handmade, still on the hinges (but didn't swing.) Dad took a picture of me standing outside. It was worth the trip. However, it could have been much easier. As we were leaving, George came up to the cabin and said he'd waded across just below. Sure enough, Dad and I waded back with no problem. Well, it was worth the adventure of crawling across the Little Colorado.
3rd Camp stop
Picture from this campsite & my sketch
This was a big rapids afternoon! Unkar, Nevills, Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, Horn Creek, Granite, and Hermit!
We've now lost our green river - it is the color of a café au lait now thanks to the Little Colorado. We are also now well within the Vishnu Schist - very beautiful rock, so black and shiny and craggy - and fingers of zoraster granite, a surprising contrast of pink. I really like it.
Our camp stop is at the bottom of a smallish canyon, and although we can't tell it from here we are in the heart of the Canyon. According to Bear, the two rims are 15 miles apart or so here, although the walls seem very close now and are probably a quarter-mile where we are.
Most tents, including mine and Dad's, are in deep fine sand with one tent side towards the rock. They are heated well (they're black!) and that gives us some extra heat.
The sky has only a few clouds and it has been that way all day. It's been pretty hot, too, which has been good because we've been wet.
We started out into Unkar and Nevills with the other Grand Canyon Expeditions raft nearby to aid in picture-taking. They have a video camera on a stick with plastic over it to take video. They used it through the rapids. I think I took a pic with the wet cam as we started Unkar. For Hance, I moved to the Cadillac to give others a shot at the front. It turned out to be a good one. It was long and had some good up-and-down action and only some moderate splashing. However that was enough to satisfy many tastes for the action and the front cleared up some after that.
Sockdolager came next and I moved back to the front. I think I took another pic there as we started in (but it didn't turn out). Grapevine was the next, and it gave us one of the hardest yanks so far - I came off the boat deck and Kathy almost lost it altogether. It was thrilling. And we dried off quickly.
(Some rapids pictures by Dad: entering a long one, the group getting set for another rapid, and a shot of the raft showing that everyone is wet.)
We then cruised some absolutely beautiful canyon - the very deep part with the black and pink all around, the sun shining on the walls, and a wonderful feeling of isolation. This was some of the most inaccessible of the Canyon, and the river would back and forth. My favorite scenery so far. Difficult to capture in a picture, I think, so I didnt try.
Then, we came around a left turn to Phantom Ranch. We saw the Kaibab Suspension Bridge first. We beached the raft to let Sandi off and we all got out. Turns out there was a flush toilet and running sink bathroom and a phone. Going to the bathroom in porcelain and using a faucet really did seem foreign and I felt a little embarrassed to use it. There was also a phone.
I called home and talked to Walt - he was surprised to hear from me. I was disappointed to learn that they lost last night but thrilled to hear of his first catch. I imagined it and smiled. Dad then talked to Mom and found out she's feeling better. So, mixed news. Then I left a message on Ali's machine that will hopefully be a nice surprise for her. It was about 3:45 PM then.
I ran from there to the Suspension Bridge and paused at the middle for a picture by Dad. I ran all the way to the tunnel at the other side and stopped in my tracks a few feet in. I could not see a thing and couldn't tell how long it was. I just turned around and ran back out. I don't know why I ran out. I must have looked funny. Then I pulled my sunglasses off and let my eyes adjust and I went through. It really wasn't that long. I ran back across the bridge. So, I've run down the Grand Canyon and ran across it. The bridge was very sturdy but it and the trail had some mule droppings on it. So it smelled a little.
We got on the raft again and were on our way. Horn Creek Rapid was soon after and I rode it from the front. It was time for us to stop for camp but the camp spot was taken. So, we had to go down Granite. I took a couple of pictures that didn't turn out really well. We ended up going into some huge stuff that slammed us good - it impressed everyone, I think. We climbed some waves that were at least 6' from trough to crest. And on the way in, we passed a static whirlpool on the right that looked both beautiful and mean. Finally, we went through Hermit Rapid, which looked really tough and did give us lots of very tall up and down, but no big waves. Soon after, we stopped for camp.
(Some afternoon pictures by Dad: a beautiful, colorful picture upstream, and a snapshot of a canyon sheep)
We just had grilled halibut on a charcoal grill, a nice beans and rice dish, mixed salad for dinner with a gingerbread dessert. For breakfast we had some super pancakes with sausage. Dinner last night (Dad caught the cook on film) was dijon chicken breast, cabbage slaw, glazed carrots, and a wild rice dish. Dessert was a strawberry and banana cake. Now it's dark - until tomorrow