August 30 - Monday
We picked a camp stop with good views up- and downriver and with a very big spots for the kitchen and toilet. We also saw a bighorn sheep couple as we were pulling in. As I took my stuff to mark a site for our tent, I ended up getting pretty close. They just kept an eye on me and moved uphill. I didn't want to aggravate those horns and that hard head in any way.
Dad and I decided to set up on part of the outwash of the nearby canyon. We had super views upstream.
When I stopped to write, we decided that maybe a hike up the canyon would be a better idea. The first part was very flat and wide, a veritable highway compared to most trails. We walked on sandstone shelves. It got a little rockier but for the most part was very easy up to a very small fall that we could get under. The water was not very cold and was clean and steady so we each took showers of sorts. We decided to try to talk on up further. Eventually, the hiking turned into perpetual rock climbing over the boulders strewn through the creekbed, but every now and then we'd find much-needed relief from the rocks by walking right in the stream. We wanted to see if the canyon had any more interesting sights in store.
We had started at 5:30, and at 5:55 we decided to go just a little further to a point that would seem to be a good looking-up point. It was further than we thought, but upon reaching it we did see that the canyon seemed to end not too much further up. Either a spring or something else interesting must be up there, so we decided to go on. Bear had told me that supper would be around 6:15, so it was a decision to be very late for dinner as well.
We did climb on up and found a 50' fall with water running over it. We hadn't seen the water before because we were further away than we thought. A big pool lay at the fall's base. It was 6:15. We looked around a little (we didn't bring a camera) and started the hike down. We tried to follow our mud footprints back down like Hansel and Gretel and that worked for the most part. We got back down at 6:45. And it turned out that supper hadn't even started yet. Perfect! It was a fun walk. Dad is a tough old goat. He was as fast as me both up and down.
My attire for the day will be the gray hat, the Ole Miss shirt, light green shorts, and the AquaSocks. The Tevas were giving me some blisters so I switched to the Socks yesterday. They aren't too bad for hiking in but they hold more sand inside. I hope I don't show through these shorts, too.
Dinner last night was a stew with cornbread and breakfast this morning was French toast and sausage. Geez! I am eating until I'm full 3 times a day I'm not getting all that weathered by the sun and water (though my beard is growing out) and I'm probably gaining weight! Like I just told Bear, my friends will think I spent the whole week at the buffet tables in Vegas, not rafting down the Grand Canyon!
Another good night's sleep last night. Dad and I set up the tent in a sandy spot, but moved our ground cover, mattresses, sleeping bags, and sheets up to a flat rock ledge near the creek. We went to sleep about 8:30. At about 9:45, I felt some sprinkles that stopped soon after. Then at 11 the rain got a little more serious and when I called out to Dad to wake him up saw that he was already awake. The clouds looked threatening, so we decided to move into the tent. We put our stuff away and took our bags (used for weights) from the tent to shake it out. The rain subsided and we decided just to put our stuff back down outside. I went back to sleep quickly and again slept through daybreak. Nine hours of sleep!
In Granite Narrows
Forster Rapid started the day, and right in the middle something went wrong. Dad went sliding off his seat on the ammo boxes and Horst almost went into the water between the main float and the right side tube. That was right below his usual seat. He pulled himself out but many of our bags had fallen through - a strap had broken holding the main and side tubes together. That had litle to do with Dad sliding off his seat, but both happened at the same time and I didn't know what would be next. We beached and reset everything and were on our way again. Fossil Rapid wasn't too much, but Specter got us with a couple of back-to-back big waves. That was a first for the trip and lots of fun. For all these rapids, the water is a churning brown mess, and just as we enter there are some smooth waves in the tongue that I like to look at as we enter.
Bedrock was tough for Bear, apparently, but he did a fine job. Dubendorff was the same - tough for Bear but no problems.
(Some good pictures with Dad's camera: Dad on the calm river, our raft relaxing in the scenery, I ride the left side pontoon, entering more rapids, a good shot of being in the middle of the schist, a close-up of some bighorn sheep, and another very nice panorama as we enter a rapid.)
We stopped soon after at Stone Creek and we all took a short hike up to a waterfall. The water was the warmest of anything so far. It was actually pleasant for a change.
All of us climbed under the fall for a shower - I was first but didn't feel like I was getting cleaner - maybe the water wasn't as clear as it looked. Then everyone else got in and noticed what I hadn't - that pebbles and even rocks were coming down with the water. Rita held a shirt out in the flow and had a large collection of rocks on it in a surprisingly short time. Noreen found out the hard way when a good-sized one hit her as she showered. Dad took some pix of me inside and I did the same for him. He also took pix at the bottom of some of the rapids that we're now quite used to. (Can you see me in the bottom left of this picture to get a sense of the scale?)
We also made a quick stop for water in Tapeats Creek. It was cold but very clear. I took some pix of Dad hiding in holes up on the wall there.
Our stop is on a pile of granite out in the narrows. It's a nice spot with some breeze to keep us cool. We thought we were going to get rained on and suited up but now the sky is pretty clear again. We also found the skeleton of a bird in a little granite bowl 10' across. Bear said that 6 weeks ago more of it was there and it was a red-tailed hawk. There was also an oddly sweet smell that we all noticed if we stood in the bowl with the skeleton.
There are more comments at lunch about how far we have to go and how many days left and how we'll be able to finish on time. Some of the women don't like the jokes being made about this actually being a 14-day rather than 8-day trip.
(Some pictures of this stretch of Canyon by Dad: I'm leaving out in Granite Narrows at the narrowest spot on the whole river, a nice panorama with some clouds building in the distance, I'm pointing at something - maybe this huge cave-like hole in the canyon wall, and another panorama with more ominous storm clouds.)
5th Camp stop
Sitting in the tent in the rain
Picture from this campsite & my sketch
We just saw an awesome display of nature. As we were hiking back from above Deer Creek Falls, it started to rain. And thunder. And lightning. We didn't really pay much attention to it - Dad, Gary, Kathy, Mike, George, and me - and we stopped to take pictures all along the way back. We stopped for one off a ledge looking down (way down) onto the rafts, and Mike got the attention of the people below with a barely-functioning survival whistle. Bear looked up and saw us and started waving us down in what looked like an urgent gesture for Bear.
We scurried on down the trail on a much faster pace than we'd usually walked, this time in a rain that got harder and harder. At one point, what had been a dry series of steps was the middle of a stream. I saw it go from a trickle to a stream loud enough to make noise in the time it took me to wait on Dad to catch up - about two minutes. We went a little further down and a full-blown stream had appeared across our path on a ledge. We crossed it as rocks and pebbles nicked us in the ears. We looked up above to see huge falls from the highest part of the rim we could see where there hadn't been any falls before. They were beautiful and we stopped to take a picture. We scrambled to the bottom in the stiff rain and finally made it back to the raft after one last picture at the base of Deer Creek Falls.
We hurried to shove off to try and beat the other motorized raft down to a good camp spot Bear knew. He said it had some good overhangs for us. We pulled in and Ed, Ray, and I hustled upstream towards the overhangs Bear described. We did find some open camp spots, but no overhang. The rain was really pouring at this point. We looked around for Bear's overhangs, but instead saw a pair of HUGE waterfalls from up above that were probably pounding those promised camp spots.
We could see rocks flying far out from the water and imagined what being under that must be like. We didn't feel all that threatened, but thought we'd tell Bear that there weren't that many campsites thanks to the new falls. We went back to where everyone had gathered under a small ledge and marveled at the rain. Everyone was in amazingly good spirits, mostly awed by the spectacle of the rain and the falls now seen almost everywhere. Ed, Ray, and I decided to go back and take another look at where we'd been with the increase in rain. Indeed, some good-sized channels had been cut in the sand and the water from the very red falls was blowing on us. The debris in the falls made them impossible to look at. We got the message that we were about to leave that spot and hurried back to the raft, still thinking about the awesome sight we'd seen and the power of nature we'd felt just a little.
We pushed off again and were able to see waterfalls down by the water and falls at the utmost heights of the visible rim. Some falls must have been a thousand feet high. Some were red with sand and mud, others white from the turbulence of the fall. Dad took a bunch of pix - now precious as we're on our last 35mm roll - of many of these sights. (Or so I thought at the time - he was actually only able to get one good picture of the 'new' waterfalls, although it was a good one.)
We did pull over to a little spot on the left with its own creek bed, but a dry one. Bear said he'd never camped here before, so that makes it more special. Our scenic view is a little more limited than the past days. We set up in a little bit of a rain but now it's stopped, and dinner has been prepared by Bear - 5:30 PM!
After dinner but back in the tent due to more rain. Tonight's dinner was fajitas and quesadillas. No big dessert because of the rain. Bear hasn't been able to change into dry clothes like the rest of us. What a guy. It takes a very special kind of person to do his job and he does it well. I think he may be getting tired from the summer and perhaps has to do a little more than his share since George is new and is also a business owner himself and not as used to being the grunt he's supposed to be as the boat's 'swamper.'
We're seeing tons of debris in the river - some good-sized logs and these veins of black crud that are strewn through the river's brown surface like the zoraster granite has been through the schist we've been seeing.
The group is all huddled under the one dry rock ledge behind the Germans' clothes line. They still sound pretty happy, although the margeritas and whatever else Bear fixed probably help. They're having to squeeze people in but it looks like there's enough room.
All our gear outside has a nice sheen that is not a happy sight - it means they're wet. Our bags our nice, though - since they're built for the river, this rain is nothing. Most of our stuff stays in the bags outside, giving us much more room in the tent than we'd have otherwise. The tent is just barely big enough as it is - my head and feet touch each end.
Back to telling about the day - and this afternoon was a good one.
Bear pulled us into the stop at Deer Creek Falls not too long after we'd shoved off after lunch. By the way, just before lunch we'd passed through the narrowest part of the river - 76 feet at the entrance to Granite Narrows. The Falls themselves were very impressive (do you see me in that picture?). Powell estimated when he first saw them that they were over 100 feet tall and he was also struck by the strangeness of seeing tons of water blasting out of a whole halfway down the canyon wall. There was a good-sized pool at its base and this time no one swam into it to get underneath. Maybe it was a little too intimidating, or maybe we were all looking to the hike Bear had described. He had said the hike up would be tough and didn't describe what we'd see, so we didn't know what to expect and mainly went out of the general adventuresome-ness of our group. A group from the other raft started up before us, and we were a little behind. A light rain fell on us as we started.
Dad, Mike, Kathy, and I followed Gary up the hill, and there was too much separation for Gary to see the person ahead of him. Consequently, we took the more challenging scenic route to the top.
At the top, we came upon one of the most striking sights so far - one that even pictures will have a difficult time giving full description. The running water of Deer Creek was heard down below us (apparently we'd climbed far above the height of the fall's top) but could not be seen because the canyon it had carved was so deep and so narrow. The walls went straight down (can you see Gary in blue in the distance?). The water's cut had gone back and forth in an elegant way so that you could see a little ways down the canyon but not far enough to get an angle to see the water below.
We walked on sandstone ledges, sometimes very close to the edge, and followed the water's cut deeper and deeper into the wall. Finally, the water came into view (its sound had been loud due to frequent falls for the entire walk in) and the canyon opened up. The most people that I'd seen all week were gathered at the top, most of them from a separate oar boat group.
Trees grew along the water, some of the first we've been anywhere near, and the area was also green with moss and algae. The place was beautiful - a relaxing garden with plunging water, shade, and plenty of room for people to gather. A few people commented that it was the most wonderful sight yet (coupled with the hike through the narrow canyon to get there, it was even more unbelievable).
There was a small fall at the upstream end of this little Eden that had gathered people for play and pictures. Mike and I decided to take a walk to see what was upstream and found a much more earthlike setting - the same as we've seen the last few days. We came upon Dad taking pix of a big lizard and then we all went down to the falls ourselves.
The falls had good momentum and felt great to get under. Dad took a picture of me there and I took one of him (he didn't want to try walking through it) as Mike strengthened the dam that created a pool there.
Eventually we started back down and took lots of pix along the way. We changed rolls and Dad discovered that the replacement was our last one. That's a shame. We've been picture-happy.
Ray pointed out some ancient handprints left by Anasazi Indians 1000 years ago. I took a picture with my hand there for reference. Those were our first up-close Indian signs of the trip. (Dad also got a picture of some fossilized worm burrows in an overhanging rock)
As we left the canyon, we stopped to look down and take pix of the rafts far below and the wonderful view upstream. The rain had restarted as we left the garden at the top and picked up as we exited into the main canyon. As Bear waved us on, I had no idea that we were in as much of a hurry as we should have been.
Reflecting on it now, it was certainly fortuitous that we left when we did. Another wait of 10 minutes would have probably had a huge effect on our trip back down to the raft - perhaps preventing it altogether. That would have really been an adventure!