Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Grand Canyon (Day 11) - Gem Stones!

The following post is from the journal I kept of my recent adventure upon a 21-day private river rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon from Lee's Ferry to Diamond Peak (about 230 miles) that took place between April 18th and May 8th, 2012.

April 28, 2012 

BIG WATER DAY! That's what today is... chalk full of big rapids (world class) as we will travel about 20 miles through the "gem stone" rapids. Sapphire, Ruby, Turquoise and of course the notorious Crystal Rapid to name a few. I just learned from our fearless leaders that back in the 1980s Crystal Rapid got so crazy that more than 100 rafters had to be airlifted to safety. The water was at 100,000+ cubic feet per second (CFS) back then. Today it's only running at about 10,000 CFS so I think we'll survive.

We start the day off with Granite Rapid, which is right next to our campsite from last night. I'm at the controls and I'm stoked. Granite is a class 9 rapid and there is a turn in the river right in the middle of the rapid. The turn tries to pull you into a wall and at the same time on the other side there are some huge holes and rocks to avoid. There is a long and nasty lateral wave in the middle of the turn. I make mental note of all these potential "bad-day" makers as I paddle through the rapid. It all goes as planned! It's absolutely amazing at how priceless the knowledge that Butch and Bob are providing Robert and I in advance of these rapids regardless of if we scout them or not. Without their guidance I'm sure I'd be flipped and broken by now.

The three of us switch out most of today and it's good to see Athena paddling some of her biggest rapids yet!  I paddle Granite, Tuna Creek (class 6), 104-mile (class 7) and Serpentine (class 6-8) rapids. The most fun is Tuna Creek for me. It is unexpectedly LONG as there is an upper & lower section with the river turning several times. It's not big in comparison at all, but it involves some technical paddling and endurance. The rapid takes about 7 minutes to get through while most rapids are less than a minute. I like it because endurance is involved! Serpentine rapid is also fun. There is a huge hole on the right and the river curves kind of like Ruby Rapid so you enter on the left tongue and pull left as it pulls you to river right.

We take the most video yet today with the GoPro cameras. We also split the group while running Granite to get some action photos. I set Bob up with my Nikon D7000 and he took pictures of us from shore going down the rapid.

Robert paddles Crystal. We stop and scout it before hand and he gets excellent advise, which helps him nail the rapid without incident. After Crystal Rapid we stop at a beach just below for lunch. Butch says this is the beach that "saves everyone's ass when things get ugly" up there. We all drink an "ABC Beer," which stands for "After and Below Crystal Beer."

Near the end of the day Robert and I take turns paddling Bob's dory, the Abbey Rose - named after his daughter. All and all the day is a great one! Thinking about it; so many things could go wrong considering what we accomplished. About the worst thing that happened was Robert lost our beer bag, which is a mesh net we fill with beer cans or other beverages and hang overboard into the cold Colorado River to chill to river temperature. He apparently didn't get the clip secure while moving the bag and after Athena ran Turquoise rapid we noticed it was gone. Butch and Tricia have an extra so we're saved from drinking warm beer!

We're camping at Bass Camp tonight. In 2008, I remember stopping here for lunch and it being one of the hottest days of the entire trip. It left everyone searching for shade that day. Right now, however, it's quite pleasant. Another thing I've noticed the past few days is less bugs. The "midges" seem to have disappeared somewhat (hopefully died!) and it's not so bad at night. There's talk of doing another layover day here tomorrow. I guess that will be discussed over our pork chop dinner tonight.

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