Friday, June 22, 2012

The Grand Canyon (Day 13) - Surprise! A rock!

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 30, 2012

It's late (a whopping 8:45 p.m.) and I'm tired. This is going to be a short post.

Got up early this morning and climbed around solo in a slot canyon before breakfast. It was "good" solitude.

We stopped at Elves Chasm soon after launching down the river and were delighted to discover we had the place to ourselves. Bob, Andy, Robert and I hiked, climbed and clawed our way all the way up above the first (famous) spot where everyone stops and jumps into the pool of water below a waterfall. We made it past about a dozen or so similar mini-waterfalls and at the top was a 100' waterfall that was absolutely amazing. It was super lush and green and without looking up and out of the side canyon you'd never know you were in the Grand Canyon. The climb up is super technical, the most so far, and not exactly safe without climbing equipment. I actually stashed some of my gear about halfway because I needed to be free from carrying it and unrestricted in my movement. I don't think many people make it up to that spot and I'm honored to have the opportunity. On the way back to the boats we stop at the first pool and Robert, Athena and I do take a few turns jumping through the waterfall and into the pool. By  now, there's another private river trip here. They see us come down from above and start to climb up the way we came. I know it's not a nice thought, but I can't help but look at them, see how fat they are, and think they'll never make it or their injure themselves trying.

 I've just discovered how easy it is to add a YouTube video to this blog. I'll try and add more of the GoPro videos from the trip in future posts.

Once we were back on the river something caught us by surprise just below Elves Chasm. A random rock, but not a big rock and not an obvious rock, caught us. Robert was paddling and was smart enough to turn us right into it when he saw it at the last minute and realized there was no avoiding a collision. Our raft wedged up onto and slightly over it causing us to stop. I jokingly say, "OK, no one panic," because that's what Butch always says to the commercial passengers in briefing if something "interesting" were to happen.  Athena and I then scramble to the rear of the raft and use our body weights to shift the center of gravity of the raft. With this and Robert pulling on the oars we are able to dislodge ourselves and continue down the river.

Butch and Tricia are not as lucky. We look back and in horror see them heading for the same rock. There's nothing we can do, but watch them collide into it broadside. It turns out that they just weren't paying attention, just like us, and the river naturally takes you right into the slightly submerged rock. They didn't even see us on the rock and we were probably stuck on it at least 3 minutes. It's not even in white water. We quickly paddle over to a beach just below where they are stuck. I grab a long rope and Robert and I start climbing over shoreline rocks to try and get near them when we see them coming down the river free of the rock.

All is good until we catch back up with them and discover that the rock ripped a 6-inch hole in the side tube of their raft. The tubes are chambered so it's not like the boat is sinking. It's just going very awkwardly down the river. Not something you would want to run a serious rapid with...

At this point Butch is f*cking pissed at himself for the lapse of attention and consequence. He admits he was just in "motorboat" mode, because that's what he's used to - having horsepower to save you at the last minute. Not today. We make it a few miles down the river to a place called Blacktail Canyon. This is another one of my favorite spots on the river. It's 2 p.m. and we decide to unload the boats, make camp, and concentrate on fixing the hole in the boat. I have to give credit to Bob for keeping the peace and spirits up. Butch is so upset (I would be too) that none of us want to get close to him. We're all being quite and keeping our space and Bob (who has been on the river as long as Butch and known him forever) steps in and really helps out as a communicator of sorts. First, we unload Butch and Tricia's entire boat onto shore and then flip the boat upside down onto the beach. Then we organize into two groups. One group sets up camp while the other group works on patching the hole. Butch does the patch himself and is assisted by Tricia and Bob. He attacks the raft like a surgeon on a patient. It's 95 degrees outside and the sun is relentless. Bob and Tricia set up all our umbrellas over the surgeon and his operating table. He uses a hole punch to create several dozen holes laterally along the tear on both sides. Then he uses some of Cathy's fishing line to sew/stitch the hole shut. After ensuring the surface is completely dry, he uses the repair kit to apply a huge patch over his work. Later, they apply another patch over the first patch. In the long run, this actually works and we're saved!

Butch and Tricia decided to get a non-self bailing boat when we hired Cieba Adventures to outfit us. The reason is because Tricia wants to get exercise by bailing water and they both think that the boat will preform better than the self-bailing boat that Robert, Athena and I rented. The problem is their boat is super old. The hull is lined with dozens of patches. I don't know what the lifespan of one of these boats are, but this one is got to be geriatric. Someone said it's the only one that Cieba has and all of their other boats are self bailing. I'm nick naming it the "SS Fragile."

Robert, Athena and I make dinner. It's pasta alfredo with a strange coleslaw and it's surprisingly good. We also wait until dark and explore Blacktail Canyon. It's a huge slot canyon that looks like it belongs in Lord of the Rings. The acoustics are amazing inside it and again, I'm kicking myself for not bringing my trumpet. Andy, Kathy, Robert, Athena and I slowly approach the entrance. It's very visible from outside as the starlight and waxing moon light it up well. Right at the entrance we all turn out our lights for effect. Just then a frog makes the most horrific sound and Cathy freezes in place. I look back at her and can't help but laugh out loud at the expression of fear on her face. "It's just a frog," we say. Inside the canyon it's pitch black. The walls are so tall and narrow that no moon light penetrates to the floor. Back in 2008 we camped here and my friends and I attempted to sleep inside it, but quickly left as we each got freaked out one by one. There are bats flying around, frogs making gnarly noises and at this time of year, quite a few spiders and beetles poking around on the floor.
This is one of my favorite panoramic of all the ones I took during the trip. It's real size is about 4-feet long. It's hard to tell on the computer screen, but it's got some amazing detail to it. You can see the scale of Blacktail Canyon by looking at Robert and Athena in the left side of the frame. This spot is about a 10 minute hike up from the river.
Blacktail Canyon entrance.

Wow.... I had meant to make a short entry, but got carried away. Now I'm super tired after today and really going to go to sleep! Bring on Day 14, which is May Day I might add!

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