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A ram sends us off.

As we start our drift in the morning, this ram gave us a majestic send-off.

LAVA RAPID

Lava rapid was the other class (9) rapid we had to pass. It was the last major rapid on our journey, and in all respects served as our final exam. It had every challenge, from a large spill-over, to boulders, big holes, and a V-Wave, which could flip a raft either right or left it. Depending on water level, the rapid is run from the right side or the left side. Like many final exams we have taken, we passed but it may not have been pretty. I was largely along for the ride when the oars were twice knocked from my hand. My only contribution was to get the raft spun around backwards so that we could finish the rapid in proper lengthwise orientation. Mike lost an oar off the side, and finished the rapid with one oar. The safety line kept him from losing it completely. Warren got caught in the spill-over and almost flipped. He was released, only to get sucked back in again. The straps on his food box were undone by the pounding water. He was finally released and finished the run. Mitch and Layla hit the first wave hard and Layla was bounced out of the raft. She was able to grab an oar, and Mitch reached and slung her into the raft. When it was over, our adrenaline was high, and at the first beach we pulled out and celebrated with a bit of tequila.

Scouting Lava Rapid

Brent scouts Lava Rapid.

 

Lava Spillover

The spillover is at the center of Lava Rapid, with boulder fields left and right. Most of us tried to go down the far left of the tongue, missing the worst of the spillover, but the flow of water tended to drive the raft into the spillover.

Video of Don, Charlie and Dan running Lava Rapid. You can see in the video below that I lost my oars on the first hit and was swung sideways. All I accomplished was to continue turning the raft so that we continued through the rapid backwards, ie, lengthwise rather than sideways.

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Basaltic Jointing

Basalt formations were the dominant feature of Indian Canyon Camp. Basalt often appears in a pentagonal structure called, Basaltic Jointing.

 

Basaltic Jointing2

A close-up of Basaltic Jointing. While these pentagons are about five inches in diameter, some basaltic shafts can be two or three feet in diameter.

 

Dan soaking in Pumpkin Spring.

Dan soaking in the tepid water of Pumpkin Spring. Most of us were discouraged from doing so due to the high level of arsenic in the spring.

A goup shot in the stone seating at Pumpkin Spring

A group shot in the stone seating of Pumpking Spring. Photo: Mark

 

 

Mike on the paddleboard

We had an inflatable paddle board. Here Mike shows his skill. Photo: Mark

Paddleboard2

Mark and Amber each moved into the current. I expected not to see them again that day, but they successfully got back into the eddy and ran back up to camp. Photo: Amber

 

Pedicure

In terms of endearment, nothing creates devotion like...

Pedicure2

...a mutual pedicure.

NIGHT FLOAT

Our last rapid of any size was 237 Mile Rapid, a class (5). It was a read and run rapid and not even discussed in the book. It did have one spillover boulder in the middle, which could be avoided on either side. There is no doubt that complacency had set in as we were all supremely confident after running Lava. Mike managed to hit the boulder, the raft went vertical and almost flipped. It didn't flip, but the only one left in the raft was Dana. Mike, Rus, Leo and Kim were all in the water. Leo grabbed the safety line, and the others grabbed Leo's legs. It was a refreshing lesson, albeit too late, to not let one's guard down.

Bridge Canyon Rapid, class (4) was our last real rapid on the river. It was the plan for our last night to tie the rafts together and float all night, arriving at Lake Mead the following morning. We pulled into the Bridge City Camp and set up the kitchen for our last meal. We slept until 8PM and then loaded our rafts for the last time. We had a full moon and the weather was perfect. We strapped the rafts together sideways, with an oarsman on the front raft and one at the rear. We spread sleeping bags on all the benches. We paddled to the center of the river, and soon found that by having the front oarsman paddle to the center of the river, and the rear oarsman match the front oarsman, we could keep the raft train oriented properly. The moon was bright enough so that we seldom had to use a flashlight to confirm our position. Only a few times did we have a problem with getting stuck in eddies. Several times in the night we heard loud splashes in the water, much like a boulder falling into the water. After reading of this phenomena, I know now that it was likely beavers, slapping their tails in warning.

 

A full moon during the night float

Floating at night, rafts tied together, with a full moon. Photo: Mark

 

Night float sunrise

As the sun lights the canyon, the moon is still visible. Photo: Mark

 

Night Float

Our last morning, near the end of our all-night float. Most actually got a good nights sleep with the gentle motion on the water.

 

Night Float2

Charlie catching sleep after standing watch at the oar.

 

Take Out

At last we round a bend in the river and see the trucks of Moenkopi Riverworks waiting for us. Our 17 day journey, covering 280 miles, is over.

 

Layla, happy to be done.

Layla stands in an empty raft, sharing the joy of having finished the trip successfully.

 

Collapsing the rafts.

Our work was not done. We had to load the trucks and collapse the rafts, but we did it at our own speed. There was a pervasive sense of accomplishment, and perhaps disbelief, that it was over.

This has been a long story, and for those of you reading this, I commend you for your persistence. Actually, much has been left out of the story. The goal was to provide a record for those who took the trip, without making it so long that it would be unreasonably tedious.

For me, the adventure went well beyond my expectations. I expected the first four days to be interesting, but that a sameness would then set in. To the contrary, the Grand Canyon changed continually. While we were always in a canyon, it presented itself in a different way by each mile. Dan, Mark and Amber had a great knowledge of the canyon, and our side trips were always interesting. By allowing 17 days to do the trip, we had time each day to explore places of interest. I think the trip would have lost a lot had it simply been a raft trip, trying to do the river quickly. Because the trip was unguided, we did all the rowing, decision making and setting up camp ourselves. While that added work, it made us very much in the loop and added a good deal of interest.

I hope that this has given you a chance to share the adventure with us. Should you get a chance to do the Grand Canyon yourself, I would heartily recommend the experience.

Don Webster

 

The End