Friday, July 11, 2008

Grand Canyon May 2007

I left Carlsbad at 5:00 AM. Traffic was very light on I-15. Because of an accident it slowed down a bit near Corona.
I arrived at the hotel in Las Vegas at 10:30 AM. Because I was early they had only rooms available which were located near the elevator. Rather than taking one, I went out for lunch and when I came back got a room and a long term parking pass, and parked the car in the park house.
After a nap I laid out all my clothing and other belongings on the couch and coffee table.
The Grand Canyon Expedition Company recommended to bring not more than twenty pounds, or what fits in a paper shopping bag.
Some of the other WINs are staying in their motorhomes, and will leave them at the Eagles Lodge. One person will stay behind and take care of the pets, the dogs and cats. Other people flew in and stayed at the hotel.
At 8:00 PM a representative of the Grand Canyon Expedition Company gave us an orientation talk and gave each of us a water proof ammo box for our cameras and small items and a water proof duffel bag for clothing and other belongings.
I had to leave one pair of sneakers and some clothing behind. One pair of sneakers and one pair of water shoes has to suffice. The duffel bag is not very big. Eight days on the river with so few belongings will be a challenge.
I told the hotel front desk to wake me up at 4:00 AM. Let the adventure begin.

I was awake before the wake up call. Several times during the night I had to get up. One time to turn the air conditioner off and another time to immobilize the refrigerator.
The hotel served a light breakfast. By 5:00 AM the Coach USA bus was ready to bring us to our river starting point.
First we picked up the WINs at the Eagles Lodge and then headed for St. George, Utah. After a short stop we went to Freedonia, where we picked up Marty. Marty will be one of our guides.
Our next stop was the Jacob Lake Inn. During the 15 minutes there, some of the group bought the inns famous cookies. At an altitude of 7925 feet the temperature was pleasant.

We arrived at Lee's Ferry at 11:45 AM. By 12:00 Noon we had boarded the two large rafts.

The rafts are 37 foot long, are made up of 20 separate compartments and are self bailing. Each caries 500 pounds of ice for keeping the food supply fresh. A 30 horse power Honda outboard motor propels the raft. Food and supplies are stored below deck. Each raft can carry 14 passengers and two crew members.
Our waterproof duffel bags and ammo boxes were strapped to the rafts.
There were already gray waterproof duffel bags on board. We learned later that those contained our sleeping bags, air mattresses and ground covers.

At 12:45 PM we stopped for lunch. There were different kinds of breads, meats and cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and all the other ingredients to make a good, tasty sandwich.
We build our sandwich and had a wonderful lunch. Everybody was happy and we took off for our first rapid.

Donna, who with her companion Bob, had arranged this rafting trip, wanted to sit up front. She mad that clear. She and Bob had done rafting on the Colorado River before. Bob with the same company.
We hit the Bager rapid and everybody up front got wet. When we arrived at the Soap Creek Rapid the weather had changed and it rained.
Donna came to the back of the raft. I was wearing my rain suit and water shoes. The shoes were wet and I had cold feet.
We went down one rapid after another. Marble Canyon, which is part of Grand Canyon, has many of them. Too many for the weather we suddenly had.

The crew wore shorts and T shirts and they were also suffering. We saw a California Condor sitting on a large rock. We wished he had taken to the air so we could have seen his large wingspan. The condors were released in this part of the canyon after they were raised by humans who wore gloves in the shape of adult condors heads. The birds never saw the people who were their surrogate parents.
There were also red tailed falcons and a lot of swallows flying low over the water and catching their dinner.

The beautiful scenery was not helping me at this moment. We were looking for a camp site, but since we started late, most of the beaches were already occupied. There are not many flat areas in the canyon. We were told many times that there would be a spot around the corner.
Finally at mile 30, at 5:30 PM, we stopped. The sky was clear, long enough to put up our tents. The crew cooked dinner. It was comfort food, spaghetti with meat balls.

There was plenty of food and tasty. All kinds of drinks are available, soft drinks, sport drinks, juices and tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
The canned drinks are put every day in a meshed bag and the bag hangs in the cold river water. The temperature of the water in the river is about 50 degrees F all year. Water is released from the bottom of Lake Powell and does not get a chance to warm up.

This was one of the most miserable days in my life. It was 8:00 PM when I was finished with dinner. I crawled in my sleeping bag and being so exhausted, I had no problem falling asleep.
My tent partner is Dick. He smokes and snores We will see who can snore the loudest.

We left Mile 30 at 8:30 AM. The breakfast was very good. We will not be starving on this trip.

Our first stop was Red Wall Cavern. It reminded me of the large cliff in Mesa Verde National Park. Red Wall Cavern is deeper and has a sandy floor. The cavern is in a bend of the river and the view up and down the river is difficult to describe. For me it was magic. I told our guide Marty that this view takes care of yesterdays misery. He told me that there is more to come.

The weather had improved and so have our spirits.
Lunch was at 11:45 AM. After lunch we passed the Desert View Tower up on the South Rim. We also saw our first mule deer.

We arrived at Nancoweep, Mile 52, at 2:30 PM and set up camp. At 3:00 PM we left for the Granary, the grain storage caves of the people who lived here before the white man came to America.
We had to climb 1000 feet up the North Rim. The view from up there was magnificent.

Now I knew that yesterdays suffering was brought upon us so we can really appreciate the splendor of this wonderful canyon. I have forgiven the weather gods now.
After we came back we were fed BBQ pork loin, beans, stuffing, cole slaw and a lot of fruit.

Our guides are cooks and entertainers. Marty is our guide and Will his assistant. On the other raft Goldie is the guide and Jeremiah is his assistant. The four work together like clockwork. Goldie is a good baker.

I had filled my collapsible water container with river water last night and it had warmed up enough to wash myself and pour the water over me.

We had blueberry pancakes, sausage and fruit this morning. Light, white clouds were in the sky. We saw another mule deer on the side of the river.

Our first stop was on the confluence of the Little Colorado River. We took a short hike along the river. The color of this river is turquoise. With the multi colored mountains in the back, this was a beautiful sight. Some of the group went in the water.

At 4:30 PM we stopped at Mile 84.5, Zoroaster Canyon. It is a narrow canyon and the walls look like highly polished coal. I enjoyed the sight of it. Unfortunately pictures will not show the full beauty of this.

It was an exiting day. We came over the Hanze Rapid, and it was quite a ride. It is warm now and the cold river water does not bother us anymore.

Tonight we had shrimp stir fry, rice, and of course Blondie's cake.

The water level of the Colorado River, in the Grand Canyon, can vary from day to night, up to two feet.
During the day electricity consumption is higher than at night and less water is released for the turbines at night. When we woke up today we noticed that the rafts were partially on dry land. Buckets of water were used for making the sand wet and to facilitate the moving of the rafts.
It did not help much though. We pushed the rafts a bit back and then ate breakfast. After breakfast the river had more water and we were able to complete the task.
The Grand Canyon Expeditions Company normally does not stop their rafts at the Phantom Ranch. We worked hard on Marty, he is part owner of the company, to make a stop. After a while he told us that he would make a stop if there is not too much traffic at the ranch mooring area.

When we arrived there, just enough room for our large rafts was available.
It took us twenty minutes along the Bright Angel Creek to get to the ranch. Deer were on the side of the trail trying to get at the leaves of the wire protected trees. We were only three feet from them. They did not mind us, they know that they are protected.

We stayed 45 minutes at the Phantom Ranch. Many of the group bought and sent post cards. The cards are stamped: "Mailed by Mule at Phantom Ranch".

When we were on our way we saw a helicopter picking up a stove from the ranch. The stove was in a net. The helicopter released a long cable and a person on the ground hooked up the stove to the cable.
Large items are brought in and taken out by helicopter. Small items go out and come in by mule train. We stepped in what mules leave on the trail.
At 4:30 PM we stopped at Bass Camp, Mile 108, and set up camp. We had a delayed Cinco de Mayo dinner. The crew cooked chicken for the tortillas, and had all the trimmings for a good Mexican meal. They made a big salad bowl full of avocado dip. I thought it was too much and could not be eaten. Was I wrong.

Today was another super day. We ran some big rapids, like the Crystal and Hermit rapids. The Crystal rapid gave our pilot a bit of a headache. Marty knew it and he had warned us. When we were in the middle of the white, foaming water, the motor stopped, and we got hit from the side.
I was sitting at the low point and almost two feet of water came in. I was lucky that I was holding on to two straps. The force of the water moved me a little bit.
I was still wearing my rain suit. It is getting too warm now for wearing it. Tomorrow I will do without it.
We did not set up the tent. There was a sky full of stars, just like in the desert.

Breakfast was French Toast with strawberries
Our first stop of the day was at Elfs Chasm Waterfall. We hiked the short distance to the fall. Young people in small rafts were there already. They went under the water fall to get wet and then hiked to the top of the water fall. It is a high and steep trail, nothing for old people to do.

We saw our first Desert Big Horn Sheep.
Some of the rapids were scary, but the cold water is welcome. When there are no rapids and we are hot, Marty cools us off with a water hose.
For lunch we stopped at Black Tail Canyon. We saw eight male Big Horn Sheep, a bachelor group.

For the night we stopped at Owl Eyes Camp, Mile 135.
Mahi, Mahi was on the menu for dinner. Goldie baked a cherry cobbler. This was another fine day.

We are a good group. Unloading the rafts takes only a few minutes. We form a line and hand the duffel bags from person to person.
Out of the 28 guests, I knew 14 from other outings, this makes it easier. There are a few non WINs. Bagpipe Bob brought two of his brothers. Those three are a riot. A lady member brought her daughter.

Our first stop was at Deer Creek Falls waterfall. Then we went through the Upset Rapid. Everybody got wet, there was no exception.
We also stopped where the Hawasu Creek enters the Colorado River. It is one of the most beautiful spots in the canyon. The water is turquoise and the water has formed different pools, which are ideal for swimming. A group of young people, on a raft like ours, were floating down the creek toward the river. I talked to their guide, an old timer, with full beard and clothing to match. He told me his guests are a bunch of rich kids. He had one person on board who had a heart transplant.

The water of the Colorado River is green right now. After the monsoon season it turns brown.
Today we went through the narrow part of the canyon.

We saw big Horn Sheep at four different locations. First we saw females with babies, then two females with babies, then two females with a baby and last six females.
For the night we stopped at Fern Glen Canyon, Mile 168.

We slept again without a tent. The night was warm.
Today was our chance to go down Lava Falls. This rapid has two steps. We stopped before the rapid and walked to the outlook and saw what we had to go through.
We went first while the other group took pictures from the outlook. We stopped below the falls and took pictures while they were coming down.

A lot of small rafts were on the river today; we passed several of them.

This section of the Grand Canyon has a lot of lava domes and lava flow areas on the North Rim. One can see where the water level was millions of years ago, before the water was grinding the river deeper. The lava flow stopped where the water cooled it down.

Lava columns are standing in the water. The lava is strikingly different from the red and brown stone formations. Barrel cacti grow on top of the lava columns. Prickly Pear cacti are in bloom right now.

Today we saw our first car since we left Lee's Ferry. We passed the Hualapai (People of the Pine)Indian Reservation, and there was a car on the beach.
At Mile 225 we stayed for the night.

Only one tent was up last night. Dottie refused to sleep without a tent.
Two nights ago, at camp fire, they saw a scorpion crawling on the ground. That did it.
The camp fires were not traditional camp fires. Wood burning is not allowed in the canyon. Donna and Bob bought 28 electric candles, one for each person. They look like real candles and also flicker. Everybody brought their candle and put them in the middle of the circle.
I think the canyon is one of the cleanest places in the US. We had police call in the morning and barely found anything, other than the two dimes and quarter, Jeremiah had put on the ground.

This was our last night. I was awake before 5:00 AM. The stars were still visible and the bats still cruising over me, feeding on insects.
My mind was wandering. I am so lucky that I can afford a trip like that, not only money wise, health wise too. I felt happy and sad at the same time. This was a moment to leave a few tears in the Grand Canyon.
This morning we had a California breakfast, cereals, fruits, bagels, and yogurt. This allowed us to leave at 7:30 AM instead at 8:30 AM.
We had to meet the Jet Boat at 9:30 AM at Separation Canyon. Most of us switched rafts during the week. I stayed with Marty and Will. There was more laughter on the other raft. Jeremiah, with his antics, kept the group in stitches. Marty is a more subdued person. We had quiet time on our raft. Marty stopped the raft where there was no white water, turned off the motor, and we had ten minutes to listen to the birds, the water and admire the sides of the canyon, which are between 2000 and 3000 feet high. After quiet time Marty read us a page of John Wesley Powell's book. This was very spiritual. Powell was the first person to go through the canyon.
He had many hardships but saw the beauty of this place. I am not a religious person, but I can see why the natives of this sacred land still have a reverence for the river, and the canyon with its multicolored hills on both sides.
Thank you Sierra Club for stopping the construction of three more dams in the Grand Canyon. We passed the sites where sample holes were drilled for checking the composition of the rock formation.

The jet boat picked us up at 9:30 AM and we went the rest of the canyon at 45 miles per hour.

We stopped and took pictures of the new Skywalk at the Indian Reservation.

At 11:00 AM the jet boat stopped again, turned around, so we could take one more picture of the Grand Canyon. We were now in the Lake Mead Recreation Area. The Lake is 100 feet lower than ten years ago. An ugly, white bath tub ring shows how high the water was before the ten year drought.
The Coach USA bus was waiting for us. We emptied our duffel bags and ammo boxes and transferred the stuff to clear plastic bags.
At Dolan Springs we had a 15 minute stop. Some people bought ice cream. I was satisfied with the sandwich and the apple they gave us on the bus.
At 2:15 PM we went through the Hoover Dam Check station. An officer came on board and made sure we had no material for blowing up the dam. Shortly after that we crossed the dam.

The construction of the new bridge is making progress. As soon as the bridge is finished no vehicles will be allowed to go over the dam.
Back at the hotel, Dick took a shower in my room and got ready for his flight home. I took a shower and went out for a bite to eat. Then I packed my belongings and went to bed.
Today I did not have to turn off the air conditioner and stop the refrigerator. I was very tired and fell asleep right away. At 2:30 AM I woke up, got ready and drove home. I arrived in Carlsbad at about 8:00 AM, the right time to go to breakfast at the clubhouse.

1 comment:

Barbara and Ron said...

This was a terrific account of the trip. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the pictures.