Day 4, Saturday June 11th, 2016
This is the day of the big rapids. With adequate warning from the guides, the rafters in front were in full rain gear. Right from the beginning we were in big waves. The “practice” from the previous three days made this quite a fun ride because by now we have learned how to handle them. I planned to call out the name of the rapids after turning on the GoPro, but I didn’t always remember or hear the name. I know we began with Hance and continued through Sockdolager, Grapevine and Crystal with some others in between. Even though we went through some intense rapids, I didn’t lose any handholds today, though I was knocked backwards in my seat a few times and scooted forward again as soon as I could to get ready for the next wave. If you want to see some videos, don’t forget to have a look at my Youtube channel.
At one point we went through a rapid ahead of our sister raft, which made it possible to see what it looks like from downstream. Typically, we followed them through the rapids and they tended to disappear as they dropped. Even a big raft like the J-raft can look small in these rapids.
Though the morning provided clear sunny skies, by midday it began to cloud up. When we stopped for lunch I rested on some hot dry rocks to dry out my clothes.
It was a less eventful afternoon.
With the clouds increasing, everyone pitched tents, and it’s good that we did as it rained for a bit. None of my clothes would dry out this night.
Jeff found a scorpion and Corey, the guide captured it so everyone could take a look at it. Then he released a little while later . . . somewhere away from camp, perhaps? Hmmm……
A guide asked about one type of cactus we were looking at during the day. I thought it was a type of prickly-pear, but instead it was Bunny Ear cactus. I learned something new. Cool.
Rod, Brent, Jeff and I went for a hike up a nearby canyon before the rain came in. A nice short hike. The clouds helped enhance the colors of the canyon.
I went to bed early this evening. I was really tired, and a little chilled from the drizzle. It felt good to get into my sleeping bag.
Day 5, Sunday
As expected, nothing dried overnight. I put on dry clothes last night, but switched back to the wet ones rather than put them back in my duffel bag. Once on the raft, I tied my rain jacket and pants and also my NRS shirt onto the boat to dry out as the day went on.
We went for some hikes today. I spotted this critter crossing the trail on a walk back to a little green area up a canyon.
At one of our stops we hiked to another waterfall. It was warm again today and worth it to stand under the falling water to get soaked.
Lunch was on a nice beach.
A little later we came across more desert bighorn sheep. We actually saw quite a few on this trip, and more than I expected.
The canyon gets pretty narrow in spots, which is surprising given the volume of water.
Later we stopped at a spot with a larger waterfall. It was nice and the falling water created quite a breeze and a cool mist. Very nice. Next, we were to hike up to an overlook, just above the falls. One the way up I slipped and fell on some smooth rock. I was able to catch myself with my hands . . . sorta. I had my camera and Nalgene bottle in my left hand and they went crashing into the rock with enough force to crack the bottle, and loud enough for everyone around to hear it. I think the TG-4 camera bounced off the bottle and its neoprene sleeve because it was unharmed. I was disgusted. People came over and asked if I was okay and I replied, “man, I broke my Nalgene bottle”, then I remember Eric asking, “No . . . . . are YOU okay?”. I guess I had to think about it because I had a couple of scrapes on my right knee, so I said again, “yeah, I’m fine . . . but I broke my Nalgene bottle.” Bummer. It turns out that when everyone else heard the bottle crack, they thought it was my head hitting the rock since it all happened in an instant! I went back to borrow a water bottle from Pat (one of the trip organizers) and then hurriedly caught up with the group at the overlook.
I had planned to go with the group to the Patio, but Jeff got to the narrow shelf ledge before me. Just to the right is a nice drop-off where you can’t see the bottom. Jeff crept along slowly, and after watching him for a bit I decided I just couldn’t do it. What a chicken. Anyway, I was talking to the guide called Skinny and at one point he asked me, “You don’t have trouble falling off a sidewalk, do you?” I knew he was right, and being a soccer player and street hockey player, I know I have good balance, but it’s such a mental game. I need to work it out . . . still.
By late afternoon we stopped for the day and camped near some large rocks/overhang/cliff/cavern . . . or whatever you’d call it. And, it made for a really nice camp.
The views from camp were nice, too.
The crew managed to whip up an appetizer of fresh mozzarella with diced tomatoes and onions.
Day 6, Monday
Today the rapids would be minimal except right at the end. In the meantime we stopped at Havasu canyon to play in Havasu creek. To get out, we needed to dock the rafts in the rapids which required all of us to leave our PFDs on until we were in a safe place.
We hiked along a narrow ledge (no problem today as I planned to not fall off a sidewalk) crossed the creek, went through a tunnel and then everybody took turns jumping off a boulder into the creek. Shad checked out the landing for us to make sure we didn’t hit anything.
Late in the afternoon and just before we arrived at camp was Lava Rapids. There are two sections. It was rated high, but it wasn’t very intimidating and instead a lot of fun.
That evening, Cappy (Corey) said that we were to have a captain’s dinner, except that everyone was invited. All of the men were expected to wear a tie and the women were to put something in their hair and use the sleeping sheets as dresses, if . . . they expected to eat. Everyone complied as far as I know, and I think it is a nice way to end a trip with 30 people I didn’t know only six days ago. I had a black nylon belt which I tried to fashion into a bow-tie as it wasn’t long enough for a typical tie. I couldn’t see what it looked like, and now that I see the photos it wasn’t very good, but I guess it was acceptable. We had shrimp cocktail for an appetizer and grilled fish for the main course.
Later that night Shad played guitar and sang some songs for everyone. After most everyone went to bed I grabbed the guitar and did a little playing and a little less singing myself. I haven’t played in several years and although Jeff volunteered me to play and sing, I declined. I can barely remember lyrics to my own original songs, so I have little hope of remembering lyrics after not having played for years. After a bit, and not unlike a river, it starts flowing back, even after I went to bed. I laid on my cot looking up at the Milky Way recalling that missing chord from Stairway to Heaven, or the lyrics to Paul Simon’s The Boxer or that first verse of the Allman Brothers classic, Melissa. Sigh . . . off to sleep.
Day 7, Tuesday
Well, it’s the final day on the river and it’s been a good trip. It seemed like no time at all and we were disembarking for the helipad.
Once we get to the ranch, we can shower, relax, have lunch, etc. We had a two hour wait for the plane back to Marble Canyon. Rod’s flight was delayed so we needed to wait for him. Once we were all there, packed up and ready to go we headed back to Colorado.
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