Dearest Reader:

During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.
Michael Ellis



May 11, Day 1: We all begin to arrive from different parts of the country to the La Quinta Hotel in Flagstaff. At 7 PM we meet Mary Ann for our orientation and last shopping opportunity. We all introduce ourselves and share our reasons for going on this trip. In short order we are already beginning to feel like community — replete with our own grandmother and granddaughter. Beer, wine, soda run. It is our first chance to stuff all our stuff in a stuff sack. Last hot shower for a while, though mine was only luke warm -a cruel send off into the cold water of the Colorado.

May 12: Up 5:30 AM Breakfast at 6, left 6:40 with Paul the bus driver into the Navajo nation. Stop for pee break at Cameron. We cross the Little Colorado which is running colorado and slide along Echo Cliff. Youngest rock we’ll see. Cross the Mighty Colorado (see the new bridge) and arrive at Lees Ferry at 9:45 and form our first but not last “bag line”. First talk by Jerry – our Trip leader – a thoroughly competent guide with a wicked sense of humor and a diabolical laugh. The only thing we are locked into is FLEXIBILITY. Into the trusted and talented hands of Steve, Jon (Jelly), Russell and Kathryn we go, we are counting on them. Deborah and Henry balance out the AzRA staff as assistants. Pee in the river, dilution is the solution to pollution. White water trip, running 12-20K cfs. We go from 3100′ to 1300′ an 1800′ drop. 20-22 miles per day. Cold water, 48 degrees gains one degree every 20 miles. Pool drop river. Some of us jump into the paddle boat and travel forward.

We are off. Great Blue herons, common mergansers, mallards, violet green swallows, raven with baby bird? hanging out its mouth. Canyon wrens are heard, their descending notes will serenade us the entire trip. At noon at river 7 we pull over to the right for our first lunch and then another orientation. Yellow backed spiny lizard and a chuckwalla. We run Badger Creek rapids (our first biggie), Soap Creek and then we pullover to the left to go on a short clamber on the rocks to see an inscription commemorating the drowning of FM Brown – a man too cheap to buy life jackets for his crew. A few more rapids and then to our intimate camp at river 14 just above Sheer Wall rapid. Anne rows searching for her path through life. I think she will find it. Bob H. and Bill hear mysterious flute music coming from the canyon walls that only they can hear. Mary falls into the river attempting to pee. She will get better at it. Bag line. Then our final orientation to the kitchen and the toilet – we all make our daily pilgrimage to the Acrapolis. And what views! Tonight there is a full moon and the wind blows pretty hard and sand blasts us! Fitful sleeps even had by the guides.

May 13 Day 2: The call of the conch. French toast. Yummy. Good strong coffee. Morning talk Kaibab (225 mya), Toroweap, Coconino (coastal dunes), Hermit Shale (Ancestral Rockies that stains everything below red), Supai Group, Redwall Limestone, Muav Limestone, Bright Angel Shale, Tapeats Sandstone. Kissing Takes Concentration. However, Sex Requires More Balance And Timing = Got it? We drop through the first 5 formations on the first two days! We are in the Marble Canyon not the Grand Canyon proper. At Phantom Ranch is the deepest part of the Canyon. We are off with a bit of wind still blowing and some coolness. House Rock Rapid and our first Big horn, a yg female on the right getting a drink. Then at mile 20 1/2 we stop on the right for a hike up North Canyon. Lesser Scaup, Lucy’s warblers singing up a storm. It is raining and cool, scrambling up the sandstone. Plants= datura, tomatillo, apricot mallow, desert rue, princes plume, sticky ring, twinning snapdragon, phacelia. Catch canyon tree frogs and red spotted toads. Back for lunch and it is over just as the rain really begins. Into the Roaring Twenties rapids. Fastest flowing section of the river is here. See twittering white-throated swifts galore. Sue is a bit nervous, feels like vomiting rather than vocalizing but she is getting used to it. Now we are into the Redwall soaring above us. 500′. We run Indian Dick Rapid which, according to local hysterian Jerry, an Indian was lost in the canyon and all tore up except for one significant part of his body. Disgusting story. We make it to South Canyon for our camp on river right at 31. However there are some backpackers already there but they agree to share camp with us, we offer them dinner. A fair exchange. We can see Vasey’s Paradise with the waterfall shooting right out of the wall. Anasazi ruins are easy to see. Paddlers had a fine exhausting day. Rain and wind stopped even saw the sun a bit. Moonlight on the walls this evening. We are beginning to get into the rythum.

May 14, Day 3: Blue morning! Stanton walked out right here, stashed stuff in a cave and walked out South Canyon. Twig figurines have been found in many caves, over 5000 yrs old. May be associated with Clovis people we don’t know. In the wet places there is an endangered species, the Kaibab amber snail (tastes good in garlic butter). Peregrine falcon flies over. In 1923 Boulder Rapids renamed for President Harding. He had died in office while engaged in sexual relations with a woman not his wife. Imagine that! What interesting things we learn in nature. Jerry reads Mary Olivers poem “Wild Geese” to us. Easy rapid day. We are off. Motor boats passing us. Passing by Vaseys Paradise KARSTS. Powerful lot of water. False hellebore orchid, Poison Ivy galore, Cardinal monkeyflower. Martha and Carol fall out of the paddle boat and are baptized by the River. Next stop is the Redwall Cavern (33). Wow you could park a couple of 747’s in here. Fun to look at tracks. Sand deposited by the huge flood of 83. Bur. of Reclamation made big mistake in 83, huge dangerous flood, 140 people rescued in one day! Fossil crinoids, bryozoans. We are in the Mississippi period, 330 mya. We float on down in the rain and cold to 39 on right for lunch in big sandy area. The sun comes out and we try to gather that heat. We hike up into the short canyon with the amazing canyon wall and little waterfall. False hellebore orchids, honey mesquite, tadpoles, maidenhair ferns. There is a great birth mother image looking out toward the river. Or is it just me Lynn? But in some ways the water – the river – is about birth and transformation. Passion and flow.
We are off into the Marble Gorge where the redwall plunges 500′ straight down into the river. limestone at depth, shale in shallows, sandstone on coast. Redwall limestone is calcium carbonate deposited as by-product of blue-green algae. Fluted walls. We pass the Bridge of Sighs on the right. Donald says that the name comes from a foot bridge in Naples that inmates took to a prison. Whoa here comes some slushy rain. Carol (and probably others) is thinking to herself that this is going to be a very long trip. Alex is thinking he is damn glad he has on a wet suit. Cruise on down river and see holes for proposed damn site. God bless the Sierra Club, for stopping that madness. Royal Arches in Redwall, impressive. Devonian river channels seen (Temple Butte Limestone). Camp stop at Mile 47, Saddle Canyon, right. Nice plants, large campsite. Hike leaves soon, up the trail into Saddle Canyon proper. A great hike. Many flowers in bloom, Rocky Mountain 4 O’Clock, Mahonia, prickly pear, hackberry, box elder, redbud, honey mesquite, hop tree, ephedra (mormon tea), mint, lemon verbena, Apache plume (fruits look like the hair on troll dolls or Don King doo), grapes, columbine (both yellow and red on same plant!). The flowering cactus were particularly superb, especially on the trail up. A mule deer female is not the least concerned about us. We have to hike through the creek for the last little bit and then get pulled up a little falls. Right purty, though. Mary does the splits. The light is beautiful. Dinner is fish and broccoli, delicious. Tonight is the final Seinfeld episode. Bob F. was hoping for a satellite feed but instead we got a Wesson Oil lava lamp with a colander for a shade. Very very cool. Clear skies for a brief star talk. Gemini, Leo, Cancer, Beehive, Berenice’s Hair, Spica, Arcturus, big dipper, pointer sisters.

May 15, Day 4: Clear blue sky! Raven steals Bob and Carols Cliff Bar and pokes a hole in my Peets Coffee bag (thems fightin’ actions). But they were here first.
HURRAY WE ARE FINALLY ON THE MAP! Basic geology lesson= sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks. River is a big slice through the giant Colorado Plateau. Like a knife slicing through an upraised layer cake. Plate tectonics = is like a pot of boiling soup the pig fat floating around the top is like the continents on the hot magma. Personally I prefer the image of skim on hot chocolate. Redwall goes from South Cal to Canada. Today the little Colorado River, my ribs are beginning to ache. Home of the Humpback Chub, rare and endangered. Can adapt to a huge range of salinity but cannot deal with the newly cold Colorado River water. Humps stabilize in current. 14 miles to the Little Co. River before dam carried 67-80 million tons of sediment, now 3 million tons. Jerry cautions us on excessive use of toilet paper and implores us to be proud of those “puppies”, don’t hide ’em. I am, how about you all? Today we leave Marble and enter the Grand Canyon proper.
So we are off and we have our first silent float to mile 50. Peaceful, I loved it. At Nankoweap we run the longest rapids on the river (one mile) and pull in right. Nankoweap means a place of battle. There was a fight here between probably Apaches and Pauites. Anasazi is a Navajo word that means “enemy ancestors” and they are probably the ancestors of the Hopi. Hopi’s don’t really like that word. Nankoweap is a large delta region that was farmed extensively by several successive groups. Yellow backed spinys. Side blotched lizards. We carefully hike through the cryptogramic soil to see the remains of the native shelters. The floral display is again lovely. Getting warm. 28 Bald eagles now winter here eating introduced trout. Many of us hike up the steep path to the Granaries. The sisters, Heidi and Debi are tough hikers. I can’t keep up with them. Good prep for upcoming hikes. They grew corn, squash and beans, maybe cotton. Irrigation ditches. What happened? drought, overpopulation, depleted soil, a combination? According to Bill the cliff dwellings of the southwest were basically defensive positions against raiding when population began to outstrip resources. Lessons to learn?? We have lunch here. Thank you guides for making our travel so pleasurable. We hike, have fun, learn, take pictures, watch birds, smell flowers and then get to come back to a ready made lunch! Back on the boats we pass the highest shear walls in entire canyon, 4000′. The Tapeats sandstone is now at river level. Good to sleep or shade under, has overhangs. We float down to the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado. Pass by the 1956 airliner crash on Chuar Butte, 128 people killed. Worst air disaster to that point, resulted in formation of FAA. Blue springs (travertine) are the birthplace of the Hopi people, where they moved from the 4th to the 5th world. The river is muddy. We quickly scoop up some buckets of clear water for filtering. We enter the River of Ten Thousand Eddies and we slide on down in the now muddy Colorado passing the sacred salt mines, off limits to us. Holy pilgrimage with males and young boys to gather this precious substance. We pass the Great Unconformity, where the Tapeats meets the Vishnu Schist (one billion years of rock is missing, who took them?). Someone is in our preferred site at Carbon and at Lava Canyon. Now the Canyon opens up wide into a grand, grand canyon. We pull in on the river right at mile 68. Plan C is pretty darn good. Just above Tanner rapids. Can see Desert View watchtower designed by Mary Colter. This is one of the few places where the river can be seen from the Canyon rim. In the Grand Canyon series, the DOX formation which is easily eroded opens the canyon up. Bright bright red rocks. And opposite of us we can see lava flows of the Cardenas series. In the land of Camel Thorn, yeech. Brittle bushes in flower. Great temperature. We watch the sunset light off the cliff, we are feeling mighty good right now.

May 16, Day 5: High overcast. Pancakes and sausages. We have been heading south but now we are trending west. Widest views great horizon. Reading from Powell, tough times sifted the flour, maggots in the bacon but still has a pound o’ coffee. Fable: Lobster and the Crab, take those small but daily risks! We run Tanner and then pull in to Unkar Ruins, the longest occupied site in the Canyon. We are careful not to walk on the cryptogrammic soil. I demonstrate thigmotropism (plants that move in response to touch) on the anthers of the Opuntia cacti. Poreweed smells like cilantro. Fishhook cacti. Desert tomato, tobacco, phacelia, brittle bush, desert trumpet. We stroll through the ruins. Kathryn twists her ankle pretty badly. Geeze we need her. Call the medic in. Russell assesses the situation and treats his wife very well. I think the cure is the magic of his loving touch and her innate toughness …but we must leave and she runs the rapids. Doesn’t complain, though I know it must hurt. Within days she is doing nearly everything with a swollen and purple ankle. One hardy gal.
We pull in on the right at mile 74 for a long hot afternoon of R and R. It is hot, how could we have been so cold? I catch a Yellow backed spiny lizard male with dental floss and intercept the bag line with my prize. Third eye, he doesn’t fall for my hypnotism. Speaking of bag line, Alex and Lynnes drink bags do not seem to be getting lighter! Later I catch a male Collared lizard. Anne and Sue make good friends with him. Upon release he quickly finds a female and mates. Fucking Lizard alert! My library is open as is Jerrys. Bathing, reading, napping. At 3:30 (though we don’t have watches so how do we know when to go??) the hike to Tabernacle Butte leaves. A 2000′ elevation gain. a bunch of you go. The wind is howling up there. The views are incredible. For dinner the pasta with sun dried tomatoes and strawberry short cake. Many many stars. Tomorrow the greatest series of rapids in the entire trip.

May 17, Day 6: Kathryn is getting better due to Vitamin I therapy. The nearby area is closed bc of breeding se willow flycatchers. Beaver sign. Blue blue day. We are going into the Precambrian. Vishnu Schist, Zoroaster granite is the oldest rock in NA at 1.85 billion yrs old. Oldest rock on the planet is 3 billion. The great unconformity is missing one billion yrs of rocks which is equal to the entire rocks we have traveled through. Eroded away or not deposited. Today we will travel about 25 miles. We can flip, fall out. We will have fun. biggies and one right after another.
The Tanner Trail comes in here at 75 mile canyon. We run Nevilles and then the Granite Gorge begins. Big pink pegmatite granite veins in the schist. Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, Zoroaster. Yee ha! the paddle boat is having fun. We see Golden Eagle, peregrine falcon, blue grosbeak, turkey vultures. We pull into the Cremation Camp on river left at 86 for lunch. We are just above Phantom Ranch. We choose not to stop and see the civilization and all the people. Watch jackasses hike down the trail and see the donkeys too. On river left we see three big horns. A run through Horn Creek, I think one of the best on the trip. Rolling Salt Creek Rapid. Russells boat gets out to run Granite- biggest standing waves on the river. I feel like we were in the suds cycle in this one. This rapid the crew would like to run over and over again. Every boat had a great run. And then Hermit. Pink pegmatite dikes in vishnu schist, fluted in the core of the continent. Old rocks are dark somber gray. We pull on at 96ish on left just above Boucher Rapid for camp. We are on the flight pattern for sightseeing. Write the PARK! Tarantula Hawks are everywhere. Spittle bugs in the bushes. very pleasant temperature, no wind. It is Baja Taco night. My fave. Multileveled campsites. Carolyn tells me that she is getting used to the sand in everything. Good sign for a life with me. Nice view from the toilet. During the night there is a major rock slide that many hear and feel, We didn’t.

May 18, Day 7: We get conched a bit earlier today. French toast and another clear blue day. I show everyone the ant lion (aka doodlebug) larvae. Fierce ant predator and after getting bitten by one of those harvester ants I am rooting for the antlions. Steep sided creeks resulted in all those rapids we had yesterday. There is an 8-9′ drop every mile on average. Today is Crystal and the Jewells. Jerry reads the “Reverend” poem. Some of us not wearing enough sunscreen are becoming Scripturally cooked.
We stop to scout Crystal, a rapid just formed by a 1966 flash flood. BIG BIG wave in center. The tension climbs, this is RAPID foreplay, soon we will have the BIG O. Steve tries the right run. Anna falls out and walks through Crystal in her sensible walking shoes, Don holding onto her. The paddlers have an exciting run as well. Mark takes a long swim, missing the rock garden and gets picked up by Jerry. Carolyn goes just milliseconds after Mark. Boats spins around and hit by a monster wave and Mary gets out up to her neck, technically out of the boat but has the good sense to grab onto Jerry’s life jacket and he is forced to pull her back in the boat. And I get sucked overboard the same moment as Mary. Carolyn is pulled back on by Super Anne, who then vaults forward toward the salad bar in the front giggling all the way. Ron pulls me back in before we hit the wall, but I have the discourtesy to just lie on him while Jelly is screaming for paddlers. The three swimmers were scheduled to be relieved below the rapid, but couldn’t our paddle captain have waited a little bit for the transfer?? Somehow Jelly ended up with an armful of women in the back. Well, that’s over with.
Tuna Creek rapid, we pass Nixon Rock (right of center). Then we do the jewels — Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby (good ride), Serpentine (whee ha). We pull into river left at 108, just above Bass Rapid. The metal boat, Ross Wheeler, is just below. After lunch Walthenberg Rapids (a man never seen in the company of a woman!!!). We start to pull into visit Elves Chasm but there are too many people there so we head on down the river. 3 baby bighorns and some moms seen on the right. We pass the Monument fold several times according to my guide. Great Zoroaster granitic plugs through Vishnu schist. What orogeny! Up thrusts and subduction. Oh, geology is sooo sexual. Then quiet through Stephens Aisle. We pull in on right mile 120 Black Tail canyon. Some of us walk up into the canyon and have a most fabulous time in singing and in contemplation.

Blacktail Canyon

by Bill Noble (a poem in progress)

You’re always upstream of Crystal Rapids
the wry and open-faced boatmen say
speaking of fate. But not here, not now.

A wave bigger than any animate thing
you had ever encountered licked you
from your boat, swallowed you. Down its throat
into its belly, into no-breath, into whirl.

What happened next is what people do:
the deep, long pull back from icy water

And now, Blacktail Canyon.
You come alone up the twisting slotted canyon
up the shadowed chattering thread of water
deep in the cool shelving thousand-layered sandstone.
Maiden hair, green, delicate, drips from every seep
this fragile fern we name
with such unexpected tenderness.

You sit for unmeasured time
feeling Crystal twine itself
into the brief chemistry of your brain
into the wavering trace of Blacktail Canyon
into the rolling Earth.

A linnet’s carol, silvered by the canyon.
A canyon wren’s music falling around you
note by note.

Stillness and motion.

You sip sweet limestone water
then move away
toward Crystal’s Rapid.


It was a healing circle for us swimmers and was most powerful. thanks. Staccato canyon tree frog and trill of red-spotted toad. After dinner Jelly Roll does a careful sand drawing of our journey through Crystal. Heidi, Debbie, Mary + their security guard Henry are setting up their space once again.

May 19, Day 8: Blue blue sky. Feels like it is gonna be hot today. It is a good rapid day. Words from Edward Abbey. The swimmers are back on the horse today. We are all paddling back by Jon so he can prod us if necessary. We begin in the peaceful water through Conquistador Aisle. One bighorn male and a golden eagle. For the last two days we have not seen the large numbers of swifts and swallows. Forster Rapid. Getting more deserty, more barrel cactus, black throated sparrows singing, Nolinas. talk of Binky the Rapid Dragon has subsided. He has raised his powerful head. Fossil rapid, Randy’s rock, Spector (a wild ride against that wall on the right!), Bedrock (tricky one), then finally Dubendorf at Mile 132. That was a good ride. Whoops our camp has some other boats but they are only day boats so we unload, have lunch and don’t set up our tents. Too hot. We are all to hike up Stone Creek until 6:30 or so. We hike to the first waterfall and spy the Nubian Goddess sunbathing with her Zen Beginner Book at her side. I casually stole a couple of hundred glances in her direction. I appreciate all the beauty to be found in nature. Many photos taken under the waterfall. How very refreshing! A few stay there but many of us head up the trail to the next waterfall. Just in time for the group there to leave. Still fewer of us head all the way up the final waterfall. Grand total of 2 1/2 mile hike, one way. Lazuli Bunting, Lucy warblers, desert sparrow, columbines, redbuds, lemonade berry. Hellgrammites. Back to camp. Henry attempts to blow the conch for dinner. He has other talents. Sue has painted a lovely card for Steve that we are all surreptiously signing. Carolyn and I are the toilet monitors. The groover is the most exposed one yet. Getting to know you, getting to know all about you……

May 20, Day 9: The women are beginning to refer to their hair as that Great Unconformity. Jerry tells us the story of Nathaniel Galloway who took the first eco tourist, millionaire Stone, through the canyon with Dubendorf (a man gritty as a flapjack rolled in sand). Galloway was the first to run the rapids by facing forward. Three men from different walks of life but sharing a love of the canyon and a love of adventure. Just like our group. Wendell Berry- A Poem of Thanks. Fire somewhere is making it hazy. Just down the river below Helicopter Eddy (135) we stop and 14 get off to hike along river right, on Indian trail. The rest paddle through the narrowest part of the Colorado River. We have a silent hike and they have a silent float. We can finally see the chicken pulling the wagon train. Walt oars his own boat with only Carol as his passenger. On the hike we see ruins, chuckwallas, collared lizards, catclaw acacia is blooming, a rattlesnake, great plants and view, most enjoyable in silence. We make it to Deer Creek in time to join the others in our group who have hiked up the steep cliff through the poison ivy and watch a dipper (water ouzel) in the creek right in front of us. There are so many other people here in this beautiful spot. I like having the canyon to ourselves.
Up on the patio good look at a singing indigo bunting. Loco weed, gray thorn. A toilet paper fire burned here in May 94 but the area is recovering. Some of us hiked up to source of Deer Creek spouting out of the Muav limestone in another dramatic waterfall. Ho hum, just another beautiful scene. Desert tobacco, yellow warblers, Costa Hummingbirds, yellow breasted chats, lazuli buntings, queen butterflies, redbud trees, cactus flowers, Chuckawallas, side-blotched lizards. Carolyn is very disappointed to realize that the real color of the rocks (greens, purples, mauve) is often masked by the red stain from above. I suggest she write to the Park and ask them to clean those rocks up so we can see those beautiful celery greens. Steve launches rubber ducky over the falls never to be seen again. Back down to the boats. It is looking like some rain! So we make camp just down river on left at 137. Steve’s big half century mark today and he is on latrine duty and has to cook in the rain to boot. But there is celebration as well as rain in the air. We scramble to put up our tents before the rain hits. We find a great tent location but Heidi recommends another perfect place so she can get our primo spot. We fall for it, big mistake. Rain comes in earnest. Pleasant sound on the tent, as long as the tent isn’t leaking. Huge flock of violet green swallows cruise down river ..what do they know?? Kitchen is under the Tapeats. Steve has lotsa help especially from Anna. Happy hour of Margaritas!! And the ceremonial BUD BOTTLE is inflated. And to boot our head guide declares an emergency campfire. Great dinner topped by Pineapple Upside Down Cake. How do these guys do it? Steve’s words of wisdom via Yogi Berra- “Observation is best done by looking.” Rain stops and stars appear. Ron and Martha prudently decide to move to higher ground out of the flash flood zone. They looked.

May 21, Day 10: Blue day. Diamond drops us off a load of beer and soft drinks, maybe those motorized rigs are not that bad after all. Geeze I am easily bought. River is running east west now. We decide to miss Havasu because of the large numbers of boats there. We are gonna do 30 miles today. Jerry tells us about his history of flipping in Upset Rapids and then wonders why he can’t get any riders. Fable- Hippo at Dinner. Dolomites and Redwall. Dorris (male Bighorn here) and Fishtail rapids. To Kanab Creek mile 143 1/2, huge drainage and place where Powell left the Colorado on his second trip. Already have gone 10 miles, fast here. At Matkatamidba (Matkat) Canyon on left, we pull boats hard into mouth of creek, all tied together. We keep our life jackets on until safely onshore. We fall in here, we drown says Jerry. I take his word for it. We are here for 4 or more hours. Lower hike up through creek is a challenge. Slippery rocks and we must chimney up some of the way. Many are challenged and rise to the occasion. The upper route is very very exposed. No mistakes please or it is an helicopter ride out. Into the Muav, no one here but us FOOTLOOSERS. Good choice, Jerry. Good swimming holes. Rock fall heard. R and R. Great ride through Upset Rapids (150). Kathryn’s boat has a grand ride. Yee Haw! We pass Havasu Creek. Now the Muav is at river level. The first Ocotillos are seen (“Adams tree” in Baja). They are in full flower and leaf. Exclamation marks. It is getting late so we decide to take the first available campsite. Only problem each one is occupied. so it goes to plan c,d,e and finally by 7 PM it is plan f. Which is Fern Glen (mile 168), our original plan. so plan f= plan a. Just before pulling in we see beavers very well and 4 golden eagles are circling overhead. Cook your own steak/chicken night, mashed potatoes. Good work Russell and Kathryn. Many bats, red spotted toads. STARS everywhere.

May 22, Day 11. Blue day. LAVA FALLS day, 37′ drop and wild ride. At least it is an easier swim than Crystal. The river has turned brown during the night. Due to rain along little Colorado?? We are off the map! Boo. But we are on the new map. Hurray. Temple Butte is here. Today we see our first Creosote bushes and enter the Basin and Range geology. lotsa faulting and the layer cake is not as pronounced. Things are changing. We hear about naked Louise oared 2 boats lashed together at night toward Lava. Glad it wasn’t me. We have a brief hike up Fern Glen. Another beautiful spot. We are heading into the world of lava flows and lava dams. Drama and 2000′ waterfalls. Lava flowed 85 miles down river. Lakes all the way into Utah. The scale is almost unimaginable. Powell- “What a conflict of water and fire there must have been here! Just imagine a river of molten rock running down over a river of melted snow. What a seething and boiling of waters: what clouds of steam rolled into the heavens!” Black and somber, but magnificent. Enter the Haualapai Indian Reservation where we will be for the rest of the trip. Alot of flat water. At mile 170 I begin to see creosote bushes, many Bell’s vireos singing and yellow-breasted chats yakking. We silently float past Vulcan’s Anvil. Can see sediments high on canyon walls from previous dammed lakes. Volcanic activity evident everywhere. Columnar Basalt, garlic basalt. We get to the sound of the 747 taking off and pull over to the right to scout it. A left or right run?? Carolyn and Mark and Mary are back on the paddle boat, good for them. Huge debris flow at Prospect Canyon on March 6th, 1995 6 major lava flows. Tension is building. Forget Prospect, let’s do the Falls and then have lunch. It is getting hot especially against the black volcanic rock. All boats decide on the left runs are perfect and smooth. Dick relaxes his grip midway through but Walt grabs his leg and keeps him in the raft. Paddle boat threads it well. Steve does a whirligig in the middle of the rapid. that is why Alex rides with him, Steve has his own way of doing things. Deborah on my boat didn’t even get wet. Just below Son of Lava (which was actually a better ride) we pull over to left for lunch. And then a very strange thing happens, there is a massive hair washing orgy. Felt good though. We cruise on down the river some gulls (ring billed) wheeling past though the basalt galore to river (192), camp on the left. The Bag o’ Wines are tasting pretty good right now. Henry finally blows the conch. It is the Uncle Bens rice night. Wide open camp so we have another little star talk. We are the stuff stars are made of. Another very warm and windless night.

May 23, Day 12: What a dawn chorus of birds!!! We are a bit late to breakfast and receive all sorts of hoots and hollers. Eggs to order this AM. We are now on another map. Just crossed the Hurricane Fault. Gonna slide on down to 220 or so. Took from 63 to 82 to fill Lake Powell. In 83 the Bur of Reclam screwed up big time and nearly lost the dam. Releases up to 75K. 170 people rescued in one day. Georgie in her leopard bathing suit plowed through Crystal and lost everything/body on her boat. Pulled over in an eddy, popped a Coors and said ” They just don’t make passengers like they used to. ” Great ride in Kolb. More creosote, crucifixion thorns show up, Yucca whipplea. Much barrel cactus looking like villages of aliens- “Earth people we come in peace..” Maybe you had to be there. We stop at 206 Indian Creek to see the Bundy Boys’ Bundy Jars, from Bundy Mom from Bundyville. Also agave roasting pits. We get the full Mormon story, westward expansion, and a tale of a mothers love. Trash left from previous trip was a downer. After lunch (our last river one) Walt and Alex at the oars. Stop at Three springs (215) for the triathelon. CLIMB, JUMP, SWIM. About 16 of us do it, including Jerry. A bit scary for some. Congrats to Bob H. who faced his fear and then jumped right into it. Good work. Those weird orange boats begin to pass us. No passengers, how strange. Camp 220 is occupied including a naked woman. How come our camp doesn’t have that? We camp at mile 221 on right. Bill spots Mojave Green Rattlesnake which we search for and don’t see but he does then spot a pink Grand Canyon Rattlesnake. There is also one back by the camp. Lasgne dinner and fresh lettuce in our salad on day 12!! What at trip. After dinner we gather and have a closing circle. The guides were great, each different, each superb. Going to have trouble explaining this trip. No idea a place like this existed on earth. Silent walk in a tribe of my people. Facing my limits, failures. Thought it was going to be a bunch of old people like my parents but it was OK. Black-tailed canyon church. Made me appreciate my wife. Look at all these old people, I am one! Jerry’s infectious (diabolical) laugh. Embrace those waves. Canyon wren. I need to return. Cannot separate the river from the canyon. We’ll outlive those bastards! Seamless trip. Pleasure to have a group so interested in the natural history. Connectedness, gain strength through community. Both significant and insignificant. The power of these place. The different sounds of water.

From Mark:
…In my dream, we do not stop here. The food and supplies are
inexhaustible, and we continue tomorrow down not to Diamond Creek or Lake Mead, but to an undiscovered country of such beauty, adventure and sweetness that it comes close to where we have already been. The River sails on, broad and fast, to a sea shining in moonlight, an empty shore. And we never go home. Never.

The food excellent, the flowers abundant, the water cold, the weather diverse, the rocks old, the birds abundant, and our fellow travelers superb, fun and knowledgable. And did you hear the one about Sven?

May 24, Day 13: We view a scorpion up close. Mountain Meadow massacre. Blood atonement. Lee of Lee’s Ferry. Canyon continues to 280. Started at Kaibab and we take out at Precambrian. Peace of Wild Things by Wendell ends our final AM talk. Golden Eagle spotted in the sun. Do you know the nose? I didn’t. very very funny. Ha ha ha. Group photo. I have the remote! Drink some water, Anne. Rattlesnake seen again. Begin with a silent float as a meditation and thank you to the Canyon. Diamond Peak rising 1800′ is the same distance we have dropped during our trip. We help take the rafts apart and deflate and pack it all up. Great lunch shrimp and Pringles. the 20 miles of dirt road out to old Route 66. Up, up, up out of the old, even world of water, rocks, wrens, and cactus into the 1998 world of school house shootings, and ugly politics. Brief stop in Seligman at Delgdillos for jokes and ice cream and we continue on to the La Quinta in Flagstaff. 20 of us have dinner with Jerry, Jelly Roll and Henry at an Indian place. We appreciate the guides for taking such good care of us for 2 weeks. We will all cherish our 225 miles of river together through one of the wildest places left in North America. And then our hugs goodbye.

Mar. 25, Day 14: We all leave in different directions. Until we meet again……. adios amoebas.




Posted on

August 22, 2009