After a breakfast of egg scramble, bagels, and fruit, Patrick rowed Ice Bath and Cristine and I across the river so that we could hike up the Tanner Trail to Cardenas Butte. It was hot and exposed but not too difficult. We weren’t sure if we’d reached the correct butte or not, but eventually stopped for lunch. The trail goes all the way up to the South Rim at Desert View Watchtower, but we turned and went back to the river.
There was still plenty of sun for washing and laundry when we got back to camp. I played my mandolin for a bit before dinner of a huge lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. It was so good, I ate until it actually hurt. A great second layover!
I walked over to see some petroglyphs near camp first thing this morning. There were three large rocks with engravings, one of which is called “The Birthing Chair.” I hope no one actually had to give birth in that chair.
We had a Dutch baby for breakfast and then got on the water, going through Tanner Rapid (4) right away. It was so hot, I was happy to get wet. We pulled over to see some Anasazi ruins and pot shards at Unkar Delta.
There were two more rapids, Unkar (6) and Nevills (6), and then we pulled over at Nevills camp for the night. Ice Bath and I hiked up 75 Mile Canyon, a very twisty, neat canyon that got narrower as it went. It went for quite a ways but we had to turn around and get back for dinner: chicken enchilada casserole with salad and beans on the side, and rice pudding for dessert. 7.5 miles today.
The boats were beached this morning and we needed all seven people to shove each boat back to the water. We have entered the Granite Gorge so the walls are closer together and the sun rarely gets through. I wore extra layers under my dry suit and was still cold, especially once I got wet in the rapids.
Today was the start of “Adrenaline Alley,” a series of big, fun rapids. Hance Rapid (8) was first. I was a little nervous going into it, but we made it through just fine. Brian told me I high sided at the right time, but I have no memory of doing it. I think it’s natural to shift away from the side of the boat that’s sinking, but he said some people will just tip over and fall out. Sockdolager Rapid (7) was next, then Grapevine (7), 83 Mile (4), Zoroaster (5), and 85 Mile (3). The water moves fast between the rapids since the river is narrower here.
We got to Upper Cremation camp to see a large group taking up half of it and half of Lower Cremation. We wanted Lower Cremation so we talked with them and squeezed in there. Camping at Lower Cremation lets you ferry back and forth across the river to Phantom Ranch. After setting up, there were elk steak fajitas, polenta, and sopapilla for dinner. 11.75 miles today.
Layover number three. We had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola and packed sandwiches for lunch, then headed across the river to Phantom Ranch to mail postcards. Phantom Ranch is a lodge at the bottom of the canyon, accessible by trail from both rims. Mail goes out by mule train and there’s a small trading post. Then it was up the North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls. There was a bit of cell signal on the way so I was able to check my messages and call my family. The falls were beautiful and we hiked right up behind them.
It was an all day hike and we ferried back to camp just in time for dinner. Cristine’s friend Tammy had hiked down from the South Rim to bring us a few supplies and join us for the night. There were some Desert Bighorn Sheep hanging out over camp when we arrived, which we got to look at through Patrick’s binoculars that Tammy had just brought in. We had brats with sauerkraut, potatoes with gravy, and salad for dinner.
We had breakfast sandwiches and fruit before rowing across to Boat Beach to fill up on drinking water and mail some more postcards. Then we said goodbye to Tammy and got rowing. After Bright Angel Rapid (3) and Pipe Springs Rapid (3), more big ones began. We stopped to scout Horn Creek Rapid (8) and I decided to try filming. I put my camera in its waterproof casing and held it in one hand while we ran the rapid. It bounced around some, but it wasn’t too bad.
There was a small rapid next, Salt Creek (3), and then two more big ones, Granite (8) and Hermit (8). I had figured out a way to rig my camera to the front of my PFD by the end, and fiddling around with it distracted me from my nerves, and made it so I was more into just having fun. The big waves were a blast!
Boucher Rapid (4) ended the day and we pulled over to camp at Crystal. We had Cornish game hens with potatoes, carrots, and stuffing for dinner. While we ate and sat at the fire, there were warm breezes coming off the rocks, and cool breezes coming off the river. 11 miles today.
Layover number four! Huevos rancheros for breakfast, and we packed sandwiches for lunch to get hiking. There was plenty of cloud cover in the morning, but only a few of them were dark. It sprinkled a bit while breakfast was being made so we rushed to set up a canopy over the kitchen, at which point the rain stopped. Then we all left on different hikes.
I went with Cristine and Ice Bath up the canyon, crossing back and forth over Crystal Creek repeatedly. It was a perfect temperature for hiking, and bits of blue in the sky started spreading until the clouds were mostly burned off. The wind was picking up though, enough that I turned around to hike back, concerned about my tent not being staked down in camp. The wind was strong enough that I’d pause in my rock hopping across the creek to avoid the gusts.
I got back to camp to find my tent moved but still in my campsite. I staked it down and collected a water bottle and a book to go sit by the kitchen. I got there to find even higher winds. The two canopy support poles had already been knocked down, along with some tables and the split pea soup Joe had made for our lunch the next day. I saw a few items floating in the river right next to the boats so I ran down to get them, only to turn around and see the two oars holding up the rest of the canopy come crashing down, taking everything else left standing with them.
I started running around like mad, picking up items that the wind was throwing towards the water, and bringing them back towards the kitchen, where the wind would pick them up again as I was running after something else. I finally started throwing things in a rock alcove to protect them from the wind, but I couldn’t catch everything and we lost a few smaller things. Once I had everything that could go flying tucked away, I ran back to my campsite to see the tent I had just staked down upside down and in the trail. Ice Bath’s tent was also upside down. Brian was back there staking things down in his camp. I saw Ice Bath and Cristine up the trail and yelled to get their attention. Once I had people to help me I felt a little calmer and we started cleaning up. Patrick and Joe soon arrived in camp too, Joe having seen me running around from up on the ridge and realized he needed to get back.
Everything in my tent was jumbled together and I found holes in my tent floor, rain fly, and sleeping pad. Fantastic. I gorilla taped the pad and hoped that would at least get me through the trip. We had an easy dinner of skillet chicken, steamed broccoli, and baked potatoes before I went to bed, very tired.
My sleeping pad held air! I got out to breakfast late (blueberry pancakes and sausage) and saw the river much muddier than yesterday. It must have rained a bunch upstream somewhere. We decided to wash our hair with some water that had settled in buckets overnight since the river would likely stay muddier now. Once we got in the boats, Crystal Rapid (8) was first thing. I rode with Joe and we hit the side of the big hole there. I was experimenting with camera mounts and my video came out a little low.
Next up were Tuna Creek Rapid (6), Lower Tuna (4), and just after we passed Nixon’s Rock (slightly crooked and right of center), we entered “The Jewels.” Agate Rapid (3), Sapphire (6), Turquoise (3), Emerald (5), and Ruby (5), followed by Serpentine ( 7). It was a very fun, wet day.
We pulled into camp at Hotauta in time for a late lunch. Instead of hiking, I sat around reading and relaxing before a dinner of elk steak chili and cornbread. A peregrine falcon swooped through while we were eating and several small bats flew around. 9.25 miles today.