The moon has been so bright the last couple of nights that I wake up repeatedly thinking it’s morning. I slept in a little since I’d been awake so much during the night. Everyone else was having a slow morning too. When we all got up, we had breakfast burritos and fruit to start the day. Another peregrine falcon flew through camp early. I did some laundry, packed lunch, and headed out for a hike on our fifth layover.
We had a hard time finding the trail leading downstream and kept zigzagging around between tiny cairns. They seemed to be everywhere, and rarely next to a trail. We eventually made it to Bass Camp, did some more zigzagging, and started up the North Bass Trail from there, having lunch when we got to the saddle and enjoying the view for a while.
Getting back to camp was much easier since we found the trail this time. There was still plenty of time to relax before dinner of green chili enchiladas and apple crisp.
We planned an early start this morning so of course the boats were beached. We had some breakfast sandwiches and packed up, then shoved the boats down the sand to the water. We saw two hikers standing across the river just downstream with their thumbs out so Joe picked them up in his boat and ferried them across. They even got to go through Bass Rapid (4) with us. They were doing a rim to rim to rim hike and had pack rafts with them in case there was no boat traffic.
We stopped again just after dropping them off to walk up Shinumo Creek and see a small waterfall. When I was shoving Brian’s boat offshore to leave after, I didn’t give myself enough time to get in so I had to dive, landing in the front well on my butt.
Next were Shinumo Rapid (4), 109 Mile (2), 110 Mile (3), Hakatai (4), Waltenberg (6), and 113 Mile Rock (2). We stopped at Elves Chasm for lunch and a short hike, and I fell out of Brian’s boat this time, right into the water. Some of us hiked up to see the falls. There’s a pool in front of it you can swim through to climb up behind the falls and jump down. Since I was already wet, I went for it. Also, the rock was pretty slick and I didn’t want to climb back down.
We went through 119 Mile Rapid (2), stopping again at Blacktail Canyon for a quick hike up the slot canyon. It’s said to be haunted at night. I kind of wanted to stay there and see. Blacktail also shows the Great Unconformity really well, which is where two layers of rock that should not be anywhere near each other are touching. There’s over a billion years of geologic material missing in the middle.
There was a bit more rowing to do, through Blacktail Rapid (3), 122 Mile (4), and Forster (5), before we stopped at Below Forster camp for the night. It’s a nice, wide beach. Elk burgers, coleslaw, and Pringles for dinner, with fresh brownies for dessert. 15.5 miles today.
Oatmeal for breakfast this morning, and we were on the water early again. Fossil Rapid (6) and 127 Mile (3) were first, and then we entered the Middle Granite Gorge. At 128 Mile Rapid (3), the current slammed us (Joe’s boat) into the wall at the end. I turned around to see Brian hit the same spot. Michelle and Patrick had enough time after seeing us hit to slide their boats out of the current and into the eddy.
Next up was Specter Rapid (6) and Bedrock (7). Everyone else stopped to scout, but Joe took us right through so they could watch his line and we could stop at the giant rock in the middle and take pictures. There were so many exposed rocks and the current went through an S curve. I was sure we were going to hit something but Joe kept us clear.
We stopped and scouted one more rapid, Dubendorff (7), ran it, then made camp at Stone Creek. The wind started blowing right after we made camp. I picked out a campsite but didn’t set anything up, to avoid it all getting blown around. We had chili for lunch and then some of us went on a hike up Stone Creek, part trail, part overland. It was hard to walk in the wind and impossible to hear what anyone was saying. He showed us a Hopi kachina at the mouth of the canyon, and we followed the trail up past a few waterfalls. When we finally turned around to head back, the hike was more like a hopefully controlled slide through loose rock, down a steep hill, in high winds, surrounded by cacti. I was happy to get to the trail again.
The wind had mostly died down in camp so I finally set up my tent. Dinner was pulled pork, green beans in bacon, coleslaw, and pan fried potatoes. 9 miles today.
My sleeping pad lost air in the night. I’ll need to figure out another fix. It was windy last night too, but had calmed down by morning. We had pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and packed for an all day loop hike. Ice Bath and Michelle and I headed up Stone Creek, farther than I went yesterday. We were looking for a waterfall to mark the end of the canyon and where we would start climbing to go over into a neighboring canyon. We thought we had found it but then Patrick and Cristine showed up and said we were not at the right waterfall yet.
We followed them up the wall and around. There was sort of a trail but it started getting worse and worse. It looked like a flash flood had come through and wiped most of it out at some point. We eventually reached a blockage right before the end of the canyon that would take getting wet to get around. Ice Bath took off her shoes and went through while we waited.
We ate lunch and then backtracked a bit to a ramp where we could climb out of the canyon. The only trail there was made by bighorn sheep.
We were supposed to be making our way around Arrowhead Terrace to the next canyon, but I’m not sure if we were traveling on the right layer or not. It was a lot of steep sidehilling on loose rock and soil. Almost all of my steps slipped and I was getting pretty frustrated at how long it was taking.
We finally, finally, finally made it around to Galloway Canyon and dropped into it. It was late and Patrick and Cristine didn’t have headlamps, plus they were on deck to cook dinner, so they sped off ahead. Ice Bath and Michelle and I took our time now that we could relax. There were a few pourovers that we had to climb around but I was sure we were nearing the outlet of the canyon and the pourovers would stop. Wrong on both counts. The pourovers kept coming, and the light started going. We had two headlamps and a tent lantern between the three of us. Some of the pourovers were not climbable so we had to find a way around. There were occasionally cairns to help, which we found out later Patrick and Cristine had built for us. It was a little sketchy in the dark but I was more confident than I had been on top of the terrace sidehilling. At least now I knew where I was! My long legs help me reach when downclimbing too. We all helped each other down and stumbled back into camp for a late dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas. What was supposedly a 6 mile hike took 8.5 hours. Patrick’s GPS clocked it at closer to 7.5 miles.
Every time we plan an early start, the boats are beached in the morning. We still made it out early-ish after a breakfast of bacon, granola, and yogurt. We went through Tapeats Rapid (5) and then 135 Mile Rapid (3) before entering Granite Narrows and passing the river’s narrowest point at only 76 feet wide. We stopped at Deer Creek to fill up on drinking water and take a hike up through the slot canyon above a waterfall. It was beautiful! The trail continued out past a “patio” and we saw a backpacker campsite, and it continued even farther out to another slot canyon, although we had to turn around before reaching it. That’s a spot I’d like to explore more in the future.
Next up were Doris Rapid (4), 138.5 Mile (3), Fishtail (4), 141 Mile (2), and Kanab (3). We pulled over at Matkatamiba Canyon, another narrow slot canyon where we had to park the boats tied together in a chain. Everyone did the hike up those narrows.
Leaving the canyon, we ran Matkatamiba Rapid (2) and then stopped at Matkat Hotel camp for the night. It’s a cool camp next to the ledges. Dinner was lasagna, garlic bread, and coleslaw, with cornbread with cinnamon honey butter for dessert. 16.5 miles today.
I had a dream I found three holes in my sleeping pad and woke up to it half deflated again. I’d had a dream about different holes in it two nights ago when it deflated too. I definitely need a new fix. We had eggs and potatoes for breakfast and then got on the water. Upset Rapid (8) was first and we stopped to scout it. I filmed our run but Brian took the safe, dry line, so it’s not super interesting.
I rowed for a while after to warm up for Sinyala Rapid (2), which I was going to run. I don’t know why I was nervous because I’d already run riffles bigger than it, but I was very proud of myself afterwards.
We stopped at Havasu Creek to explore a little bit. I’d been there before hiking, but hadn’t made it all the way down to the river. I was happy to see the turquoise waters again, so bright because of minerals in the water. There were a lot of humpback chub hanging out in the water there. They enjoy the warmer temperature and have lost habitat in the Colorado River since Glen Canyon Dam went in and caused that river to be colder.
We went through Havasu Rapid (3) leaving the canyon, and then it was miles of flat water. I rowed the next rapid, 164 Mile (2). There were some riffles leading up to it that seemed harder than the actual rapid. Two 2s in one day!
We ran National Rapid (2) and checked out the camp there but it was washed out and rocky, so we kept going, through Fern Glen Rapid (2), to Fern Glen, a nice, large beach camp. I did a quick hike up the side canyon. There was a large boulder blocking the way almost immediately so I shimmied up the wall next to it with my back against the boulder. There was another large rock to climb around, and then a skinny waterfall pouring down from a cut high in the wall. I had to turn back there.
Back at camp, we had noodles and chicken and cauliflower in alfredo sauce with a fresh spinach salad for dinner, and muffins for dessert. 19.5 miles today.
Pancakes and bacon for breakfast, and we hit the water early. Today was Lava day, the biggest rapid in the canyon. Everyone seemed to be racing there. Ice Bath had a hilarious stress dream about it last night where she was rowing it and Joe was yelling incomprehensible directions at her: “Left under!” “Pull the may day cord!” I couldn’t wait! There was a lot of flat water first though, and Gateway Rapid (3).
We finally pulled over to scout Lava Falls (9) and it was huge! Although I kind of expected it to be even bigger. All the features were pointed out to me: the Ledge Hole, the V Wave, the Cheese Grater Rock, the Hawaii Five-O Wave. I could sort of see the line everyone was planning to take, but there was a lot of churning down there. We got back in the boats and went for it.
Brian took the right line and we missed the Ledge Hole. We hit the V Wave Square, while it was breaking, and I felt like I was underwater. If I hadn’t been holding onto the grab strap, I would’ve been shoved right out of the boat. Back in the air again, I had my eyes open immediately to see what was next. We hit Hawaii Five-O as it was breaking too and highsided our way through it. Then we just bumped along down the wave train. The waves there were huge in comparison to any other rapid, but nothing compared to the waves we’d just been through.
I turned around to see Michelle climbing back into her seat and putting her right oar back in the oar lock. Her smaller, lighter boat gets tossed around way more than the big, heavy ones. We all ran Lower Lava (4) and then pulled over to Tequila Beach to celebrate (sadly, without tequila). We were already soaked and the beach was in the sun so I walked into the water in my dry suit to wash my hair.
There was plenty of flat water after that. Cristine and I traded spots so I could try rowing Patrick’s boat. His oars were way heavier and too long for the boat so my arms started straining right away. I did row through 185 Mile Rapid (2) while he surfed the cooler in front of me.
We got to camp at Whitmore Wash and I replaced the gorilla tape on my sleeping pad. Dinner was tamales with green chili sauce, rice, cabbage, cheese, and avocados. 20 miles today.
So Beautiful! Amazing!
Kris, your story and photos are amazing! I am in such awe of you. You are amazing!
I am loving the beautiful photos and exciting videos- thanks for taking your readers along for the ride! Nice to get a greater appreciation for the “real” Grand Canyon that so many people look down on from above and few actually experience. I remember being horrified by how many tourists asked up at the rim about taking a stroll down to the river for a swim.
Some of your best photos!! 🙂
very nice pictures. what camera did you use?
Thank you! I use a Sony RX100 camera, first edition.