"Solo number eight is now complete" - Trip Report Nov 16, 2008 Bruce McElya
Not a vacation slide show here, but hopefully information/opinion useful for some, or maybe not.
It was a Nov 16 launch. I arrived 6 days before and went down to the ferry each morning to see what's cooking. There were two no-shows during that time, two fully paid trips that simply didn't show up to launch. One ranger denies any no-shows, the other acknowledges. There's a problem here and it may be why the Park is so closely guarding the actual Lees Ferry daily launch roster. Not wishing to only point out problems, here is a possible solution. Park used to penalize no shows when there was no money incentive by not allowing permit holder back on the list for a spell. No need for that now as the Park gets big money for a launch, people attached or not. Solution: Offer the potential no-show ½ their money back if the they inform soon enough that the date can be given away to another party. Park gets extra money selling the same launch twice, no-show gets some money back, and Grand Canyon river runners get a launch which would have gone fallow. Winners all.
Weather this time: 10 nice days, three 40 hour day/night rains with snow on the last one (the big Vegas snow came all the way to the water), and the rest overcast and cold , temps 30-45. There were two 70mph wind events with companion sand storms. Not much gear lost, but unnerving.
Permit length – They slashed 6 days out of a winter trip. This would be the six I could use for photography. Considering winter weather patterns and other factors, the gouge was unnecessary. Want to do those nice winter hikes? Row your guts out to get there. I did.
I probably ran into ten trips and there was never a discussion about camps. No need really. 30 days on the water with a launch per day simply wouldn't be a problem. I was a bit rushed getting out on time in 24 days and I believe I'll put the pencil to it and figure how much true time each block gets to enjoy the river. 16 day limit in the summer with maniacal six trip daily launches is the only abbreviation that makes sense. I would like to see the non-commercial season given back its trip lengths.
Beaches – 45k flow is tearing them up. Take your pick; Stone Creek, Bass, Fence Fault. The upper ones are getting chewed up. Park is fond of pointing out that there are many new micro beaches now. Fine if one is solo (that's me), but mostly the flood flows sling sand everywhere downstream of where it is picked up and mostly it falls into little eddies that can never be a camp. Piles and piles of beautiful sand that can't be slept on. Way down stream, beginning below Diamond, camp life starts looking up nicely. The most endearing camp in Grand Canyon is at the lower end of Diamond Creek Rapid on the right. It takes a meaningful ferry across the rapid to take this camp, and worth it. It is easily viewed from the Diamond takeout ramp. There is also a nice one across the street from Travertine Canyon (not Falls), and it is a superior camp to the falls. The one just below Diamond has it all; fluffy virgin sand, fabulous terraces, some wind protected campsites, a decent side hike, tons of room, and white noise not too loud just right.
The camps below Grand Wash Cliffs are truly phenomenal. There is one right below Pearce Rapid on the left and it's the largest stretch of a camp near moving water I have ever seen anywhere. Camp a hundred people there on three terraces and still have room for a polo field. Been wondering where all the sand goes from 45K? Large camps continue thru Iceberg almost all the way to Sandy Point. Best camp there is at the end of South Bay. Can't see it `till you're on it.
The big popular camps above Diamond have a couple other issues worth noting, to me at least. The sand is so hard packed at many of them that a tent stake has to be driven in with a hammer, almost like it is sandstone underneath a thin veneer of super-fine sand. Also, there are conspicuous bits of charcoal, faint fire rings, and half burned stumps at all of these camps. Unless there was a photo planned, named camps were routinely avoided. I foresee a ban on fires except charcoal, and mandatory food tarps. Micro and macro trash is building up in a hurry these days. Don't take my word for it, grab a few handfuls of kitchen sand and run it thru the strain screen. Archeology man.
Pearce Ferry Area – Survey flagging indicates a standard 50' road to terminate about ½ mile up from the rapid. I think whomever builds that road is going to get snake bit on the deal. It's only a matter of time.
The rapid at Pearce is about an 8-1/2 out of a possible 10 right now. The right chute may be a good option if one feels like running something that can't easily be scouted from above. Might be rocks down there….. I ran the maw of it left and got slammed about smartly. I suppose one could go way left and pull hard back to the middle. A mistake there would leave a raft on the wrong side of the highway-to-hell and a world class hydraulic wall of water below. I noticed four other so called nick points forming down below. One year soon the liveliest stretch of whitewater on the continent may be on a reservoir. More rafting day trips. Maybe Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas would lighten up a bit. I think the snow pack this year will raise the lake level enough to tone down the rapid. Good.
I ran into about ten other parties and a number of them have formed permit clubs. As soon as members mature in points, select members be able to run the river about every two or three years on their preferred dates. Nice for them. A disadvantage for a guy like me who runs alone, or for those not in a club.
All encounters were great. The people of winter are a ball to be around. We double camped each other a few times just for the fun of it. They ran the gamut in trip length, from 14 days to 32 like mine. Oddly, I ran into no one below Diamond, and it was a thrill to be utterly alone in the Canyon.
After 20 years and 43 floats, I finally ran into a fellow soloist, an ICBM rocket scientist from Tucson. He wasn't much of a rafter and was on the water primarily to stash food for his trans-canyon hikes without having to exit for re-supply. This was his second trip alone. The first time he flipped three times, got pinned under water at Harding, and was twice separated from his vessel for some days. He did a little better this time. His food pack was 40# of cabbage, 20# apples, 20# carrots, 5# oatmeal, miso, and 12 cases of beer. No ice. I tip my hat to this interesting character. He couldn't find his car at South Cove until someone drove down there from Meadview to show it to him in the parking lot.
Here's an aerial view of Iceberg, Sandy Point, and the South Cove takeout.
I found a very nice knife in the gravel at the camp across the street from Kanab. If you lost one there and can show me an internet photo of it or properly describe it, it's yours again. I would like to return this nice piece of steel.
Solo number eight is now complete after a long six year stretch away from it. I had a clean run of the whitewater, managed a few images, and carried on down there in my usual childish way. As always it was peak life adventure, poised on the edge of survivability. I hope your trip goes well too.
Carpe the carp, Bruce