What do you want for Christmas dear? - Trip Report Feb 24, 2010 - Ron Sundberg
As I was going over my gear list for my upcoming 2-28-11 launch, (what do you want for Christmas dear?) I realized that I have never given the trip report for last year. I have uploaded a few pictures to the photo site that I will refer to so you can go look at them (if you like) and maybe it will add something to this report.
First of all...if you are hoping for a report about mean people, fights, and carnage in the canyon ... please hit delete now. This is a joyful and funny (hopefully) trip report about my 9th trip in 9 years...28 days in the closest place to heaven on earth...and the best trip yet (I know, I say that every year!)
Secondly... I love oar rights, love my chair, tent and roll-a-cot, always go left at Hance, take lots of beer (bud lite), Wild Turkey and Baileys (ok...some wine for when I'm on cook crew), am p.o.ed about not being able to burn driftwood in March, and love to share my knowledge of "secret" sites in the canyon. So if any of that offends you, then hit delete now!
This was the 3rd year in a row that I shared my canyon month with River Rat Ray of Tuff River Stuff fame. The first picture is of one of our layover camps where we set up his "Palapa"...(ask him where that name comes from) goes up fast, lots of cover for cooking or just getting out of the rain/sun. Ray is a great guy to have on a trip, as he is a gear whore, and he can fix anything.
Ray was the permit holder, and he decided on 28 days to take out at the new Pearce Ferry takeout. We weren't even sure if it would be open, but Brady assured us that he would sneak in and get us if it wasn't open yet.
The weather was about like you would expect for Feb/March in the canyon. From snow/hail (see picture "Icey Ride")to 80 degrees (see picture "couldn't resist").
The roaring 20's were as fun as ever (I love telling the "Virgins"...More people have died in this stretch of rapids than anywhere else on the river!)
We used one of our 8 layover days at Nankoweap, where I decided to hike up Nankoweap creek in search of ruins. As I passed over the top of the ridge that separates the camp area from the creek, I noticed a well traveled path...and followed it to a ruin. Being so close to one of the favorite camps on the river, I was surprised to find one of the most perfect arrow heads that I have ever seen outside of collections. (see picture "Nankoweap arrowhead") It just reinforces the belief that I have that the great majority of river runners would not steal something this precious, but leave it for others to enjoy. I spent a half hour or so just sitting near the ruins glancing around...at the ruin...the arrowhead...and the surrounding terrain...wondering about the people who called this home, the craftsman who made the arrowhead, and what it was made to hunt. Rabbits? Sheep? Deer?...or was it for defense against other humans?
I reluctantly left and continued on my hike. As I got back to the trail where it left the ridge and started down to the creek, I got the answer to my question. There no more than 50 feet in front of me were 3 beautiful mature mule deer bucks (see picture "Nankoweap bucks"). Less romantics will undoubtedly say BS, but I say the spirits of the Anasazi sent those deer to me to answer my question....thats my story and I'm stickin to it.
We camped at Cardenas (one of my favorite camps) and as Ray had asked me to be lead boatman, there were lots of questions that evening at camp. Tomorrow was going to be our first big rapid day. Unkar, Nevills, Hance, Sockdolager. The first of the "Big 4". Hance Rapid class 8 (Martin/Whitis) Class 9 (Stevens) Class 7-8 (Lindemann). And the rapid where a rafter had died in the trip just ahead of me one year. (during the 40,000 CFS release...the Phoenix fireman trip). I assured everyone that it would be a fun day, and I would show them the left run at Hance. "But isn't that a high water run?" I heard again and again. Maybe so, but I have taken my 18' raft down it every year since my 5th trip when Dave from Colorado Springs showed it to me, and (in my humble opinion) it is way easier and less risky than the right run. Everyone did great, and all too soon we got to Phantom where two of our girls were leaving us. They had arranged to ride out with the mule train, and after seeing them off, and calling home, we were on our way.
I had my best run ever at Crystal. When you go left and hit it perfect, you can literally ship your oars, and ride the crest (I know thats not a very technical term) of water that takes you right between all the disaster on each side. I had seen other people make it, but had never hit it that perfect before. In a stupid act of joy, I dropped the oars, and stood up as we were going past the big hole on our right and raised my fists in the air...and then looked pretty silly trying (and failing)to get the oars back in time to avoid hitting the wall! I know better than to think I'm better than the river....but sometimes I'm just stupid.
The next day (approximately) we had a low front move through that hailed on us (see picture "Icey ride"). It was a COLD day. The only time I can remember being colder on the river was on my second trip. At that time I didn't have a dry suit, and I was a passenger (shared rowing as there wasn't enough rafts for me to have my own), and sitting next to me was a frequent poster to this site. She is a short, petite, curvy beauty who I had met on my first canyon trip the year before. We had been getting drenched all day, and the temp was in the 30's, the wind blowing, and we were shivering. All of a sudden she looked over at me and said, "I bet my nip__es are bigger than your d__k right now!" The laughter warmed us up, and needless to say I wouldn't have won that bet.
A few days later we stopped so I could show them an amazing Anasazi pot. (see picture "Anasazi Pot") The story I was told is that a Boatman had found the pot, and rather than tell the Park Service about it, he hid it and then would stop and show it to the people on his other trips. The guy who showed it to me said everyone has to promise not to tell anyone of its location, but could show it to others that were on their trips if they "take the vow of silence". It is in amazing condition, and no one (on any of my trips) touches it, so hopefully it will survive another 1000 years or so, and many more people will get to experiece seeing it very close to where it was made and used so long ago.
We had another layover at racetrack, and most of the rest of the group did the Thunder River Hike. I however had another plan. The year before I had heard of a set of ruins called "The Mystic Eye", that were supposedly somewhere up Tapeats creek on creek left. A buddy and I had searched all day but had been unable to find them. I had corresponded with a guy who had been there in the 80's, and from what he could remember I thought I could find them. He said from creek right before you turned up Thunder river "you could look over to the other side and see a gigantic circular spot on the cliff face that has fallen out. The ruins are near there." As I sat looking across the creek at the Redwall on the other side I thought about the name "Mystic Eye", and I suddenly saw it. (see photo album "Mystic Eye" 1st picture) It looks like an eye socket, and there is a cave above that makes it "mystic". I quickly crossed the creek and started up the ridge towards it, and about halfway up came to the first ruin (see photo album "Mystic Eye" picture 2 (ruins on ridge). While admiring it I noticed a metal tag (picture 3 "Ruin Marker"). Its the first time I have seen one of these..evidently put there during an inventory of ruins... I would love to read the report from JB and VM about the site, but don't know who to ask...any ideas? The main ruins (that I found) are in the area shown in picture 4 (main ruin area). Practically every where there is an overhang, you can see where there were walls at one time. Many of the ruins have what I call "individual ruin grainery" (picture 5). I think we call them refridgerators now... The last picture shows the view of Tapeats creek from the top of the ruin area. I plan on exploring the area more on my next trip. We have a layover day planned there, so hope to learn more then.
My next big adventure was at Tuckup Canyon where we had a double layover planned. Some of the group were going on an overnight hike to see the "Shamans Panel" pictograph site (we had the proper backcountry camping permit) while 3 of us were going to search for another pictograph site called "Hades". I have seen pictures of the site, and it appears to be very similar to "Shamans Panel". I had been told that it was "below the trail that runs along the top of the east arm of Tuckup canyon in the area of Hades Knob." Tom Martins "Day Hikes from the River" tells how to get up out of the west arm so that you can then hike back down to the east arm. We did that, and searched but did not find it. In the "search for Hades" picture 1, my son Ryan and friend Scott are shown on top near the east arm, with the view looking back up the west arm toward where Shamans Panel is. "Search for Hades" picture 2 shows two of the caves that I explored during our search. The Hades pictographs are supposed to be on the roof of a cave. I hope to find the right cave this year, as I believe I didn't get far enough down the east arm.
The rest of the trip went great...all had good runs at Lava...Tequila beach was very "Tequily"..(that is a word).
We stopped to scout "Killer Fang" rapid, as most had not been below Diamond before. My son Ryan was rowing another boaters 14' Cat as he wanted the oar time, and the boatman had a kayak with him that he wanted to play in. Ryan is a 6'5" 270# very buff fireman, who had very minimal oar time, so I carefully showed him the run..explaining that all you needed to do was get left as soon as possible and then float past those "Fangs". I went first and waited in the eddy on river left just past the fangs, then watched the next 2 boats do fine. Ryan then floated into my view. He had been rowing the cat for most of the last 2 days, and had been depending on his strength and the cats "quickness" to get out of trouble. I see him float down the tongue and then turn the boat and take a huge stroke on the oars, and then just drop the oars and keep floating right down the tongue towards the fangs. I'm screaming to him to "PULL! PULL!" which of course he can't hear...and I watch in horror as my youngest son floats on his cat right into and on top of the "KILLER FANGS"!! Scott (another fireman) who is riding with me has the throw rope ready as I see the cat shuddering on top of the fangs. Ryan jumps off the boat away from the fangs and Scott throws him a perfect strike (the firemen at their station practice throwing a throw rope into a 5 gallon can at 50 feet once a week...loser buys coffee) and pulls him up to our boat. When he had jumped off it changed the balance of the cat so that it slid off the fangs without flipping. As I try to decide whether to kiss him or swear at him...he looks at me and says "the right oar broke off at the oarlock in my first stroke!" This was a brand new carbon fiber top quality oar.....So...I just commented...."maybe a little more finesse and a little less muscle.."
The rest of the trip was pretty normal...great camp at Surprise Canyon. Really neat hike up the creek. See picture 6 (couldn't resist). Yup, if you see my walking stick, hat, glasses and shorts on the shore....I'll probably be cavorting in water sans clothes (and yes...a 64 year old guy can cavort!)
Stopped at Colombine falls where some of us had a great shower, and then camped on river right just before Pearce.
Sorry this is so long...to find the pictures go to photos on the GCPBA website, and then click photo albums, then click on sort by last modified, and you will see 2 albums by ronsun25...2-24-10 launch, and Mystic Eye.
Hope to meet some of you on the river.
Ron Sundberg, Olympia,WA