The short version.
Just back from an 18 day Lee's Ferry - Pierce Ferry rafting trip.
Mostly hot to too freaking hot.
7 of us carpool together in a 12 passenger Ford E350 and a 14' enclosed trailer for all our gear. Really a nice way to start our adventure. 1 person driving solo from Colorado.
We had 8 people and 3 ~16' foot rafts. 2 Hysides and my new 16'7" SOTAR. My first big water trip in the new boat.
We hailed from California (7) and Colorado (1).
Lots of hiking. Almost every day we did multiple hikes.
Flow range was 9k-17k 1 flip. 1 tube stand that dumped the rower and a passenger.
4 coolers, 3 of which we froze solid and one produce cooler. We still had ice on day 18.
Two 10 lb propane tanks. We used about 75% of our propane and had 4* 1lb canisters as a back up. We used a Woodland blaster at times when our two 4 burner stoves were tied up with cooking. Preheated dish water with a solar shower a few times to save fuel.
2.5 full groovers. No stink. Our Groover Master used the blue RV goo with good results. We never smelled a thing, even with all the heat. 12 rolls of TP.
Slept on the boat several times. I highly recommend it. Especially if it's hot.
Drank less beer than I thought because it was so HOT. I wish I had brought some kind of powdered sports drink to mix with water that had electrolytes in it.
A great trip!
The long version.
We chose to deep freeze 3 of 4 of our coolers in a walk in freezer. The first cooler was for the first few days and included our produce. The others were filled with water about 4" deep then frozen. Every few days food was added along with crushed ice and water to cover it and frozen. Repeat cycle until coolers were full. Moving them was a feat itself as my 155 qt YETI weighed in at over 350 lbs. My cooler was the last cooler and still had a small amount of ice on day 18 at Pierce. The walk-in freezer we used wasn't super cold but was adequate. We used good cooler management and only (mostly) opened the coolers in the morning.
My son who is going to NAU in Flagstaff came to visit us at Lee's Ferry and help rig. That was a special treat. We had a very nice group dinner at Marble Lodge after rigging our boats. The food was great and the service fantastic. So sad it burned down last week. This was my 4th trip down the Colorado and the first time I stepped foot into the lodge. Glad I did.
We got our orientation talk by ranger Peggy. She is awesome. She also gave the talk 3 years ago. Down to earth and very professional. You are lucky if you get her for your orientation talk.
This was a hiking oriented group. We were usually on the water by 8:30 AM to allow as much side canyon hiking as possible. Most days we did as many hikes as our schedule would allow and it seemed at times we hiked as many miles as we rafted.
Put in day we are on the water by noon and stopped for lunch just upstream of the bridges on river left. Great spot in the shade with a good view of the bridges. We are rewarded with the arrival of two condors. How cool! One of them stayed the entire time we eat lunch and effortlessly glides around the sky to our delight.
We run Badger and House Rock. We camp at House. Nice camp with a very rough surging eddy. Not sleeping on the boat tonight I think as I pull into the eddy. Diana (our permit holder) and I walk up Rider Canyon to play our Native American Flutes. WOW! She's a professional concert flute player. When I found this out months before our trip I gifted her a Native American flute I made as a token of my appreciation to be included in her trip. Hearing her play was another reward. What a awesome place to play. The acoustics are amazing as the sound of our flutes reverberate off the walls and back to us. What a treat.
Several fun rapids in the Roaring 20's. My SOTAR gets its first big hit at mile 24.5 as I hit a big hole and punch through. Woo Hoo! So much for taking the suggested route. My boat is VERY heavy and will be most of the trip. I have most of the late trip food and the majority of group gear. It takes a few days to adjust to the weight of my boat. As I do I start nailing the lines I choose through each rapid and no more surprise holes. It was much easier 3 years ago when I took my 14' Avon Adventurer down. It was a sports car. My SOTAR handles very well and was designed to carry a lot of gear with my Eddy Out expedition frame. It does so very well but the difference in weight makes a difference in maneuverability. It's night and day compared to the 18' boats I've rowed though. Much, much better handling over the 18' boats. It's a sports car compared to them.
We had Red Wall Cavern to ourselves when we pull in. How special is that! I pull my flute out and play. Great acoustics and a very special vibe from this magnificent place. Soon a couple of commercial trips pull in and disperse amongst us. I keep playing and soon have a small gathering listening to my music. One was a group from the Arizona Wildflowers. It was a clothing optional trip. They were my most appreciative audience. They paid 6K per couple for an 8 day motor trip and were having the vacation of their lives.
The Little Colorado was flowing good and the color was aquamarine. Absolutely beautiful. When we arrive there's a large commercial trip there and a private trip. Shortly after we arrive they depart and we have it to ourselves. We don our pfd diapers and head up to the top of swim section. What a blast! Most of us do the swim section 3 times. Best rides ever. The cool water is a welcome relief from the oppressive heat. After 90 minutes or so we head back for lunch.
At Nankoweap my wife and I sleep on the double wide boat cot I built before the trip. What a special treat to sleep on a raft. It's so much cooler on the water and much easier to sleep. It's very hot that day (well over a 100 deg) and the river is our only escape from the heat.
Hance Rapid was a blast. This is our first rapid of the day and run it in the morning. Flow was good. Our first boat runs right of the hole at the top and gets pushed farther right by the lateral and gets a rough ride down the right side, gets spun around but comes through unscathed. The rest of us run just left of the hole and into the Duck Pond and we have clean runs getting some of the meat at the tail end of the rapid.
Sockdolager was fun and some really fun waves.
We camp at Clear Creek. Nice camp but it's bloody hot when we get there. We put our large umbrellas up at the edge of the river and sit with our feet in the cold water waiting for it to cool enough to hike up Clear Creek Canyon. Very pretty hike once you get to the canyon but one of the tougher hike approaches I ever done anywhere. Did I say it was bloody hot? You couldn't touch the rocks for stability! The heat radiating off the rocks made it feel like you were in an oven. If you want to hike up Clear Creek on a hot day take lightweight gloves if you need a hand hold now and then for stability.
We stop at Phantom Ranch to fill our water jugs and hike up to the store. I quickly down 2 glasses of ice cold lemonade and buy a small container of SuperSalve. As much as I liked the lemonade and needed the extra salve for my feet I question going up to the store as it almost feels wrong to be there, or that it's there.
My run on the far left at Horn Creek is good and I have a blast hitting my line! We had very good water and the left side was a hi-way. Far cry from my run 3 years ago at around 6-7K. That was a very nasty run. I broke an oar tower at the top of the rapid and ran the rest of it backwards with one oar, trying my best to keep from flipping. I then got stuck in a nasty eddy on river left for about 15 minutes as I tried to maneuver out of it with one oar. There was a bad downflow on the rockface at the bottom of the eddy that looked very dangerous if someone was to get sucked into it. I felt lucky to get out unscathed.
We ate lunch at Granite and were rewarded by the Hatch trip there with a big ziplock bag full of tuna salad. We took buckets and watered several trees there before we had lunch. We scout the rapid and choose our lines. One of our group explains the way he runs just off the right wall, riding the cushion all the way down. Sparking his right oar off the right wall as you may. There were some pretty big hits near the bottom but we all had good runs.
Hermit was next. It was big. I cheated Hermit 3 years ago in my 14' boat. It may have been fine but didn't feel my 14' boat was up to the task, or maybe I wasn't (; This time I was in a 16'7" SOTAR and it was up to the task. We all went for the meat hitting all the waves square and all three boats in our group were rewarded with very exciting runs.
We stop at Shinamu Creek and hike up to the waterfall for a nice dip. We have it to ourselves for a while until a commercial group shows up with half a zillion people so we decide to leave. This has got to be one of the best easy hikes on the river and one that shouldn't be missed.
Next stop is Elves Chasm. Elves is another short hike but not too easy for folks that don't scramble up rocks very well. We have it to ourselves but it's late in the day and it's in the shade. Amazing how much cooler it is! Cool enough that I climb up and jump into the pool only one time. Refreshing.
Day 9 we hike up Blacktail Canyon Narrows. This has got to be the most incredible place I have ever played my flute. We stopped here 3 years ago and met a group from the Wounded Warriors Project. What an amazing group of people. The brave men and women that served our country and the people shepherding them down the river. We were in awe as many of these veterans who were missing limbs and were out there kayaking and rafting with guides that were there to assist them if they were to swim. I played my flute then but wasn't very experienced. Several of them commented at how peaceful the music was and just what they needed. I had only just started playing for a short time before the trip and was flattered. This time I knew what to expect. Diana and I played our way from the mouth of the canyon all the way up to the pool where we couldn't proceed any further. Taking turns playing as we walked ever so slowly up the canyon. She would play a short piece then I would respond. I was having the time of my life, as was Diana. The commercial group that was there thanked us for playing then moved on back to their boats. Just downstream on river left we find a small shaded overhang with some rock ledges for lunch. Perfect for our small group of 8. This is a GREAT place for a small group out of the sun midday.
After lunch we head down to Spector Rapid where our lead raft does a tube stand and dumps 2 of 3 people in the river. I dropped into the hole a little left from where he did and took a big hit. My boat almost stalled but punched through to my relief. We do a quick repair to his oar tower to correct its orientation and move onto Bedrock Rapid. We scout Bedrock and are happy to see the water level is pretty high and the right run is pretty clean. We camp at Below Bedrock. Very nice camp with a great groover site at the downstream end of camp in the rocks(:
The next day our first rapid is Deubendorf. Good runs and some fun whitewater. Right after Deubendorf is Stone Creek where we stop for a long hike and lunch. This is a beautiful hike and one well worth doing. We spent about 3 hours for the hike to the upper falls. A beautiful hike and well worth the time
Next stop was Christmas Tree Cave. Another tough approach but well worth the effort. I had never heard of the cave before the trip. Well worth the scramble up the rocks.
We stopped at Deer Creek to fill our empty water jugs and hike up to the patio. Our timing was perfect. It was late in the day and just as we were arriving a commercial trip was leaving. Lucky us! The heat was tolerable so late in the day. I soaked my cheap white long sleeve shirt in the creek and started up the trail and before I knew it I was at the patio. Timing is everything... sometimes. There was a father and daughter who had backpacked in enjoying the water when we arrived. I went into the waterfall for a nice refreshing shower. The water was cooler than I remember it being or was it because it was so late in the day? We spent some time relaxing and then headed back to the boats to get down to camp before it got too late.
Day 10 We hike up Kanab Creek to some nice pools and then on to MatKat. Matkat is one of my all time favorite hikes. I love the scrambling and maneuvering up the narrow little canyon. Having grippy soled Chaco Z/1 Pro sandals sure help with the walk. These are the proverbial "Spiderman" sandals. Most of us come back the high route.
Only one serious rapid today, Upset. We had a flip here 3 years ago so we scout it. The far left run looked a bit iffy but there appeared to be a cheat on the right side. 2 of oar boats made the cheat and had good runs and one started a bit too far left and ended up in the meat. He was very happy to hit the big hole at the bottom square as he punched through. 3 years ago one of our 14' rafts hit the hole but with different results ); Flow was ~ 17K. A good flow for Upset.
The next day we hike up to Trickling Waterfall that's a little over a mile above Havasu. This was a great way to kill some time while the 2 commercial groups that passed us hiked up Havasu. It was a hot hike to a pretty waterfall made by many years of travertine deposits. Nice pool to cool off in at the base of the falls.
When we arrived at Havasu the commercial groups were leaving and we had the creek to ourselves. Life is good. We stayed for a couple of hours, napping and playing in the pools of water about a half mile upstream from the river. As we are leaving another private trip shows up. What timing!
Day 13 we hike up Tuckup, National and Fern Glen canyons. Beautiful canyons, but a very hard day of rowing into the wind and we're spent when we get to camp. I eat every day like it's going to be a wind day. This is good...and bad (; The woman that planned our food did a very good job. We ate very well and there was not too much left over every day. We find after several days that as a group we don't eat too many cookies or Pringles.
Day 14. Lava Falls day and we're at Above Anvil Camp. You can almost here Lava Falls from here...almost. But you can sure feel it. It's coursing through the sand and the river. The air is electric with anticipation. I have KP duty and finish my tasks a little later than everyone and they take off to scout Lava. They can't stand it to wait around. I finish my rigging and head downstream to meet up with our group on the left side just above Lava. This will be my first run down the left side. They're pretty much done with scouting the left side when I finally get there. They tell me their plans and I look, and look and look and................................................................................... Well, you get the picture. Lava is big. It's the biggest rapid on the entire river. We think it's about 15-16K and it's around 9AM. Your line is pretty much set one minute after you get there. It's the second guessing that takes so much time. All the what if I ??? or if that lateral pushes me...??? I choose my line down the left side just skirting the infamous Ledge Hole and head back to the boats to meet up with our group and finalize my rigging. Rig to flip time. The other boats are ready to go before me and are about ready to pull out. We exchange some words and everyone steps back and slows down a bit. Breath. Our trip leader goes first. He goes left of the marker rock and pin balls off the left bank and down the left side and makes it through. For a split second I second guess my route but decide to stick with my plan. I row hard just right of the marker rock which sends me into the lateral feeding the hole just left of the Ledge Hole. I hit the lateral with a 20 deg left angle which I hoped would be enough to offset the effect it would have in turning my boat towards the hole. The lateral turned my boat enough so I was able to punch through cleanly and it was a BIG freaking hole. My best run of Lava ever. Our third boat followed the same line and had a good clean run too. WooHoo! All through and upright. Our I.K'er runs the right side hoping to check Lava off his list, but not today. It was huge on the right side and he gets hammered right from the top. One hell of a try though. We all re-group about a mile downstream where we share some margaritas in celebration!!! WooHoo! The commercial trip scouting from the right side passes a little while later and comments on the left side run we did and was very complimentary. They had 2 swimmers and a lost oar on their run and wouldn't say much more. He did say they had 2 boats go into the Ledge Hole last year at the same flow and won't run the left side anymore unless it's over 18K. We fight the wind most of the day and arrive at Parashant Camp exhausted.
Day 15. We start the day with a short easy side hike up Parashant Wash to the Book of Worms. The Book of Worms is a collection of fossilized worm tracks in Bright Angel shale millions of years old. Pretty cool. Back to the boats. Plenty of current and no wind. We cover the first 10 miles in 2 hours. We stop for lunch at Granite Park/mile 209 rapid. There is a small bit of shade in the tammies we take full advantage of while we eat. A couple of us scout it. What the hell, we're here, might as well. We here a story from one of our boatmen about the Golden Buddha run at mile 209 rapid. The key is the entry. Set up at the top properly and you can cross your arms and legs and the boat will have a perfect run. Our trip leader goes first and skirts the big hole fine. Almost right off the bat the Golden Buddha run isn't looking so golden and is tarnishing very quickly...I don't think he's the full lotus position as suggested. He decides to row like hell to the left but it's too late. He hits the hole and it looks like he may make it...just for a split second. His raft stalls out and slowly, yea, slowly slides back down the face of the wave back into the hole. This isn't going well at all. He flips and we do a quick head count. Both people are out and accounted for. Diana quickly gets to shore, I do mean quickly,m maybe a hundred feet at most downstream. I am rowing as hard as I possibly can, first to miss the hole then after our people. I see an eddy just below where Diana is standing on the side of the river and aim for it. I am able to catch it but I'm not sure how long I can stick it. Diana is walking down to my raft. We tell her to hurry as I don't think I can hold my boat in the small eddy much longer. She picks up her pace and gets in just as I start to lose the eddy. I race downstream as hard as I can to help the other boatman get rescued and corral his raft. He's still in the water, by his raft, floating downstream. I don't understand this as I thought he should be out of the water by now. I finally catch up as our boatman and his raft are near a big eddy on river left where he and his craft are corralled by the other raft and me. He insisted on staying with his boat, in the water, the entire time. That was at least 10 minutes, maybe more. After a short period we have his boat righted. Some items were lost that weren't tied down and we had a camera ruined that was in a Pelican Case. It was a brand new camera in a brand new Pelican Case. Ouch! The case was half filled with water. I wouldn't call these cases waterproof. Splash resistant would be more appropriate. The most important thing was nobody got hurt.
Day 16 We stop at Three Springs Canyon and hike up the creek a short ways. It's a pretty little canyon with a few nice pools to lounge in. We camp at Truckseat camp just past Diamond Creek. It is VERY VERY HOT! Well over a 100 degrees. Sleep comes late with wet sarongs draped over our bodies to cool off.
Day 17 First thing in the morning we hike up Travertine Canyon to the falls. There's a small commercial group already there hanging out in the creek and in the alcove near the upper falls. One of their guides has a Native American flute and plays a bit while we're there. He offers to let us play and Diana and I take him up on his offer. Pretty cool place to play. I didn't take my flute up because of the climbing and the water. Next time I'll have a waterproof flute case. As we head back to our boats commercial Hualapi trip show up with 72 people. Most of them not prepared for the climb up the rocks wearing dime store flip flops. Once again our timing is perfect, well, almost perfect. Some fun rapids the rest of the day. I always forget what a fun day this is if the wind isn't too bad. We arrive at Spenser Camp and there are two huge commercial rafts parked there. One of our boatmen starts chatting with their head boatman and before we know it we've been invited to a Mexican dinner, complete with margaritas! WooHoo! We had the intention of setting up our kitchen and cooking dinner while we rig for the night float but this is too good to turn down. Thank you Canyoneers! You guys rock! We share a good variety of canned beers with our new friends then head to the creek to cool off a bit while dinner is prepared. Life is good. We get the dinner call and head back to their camp. After a few margaritas, several fajitas and tamales we turn our attention to helping with the dishes. Lucky for us this group does all there own personal dishes and we finish what we can pretty quickly. For the night float we strap our three boats side by side with an oar with an outside oar at each end to keep us off the banks. 8 people, 2 hour shifts per team rowing the outer boats and keeping watch. The first watch went pretty quickly with Diana and me serenading the group to sleep. It didn't take long for the snoring to start. What little sleep I got was before the snoring started. Next time I bring ear plugs and something to cover my eyes to fend off the super bright LED lights used to see the river banks by the night watch crew.
Day 18 I just love my GPS. I could easily see our progress and distance to the take out at Pierce Ferry. We got to the take out ~ 8 or so and it was already hot. I think I spent almost as much time in the water cooling off as I did de-rigging and packing. A few hours later it's well over a hundred and I'm fried. Not drinking enough water and spending too much time in the back of the trailer which feels like an oven inside makes me take a break to cool off and hydrate. A little while later while I finish up 5 of our group hike down to Pierce Rapid to see how much it has changed since their last time here a few years ago. It's ~ 120 degrees and they don't take enough water. While waiting for them to return I had started my van and turned the AC on HIGH. Whew, did that feel good. A short time later there's a knock on the window asking for towels and water to take back to 4 of our group having trouble returning because of the heat. The water and wet towels saved the day. They revive quickly in the cool van and we start our journey home after a fantastic trip, but first a stop at the SCAT Packer (a dishwasher like machine for cleaning groovers) near Meadview. I'm not sure what was wrong but it didn't do nearly as good a job cleaning our groovers as it did 3 years ago.
A great trip in an amazing place. I can't wait until I get to come back.