Rafting the Grand Canyon

June 6th

Joel and I slept in this morning. Everyone was up and we woke up to the shout, "Yeee ha," to tell us that breakfast was about to be all eaten. So I got up quickly. This is the first morning we've not gotten up to help with breakfast. Breakfast was hot cereal, granola and bacon, also banana chips. After breakfast Joel and I rushed to get packed up since we were behind.

We loaded up the boats but only went a few hundred yards downsteam to pull in at Tapeats Creek. Some of us were hiking over Surprise Valley to Deer Creek, some were just hiking up a ways then coming back to the boats. Joel and I decided to take a boat down to stop at Christmas Tree Cave, then we would head on down to the falls at Deer Creek and wait for the others.

Granite Narrows
On the way down we hit a few minor rapids. I was rowing and I soaked Joel in the first rapid, Tapeats Rapid (mile 134, rating 5). I went for the fun waves at the top and this set us up to go through a small hole at the bottom. Splash! Then I soaked him again in a riffle. I hit the waves just right, but the top of the wave broke right as we hit it. Sorry Joel, I can't control that part.

The river closed in as we went down and entered Granite Narrows. This area has the river's narrowest point, only 76 feet wide. When we arrived at Christmas Tree Cave (mile 135), Joel didn't like climbing up in the slippery algae encrusted rocks. So I swung the boat out farther to an easier spot on the cliff to climb.

Christmas Tree Cave
Going up to the cave, there was an old palm tree that someone had cut down. Its palm fronds were thrown off into a pile at the side. As we got closer to the cave a stench became apparent. The bottom of the cave was littered with some small animal's waste. It formed a fine powder across the floor, and wafted up with each footstep. The cave was very large, perhaps 30 feet high and 50 feet across. It was covered with rock formations colored white along the back wall and roof, which looked a lot like cauliflower. The formation that the cave was named after was gone. In its place were large blocks of stalagmites that had been broken off. I never understand what drives such assholes to be so destructive. To the side of the main cave was a smaller cave that I had fun climbing up into. This cave had a great view of the river.

It was fun for Joel and I to be off from the others exploring by ourselves. Granite Narrows was peaceful. I let the boat drift down very slowly. All that could be heard was the water slapping the sides of the canyon, the wind occasionally ruffling some nylon, and the calls of the ever-present birds hidden among the rocks and trees. As we drifted down Joel spotted a bighorn sheep feeding at the waterline. As we got closer he picked up his head to stare at us, but we must not have appeared threatening because he was soon back to munching the thick growth along the shore.

Deer Creek (mile 136) was not quite so peaceful. A large Hatch trip was parked there, three large boats. We sat by the river and lounged at the waterfall near the bottom watching the tour groups go in and out, occasionally screaming as they tried to swim under the strong water. Deer Creek falls is huge, over 100' tall. The force of the water sends waves out from the bottom of the falls and a large cloud of mist billows out soaking the rocks in its path.

Bottom of Deer Creek Falls
We had just about given up on the others when they showed up. Maddy, Mom, Judy S., Joel, and I all started the climb up together. The beginning of the hike is hot and dry. The sun beat mercilessly on us as we climbed up and over the ledges until we were above the creek (finally a really hot day). And we were way above the creek. The creek, far down below us, was in a slot canyon. Though we were right at the rim of the canyon we could not yet see all the way down to the water. The canyon has a small ledge that we followed along. Slowly as we got farther back the creek rose up to meet us on our ledge. We took to the creek bed and walked up to my favorite spot in Deer Creek. It is the perfect bathing pool with two showers (falls) pouring down into a crystal clear pool.

Hiking above the slot
I wanted to go up farther to see what was there. Everyone followed me. The character of the canyon changes here. It is no longer in a gorge, but open, with large cottonwoods hanging over the creek. On the way up we met Dave S., Jo Ann, and Sue who had hiked over the top. The two Judies decided to turn around and go back. The rest of us kept going up.

Deer Creek gets more than rafters, it gets hikers from the rim too. There are several established campsites in the area including along the Deer Creek trail. We ran across a very unusual artifact. Right there in the middle of the desert was a composting toilet for use by hikers. Joel and I had to try it. But since it was a composting toilet, it was right in the sun and when I sat down . . . Ouch!

Start of the slot
On our hike disaster struck:
Joel - "I have just discovered that while sitting in my pocket the recorder had erased this entire cartridge. I have probably lost the last couple of days of recordings. I will attempt to discuss what is going on now, but there will always be a gap in my history, which my wife will have to fill. Over the course of today and tomorrow, I will try to reconstruct that great unconformity in my journal (the missing two days)."

Deer Creek Source
I could see a waterfall in the distance, but didn't know if I could get to it. I wanted to try. Joel and Maddy came up too. When we met Paul coming down, he thought we were only about mile away, but all straight up. So we went up, and up, and up some more, past where the waterfall I saw had been, until we came up to a waterfall that came straight out of the red limestone wall. It was a spectacular sight, a hole in the redwall limestone, approximately way up the cliff face at the end of the stream

On the way down we took pictures. The barrel cactus was in full bloom. The flowers make a yellow circle around the top of the cactus. There were lizards scampering about and Joel saw a rock squirrel.

From the view coming down we could see the lush creek bed wending its way down to the slot. This was in start contrast to the dry desert surrounding it. The creek itself was covered in foliage in the flat area above the slot canyon. Watercress (I think) was growing in the creek itself and other plants were hanging over it, dripping into the water. The path did not follow the creek closely since it was too thick, but wandered through the desert section next to the creek.

Many years ago there was a fire in the creek. There are corpses of large cottonwoods. Interesting black and gray patterns cover the dead trees.

The bath and showers
We got back to my favorite pool and took a dip. I wasn't quite up to putting my head under the cold shower but I got pretty soaked.

Joel - " Coming down from Deer Creek seems much longer than going up. I've already been over this trail so it is much less interesting. The rocks have become very hot where I put my hands. And I spent a lot of time looking at my wife dirty butt bobbing in front of me (Editor's note: Hey! My butt was just fine, it was my pants that were dirty, besides if you don't like the view . . .). To top it all off we can look down upon the beach where our group has set up lunch to see the vultures picking clean the table."

Joel and I ate lunch at the bottom and chugged some water There was a ton of food but some had stolen our granola bars (sob) and I wanted sugar. So I put some jelly on my sausage and hey it wasn't bad. (Editor's note: See they left us some food.)

View from above Deer Creek Falls
Once everyone was back we took off to camp (mile 137). We didn't go far, just to the camp on the left near the Anasazi granaries, maybe a mile below Deer Creek. The camp was pleasant since it was in the shade. A commercial group camped just over the ridge in Poncho's Kitchen. They were shouting or we wouldn't have known they were there. I chugged some more water to re-hydrate then got my wine. It was a nice evening to relax the first one I've had in a while. Alex, Ben Y, Joanne and I just sat for a while shooting the breeze. What a nice relaxing evening.

This evening disaster struck. Judy who was fetching the dinner supplies out of one of the boats let a knife slip right into the back tube of the boat. Somebody quickly put their finger on the hole and they were able to patch it before the boat sank. Actually it was a small hole and it give the male members of our group something productive to do before dinner.

Dinner was beef stew over noodles. We had a ton of food. I wasn't that hungry but Alex ate his usual truckload of food.

This far into the trip we had started to run out of supplies, although we were still in pretty good shape. The ice had run out a couple of days ago, as planned (though it was replenished by a commercial trip at Stone Creek). And now everything we were eating was dried or canned. When we needed to make a cake we used dried eggs and when we needed to have cereal we used dried powdered milk. But thanks to Judy's wonderful planning, every meal had enough food and magically came out of some box somewhere or other ready to be made. We were mostly through our charcoal and were now rationing our powdered eggs for the three remaining cakes for the trip. But having just switched to our third tank of propane (out of four), we believed that we were still in good shape.

I went to sleep to the sound of conversation. The men's voices were like the river sounds, low and melodious. Each wave or person was not easily distinguishable by itself but all blended together in a low murmur. The women were like the birds with high-pitched twitters where each sound was easily identifiable.

Joel on our nightly rituals:

At this point, I would like to expound upon our nightly ritual. Every night when we take a campsite (hopefully one currently unoccupied), the great unloading happens. We basically take most of the supplies off the boats except for the boxes, which are actually part of the frames. The kitchen box from our boat usually comes up first, dragged up the hill by two husky guys and is set up in the kitchen area. Then comes the ammo can, which is set up around corner, so that people that have been holding it in all day can have their shot at it.

Daphne and I have two dry bags, two wet bags, a camera case, two chairs and two water bottles, which have to be brought up every evening. One dry bag contains all the tent supplies, and every night one of the first things we do is select a campsite and set up the tent.

Actually I should mention this bit about selecting a campsite. Some campgrounds are better than others. For the ones that aren't quite as good, the best campsites go quick. We've made it into somewhat of a game to be on the raft to get to shore first so you can run up and take your pick of the best campsites leaving the dregs for the others (Hurry Alex row faster!). Of course some of the boatman just sleep on the sand or on the boats and aren't bothered by this at all.

Anyway, the tent gets set up as soon as it starts to get dark (we don't set up earlier to avoid creating a haven for rattlesnakes). We have one dry bag, which contains all of the supplies going into the tent, making it very easy. We simply open the dry bag, put up the tent and start shoving bags in.

I usually then take the chance to change from my wet nylon river clothing into dry clothes for shore. Changing into my regular glasses out of my boating glasses, and switching into my sandals to keep my feet cool.

Then the ritual washing of the shoes and rinsing out of the socks which requires scampering across one of the rafts to do it in the river water to keep the sand from getting baked on as the shoes and socks dry overnight.

Upstream   Downstream
Photo Index | June 6th Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

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