Thursday, July 21, 2005 - Day 4 on the River
Early morning around camp
The low was 81 degrees last night, but it seemed warmer. I kept getting up and splashing myself in the cold river to cool of. This is a rocky campsite, and the rocks radiate heat. This was the only night I didn't sleep well. Some of the men didn't sleep well any night. The cots just don't fit their wide shoulders. Cameron served my favorite breakfast yet: eggs any style, sausage, ham, hot sauce, melon, and two kinds of toast. The sun hit camp early today, and we were on the river a littler earlier than our usual 8:30 a.m. departure.
Just a little riffle
We made a stop at Elves Chasm, mile 116.5, one of the most gorgeous places in the canyon. It's just a short hike to a wonderful little waterfall not visible from the river. If you swim across the pool at the base of the falls and climb through a cave, you can come out another opening above the pool and jump in! Jacob and Christopher took the plunge first, then Aaron and Andrew. I had done it in '83 and decided now that I was 34 rather than 12, it was no longer worth the risk. After all, I'm not just older, I'm also wiser. Right? It's not the jump that concerned me. It's climbing out over the slick, moss-covered rocks to position myself in the exact spot from which it's safe to jump. Everyone swam to behind the falls, but just the four guys were jumping. Jacob ripped a giant hole in his swim trunks in his many climbs through the cave. Thankfully, they are lined! He fashioned a temporary swimsuit tourniquet out of a bandana.
Jacob at Elves Chasm
After relaxing for about a half hour, I swam behind the fall again to look around. Then before I knew what hit me, I had overcome my supposed wisdom and had climbed out to the jumping area. There was still a tiny chance my better judgment would overcome me, until Chris climbed up behind me and told me I'd already done the hard part, that I might as well jump. He was right. With his encouragement, I took the plunge! Brian cheered at my triumph over wisdom. Tom knew I would jump before I knew it. It was fun! Here are some short videos of Chris, Jake, and Jana jumping the waterfall.
We stopped for lunch about mile 128. Dave wanted to stop here, before the upcoming rapids, and wait for the water to rise. These guides really have a handle on the fluctuating river level. There were a lot of cool lizards here to entertain us.
After lunch we rafted through Conquistador Aisle, three miles long, the longest straight stretch on the river. We were sizzling by the time we reached Forster Rapid at mile 123 and were relieved by the drenching we got. Then we went through Fossil Rapid, then 128-Mile Rapid, Specter, Bedrock, Dubendorff, Tapeats, and 135-Mile Rapid. It was a great series, and right at the hottest point of the day!
Gorge - geous!
We stopped again at Deer Creek Falls, mile 136. The water from this 100-foot fall comes down with such force that it causes a 40-mile-per-hour wind at the base. You have to approach the falls with your back to it to overcome the wind. Chris and Jacob made a race out of it.
Deer Creek Falls
Brian and Stine stayed behind while the rest of us took a STEEP 30-minute-each-way hike to a series of pools above the falls called The Porch - awesome views along the trail and a gorgeous canyon at the top. Jacob made one semi-death-defying leap (or at least broken-leg defying) while we were up there. I told him I was glad Brian hadn't left me in charge of him. Luckily, he made the leap easily due to his cat-like reflexes.
Above Deer Creek Falls
The little falls above that turns into the big falls below
Deer Creek Falls was the first time we had to share a stop with other rafters. The number of boaters through the Grand Canyon is strictly regulated by the Park Service. Typically during the summer about 150 people leave Lee's Ferry per day to travel the canyon. Everyone travels at a different speed, so we rarely saw anyone else. When we did, it was usually our motor raft passing an oar raft, and we'd see them for just a few minutes. Dave knew how to time our stops at the more popular attractions to minimize overlap with other groups. We were lucky and pleased to get the Little Colorado to ourselves the other day. There are a couple of sites, though, that are so popular you almost always have to share with another group, and this was one of them.
We're not alone
Camp tonight was only a mile or so below Deer Creek Falls, around mile 137. It was a very rocky campsite, not that big, but with our small group it was fine. We were a little concerned we might be crushed by falling rock during the night, especially since Dave said there were a lot more rocks on the beach than the last time he had camped here. Was he kidding? It's hard to tell sometimes. The flies were really biting tonight, and we had to pull out the bug repellant.
Cheese and cracker appetizers, also served with canned smoked oysters and anchovies (yikes) which no one ate but the crew. Then Cameron made barbecue chicken, cheese potatoes, and salad. There was dessert every night, but I rarely had room for it. Tom and Brian and I had rum and pink lemonade for dessert tonight instead.