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Friday - Saturday
May 21 - 22, 2004

Day 1: Sunday
May 23, 2004

Day 2: Monday
May 24, 2004

Day 3: Tuesday
May 25, 2004

Day 4: Wednesday
May 26, 2004

Day 5: Thursday
May 27, 2004

Day 6: Friday
May 28, 2004

Saturday & Sunday
May 29 - 30, 2004

Posttrip

LINKS

Arizona River Runners

Wes Boyd's Site

Bar - 10 Ranch

Grand Canyon Weather

Grand Canyon Safety

MainStreetNews.com

Email:
scott@mainstreetnews.com

DAY 4: WEDNESDAY, MAY 26
Today was another big day of rapids and interesting stops along the river. It was also the first day that we had a full dose of sun nearly from daylight until sunset. But we were on John's boat again today which insured we stayed wet a lot. It seemed that no matter how much, what kind or strength of sunscreen we applied, nearly everybody got a little sunburned. Marty broke out in a rash on his face about mid-day, either as a reaction to a sunscreen that didn't agree with him or just too much sun altogether. Julianna, a native of Brazil newly arrived in the US and one of Gretchen's helpers, offered to let him borrow her big floppy sombrero to cover more of his face than his ball cap did.

We only traveled 28 miles today, having made three long stops for side hikes and rest areas. Chase's fishing total was approaching 20 and he took every opportunity to cast when we stopped. No fishing was allowed from the boat while it was underway but he and the other fishermen found plenty of time to cast on the trip.

We went through four big rapids in the first four miles this morning, then hit the second of the "big 3," Crystal, at Mile 98. Like Hance, it was rated 10+ but didn't come close to that severity in our opinion. It was a wet, wild ride for sure, but some of the earlier runs seemed more thrilling. Over the next 16 miles, we went through 13 major rapids with Serpentine at Mile 106 being the best. Chase, who was riding at the front of the raft, got knocked down in the baffle of the boat where the side tube is connected. He wasn't in any real danger of falling out but had to swim around to regain his seat. On some of these runs, John let some of the adventurous folks ride up on top of the duffle pile, usually two at a time. This gave quite a different kind of ride over the rapids as one was looking directly off the front of the raft and catching the wall of water directly on each swell. John only allowed this on runs he was very familiar and comfortable with.

We stopped at Shinumo Creek at Mile 109 and took a hike to yet another picturesque waterfall. This hike wasn't as tiring or as dangerous as some we'd been on and everybody enjoyed the shower massage effect of standing under the roaring water. A few miles farther down, we stopped for lunch on a sandy beach and made a small discovery that even the guides didn't know about. Just behind some huge boulders on the beach was a slow-moving stream that made a steep rise back toward the south wall and it was filled with salt deposits that were so thick they looked like snow and ice. Marty, Chicago Bob and I climbed up the steep stream a way and found what I can only describe as salt stalactites and stalagmites dripping and forming from the overhanging ledges. Although we'd seen these salt seeps from the river, this stream was so filled that it looked like a Christmas scene.

Near Mile 117, we stopped at Elves Chasm - apparently named for the tight squeeze one has to go through to get to the waterfall a short hike up the side canyon located there. At the top was a very shady, cool area that featured an easy-flowing waterfall of about 15 feet. Many in the group made the short climb up the back side of the waterfall and leaped off into the deep pool below. It was so shady here that even with camera flashes, getting a good picture was hard and few of ours turned out well. It was on this hike that my left knee started giving me real problems. I'd had surgery on this knee a few years ago and under more strain than it was used to, it gave me trouble and tended to quit on me before I was ready for it to. But it held out for the return walk back down the chasm.

Our next stop was at Blacktail Canyon at Mile 120. This was another side canyon that featured a narrow fit on the north side of the river. Unlike most of our hikes, this was a dry walk and went about a quarter mile to the end. The main attraction here was a geologic formation called "The Great Unconformity." Fortunately, we had a geologist on the trip with us, Ryan from Colorado (an Eagle Scout). He explained to me that this narrow layer of rocks occurred 820-570 million years ago due to a giant "disturbance" that caused sediments to be uplifted as much as two vertical miles. This exposed the layer to intense erosion and the only layer left today is about a six-inch band of rocks that can only be seen in a few areas of the canyon. Even someone as geologically ignorant as I am found this impressive.

We lingered for a good while, resting and enjoying the coolness of the small but deep side canyon, I had a chance to sit and talk at length with the two boat drivers, John and Gretchen, while "Chicago Ed" serenaded the group with his harmonica. I asked John how he came to be a river guide and he told me, interestingly enough, that it was partially through Boy Scouts. A former Life Scout, he began hiking in the Canyon with his troop and later with friends before he got his driver's license. Impressed with Marty's enthusiastic personality, he said, "Your kid is just like I was at his age. If I turn my back, he'll be driving my boat." Guiding river trips through the canyon May-September is the only job he has and the only job he wants. John's wife, a school teacher, watches their three daughters while he's off running the river in the summer, and during school, he stays home with their girls. Gretchen, our other driver, is also a grade school teacher and runs the river when school is out. All of the guides are multi-talented and have a novel approach to their lives and their jobs. All appear to be highly-educated, deep thinkers who are dedicated to their life's work and to the "clients" on their boats. I would venture that in the business world, they could all be major league CEOs. But that is obviously not their intended vocation and they are some of the few fortunate enough to hear their true calling. What a life.

We camped tonight just across the river from Blacktail Canyon on another large, sandy area and enjoyed a dinner of burritos and rice. In the evenings, most everybody wanted something cold to drink to go along with supper. Although all of the food is packed in ice, the water and lemonade in the day jugs tended to get pretty warm. Each boat had two "drag bags" filled with soft drinks provided by ARR. These large mesh bags filled with canned drinks were drug along behind the rafts all the time, keeping them cool in the 50-degree river. The bags were refilled several times a day and by evening, the sand in the river had pretty much blasted the labels off the cans and it was sometimes a mystery as to what kind of drink one would have with supper. A separate bag was available for people who brought beer and although there was a lot of beer, I saw no one intoxicated on the entire trip.

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