View Full Version : Grand Canyon 4/29-5/10/04 #2

05-17-2004, 02:00 PM
5/3/04 Monday
Our group of 10 hiked from the beach over a high desert ridge to Shinamu Creek and stopped at Bass Camp which has a display of artifacts laid out on wooden benches. I think this is where the red ant crawled into my pants. A half hour later I was sliding down a ledge and felt a sharp pain in the back of my thigh. It wasn’t as bad as they warned it would be: I’ve had more pain from our own backcountry bees and wasps.
Many crossings of the creek later, we came to the confluence with White Creek and headed up that way. There were orchids (helleborines) in the creek. The canyon widened out and we explored a cave once inhabited by cowboys. On the right, after a scramble to a plateau, we examined the remains of a kiva (an Indian dwelling). It was strategically placed so that it couldn’t be seen from the canyon floor but sound from below was greatly amplified.
We then took a right into Redwall Canyon. A couple of 20 foot dry waterfalls were overcome with decent hand- and footholds, and we learned how to rappel on the way down, although few of us really dared to lean out the correct way. The canyon led to a dry spiny slope and a most amazing view of redwall formations all around, like palaces and fortresses and coliseums.
Returning to White Creek, in which were growing a number of large cottonwood trees, and the usual assortment of wildflowers, we continued to the end where we could glimpse an open plateau and access to the North Rim about 12 miles away.
The return was a slog, especially the last 2 miles away from the creek. The best remedy for cooling off was just to fall into the creek, get sopping wet, then just get up and start hiking. We’d be dry within 10 minutes. Mondell, the boatman who was leading (he spent the entire time in flipflops) was strolling while we like struggling sheep were scurrying to keep up. When we got to camp, we immediately headed to Shinamu Creek to get under a nearby waterfall and revive. At the mouth of the creek, it felt good to stand where its warm water mingled and swirled with the cold water of the Colorado.

Dinner was fajitas, beans, and rice, with the best guacamole I have ever had. Sitting and drinking our wine (we got to take as much beer/wine/soda as we wanted) was reminiscent of a VFTT Gathering although rather more exotic.
The moon was almost full, and at 8 pm it put on a show by rising brilliantly over the crag that was just across the river from us.

5/4/04 Tuesday
First stop, Elves Chasm. A ten minute walk to a gorgeous waterfall ringed by ferns, golden columbine, and monkeyflowers.
We floated to our campsite at Stone Creek and hiked up to the falls where we sat and read and napped.
The moon that night was full, and it lit up the surrounding peaks before showing itself over the ridge.

5/5/05 Wednesday
I opted for the shorter hike today. The long (“A”) hike was a loop up to Thunder River, over Surprise Valley, and down Deer Creek. I needed to stay out of the sun today. We hiked up Deer Creek. The trail led along the wall of the canyon with a sharp drop over about 100 feet on one side. I was walking lopsided leaning in and watching the path intently! At the top, we entered a veritable oasis, with airy ledges, pools of water to sit in, plants and lizards to admire, shady spots to nap in. The Anasazi (ancestors of the modern tribes, means “Ancient Enemy”) have left some artwork here, including prints of their very small hands. There are also million-year-old worm tracks under the overhangs. Continuing, we went up to Dutton’s Falls, where people have constructed giant chairs from the fallen limestone pieces. It’s called the Throne Room. You can climb up behind the waterfall.
We floated to our next camp, not using motors part of the time. The silence was heavenly, although Hatch uses Honda 4-stroke engines which are quiet and clean.
Our camp was windy, blowing sand into everything. I was surprised that our eyes weren’t irritated by it. The wine was a bit warm but cooled quickly in the river. Chicken stirfry, carrot slaw, and cheesecake for dinner. Ah, positively hedonistic!

5/6/04 Thursday
First stop, Matkatamiba Canyon. As usual, a scary goat path high on a precipitous slope. Another oasis to dream in. We hiked up the canyon a distance after lunch. This was probably my favorite, with pools and bouldering, and close-in towering walls, fossils that looked like bird wings, and many new plants, such as a pink penstemon with bellflower-like leaves, twining snapdragon, and scorpionweed..
The green-tinted brook, yellow/orange/green overhangs and pink-red limestone walls made a striking contrast.
The basalt at the boat made for a scary climb and descent, and those with plain sneakers or sandals without much tread were slipping a bit. Not fun 20 feet above roaring water!

We camped at the Ledges. They’re all rock, so only free-standing tents were useful, but everyone decided to sleep under the stars anyway. The folks nearest the cliff wall were visited by a scorpion. The same people later encountered a rattlesnake at a similar site. After that, they opted to put up their tent at night. Turkey dinner tonight.

5/7/04 Friday
Mooney Falls! 14 miles round trip. What a place! Havasu Creek is gorgeous, but the hiking isn’t easy. What’s flat is soft sand that tugs at your feet. The path as it goes by Beaver Falls (3.5 miles in) is all ups and downs, including a 12 foot drop that requires a rope. At one point we were wading in chest deep water, other places wading through grape vines and bamboo. It’s all worth it when you see the falls. 200 feet high, falling from a red cliff into a bright blue pool. The lower falls are only about 10 feet and there’s a rope you can swing out on, as some people did, and drop into the pool below. I tried to get a picture of Marge doing it, but her trajectory was more like a dropped stone than a trapeze artist. The trail to the top of the falls is composed of ladders, ropes, and tunnels through the rock.
We encountered a nice big rattlesnake on the way back. All it did was slide lazily down the rock under it, unconcerned about our intrusion. He was a light beige color with subtle markings, very well camouflaged in the sandstone. It pays to follow the river on the way back, for a few hundred yards. There is a clean water source at the Grotto, which isn’t contaminated by the Indian village above. This waterfall sprinkles down from an overhang and you can walk behind it. Getting back up that 12 foot rope was a task, each of us grunting and groaning and straining in our own way.
Camp was at the Lower Ledges. Jambalaya for dinner. Wine starting to run low, but we ought to make it.

5/8/04 Saturday
2 miles by boat to National Canyon, where we were stymied by a dry fall just a quarter mile in. We found a perfect scallop fossil here. Lunch at the creek mouth till the sun moved around and chased us away.
Fern Glen Canyon was the next stop, where a rope assisted hikers up a smooth ledge to a reportedly fern-filled grotto. It had obviously suffered from drought; as someone put it, “The grotto is notto.”
I spent some time poking around a tiny pool of water and counted at least 9 different life forms: mosquito larvae, tadpoles, 5 different below- and above-water beetles, a coiled egg casing, and some white grubs. I rescued a hummingbird moth from the water, and chased a frog in the shallows.

Our camp was the best yet, a broad white beach, shallow, great for swimming and washing. Spaghetti for dinner, traded Advil for Amaretto, finished our wine.

5/9/04 Sunday
A long boat day. We got out to pee near Pumpkin Spring, which is a sulfur spring above the river. The water is black with volcanic ash and the overflow ha created a yellow bathtub effect. At this point the river has warmed enough to be very pleasant for swimming. We have to be careful at all times not to get near the current, though.
Today is my birthday, and they baked a cake! We had skit night, with some truly original creations. Pat got to sing, which always makes him happy. His new hip has served him even better than we had hoped.

5/10/04 Monday
Our last stop was Travertine Canyon, smooth basalt ledges requiring some ropes and ladders to get up to the falls. Then we were out of Grand Canyon. We met the jetboat that was going to take us to Pierce Ferry on Lake Mead where a bus would be waiting. But it wasn’t going to end so quietly! The jetboat captain introduced himself: “I’m Mike, I’m an asshole. You’ve had your fun. It’s all over.” We proceeded along the river. The wind was exceedingly strong. There was a constant mist of sand in the air. Our mouths were full of it. Getting to the beginning of Lake Mead, we saw the whitecaps but didn’t know there were gale warnings out. The boat was bouncing over the tops of the waves. The water is extremely shallow there, and we were getting jostled pretty hard. Then the waves started to come over the windshield. We were still smiling, singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” when the windshield fell off, cracked, and landed in the laps of the front row. We couldn’t even get Mike’s attention. He was in his little cabin in the back, chainsmoking. When he found out about the windshield, he said, “Oh, just toss it over the side.” The boat started to fill with water and the bow was sinking under the weight. We finally convinced him to head to a protected cove. His companion boat that was supposed to be breaking the waves for us (but wasn’t) came over and we switched. Some people got out on land and refused to get back in the boat. They preferred to walk a mile to the bus. 7 or 8 were getting hypothermic and there were a couple of panic attacks. Mike was reported to the authorities, and alcohol was smelled on his breath. He hadn’t even showed us how to use the life preservers. A 4-hour bus ride back to Flagstaff ended our very fine adventure.

05-18-2004, 11:30 AM
Great trip Audrey, thanks for taking the time to write it all down. And the boat trip at the end makes for a good story as well. Right up there with being in a hut full of noisy school kids! Can't wait to see all the pictures. Are you ready to move to Arizona full time yet?


poison ivy
05-18-2004, 11:46 AM
Loved the trip report, audrey, sounds like you had a fabulous time! Rafting the Grand Canyon has been on my "to-do" list for a while now.... your report definitely made me move it up closer to the top. :)

-- Ivy

05-18-2004, 12:14 PM
Excellent - I can't wait to see the pictures!

(adds another entry to his lifetime to-do list)

05-20-2004, 11:22 AM
He hadn’t even showed us how to use the life preservers But he DID warn you that he was an asshole ;)

Great trip report.