register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Grand Canyon River Running, AZ

482 13 1
Guide 13 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > Jacob Lake N
5 of 5 by 6
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 281 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,126 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 17 days
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Connecting Only
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
65  2016-04-09 AZBeaver
18  2014-10-16
Diamond Down - Grand Canyon rafting
37  2014-06-24 sirena
65  2014-04-13 AZWanderingBear
17  2013-10-06 RickVincent
41  2013-06-10 sirena
19  2013-05-20 sirena
23  2012-09-24
Beamer Trail
Page 1,  2
Author azbackpackr
author avatar Guides 26
Routes 365
Photos 4,732
Trips 720 map ( 5,214 miles )
Age 66 Female Gender
Location Flag-summer-Needles-winter
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → 11 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:13am - 6:25pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Groover's delight!
by azbackpackr

Likely In-Season!
People say this is the trip of a lifetime. That's why I want to do it again! Excitement, beauty, adventure, introspection, making lifetime friends (or enemies, if you're unlucky) learning new skills, hiking side canyons unavailable from the rim, and more waterfalls and swimming holes than you can imagine. Time to really enjoy the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, for up to 30 days, depending upon the season.

Although everyone knows you can pay a lot of money to raft the Colorado River in Grand Canyon as a paying passenger with a commercial outfitter, not many take the time to figure out how to put together a do-it-yourself noncommercial trip. First you need to get the permit, or find someone else who has one. The permit lottery is run every year in February, and leftover permits are also available via the lottery system throughout the year. You need apply only once per year, for a $25 fee, to enter all the lotteries, but if you win a permit, you had better be ready to pay $400 to Grand Canyon National Park right away. All the information, rules and regs can be found on the nps website: You don't have to be an expert river runner to win a permit. Incidentally, the old system, whereby people had to wait 20 years, is thankfully a thing of the past. However, you are allowed only one trip per year, unless you are listed on the roster as an employee on a commercial trip. You can't go on one private trip, and also be a paying passenger in the same year on a commercial trip.

You may put in for years and not get a permit. Once you have a permit, though, you had better find yourself a couple of expert river runners to help you set up your trip. Joining one of several online private boaters' associations is helpful. You can post: "I have a permit for such and such a date, need boatmen and advice." You can also hire an outfitter who will put together food for you and rent you all the boats and gear, and the groovers (toilets in rocket boxes, hence my witticism in the title). There is a lot of information available about how to run the trip, what to bring, etc. The NPS rule is, everyone going on a private trip contributes equally, and no one makes any money off the funds. The exception may be made if some have to rent the gear and others have all their own gear. This must be decided in advance, whether the cost of the rentals will be split equally or not.

On my first full Grand Canyon river trip in July-August 2011, many of those rowing had never rowed before, yet they did fine. However, most, but not all of them, were young and very athletic. This is not absolutely necessary, but it helps. If a lot of newbs are rowing it is very important to have a couple of very experienced boatmen along to provide instruction. Very helpful also is all the printed information available: river guidebooks, etc. There are waterproof map books which you keep in front of you as you row. Several in our group used an inflatable kayak, a stand-up paddle board, and a small paddle raft, but not all the time. Some toys are not allowed, such as boogie-board-type devices.

There is also a lot to learn about rigging the rafts, setting up the kitchen and groover, dividing up tasks, setting an itinerary, having a daily plan, etc. You can't see everything in one trip--there is just too much to take in between Lee's Ferry and Pierce Ferry. Many boatmen form networks of friends and join several clubs, and are able to get on a trip every year. Networking with other boaters, there will always be someone who lucked out in the permit lottery.

Be aware and read the many rules and regulations provided on the Park website. Also be aware that on launch day you will be spending a lot of time with a river ranger, who will give an orientation to the group, and will inspect all your gear. You must have every piece of equipment required, exactly as it reads in the manual. Lifejackets must be of a particular type and MUST be marked "Coast Guard Approved." If it says you need a fire blanket, then they will not let you go without one. Everyone needs a photo ID, and they will not let anyone leave who does not show them one.

Another popular option is the so-called "Diamond Down," a three to five day trip from Diamond Creek to Pierce Ferry. A permit is needed, but is easier to get than the full Canyon permit. There is a dirt road to the put-in at Diamond Creek, which is near Peach Springs, AZ, and is administered by the Hualapai Tribe. A great deal of fees must be paid to them in order to make use of their road and ramp. Information about this can be found here:

So, there is a lot of equipment and skill and expertise needed to successfully accomplish this, but start now, meet some boaters, either online or via a paddle club, and put in for your permit. You won't regret it! It's the trip of a lifetime! That's why I'm going again next year!

Check out the Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your raft trip to support this local community.

2011-08-14 azbackpackr
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This is my third Colorado River rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Wade and I did the same trip two years ago in 2014--a 12-day hiking-intensive rafting trip with Hatch River Expeditions. I love this trip! Wade gave this to me for my 62nd birthday. This time; however, I went alone. Wade did not want to go as he's "Been there, Done that!" I was quite worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain the majority of the time based on weather reports at Phantom Ranch. God was looking out for us as the weather was perfect! We traveled from Lee's Ferry all the way to Whitmore Wash, 188 miles down the Colorado River taking in both the Upper and Lower Canyon. These motor rigs are 35' in length and 16' wide powered by a 30-horsepower, four-stroke motor. They have two tubes on the sides with you can ride in rapids if you want a great thrill! There were only 9 passengers and three crew on the upper canyon trip. Four hiked out at the Bright Angel Trail near Phantom Ranch leaving only 5 of us to go the full 12 days. 24 people hiked down from the South Rim to meet the boats at Pipe Creek for the next 6 days. If you've never done this trip, I highly recommend saving your $$ for this trip of a life time. It's not cheap, but worth every penny if you are adventurous, love to hike fairly difficult hikes and don't mind camping on the beach every night. You'll get to HATE SAND! But, heck, it's only sand. I will write more about his trip when I edit this triplog later. Some of the hikes that I can't find links to on HAZ include Saddle Canyon, the confluence of the Little Colorado River, Miner's Camp (North Bass Trail.) I'm doing my best to keep my "being" below the rim. I'm just not ready for real life yet, but it is nice to have a hot shower!
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Diamond Down - Grand Canyon rafting
    Diamond Down is a quick Grand Canyon river trip, usually done in 3 to 4 days. There are several challenging rapids, and several more which are not so challenging. After a few miles, however, the river flattens out before reaching Lake Mead. It's still beautiful, and there is still current, but the lake has claimed many of the historic rapids.

    I was put in charge of an 18-foot raft, the gear barge. The other folks had home-built wooden boats, replicas of historic boats. Tom Martin rowed the Gem, Craig Wolfson his Flavell II, and Josh Case his brand new, paint-not-yet-dry dory, Sweet and Low.

    None of the photos were taken by myself because I lost my camera at the put-in. I think it fell off the deck into the water when I was distracted.

    What a wonderful four days! We mostly had gorgeous weather, although it did try to rain. We hiked to Travertine Grotto and Columbine Falls. We camped at Travertine Falls, Surprise Canyon, and another one on the left just above Columbine Falls.

    The only rapid in this stretch I had rowed before was Diamond. I rowed them all this time except Killer Fangs. I did chicken out on that one. Tom hiked back and rowed my boat down it. Maybe next time... It looked pretty scary to me. I had lost sleep thinking about it. Typical boatman's loss of sleep over the rapids downstream.

    I feel very lucky to have been invited on this trip. I had a chance to be in charge of a boat with passengers, and I had a chance to teach others a few things, how to row riffles, how to keep things ship shape, how to rig, etc. I'm no expert but I now know enough to show someone a few things. I learned a lot myself from two of the best private boaters on the river. The wooden boats were fun to row, although I only rowed them on the flat water.
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    The River Will Tell You

    A large monolith loomed ahead on the River. Two canyons cut away left and right, but from our vantage in the “bathtub” of the raft we couldn’t tell which one the River followed. One of the newbies sitting beside me asked, “Which way do we go?” I shrugged lazily. “The River will tell you.”

    Back in 2012, Mary Jo and I first took a 8-day raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. It was a life-altering experience and we wanted to do it again, but slower with more time to explore. So we found ourselves on a 12-day hiking intensive trip, Hatch River Expeditions’ first trip of 2014.

    The trip began with the Linda and Jim meeting at our place and driving up to Cliff Dwellers to spend the night before launching at Lee’s Ferry the next morning. Melinda joined us there and we became the “Phoenix Five”.

    On the way to the Cliff Dwellers, we stopped in Flagstaff to visit the OARS (formerly the Grand Canyon Dories) warehouse in hopes of seeing the small dory “Emerald Mile.” The Emerald Mile was rowed by Kenton Grua and two others in 1983 in the fastest boat trip ever down the length of the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t read the book, Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko, I highly suggest it. Tightly written, it is a wonderful adventure story and a fantastic overview of the Colorado, the Canyon, and the forces both natural and human that have shaped the Grand Canyon as we now know it.

    While at OARS, we met Duffy Dale, a boatman whose entire family works the River. His father still rows. Duffy took his first trip down River and through the Canyon when his mother rowed a trip pregnant with him. He was rebuilding a dory when we arrived, but took time to patiently and with a humble pride show us around and answer our questions. River guides are just like that.

    At Cliff Dwellers we rendezvoued with the 16 others that would accompany us on the first half of the journey. Thirteen of them were a hiking group mostly from Kansas and Arizona that does a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim hike. The remaining three were Casey and Jenn, a married couple with a lot of River experience, and her 70ish father, Morry. Her bucket-list wish was to take Dad on a River trip. Casey and Jenn had built and rowed a Powell replica boat down the River a few years earlier. They would prove to be an incredible asset to our trip and I never saw Morry without a smile a mile wide. All three were simply inspirational.

    As I am prone to do, I offered a favorite toast to begin our adventure:

    This sphere upon which mortals come and go,
    Has no end nor beginning that we know;
    And none there is to tell us in plain truth:
    Whence do we come and whither do we go?

    Did God set grapes a-growing, do you think,
    And at the same time make it sin to drink?
    Give thanks to Him who foreordained it thus
    For surely He loves to hear the glasses clink!

    Ah, would there were a loaf of bread as fare,
    A joint of lamb, a jug of vintage rare,
    And you and I in wilderness encamped
    No King’s pleasure could with ours compare.

    Drink for you know not whence you came, nor why.
    Drink for you know not why you go, nor where.
    So here’s to you and I and that River over there
    And a GRAND adventure

    DAY 1

    Steve Hatch loaded us and our gear into vans and hauled us to Lee’s Ferry where our crew and boats waited. We met JP, our lead boatman and a living River legend in his own right; Scott, the gentle profane hilarious giant who ran the second boat; and Kelly, the beautiful, patient, and indefatigable, always laughing swamper for the trip. All three were qualified as trip leaders, so we pretty much had an All-Star crew.

    After instructions and safety briefings and few thousand questions we finally got underway. It was an easy day allowing everyone to get used to the flow of life on the River. We hiked up Rider Canyon and camped at 20 Mile Camp. The wind came up and our tents had to be moved up into the shelter of the few available trees. Sand blew hard and it was the most miserable night of the trip.

    DAY 2

    Somewhat bedraggled, we rousted ourselves and had a hardy breakfast. Took everyone a while to break camp and pack up. We’d get faster as we went along.

    The boats took us across the River and slightly downstream to North Canyon for a great hike to what I call the Georgia O’Keefe waterfall. We hit the splashy rapids of the Roaring 20s after that, much to the delight of the newbies on the trip. Lunch was at South Canyon and afterwards we hiked it.

    We made a stop at Red Wall Cavern where some tossed frisbees and others lounged. Afterward we glided past Vassey’s Paradise and stopped at the inside out waterfall on River right for a drink of pure spring water.

    We camped at Nautiloid, mile 35, and had steaks for dinner. JP set out a fire pit after dinner and hung out with us. Jocelyn from the R2R2R group gave us drunken owl impressions perched up in her camp chair while we all tried to keep her from falling into the fire pit. That is entertainment you just can’t buy.

    Nature provided alternate entertainment that night with a full lunar eclipse. Imagine seeing it from inside the Grand Canyon. Simply amazing!

    DAY 3

    Drifted down to Saddle Canyon, mile 32, for a hike to nice waterfall.

    We made an early camp at Nankoweep, mile 53, and some of us hiked to Anasazi ruins on the delta there. It was getting to be laundry time so we all appreciated the extra time in camp. Dinner was salmon and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.

    Jim was late to dinner and plopped into a chair to eat. The chair was set on a small incline and he very very slowly toppled over backwards to wear his dinner instead of eat it. During his slow motion fall, Mary Jo laughed instead of catching him and Linda got a few photos in lieu of helping. Jim was about ready to opt out of the Phoenix Five, but he got over it (eventually).

    After dinner the crew got into a food fight while cleaning up the camp kitchen and all of them wound up wearing the half gallon of left-over Hollandaise sauce. Humor on the River is pretty basic sometimes, but you can’t help but love it.

    Linda and Mary Jo treated the crew and a few others of us to hand and foot massages with body butter.

    DAY 4

    We’d settled into a good routine by now, so breaking camp was going smoothly. We loaded the boats and then hiked up to the 2,000 year old Anasazi granaries at Nankoweep before heading out. It’s short but steep. The views are great and everyone was in high spirits.

    After Nankoweep we drifted down to the confluence with the Little Colorado River (LCR). It is one of the most beautiful stops on the River. The day was cool but still several newbies floated down the gentle aqua blue rapids with their life jackets protecting their delicate rears from the travertine. Others hiked along the LCR on the Beamer Trail.

    Kelly, our swamper, took a float down the LCR but scraped up her knee. She arrived back at the boats in a bikini top, cutoffs, and a bloody bandage on her knee. I mentioned to the ones around me that if I had run across her when I was 27 that the bloody bandage would have sealed the deal for me. About that time Kelly’s boyfriend, who was supporting a biological survey team a few miles down River, made a dramatic arrival running a speed boat up a rapid to see his girl. “See,” I told them. “Guys will swim upstream for a girl like that.” All the girls loved the whole thing and we enjoyed having Dom, the bf, in our camp that night. When I told Kelly a few days later about the conversation at the LCR, she giggled, blushed and loved it.

    We hiked Crash Canyon at mile 63 that afternoon and made camp at Carbon Canyon, mile 65. A few of us hiked Carbon while others opted for more lazy time at camp. I’d hiked Carbon before but went again. It’s a classic inner Canyon hike to Precambrian rocks that are 2 billion years old.

    That night was chicken and rice and I was falling behind on my Bombay Sapphire Gin rations, so I caught up. Eventually Mary Jo came and got me while I was explaining the origins of all things to anyone who would listen.

    DAY 5

    Tanner, mile 69, was our first stop. We hiked to the petroglyphs and ruins. The view from there is great. It was group photo time as everyone but the Phoenix Five would be hiking out the next day. They were getting sad that the end was in sight for them.

    Hance and Sockdolager are the biggest named rapids on the upper half of the trip. I talked Beth and Kris from the R2R2R group into riding in the bathtub with me for those. You have to go home and sort of casually rattle off that you did this I told them. Trust me, it will impress people. They had a blast.

    We stopped near mile 85 and tied off to a Vishnu Schist formation. We climbed carefully over and dropped into Clear Creek and hiked to a beautiful waterfall for some much needed chance to shower with most of our clothes on.

    We made camp at Pipe Creek Beach, mile 89.5. The crew had planned to camp at Cremation, which is traditionally utilized by trips swapping out passengers at Phantom. But a private trip beat us there and took the camp, oblivious to tradition apparently. The wind picked up and blew sand around. It was the hottest evening of the trip so far.

    Goodbyes were said and the Phoenix Five collected leftover supplies from our 16 new best friends. It was sad to know they were leaving us. We’d met only a week before, shared a wonderful adventure and made friendships. In the morning they’d hike up and out of our wonderful Below-The-Rim world back to jobs and families and obligations.

    DAY 6

    We fed the outbound group a hardy breakfast and gave them sack lunches for the hike. A few last hugs and goodbyes and they were headed up Bright Angel with Kelly and Scott who would lead the six new passengers back down to join us.

    The Phoenix Five headed over to Phantom for some Lemmy Lemonade and to mail some postcards. This was my first visit to Phantom, but I’ll be back. We killed time admiring things we hadn’t seen in a week, like flush toilets and tables to put your food on while you ate. The mule train came in with supplies. Trail runners came through in small quick bunches. Deer browsed. After nearly overdosing on Lemmy, dang that is good lemonade, we headed back to Pipe Creek and the boats to await the Lower Six and hang with JP.

    Other trips were also swapping out passengers at Pipe Creek. One rowing outfit had one of the prettiest rowers any of us had ever seen; young, dark hair, big smile, angelic face. She was hanging on our boats for a while and I tried to impress everyone with a joke. She came back with a decidedly better, and completely more profane, one which was made even funnier coming from such an innocent looking thing. She knew she had bested me and I happily acknowledged her victory. Such is life with these river runners. They are all amazing people.

    Eventually the Lower Six hobbled into Pipe Creek and we got them geared up and onto Scott’s boat. Kelly stayed on Scott’s boat while the Phoenix Five took JP’s boat so as not to have to listen to all the safety briefs and hear the same dumb questions we asked all over again.

    We ran Crystal Rapid, mile 99, which is my favorite because it can be hellacious. But JP had a great run and it is pretty tame at 8,000 cfs. But still it was good to be ABC (Alive Below Crystal).

    We camped at Ross Wheeler, mile 108.5. This is the lower end of South Bass Trail and the site of the Ross Wheeler boat on River left. I took the time to hike a ways up the South Bass trail and admire the abandoned boat.

    Later three backpackers dropped down into our camp and made themselves at home with us. Didn’t much care for them; academics with communist leanings and entitled attitudes. We had over-done tuna for dinner and I was coming down with the chest cold Linda had been fighting for the entire trip. In a sour mood, I turned in early, sleeping outside as had become my custom on the trip. A small rain shower blew past, but I stayed put. I’d been pretty wet for 7 days so a few drops on me at night wasn’t going to change much of anything important.

    DAY 7

    We crossed to River right after breakfast, the three communists hitching a free ride after free eggs. Our objective was to hike North Bass Trail up to and maybe above the old Billy Bass Tourist Camp. The chest cold was kicking in, but the hike felt good and I made a lot of side trips since the Lower Six were fairly slow hikers with the exception of the youngest of their group. Below I could see Bass Camp on River right. It was our best camp back in 2012. I remember it as where we really met Linda and also where we learned to celebrate.

    Billy Bass had installed a cable way across the River back in the day and people paid to hike down the South Bass, take the cable way across and then hike up to his camp. Mrs. Bass was less than enthusiastic about his enterprise since laundry took her three days; one to hike to the River with the laundry, one to do the laundry, and another to hike back up. Or so the story goes anyway.

    On the way back down, JP and I were leading the way and well out front. We had to double back twice, once when one of the Lower Six took a nasty fall and the second time when we were telling each other jokes and tall tales and overshot the turn down to where the boats were moored. I think he was explaining his invention of titanium weightlifting sets, the idea being they weighed less. I covered for him by saying I wanted to see the anchor point for the old cable way. He just grinned like JP always grins.

    We stopped off at Elves Chasm, mile 117, for a short hike and cool dip. A couple of backpackers were at the waterfall enjoying it au natural when we arrived. They covered up and filtered water while some of the group, Melinda included, climbed up and dove from the top of the waterfall.

    We made camp at Opposite Blacktail, mile 120.5. The Lower Six were in rare form using their headlamps to make finger puppet shadows on the rock wall behind camp. I turned in early having lost my voice during the day. Linda tried to bait a ring tail cat by putting a piece of the cinnamon rolls we had for dessert on her feet. The idea was she’d feel the elusive ring tail and get a quick photo before he dashed away. She just has this thing about ringtails, but she gave up around 2 a.m. and went to sleep. The bait was gone in the morning.

    DAY 8

    On Easter morning, as we sat in our circle of camp chairs eating breakfast, two airplanes silently flew high above. Their contrails merged to form a perfect cross in the sky. It was a Canyon Easter sunrise service like no other, held in a place no earthly power could have either imagined or created.

    We loaded up and motored straight to our next camp, Stone Creek, mile 132.5. We’d have lunch there and then hike up Stone Creek, Kelly’s favorite hike.

    The camp was just below Dubendorff Rapid. Dubendorff is not a huge rapid, but it is rocky and technical, especially at low water like we had for this trip. JP made a prefect run, but what’s new about that? Scott’s run was, hmmm, creative, but successful.

    About an hour later a Western big rig was coming through Dubendorff bouncing between one rock and another swapping ends every few seconds. They’d lost their motor right at the start of the rapid and were helpless. The boatman was yanking on the starter rope like a mad man. JP, Scott, and I were sipping cold beers from the drag bags and swapping tall tales on JP’s boat which was now carrying most all the duffle for the 11 of us passengers and had gear scattered all over it. JP knew how much trouble the Western boat was in and he asked Scott if his boat was ready to go. Scott just sailed into his boat and fired up the motor. JP jumped in with Scott and I dashed for the bowline to get them free. They launched in seconds and chased the Western boat eventually pushing it into an eddy. The electronics on the motor had picked a bad time to go haywire. The Western had a spare motor, so with help they were soon underway again.

    Later a rowing trip we’d seen a few times already came into view. They scouted Dubendorff from the far side below us. The lead boat was a cute dory named Toroweap and she made a fantastic run as did the next 4 rubber boats. The last boat took a bad line and wound up on a rock on River right. Their group put in on our beach to head back to help. Our crew all grabbed life jackets and throw ropes and headed up as well. The stuck boat was in water too fast for anyone to get to her, but eventually we got a line on her stern and got her off the rock and back into the water. Dubendorff was in a foul mood that day, but it was sure interesting to watch.

    We eventually started the hike up Stone Creek. It was long and technical in some places. Most turned back before the waterfall at the end and thus missed the little Anasazi granary up on a side cliff. The waterfall was refreshing.

    After dinner I turned in early having totally lost my voice at this point. My camp was shared by a chuckwalla who made for a quiet companion only emerging from his little safe rock crevice out of idle curiosity or to check my cot and MJ’s tent for possible food offerings.

    DAY 9

    Today was a big hike, so we did a quick cold breakfast and drifted down to Tapeats Creek, mile 134.5. Four of the Phoenix Five and the youngest of the Lower Six headed out with Kelly. We were doing a big horseshoe hike up the Tapeats to Thunder River, across Surprise Valley and then drop down into Deer Creek at the Throne Room and then down the creek to Deer Falls, mile 137, to rendezvous with the boats there. Everyone else just explored the mouths of Tapeats and Deer Creek up as far as they were comfortable.

    This hike was the highpoint of the trip for me. It’s a butt-kicker and I was operating on about 70% lung capacity by this time, but seeing Thunder River gushing out of the Redwall is something I will never forget. Kelly really impressed me too. She humped her water, plus an extra gallon for those slackers who took too little for themselves, plus a full up medical kit, plus a full head raven mask to pull a trick on JP later. She is one tough little girl. Mary Jo showed me something too. She’d been training for this trip and she did fantastic on this hike. Nah, she did fantastic on the whole trip. I’m a lucky guy in so many ways.

    JP met us above the Throne Room and sort of casually asked if I wanted a beer. He’d humped a couple of brews up for us to share. He had extra water to wet us down because it was pretty hot. We hung at the Throne Room a while with some other hikers and Kelly got to surprise JP with the raven mask. Have I mentioned that I like river runners?

    JP told me a pilot was waiting at the bottom of the trail to talk to me. Turns out the guy was a retired USAF fighter pilot like me and had retired from my airline a few years ago. I fought through the laryngitis to try to talk to him. We had lots of friends in common, but we had to come to Deer Creek to meet. The world is a small place sometimes.

    We camped at Football Field, mile 137.5 and had a turkey dinner. I was beat and hit my cot early.

    DAY 10

    Woke up to pancakes, eggs and bacon. My body was crying for calories, so I obliged.

    We floated down to Matkatamiba Canyon, mile 148.5, for a short hike. It was an interesting approach to pull the boats in, but as usual JP made it look easy in the fast, shallow, rocky water. We used our posteriors to make a butt dam across the small creek and then created a mini flash flood when we jumped up.

    After lunch we headed to Havasu, mile 157, always a high point of any trip. It is also a very challenging approach to get the boats up against the rock ledges near the stream’s mouth in the middle of a rapid. Again JP made it with no problems but he wasn’t smiling until after we got the lines secured and everyone off the boats. The turquoise waters of Havasu were running low, but a large school of Flannel Mouth Suckers were spawning in the shallow mouth of the creek. Made for an interesting sight.

    There’s just not another location on the planet like Havasu. I spent my time photographing, knowing it was an impossible to capture the beauty of the place. Mary Jo jumped from a room-sized boulder into an aqua pool holding hands with Scott. Later she picked a fist full of gravel out of her underwear. It wasn’t a deep pool!

    After almost two hours in paradise at Havasu we motored to camp at Tuckup, mile 164. It was Mexican night and Mary Jo had packed margarita mix and tequila for everyone, our little gift to the trip. Tuckup is a small beach and there isn’t much privacy. But it didn’t really matter the later the night went. We will just leave it there.

    DAY 11

    We were kinda slow getting out of camp. Wonder why? We stopped off at National Canyon, mile 167, for a short hike, a little technical at the end. Once there was a large camp at the mouth of the canyon. A few years ago a flash flood spewed huge boulders out of the canyon and washed away the beach. Now it is all boulders and rocks. Water and stone; don’t they interact down here!

    We did lunch at Fern Glen, mile 168. A few of us hiked up the Canyon, well more like boulder scrambled.

    We passed Vulcan’s Throne and stopped above Lava Falls Rapid to scout, the only rapid we scouted the whole trip. Lava has a big drop and was to be our last big rapid of the trip. It didn’t look as terrifying from up above as it did when were in it later. With only 11 of us now as passengers, we opted to run us all down in one boat, then hike up and run again in the other boat. Getting to run Lava twice!!!! Now that is a treat. Melinda decided once was enough and watched the first run from up at the scout point.

    Scott ran down first in his boat. I sat far left in the bathtub with the girls that were brave enough to be up front. Well, I sort of sat in the bathtub. Sometimes I wasn’t sitting anywhere, just airborne and holding onto the ropes. Sometimes I was sitting on the side tube, but not by choice. But I was still with the boat at the bottom. Later I found out Scott and Kelly mooned JP and Melinda right in the middle of Lava. Have I mentioned I love river running boatmen?

    Kelly hiked us up and we loaded into JP’s boat. Again I was in the bathtub but on the opposite side with the boys that were brave enough to get up there. JP made a good run and I was only airborne for several short stretches but I was just as wet. The waves crash over you with an amazing force.

    We eddied out below Lava and JP drove back upstream in the eddy and shot out into the lower section again for sort of a half run. I couldn’t scream like everyone else, but I was having a blast.

    Below Lava is a small rapid named Lower Lava. These people that name rapids are quite creative. Anyway, it is just a wet ride, nothing too exciting. We are all still on JP’s boat and he says riding the side tubes is OK on this rapid. We get partly into Lower Lava and suddenly I hear the motor noise change and Kelly is coming forward and left as fast as she can. I don’t know what’s going on but whatever is happening is on the other side of the boat from me. I flip over the duffle stack in the middle and meet Kelly. One of the Lower Six is in the water, apparently having forgotten the instructions on how to hold on when you are on the side tubes. His family is taking photos and laughing. We got rocks and fast water all around the 38-foot boat. Kelly gets one side of his life jacket and I get a hand in along with another guy and we finally get him pulled back on the boat.

    We stopped after a while and transferred the Lower Six back to Scott’s boat. We motored to our final camp at Whitmore Wash, mile 188. Then the same guy from Lower Lava falls off and under the boat when we beach for camp. I don’t know if anyone before ever fell out of two boats in a single day, but I saw it happen once. Geesh!

    It was pork chop night in camp. We all rearranged our gear for the flights out the next morning while the crew grilled tasty chops. I was in total larynx arrest by now, but getting good at sign language. It was totally inadequate to tell our three crewmembers how much I admired, respected and loved them.

    I’ll never forget how JP’s smile and the way he arched his eyebrows could tell you everything you needed to know. He didn’t laugh much but he was always happy. He is clever and quick and genuine. JP is as much of the River and Canyon as a human can be. The fact that I had earned a modicum of his respect is a treasure I will always keep in my heart.

    Scott is a gentle giant with great laugh and a big heart. That boy is tough and strong and never quits. He was our protector. Scott uses every gift he has to make those around him feel better. He comes from a River family and that tells me something. I’d trust Scott with my life any day and anywhere.

    If I had a daughter and she was like Kelly I’d be the proudest father in the world. We loved her little laugh. We admired her strength. She is diminutive in size only. She carried a pack almost as big as she was on every hike just in case we needed anything. One newbie asked her once on a hike when she pointed out our destination ahead and above us just how far it was. She smiled a little and said she didn’t rightly know, but when it looked closer we’d be nearer. After a full day of hiking she’d set up the camp kitchen and take care of us into the night and start all over the next day with a huge smile.

    I remember waking almost every morning to a Canyon Wren warble, then Kelly’s tittering little laugh followed by Scott’s delayed deep rumble of a laugh. Even in the predawn, I could visualize JP standing there with them with his huge self-deprecating grin as they made coffee for us and got the breakfast going before we climbed out of our sleeping bags. It was early, but never too early to tell a joke or a story. Never too early to be happy. Can many of us say that?

    DAY 12

    We woke early, had coffee and a cold breakfast. We loaded the boats for the last time with whatever gear was continuing down River. The crew had pulled the side tubes off and were rigged for speed. They’d run almost 100 more miles today to take out and truck back to the warehouse at Cliff Dwellers. It would be 2 in the morning before they made it back.

    The helicopters were coming for us early. We’d lift out with them to Bar 10 Ranch and then take small planes back to where we began our trip, Marble Canyon for the Phoenix Five. We said quick goodbyes again, or at least everyone but me did. Mary Jo talked for me.

    At Bar 10 we got showers, while waiting for the plane. Imagine! An actual hot water shower. It was delicious. I bought a couple of tee shirts because I buy tee shirts at places like this.

    The plane ride back is 45 minutes or so and a scenic view of the North Rim and Vermillion Cliffs. The headsets play soft music. Mary Jo and I held hands across the aisle.

    I thought back to what the trip meant to me. The beauty here is beyond comprehension. The scale of space and time here is measured in numbers we cannot grasp.

    Our new friends were amazing. I had so enjoyed Casey, Jenn and Morry. They were life and love embodied, what we all want to be. Jean and Patrick had led their merry band of R2R2R hikers on yet another life affirming experience. Getting to know Beth and Jocelyn and Sarah and Barb and Deb and Sal and Teresa and Kris and Natalie and Zena was such an unexpected blessing of this trip. They were all beautiful and fun and wonderful, each in their very own unique way.

    Mary Jo had come into her own on this trip. On our first trip down the River two years ago she had never camped for more than two consecutive nights and she did well enough on that one. In the intervening two years she has accompanied me on increasingly more demanding adventures. She has begun to understand and appreciate the wild world I love, to see in it what I see. And that knowledge has changed her. She became more and more confident of herself on this trip, less and less dependent on me to help or make decisions. Instead she helped me through being ill in the midst of a long 12 days. In every photo she is smiling and happy. She admitted that for days she never thought of her house (always her biggest concern) or the world Above-The-Rim and she did not miss it. There is a favorite quote of mine that says, “It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.” She gets happiness now. For that I will be forever indebted to the River and its Canyon.

    I read a lot about the Canyon and River for this trip. A passage by Teresa Jordan in Writing Down the River captures part of it for me. “For twelve days and 280 miles on the River, I was filled with awe--so struck by it, in fact, that if I have any courage at all, I shall never be the same.” I kept seeing airplanes flying high over us and soon I’ll be back up there, so very much back Above-The-Rim in a loud and confused world. But a part of me will always remain down in the Canyon and on the River. Or is it that the Canyon and River will forever be in me? Doesn’t matter really. I do know that if I am lost or confused that “the River will tell you.”

    Video from the trip:
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Government and Beers

    Government shut down of the Grand Canyon National Park didn't stop us. With special thanks to the Hualapai people, our raft trip went on as planned. Drove up to Seligman the day before and stayed at the Canyon Lodge. Woke up Sunday and drove to Peach Springs for our shuttle.

    The bus ride along Diamond Creek took about one hour. We reached the mighty Colorado and began to prepare our gear for the ride. Dry bags, dry bags, dry bags. Need I say more? If you have something you want to bring on this trip, it will get wet. EVERYTHING will get wet. Didn't stop me from packing my Canon camera and 24mm fixed lens. The camera stowed nicely into the new dry bag hip pack I had just picked up at REI a day earlier.

    The first half of the trip (morning)was were we hit all the big rapids. The bigger the rapid, the wetter we got. Huge swells hit the front of the boat and then rocketed upwards. The forward momentum of the boat pushes right through the wall of water. This is a full-on head-to-toe soaking. A shorty wetsuit kept my core insulated from the 45 degree water. Others on the boat made due with splash gear or quick dry clothing.

    We stopped at Travertine Falls for a photo-op, then hit some more rapids on the way to our lunch stop at Separation Canyon. The Hualapai raft guides added to the experience by providing historical details and geologic descriptions of the surrounding areas.

    The second half of the ride was down a calm stretch of river. No rapids, no splashes. Every now and then, a light mist of water would provide a nice cool down from the hot sun. Once we reached our take-out point, we grabbed our gear and walked up to the helipad for our chopper ride out of the canyon. This was my first ride in a helicopter and the 8 minute ride out of the Grand Canyon did not disappoint. My weight (with gear) somehow landed me in the prime front row seat right next to the pilot. Great views.

    After that, it was a 2-hour van shuttle from the South Rim, through Kingman and back to Peach Springs. Fortunately, we had a fun group in the van and the conversations added even more to the entertainment element.

    Upon our return to Peach Springs, we had to refocus our plans for the rest of the week. Goverment shutdown cost us our kayak trip through Black Canyon. We started heading towards Flagstaff with hopes set on Page and Lake Powell, but found out that Powell was completely closed as well. Not even access from Navajo side at Antelope Point which surprised me. We decided to room in Flagstaff and come up with a new plan over dinner and beers.
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What an incredible trip- got to bring Wendy along as my work-your-way and we had a blast!! Ran with Kenny and Joe and had a great group of folks. Joe is an incredible teacher and let me run a lot of rapids that I hadn't before. Highlights were running Granite, Hermit, and driving the whole fourth day including Lava for the first time :y: What fun!

    Wendy got this video of my first run of Granite Rapids:

    Floating down Conquistador Aisle, listening to Vivaldi:
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    First trip of the season with Arizona River Runners was more than I could have hoped for- a kick-pumpkin all-girl crew, fantastic passengers, and great weather.

    There were condor sightings right away near the Navajo Bridge, always a treat to watch the giants soar. Got to drive more than usual the first day, including Soap Creek Rapid. Chelsea and Julie had to change a motor due to technical difficulties in the Roaring 20s, which I think upped the passengers confidence in their all-female crew. Camped the first night at South Canyon and got to spend some quality moonlight time with the ruins and petroglyphs after the passengers had gone to bed.

    Led a hike to the ruins in the morning before continuing on to Redwall Cavern. There was a pull-up contest and I took silhouette pictures of Micro Chicken.

    Spent the afternoon playing in the Little Colorado River before making it to Cardenas for camp the second night. The Hilltop Ruin loomed above camp and I took a moonlight hike to check it out. Has a very hostile and defensive feel to it with 360 degree views and small holes for shooting arrows, versus the happy village feeling found at South.

    The next day we ran the entire granite gorge- I got to drive Sockdolager, which is always a super-fun hit, and both Chelsea and Julie aced their runs of all the big stuff. They are an inspiration and really great teachers to learn from. Slip-slided toward Shinumo Creek waterfall for a dip, and then spent the night at a camp above Blacktail Canyon. As we arrived, there were 20-25 bighorn sheep babies and moms milling about at river level on the opposite side. We all watched while they figured out the way to get up the Tapeats break to the Tonto Platform. It was a very complex route, requiring them to get the right sequence of tiny ledges and then a big jump across a gap from one ledge to the next. We all cheered as they made it one by one. I told a story in the evening about my disastrous Royal Arch Loop trip that I did in 2010.

    The next day I rode with Julie. We stopped at Blacktail Canyon which has great acoustics for a concert by Julie and some of the passengers. It was also Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day with a name like that? I drove Conquistador Aisle, one of my favorites, and ran Fossil Rapid for the first time. We stopped at Stone Creek for lunch and a dip and then on to Deer Creek Falls. Hiked some folks up to the oasis of The Patio- it was definitely a toasty hike, but nothing like it will be later in the season. After the waterfalls, we camped at Football Beach and I told the folks that I'd tell them another story. Except I tricked them and came out with a set of speakers and did a bellydance performance instead! It's amazing what you can carry on one of the big motor rigs. The camp next to us was a Western trip and their crew came over wandering-minstrel style to our camp and their group Blammity Blam did a concert of river songs on the boatman's box. Good times.

    The next day we went to Havasu and swam while watching ravens take advantage of unsuspecting people's snacks and sandwiches. The drive to Lava Falls wasn't blazing hot for once. Chelsea and Julie had great runs through Lava and we camped at Chock Rock Camp for our last evening with the 6-day trip.

    The next morning we said a sad goodbye to our wonderful passengers as they flew out at Whitmore Wash, mile 187. A new group of 28 flies in at the helipad and we had them for two nights. The new group was super friendly and helpful. I got to drive most of the lower trip, it was a great learning experience and I am finally feeling the current and getting better at reading water.

    We camped at 209 mile and the next morning I drove 209 and had a great run, then we dropped folks off for a hike to Pumpkin Springs and the refreshing jump into the river. I drove most of the day, and then we camped at Truckseat.

    The final morning, Julie put a special spin on the pancakes: I got my wrist slammed in the boatman's box but thankfully it didn't do much damage and there was an orthopedic surgeon on hand to check it out. We visited Travertine Grotto for some final waterfall action and then drove them to the jet boat. After the jet boat picked up the passengers, we had the rest of the day to drive to the takeout at Pearce Ferry. We took it easy, floating and swimming and having a fantastic time. We didn't see any other trips on the runout, so it was just us girls till the end. We didn't see another woman driving a motorboat the entire trip. What a special experience it was to run with three amazing, strong, talented women. The passengers loved that we were an all-female crew and told us repeatedly. What a great way to start my season!!!
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    While on my fall Grand Canyon river trip I was able to complete a couple of hikes to further my goal of hiking all the named trails off the South Rim. My friend Jane and I started at Little Colorado River beach, and made our way across the river (lots of current, but at least it wasn't cold!) and visited the Beamer Cabin. We then started onto the trail. A couple of our friends, boatmen Randy and Mike, waited on the Colorado River until they could see us coming around the bend. They wanted to be certain we were able to cross the LCR, which had flashed a couple of days before.

    It was odd that the LCR was muddy and the Colorado was green, at least until the LCR ran into it. Often the LCR is very blue and runs into a muddy Colorado.

    We actually did this hike over two days. The first day we hiked to Palisades Creek, where our rafting party was going to set up camp and wait for us. Of all the camps we had on our 24 day river trip, Palisades Creek was by far the worst: very rocky and uncomfortable for our group of 5 rafts and 12 people.

    The first day's leg of the hike took longer than I thought it would. I think we hiked about 5 or 6 hours. It was pretty hot, and Jane just about ran out of water, so I shared. She is a boatman, has her own raft, but hasn't done a lot of desert hiking. So, when I was on her raft, I was learning a lot about rowing from a woman's standpoint, but on the hike she was learning about desert hiking from me. But we did fine, and were grateful to get into camp. The next morning we got up and she hiked part of the way to the Tanner backpacker camp with me. Our boaters floated down to 68 Mile Camp, on river right, and a boatman rowed across to pick her up while I continued on to Tanner.

    Once I was at Tanner I connected with the places I had been on backpacking trips, so that completed my "line" as far as furthering my goal of hiking S. Rim trails. So, I turned around and hiked back upstream until I was across the river from 68 mile camp and could see our group. I hollered, and Dennis came over in the "Shredder" to pick me up.

    The second day's hike was much easier and shorter, and the weather was very pleasant as well.
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I thought it might be about time to post this trip and some photos.

    What can I say? Trip of a lifetime? But I did it last year, too! But this time I had a private Special Use Permit from the Park Service. Last year I was invited on someone else's private trip.

    It really took a long time to plan this trip, and we had 19 months. I had several really good boaters helping with the logistics. We used Moenkopi Riverworks for catering, plus we rented a very small amount of equipment from them. They comped us a couple things, too, since they are friends of ours. (Thank you, Brady!)

    We hired River Runners Shuttle Service of Meadview, AZ to shuttle our vehicles.

    We put in at Lees Ferry on Sept. 20 and took out at Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead on Oct 13 (one day earlier than planned in order to help a crew member catch an earlier flight back to North Carolina.)

    We started out with 12 people in the group, 3 of whom planned only the half trip, and hiked out at Monument Creek/Hermit. The people came from Flagstaff and Tucson, (plus me from the White Mtns.) and Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Montana. They were mostly all super expert boaters. We had 5 rafts, two kayaks, one open-deck canoe, and a "Shredder" (a very small cataraft) in our fleet. After the 3 hiked out I was the only one without a boat, so I "floated" (pun intended?) around on different boats, and tried my hand rowing different sized rafts and one day in the kayak as well.

    We did a lot of the usual hikes, some of which I will write up separately. Saddle Canyon, Nankoweap, Beamer Trail, Monument Creek, North Bass to Bass Camp, Deer Creek Patio, etc. I missed the pull-in at Havasupai, so Scott and I had to wait for everyone downstream. Ever tried pulling in there? If you're a newb it can really be messy. Also missed Matkat, and had to wait downstream, but that was another boatman's fault. I didn't care, having been there the previous year. Same with Havasupai, have been there several times before, both hiking and rafting.

    We had a great group, mostly got along fine, with a few personality issues now and then. But for the most part we did get along fine, and I made some new friends. Especially I hope to go boating again with Jane from Boulder, who was a real inspiration to me, having her own raft and rowing the whole Canyon.

    I did row a lot more this year than last year, including Granite Rapid. It's a pretty darn big one, but is a straight shot. I thought that on this year's run Horn Creek Rapid was by far the scariest. (Some of you will recall last year's spectacular flip in Lava.) This year I rowed a lot of other named rapids. Downriver, I especially wanted to try Diamond Creek rapid because it was the very first rapid I ever tried to row, back when I took that guide training class from NAU Outdoor Rec. I got all sideways that time! This time I not only aced it but aimed on purpose for a couple big holes down near the foot of the rapid. Scott said, "Hey why don't you aim for those two holes, this boat will just plow right through them!" That was really fun! And got Scott soaking wet, too!

    We saw some wildlife, mostly a whole lot of bighorn sheep. We saw one pink rattlesnake, a couple of ringtails, and a couple of foxes. The incident with the foxes was interesting. I had hiked several miles up Parashant Canyon, an hour ahead of the rest of the group. On my way back a fox ran across the canyon in front of me, and then seemed to continue to cross the canyon around every turn or two. But my pal, Jane, hiking upcanyon, intercepted me, had seen the fox, but had seen two at once. So, I still don't know if I saw only one, or both of them!

    Well, it was a fine run, with a great group of folks! My photos will tell the story!
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Went with Arizona River Runners as a 'work-your-way' swamper for a 7 day trip from Lee's Ferry to Pearce Ferry. Mind-blowing amazing experience, though it would have been greatly improved with a better clientele (long story).

    Many thanks to Sirena who made it happen for me, Kenny my most awesome lead boatman and Chelsea the kick-butt second boat.

    Many of my photos were lost as I took them on Sirena's waterproof camera which disappeared somewhere between the Parashant Canyon and Pumpkin Springs :( . But, the memories are with me FOREVER!

    Day 1:
    Load up boats in Flagstaff and drive to Lee's Ferry. My first trip in a big rig was almost my last when the trailer broke an axle in the rear. We were very lucky the whole thing didn't do a flip. The company brought different trailers up from Flag and we unloaded and re-loaded the boats, all while the truck was on a narrow strip of shoulder just north of Gap. The excitement was really not the kind I'd been planning on.

    We made it to the river, finally, inflated the pontoons and rigged up the rafts. It was such a beautiful day on the river - above the Paria it was clear and calm. Had a great dinner at Cliff Dwellers and crashed in the hottest lodgings ever. I'm a backpacker - I made it work.

    Day 2
    Went out early to give the boats a last blast of air from the power pumps and make sure all was ready for our guests. Then we met up with them at Marble Canyon Lodge for a little talk-through of what life would be like for the next few days. The group - well - they were a challenge. That's all I'm sayin' about it. I was suddenly thankful for all of my years of experience with the ABC leading groups in the wilderness.

    We shuttled down to the ferry, went through a few more items of business, then we loaded up the boats and pushed off. My sense of excitement couldn't be eclipsed by any bad luck, squabbles or problems that came our way!

    Good thing, too, because almost right off the bat, one of the boats started having some small engine problems. It kept cutting out when the boatman needed the power most - and even an inexperienced rider like me knows that's no good.

    Camped that night at Indian Dick after a fun day of floating through Marble Canyon. The campsite was nice, though there was a steep climb from the river to the kitchen. It wouldn't have been a problem if I didn't have to go back and forth a million times while the boatmen switched out the misbehaving engine. You know - those things are HEAVY!

    I think dinner the first night was spaghetti with garlic bread. Yum!

    Day 3
    Early in the day we stopped at South Canyon to check out the Archaeology sites there. The ruins and petroglyphs were very cool, and from the beach and the ledges you could get a glimpse of Vasey's Paradise just downriver.

    Vasey's is beautiful - though it feels like something of a Disney attraction as you float by. It's protected habitat for the Kaibab ambersnail, so you're not permitted to explore the area (plus, I've been told it's covered with poison ivy). What a tease!

    Our next big 'attraction' for the day was Redwall Cavern. This was one of those big moments for me - I'd seen photos and dreamed of experiencing this massive cavern for SO long! The other guests on the boats couldn't understand why I was so excited, and I should have taken this for a sign of their general ability to feel excitement. However, once we were exploring the back of this massive cavern, they seemed to catch the drift. I even managed to get the group to throw a 'Wendy' for me (though some opted out because it was too corny).

    Floating on, we passed the Bridge of Sighs - it looked like a challenging scramble to access even the bottom of the arch. As the day wore on, we descended below the Redwall Limestone and began to see the shales and sandstones of the next layers. I was beginning to understand how much more quickly you see the changes in the canyon from these motorized boats!

    Around river mile 43 we passed the remains of an ancient Anasazi log bridge almost 600' above the river. It's amazing to think that these peoples carried the massive logs to this point, which must've included lowering them down technical climbs that even modern climbers balk at.

    Saddle Canyon called to me strongly as we passed, and I hope I get to hike it someday. Today wasn't that day, though. We also passed the granaries of Nankoweap. The light was in a poor spot for photographing them, but it was still awesome to see these structures from thousands of years ago perched high on a cliff above the confluence with Nankoweap creek.

    The Little Colorado River was running fast and muddy, so we also avoided the usual stop there. The fun with the LCR is seeing the crystal blue water merging with the river - but instead it was a little chocolate milk flowing into a lot of chocolate milk. Somewhat anti-climatic since I missed the LCR confluence last time I was in the area as well ( Yet another reason that I have to go back!

    We made camp just below Lava Canyon as the afternoon light played with the beauty of Comanche Point. This was scenically probably my favorite day on the river - seeing the cavern, Vasey's, the Anasazi Bridge and the Nankoweap Granaries all in one day. On top of that, revisiting the Palisades of the Desert (it helps if you say it with a Monster-Truck-Rally echo effect) was a treat. I love the Supergroup, and it's possible it may be on its way to being my favorite geological layer!

    There was a little extra fun, because of even more boat motor trouble. After Kenny and Chelsea Frankensteined the two bad motors together, we had to do a huge switch-a-roo and get 3 motors moved and situated in their new and hopefully permanent homes. As mentioned before, these buggers are HEAVY, and I'm glad there were 4 of use to help plus Brian who was quite burly for a Canadian. (Okay, I don't think I was much help at all - but I was at least offering positive thoughts and happy words).

    Dinner is escaping me that night. What did we eat? I think I might have been too tired to eat to tell you the truth. Or maybe this was spaghetti night. Who can say?

    Day 4
    We climb up above the camp to check out some truly awesome rock art left there by ancient visitors. Kenny does one of his delightful readings on the canyon, but I missed it. I was too busy getting excited about running Hance Rapid. Our first real whitewater according to Kenny. Alright! Bring it on!

    Hance didn't disappoint, and I was nice and wet at the exit which set me up nicely for the rest of the hot morning going through the Upper Granite Gorge. This day is probably the most fun whitewater wise. Hance, Horn Creek, Hermit, Granite - they are all amazing. The water flow is ideal for them all, making big waves, fun runs and a wild ride for sure.

    I particularly enjoyed floating under the bridges and past Bright Angel Creek. We stopped briefly at Boat Beach to fill up our water jugs. It was a special treat for those of us who carried the jugs because the water from the tap there was cold, clear and clean - perfect for rinsing all that Colorado (red earth) out of your hair...for the few minutes until you got drenched again at Horn, anyway ;)

    Late in the afternoon, we pulled in at Bass Camp. Sirena and I were excited, as we'd both been wanting to check this spot ever since we camped directly overhead on a ledge just off the Tonto Trail on 10/10/10 and hear the whoopin'-hollerin' party going on down at this site. It was early enough for us to take a small group around the corner to the Silver Grotto at Shinumo Wash. The waterfall here was not only clean and clear, but slightly warm - especially compared to the freezing river! We explored and played, then headed back to Bass to have a great dinner @ this amazing beach.

    I think dinner was hamburgers and brats that night. Yumm!

    Day 5

    Though we'd originally planned to revisit Shinumo in the morning, another trip had taken the only good parking spot, so we pressed on. We'd already made the decision not to visit Elves' Chasm - this particular group was not terribly good at the scrambling required to reach the falls, and it was always a crowded attraction at best. I wasn't broken hearted - after my last visit and attempted visit, I've not grown fond of Elves' Chasm. I suppose it might have been nice to see it in the sunshine and to not have to hike that miserable trail from Toltec Beach - but another time perhaps. With people who might actually appreciate it.

    Oh, wait - I said I wasn't going to talk about them again. Sorry.

    Floating down Steven's Aisle was a treat - such a beautiful stretch of river. We did make a stop at Blacktail Canyon, which was among my favorite side trips. A very easy hike brought us into a marvelous slot canyon. The acoustics in this particular area are said to be near perfect - so of course I had to break out the Irish tunes. Such a beautiful place deserved the most beautiful, heart-wrenching song I knew. I might not have had much of an audience, but the folks who counted were there and I could feel the rocks and birds and critters listening in, too.

    Have I mentioned yet that the boaters nicknamed me Mary Poppins? Yeah. Obviously don't know me too well ;)

    The Aisle and the stretches after it were dotted with cool side canyons, ledgy camps and massive lava flows. Great day for just floating past - not much whitewater, and not much excitement. Just right for a 'recovery' day after the excitement of Upper Granite Gorge!

    After our lunch break at Randy's Rock, we passed through the Granite Narrows, the narrowest spot on the river. This meant that Deer Creek was just around the corner - and the falls that I've wanted to visit again for so long (last time I was here was November 2008). It was a hot afternoon, no clouds, and the climb up to the patio was brutal. Luckily, we were escorting some of our more adventurous guests, so I could move a little more slowly than I would have if it'd been a bunch of hard-core hikers up there. The patio was crowded - there were at least 3 groups from the river who'd hiked up - so we didn't hang out too long. We got good and wet, then hiked back to the boats. Walking back to the boat was a fun exercise: hop up on one boat then use them like giant stepping stones - there were at least 4 to cross before I got to my own!

    We camped at the Football Field just downstream of the falls, with another of our company's trips moored up just around the corner. After making another delicious dinner, a couple of us went to hang out with the other boatmen. I stayed behind, having some much needed alone and quiet time to rinse out some clothes and my grubby self. I slept SO well that night!

    Day 6
    The last day for this group - by the end of the day we'd be camped at Whitmore Helipad, and tomorrow they'd be off. I'd like to say we were sorry to see them go, but it wouldn't be the precise truth...

    This day meant one thing to me: Lava Falls! I'd read about it so many times, and I was so excited to see it... It was actually a bit of a let down to tell the truth. A big rapid, no doubt, but the boatmen were so good that it was as smooth as silk! I suppose that's a tribute to them, and I'm glad it went off without a hitch. But, I must admit, Hermit was MUCH cooler!

    Sirena was excited to explore National Canyon. This narrow side canyon was originally the site of a cool waterfall at the bottom of an intriguing narrows - but the climb up above the waterfall was too difficult for a river-side trip. The canyon flash-flooded a couple weeks before, however,at over 15k cfs (that's as much flow as there is in the river at times). The debris deposited filled in the canyon floor and made the narrows accessible after an easy, brief scramble. There was even a cool sit-down-water-slide up there! We had a great time playing up in the slick narrows (and I have to thank Brian for his boost up there - he really hauled my butt!). On the way back to the boat we ooh'ed and aah'ed about the massive flood damage. I have always respected the power of the flash flood, but it's never a bad thing to be reminded of their raw destructive energy.

    Afternoon storms built up as we floated past the remains of the massive lava dams that once clogged the canyon. It was so impressive to see the remnants of these flows hundreds of feet overhead on the canyon rim. That's a lot of lava, my friends!

    Dinner the last night for this group: steak, and well cooked steaks by our man Kenny. And awesome mashed potatoes - most of which ended up wasted because of our group's abhorrence of the evil of 'carbs'. Oh well - more for us!

    Day 7
    The helicopters arrived early in the morning to ferry out our passengers and bring in what's called 'The Tag' or the 'Jet Boat'. This is a second group of 28 that only get to ride the river for a day and a half. Normally, the boatmen are all tired and grumpy and the tag gets the short-end of the stick as it were as a result. This time, though, we were so psyched to see a new group of enthusiastic, excited people that we felt a burst of fresh energy!

    The tag group was a blast! There were quite a few kids, but they weren't too annoying (you all know that kid's aren't really my thing). They whooped and hollared at all the right moments, oohed and aahed when it was called for, and helped out with all of the camp chores.

    We stopped to swim in the river at Pumpkin Spring. There's a special spot with a rock outcrop and a safe bit of flat water where boat trips obviously regularly stop. Everyone brave enough jumps off a 12' ledge into the brown Colorado, much to the delight of all the young folks in the group.

    Sirena was convinced she could make me do it. I acted like it was no problem, but once I got my butt up there, I couldn't make myself jump! I just froze up at the edge like a scardey-cat! It was embarrassing as were these 9 year olds, leaping of and doing flips, and I couldn't even take a simple step. Finally, Sirena had to get firm with me, and I decided to try 'scooting' off the rock. I sat down, legs dangling, and told everyone to scream at the top of their lungs. Then I pushed off.

    It was like not even a half second and I was in the water. That made me feel even sillier, it was such a short drop! But, I also felt cooler, and could say that I did it, which meant I was cooler as well! Next time, it's feet first, absolutely. Yup. Gonna do it.


    The rest of the day was some little whitewater, a fun ride down the river, and lots of great fun with the guests. At camp, we had a delightful evening with Spaghetti for dinner (it's one of my faves, so I don't mind it over and over). I was getting the hang of the river thing, I thought. Just in time for the last day...

    Day 8

    A little more time left...and the canyon's still giving out the wonders. We stopped in the morning at Travertine Grotto for some fun rock scrambling and travertine waterfall action. The grotto was beautiful, with not only a big waterfall at the back, but tons of little tiny 'spouts' of water shooting straight out of the travertine walls. As the guests climbed back down the rope ladder, I got a little time in the quiet solitude of the cave. Those are really the best moments, I think, when you can be quiet and listen to the canyon speaking to you... She has so many voices, and each one has it's own beauty, and it's own danger. That's what makes her song so exciting!

    We stopped again at Separation Canyon, which has such a wonderful side-story... Because we were entering the lake waters, we stripped the pontoons off of the boats and tied them together into a massive flotilla. Talk about a party barge! Since we were all crammed together, I had the group throw a big Wendy for me. They were so into it - I'm just happy no one fell off the boat!

    It was a slow ride down the river to Spencer canyon, where we'd part with this group. They were hopping onto a jet boat, which would muscle them down river FAST, so they could continue with their fun vacation plans. Kenny, Chelsea, Sirena and I would then 'run out' the boats to Pearce Ferry. The boatmen all look forward to this part of the trip, having the lake to themselves and a whole boat full of snacks and what not to party on...

    It was a blast. All the tension we'd built up began to release. We hung out in the shade of a cliff, swam, napped, ate and drank the first group's leftover beer. We played our music loud on speakers and put on costumes (okay - they put on costumes - I guess I forgot to pack mine).

    It was great.

    In the afternoon, a big storm blew up, and though we didn't get much rain, we got cool weather and shade when we might have been baking in the sun of Lake Mead. When we moored up at Pearce Ferry, it was dark, stormy and perfect for sleeping. Not bad for the end of the trip.

    Day 9
    The rest feels anti-climatic in retrospect. Pull the boats out of the water and load them onto the big rig again (I guess it got fixed while we floated). Try to sleep on the bumpy, hot road to Kingman, where we wolfed down a big breakfast. Then more driving to Flagstaff, unload the boats, unpack the gear, wash everything down. A nice little summer storm made this day even more fun, too. Gotta love monsoon season.

    We were back on the road by 3pm, and driving like madwomen home. I was glad Sirena volunteered to drive, because though I managed to stay awake, I was so tired that I probably could have made stupid mistakes.

    Lessons Learned:
    • Mio Energy: if you shoot it straight, it acts like a caffeine injection straight to your heart!
    • Keens are comfortable, but hold in sand in an inconvenient way. No wonder the real boatmen wear flip-flops.
    • Even inflated rubber boats can have very sharp edges which bite when you hit them hard.
    • All the money in the world doesn't make you a fun person to be around
    • No amount of plastic surgery makes a 65 year old woman in a string bikini and neoprene water socks sexy.
    • Nudity and river folk go together like sailors and swear-words. (I knew this already, but had not been exposed to the full extent of it)
    • Wag-bags ain't so bad
    • Groovers are less fun than Wag bags
    • Excellent tip for controlling an ant problem: a can of Pam and a lighter
    • 7 days on the river is not NEARLY enough

    So, when do I go back? :y:
    Grand Canyon River Running
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This was a great adventure! 17 glorious days, floating down the river, making new friends, having a blast, and learning to row. I was able to learn to row some of the smaller rapids.

    See my description for information on how to get started doing private river trips in Grand Canyon.

    We flipped in Lava Falls, which was running at 27,000+. Two of our boats and one commercial flipped within half an hour. It was scary, swimming the biggest rapid in the Canyon, but I didn't have time to be scared, I guess. Pretty thrilling! If you want to see a neat little video of our flip, check out the HAZ Facebook page.

    We didn't do many side hikes, although some of the younger set hiked to Thunder River. It was pretty hot. I have a permit for Sept. 2012, and plan to do more hikes then.

    Permit $$

    Glen Canyon Recreation Area National Park
    Glen Canyon Entrance Fee - 1-7 Day Vehicle Pass - $25

    Boat fees additional, follow provided NPS link above.

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To raft trip
    From Flagstaff, drive north on 89 toward Page, Arizona. At Bitter Springs, turn left on 89A drive down to the Navajo Bridge. Cross the bridge and immediately watch for the sign for Lee's Ferry. Turn right and drive to boat ramp and river office area.
    page created by azbackpackr on Aug 14 2011 5:02 am
    help comment issue

    end of page marker