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Rollin' Down the River, AZ
mini location map2022-08-07
196 by photographer avataroutdoor_lover
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Rollin' Down the River, AZ 
Rollin' Down the River, AZ
Scenic Drive187.00 Miles
Scenic Drive187.00 Miles
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1st trip
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Finally took my truck on a road trip. I was gone 9 days, but the truck sat in a parking lot for 6 1/2 days. I traded it for a motorized raft, a helicopter and a 9 seat Cessna.... Never thought I would have been doing a trip like this with the left knee being pretty uncooperative, but I did. I was supposed to have the knee replaced in July, but it got postponed until October. Haven't been able to do much, but somehow, fate happened, planets aligned and I just couldn't say no. The Hiking would be light, not a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of sitting. With an Ibuprofen supply, I felt like the knee had enough life left, to just do it.

I've dreamed of this since I was a kid. When I fished from the bank at Lee's Ferry and watched the rafts launch, it only fed the hope. But life and finances never seemed to be able to line up and I was beginning to feel like it would just have to be a dream, unfulfilled. And then I got a call. "Wanna go on a river trip?" I had 6 days to get ready. While I would have preferred a 21 day Oar Trip, this would be a motorized raft for 7 days, but I would take what I could get. The advantage, was the Guides would be doing most of the work. The knee wouldn't have to work so hard. Just seeing the guts of the Big Ditch, for the first time ever, was more than enough to make me ecstatic. The logistics of packing was a nightmare. With a weight limit, I packed and repacked about 3 times. Just the Camera Gear and ample spare batteries kept me weeding out other stuff. Sunscreen and floppy hats were expendable. I was never more happy to finally get behind the wheel.

Travel Day - Phoenix to Marble Canyon
I've missed this place. I was so glad to be back there. I stayed in the Lodge overnight so I could take one more shower before the river water and sand plastered everything. I drove around a bit, catching the moon with a sunset, and a pair of California Condors on the Navajo Bridge. And repacked again. :lol:

Day 1 - On the River
After Orientation and Breakfast, we were off. I tried to use my good Nikon for awhile on the raft, but it just risked getting too wet and switching between it and my Olympus TG-5 just became a PITA. So I eventually settled for the Nikon on shore, and the Olympus in the raft. We stopped along the way several times a day for sightseeing hikes and meals, so the Nikon still got some quality time. We lost some clarity to the water right away, as the Paria's mud was pouring into those crystal clear waters, turning them a murky green. Went UNDER the Navajo Bridge for the first time ever. It was a fairly short day on the river since we didn't leave until almost noon, but the water was beautiful and our first day of rapid running was a great appetizer for what was to come. I did get one video of both our raft and the other raft running a fairly tame rapid, but it was fun. [ youtube video ] The raft was situated to where you sat along the sides of the raft, so videos only really worked well if you were one of the two people in the very front of the row. And we all traded off so everyone could experience the rapids in different places on the raft. There were 22 people and 4 guides split between 2 rafts. When we got to camp, the weather came up. It was monsoon season after all. But we got nothing but wind this first night, on a sandy beach. It was a sandstorm that exfoliated everything. Some people tried to use tents that first night, but I opted for just the cot and a tarp to block the sand and if it got rainy. It was hot, even at night, so just the cot and a pillow was about as cool as you could sleep. Didn't use the tent the whole trip and barely used a sheet. Sleeping bag stayed in the dry bag.

Day 2 - On the River
More rapids, more pretty water and towering cliffs in all kinds of layers. And a big red alcove called Redwall Cavern. And then there were Arches that resembled thrones. And then we hit camp early, at Nankoweap and waited for the sun to disappear behind the cliffs, so the hike would be cooler. This was the hike that had me worried. Wasn't sure how the bad knee would handle it and the fake knee hasn't had a chance to do this kind of uphill. And then there's the downhill. And 3/4 of the hike is big steps, up and down. It's a bit steep. I'd like to say that I made it all the way up, to the Granaries, but I didn't. I stopped about 100 vertical feet short. While I could have made the top, I was more worried about getting down as the bad knee started whimpering and the good knee was getting fatigued. I just wasn't in good enough shape. But the view was killer from even just below anyway. I was grateful to see it at all. It was a good day all around.

Day 3 - On the River
We left Nankoweap behind and after a few hours, we said goodbye to the fairly pretty water, as we passed the LCR. It was a rumbling, big chocolate shake and the Colorado River lost the last of it's transparency and it's color altogether. But it still yielded gold in certain conditions as the cliffs would not be denied their reflections... And the river widened and the cliffs became not so closely entitled to our space. But then they started to close in again. We went under the Black Bridge and then the Silver Bridge. We stopped a couple of times for lunch and breaks and then eventually we hit our next camp, Granite, near Monument Creek. Granite Rapids, a major rapid, was just downstream. What a fun camp this was. Not only did we watch 3 different groups run the rapids, but the campsite itself was something out of Wild Kingdom. I was really busy with the Nikon. I took over a hundred photos of the rapid runners, and in-between those, we had a rattlesnake watching everyone use the groover, and an all-out war over a paralyzed grasshopper. The contenders? A spiny lizard who was trying to steal the grasshopper from a parasitic wasp who had captured and paralyzed the grasshopper. The wasp was trying to dig a burrow to put the grasshopper in, but the lizard kept darting in, trying to snatch the grasshopper. The wasp finally prevailed and dragged the grasshopper down the hole. If the grasshopper could still think, I'm pretty sure that it would have rather died getting eaten by the lizard. But his fate would be the same as if he was a Tarantula, captured by a Tarantula Hawk. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with for that Nat Geo moment. But I got the snake. And then there were Bats. They used the hiking trails around camp as fly zones and sometimes you really felt like you had to duck. I also had a baby Spiny Lizard who kept me company in my camp. Really amazing few hours. I think this was my favorite camp.

Day 4 - On the River
Into Upper Granite Gorge. The walls close in once again. Lots of Rapids in this section. It's also Bighorn Country and I was wishing I could have had my big Zoom for them. We stop 4 times, 3 side Hikes and Lunch. We visited Shinumo Falls which I didn't even have on my list and didn't know about. Pretty cool falls, you can go around the base of the falls, crawl through a rabbit hole and get on a rock that will act as a slide right through the falls. Pretty Fun stuff. And then, one I've been waiting for, for a long time. Elves Chasm. It was as beautiful as every picture I've seen. Of course I was with a large group and by the time I got there, the swimmers had worked up the pool, which I expected, but the light was horrific anyway for decent photos. Just an amazing place regardless. I was just so happy to finally see it and experience it. And then, there was Blacktail Canyon. A small slot that can be hiked into. It got way more interesting though.

Back in 2018, I didn't post a few trips. One, was a 4 day Kayak/Non-Technical Slots Trip on Lake Powell. On our third night, we were camped in a large cove at the mouth of a slot canyon. Across the small cove from us was a huge houseboat. On their side of the cove, they had a huge cliff that rose more than a couple of hundred feet and the face of the cliff was flat and smooth. The face was probably 150'x150'. That night, the houseboat residents projected a Spongebob Squarepants movie onto that cliff face. It was huge and hilarious. I never would have thought, that out in the sticks on Lake Powell, we would fall asleep to a boat-in movie. I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong.

There was another party of boats at Blacktail Canyon. The raft company was called Canyoneers. I was thinking, cool, maybe we'll run into the canyoneering party descending the whole canyon. Then the company was explained to me by one of the guides. While the company hits a lot of the slots along the river, they are not about Canyoneers. They specialize in "themed" river trips. It could be music, geology, archeology, etc. We soon found out, that this trip was music themed. The company literally hired 4 string members of the Boston Pops to provide the music! So we get into a big room in this slot canyon and there is literally a classical concert going on. It was incredible. The musicians' sounds of the violins and a cello, were literally reverberating off the walls of the canyon. I've never heard such an amazing sound in a slot canyon. It was pretty surreal. I guess I'll never see it all.

We finished hiking the slot and then proceeded downriver about 1/4 mile and beached again for a nice camp. The skies had been getting darker and darker. Within 10 minutes of beaching, a storm literally swept around the walls from up canyon and nailed us. Visibility dropped almost entirely. We probably got over 1" of rain in 45 minutes. We were concerned about the other party still in the slot canyon, but apparently they left pretty quick after we did. And then the waterfalls appeared. I lost count of them all coming off the rim. For hours afterward, we heard rockfall and watched a ton of debris floating down the river. A lot of Canyons must have flashed on this day. We missed the Super Moon, it stayed cloudy most of the night, but just another incredible day on the river.

Day 5 - On the River
Some really interesting and technical rapids on this stretch. Just so much fun. Right after one technical rapid, we stopped and hiked up Stone Creek to another Waterfall. It's been a very long time since I've been able to stand under a waterfall and get pounded. This whole trip really ended that long drought. After that hike, back on the river until lunch. Soon after lunch, we hit Deer Creek Falls. There were 3 other groups there besides us, so a ton of people. We were thwarted from doing the Hike to the Patio by the weather, so we had to settle with just the lower falls. After the falls, we went a short way downriver and stopped for camp. Lots of Lizards and a beautiful Sunset behind a Rock Formation called the Duck Train.

Day 6 - On the River
Last full day on the River. More Rapids and River Scenery. We passed Havasu but didn't stop. Havasu Creek was also running brown at the Colorado. We did stop at Tuckup Canyon for lunch. While the guides didn't want to take a large group into the canyon due to possible weather concerns, I skipped lunch and went up canyon for a couple of hundred yards. It appeared to have flashed the night before. I would have liked to have kept going for awhile longer, but I had a time limit. Would like to see this on a backpack trip at some point. And then it was time for Lava Falls Rapid. The most anticipated Rapid on the trip. I was lucky enough to move to the front of the boat. I was warned to expect "weightlessness" and to never lose my grip on the ropes. My Canyoneering instinct kicked in. Let go of the rope and die. :sweat: They were right. I went completely airborne 3 times. :lol: About a half mile after the rapid, we beached for our last camp night. The Golden Hour was beautiful. The crew and guests all sat in a big circle this night and reminisced about the whole experience. Another good day and night on the river. I didn't want it to end.

Day 7 - On the River
Spent an early morning repacking gear in preparation for being taken off the river by Helicopter. We had just about an hour or so on the river and then we spotted our ride coming in. We beached at Whitmore Pad, helped unload the boat and then it was time for a Chopper ride. Haven't been in a Helicopter since I was 15. Back then, (1979) it was an Army helicopter with no doors, that took us to the top of Miller's Peak in the Huachucas and dropped us off. We broke a trail all the way down using shovels and picks. Today, there would be doors, but lifting up out of the Canyon was amazing. And helicopters are not planes, they can bank sharply. I videoed the ride, but ran out of battery just before we landed at the Ranch. [ youtube video ] From there, we got on a 9 seat Cessna, which flew us back to Marble Canyon. Seeing the Colorado, and the Vermilion Cliffs from the air was just so cool. [ youtube video ] And then I was back at the truck. I still didn't want to leave, so I didn't. :lol:

A note on the River Experience. Almost every night we had a cloudy night. It kept the nights pretty warm, but every once in awhile, the clouds would clear and the air would cool enough to use my sheet. Although the Supermoon happened a few days in, the clouds and the cliffs kept us from seeing it. It didn't prevent it from intermittently lighting up the cliffs around us at night. We had some beautiful nights. There was only a couple of times where the clouds cleared during the night and the heavens were magnificent. The dark skies allowed you to almost pluck the stars from the sky and the Milky Way would be directly overhead. Satellites making their way through space could also be seen. The Grand was as incredible at night as it was during the day. The Peace found was remarkable.

Day 7 - Vermilion Cliffs/Marble Canyon
The Storm Clouds called and I listened. Got some lunch, dinked around the bridge for a bit and then spent most of my time at the Vermilion Cliffs Overlook and spent the night there watching storms. Still on a "high" from an amazing week.

Day 8 - Vermilion Cliffs/Marble Canyon
Woke up to a really sweet sunrise and then messed around the Marble Canyon area for awhile. Still high on life. My sister called and things were broken at home. The buzz was killed. I still took my sweet time heading home, taking most of the day. Once home, the feet hit the ground running as I once again entered the grind. But this incredible experience will remain with me for the rest of my days, that's for sure. And who knows what fate will bring. Maybe a 21 day Oar Trip? It's not over until it's over....

And it's another Photo Bomb. How else could I possibly post on HAZ after so long? :lol: Next up, hopefully a new knee in October, so I can really get back to some more adventuring.
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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty & well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming, "Wow What a Ride!"
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