Lava Falls? Rocked it.


I'm in Sam's boat this morning. Everyone left by 8:15 or so, for the two and a half to three hours of rowing this morning for Lava Falls. Lava Falls is near a dormant volcano, which is the source of the origin of the rapids' name.

I had broken my camera AGAIN having stored it "safe" down my life vest and gotten it not only waterlogged with condensation in the lens, but also bound with sand in the gears. My 200 pictures of the approach and trips through Lava Falls are all crap. Well, those that I could take, given that I had problems with opening it in the first place.

We stopped to scout the rapid before going through. As we were approaching the scout point, Kris jumped out of the boat to secure the bowline. He slipped on the muddy edge, and fell into the water up to the middle of his chest. Sam jumped out to secure the line as Kris floundered on the bank, unable to get out of the water via the shore or the boat. Eventually he let me grab his life jacket and fall over backwards, pulling Kris into the boat. Fun!

So, we stopped to scout the rapids. Honestly, with all the build up in the morning, with Charly's having read a worrisome account of the run from some relation, and Tracy talking about the rapids last night, and Sam's talk of this morning, I was fairly terrified. My heart was thumping hard, and not happy.

So, eventually we all shuttled back into the boats. I was sitting in the front right of Sam's boat, with Kris in the front left. Andy was in the paddle boat. Sam set up his video camera so that it was sitting on his right, and I was front and center in the video. As we were pulling away from the beach, Kris looked at me and said, "If you feel your butt drop, come to my side." He summarized into ten words the whole theory of high-side and low-side of the boat when rafting and how you want to go to the high side of the boat to keep the boat from tipping over by putting as much weight on the side of the boat that'll go over, in hopes of preventing it from going over.

Sam said other things like "swim to a boat or swim to shore," but Kris' words are the ones that I remembered.

So, into the rapids we went.

The first rapid went fine.

When we "turned near vertical" on the second wave, and my butt dropped low, I jumped to Kris' side, then sat back down when the boat leveled. We had one more wave hit us and came through fine, but way wet.

We went through the second Lava Falls rapids, called the Son of Lava, and pulled to the left shore to wait out the heat of the afternoon. Sam came over to us with his video camera to show us what he had, as well chat about the rapids. Kris commented that, eh, the rapids weren't so bad, he didn't get so wet. I was like, "WHAT? What are you talking about? That second wave smashed me and dropped the boat. I had to jump to your side, the boat went like 50 or 60°." Kris was puzzled, what was I talking about?

Sam was with me. He showed us the video. The first wave, no problem. The second wave grew giant claws and crushed me, as the boat tipped not just 50° or 60° but actually closer to 75° Sam commented that he, too, was knocked to the boat floor on the wave that crushed me, as it got him, too. Josh was laughing behind us, about the wave and our run.

That's two big rapids and two near misses.

As Kris says, "Lava Falls? Rocked it."

I'm glad to be done with all of the big rapids.

Kris needs to shave


Kris and me


Abbie gave me a hair tie, so I can actually keep my matted hair pulled back. Nothing like silty, canyon river water to help make one big dreadlock out of your hair.

What does that spell?


So, Kris, Andy and I were floating in Josh's raft today, having convinced both Andy to come with us in an oar both, and Josh that he could take three passengers. Josh's boat was loaded with the most equipment, so there really wasn't room for three passengers if we went down big rapids.

I was lazily resting in the back, looking up at the sky, when I noticed there were four small clouds in a line. As I'm wont to do with letters on license plates and clouds that look like typographical symbols, I immediately made a word.

I called up to the front of the boat, pointing out the clouds. "What do those clouds spell to you?"

Kris looked up for a moment. "I don't know. Good maybe?"

Andy answered, "I see Goal."

"Oh," I paused, unsure how Josh would take this. "I see cunt."

Everyone laughed.

Tapeats to Deer and back down


[Looking back at the Granite Narrows, in the Grand Canyon]

Today, Kris and I are in Josh's boat. Andy is, unsurprisingly, in the paddle boat. I think he likes it there. I feel a little bad about his always spending time in the paddle boat away from the two of us, but, well, I've invited him to our boats, and he's a big boy, he'll let us know if he feels like a third wheel, which I hope he doesn't.

Gah, a run-on sentence that deserves to be there.

We didn't float very long down the river before we stopped at Tapeats Creek for our day hike. The hike is called the Piano Hike because of a rock formation that looks like piano keys. I was unaware of this, so didn't know to take pictures of the formation.

After getting out of the boats, we all started our hike up the Tapeats Creek hike and around the Deer Creek. The hike was dry, and not nearly as hot as I was expecting it to be. Which is not to say it wasn't hot, just not as hot as I was expecting.

Our plan was to walk up the Tapeats Creek Trail to the Deer Creek Trail, and along it along the ridge. We would then descend into the Deek Creek Canyon. I hope I got that right. I'm not 100% sure on the Tapeats Creek part of the hike. I do know that the boats were ferried from our starting point to our ending point and that we missed the narrowest part of the canyon at Mile 135 beccause we bypassed it walking around it.

I started off slowly, in the back of the pack, which isn't a usual place for me on hikes. However, with all of the pictures I was taking and wanted to take, towards the back was just fine for me. Kris hiked with me today, as Andy forged ahead with the front group. Eventually, Kris and I caught up with other groups, passed the ones going more slowly, and kept behind those going more quickly.

So, yeah, the hike was hot, the landscape dry. It, of course, reminded me that we were not only in the Grand Canyon, but we were also in Arizona, in a desert. I know that Kris doesn't particularly like the heat, he'd rather be slightly cold than slightly hot, but I like the desert, I like the heat. Although I like the green of the Northwest (or, heck, even the Midwest), the desert has it's own beauty, drawn from the blues and browns of the arid landscape.

Kris commented to me that the hike reminded me of our trip to the Na Pali Coast, back in early 2001 (speaking of, I should digitize those negatives and put them up somewhere....). I said maybe, but not really. There was more vegetation on the Na Pali Coast. Way more.

Eventually we crested the ridge and looked over and down at lush green strip the Deek Creek cut across the landscape. We followed it down into a ravine with low rock shelves, small waterfalls, trees, and shade. We all gathered there, cooled in the water, and rested for a while.

After lounging for a while, the guides offered a short hike down into the slot canyon, requiring rope. At this point, I had a little stirring of memory from ten years ago, about not being able to climb down by the creek because the climb required ropes. I wasn't sure if this was the side canyon, but if not, we were in one like it a decade ago.

Andy and Kris both were excited to hike down. Sonia also wanted to go down, but her sandals had broken recently, so she was unable to hike down. I asked her what her foot size was (bigger than mine, but possible), and offered her my sandals, as I wasn't going down, and I could go in my hiking shoes. She seemed surprised, but accepted my offer. Tracy was also a bit surprised, but, well, Kris wasn't. If I'm not using them, why not let someone else use them?

Once again, I handed Andy my camera as he went down. Once again, he took awesome photos.

The ropes climb down and back up was slow enough going that there was a backup of people coming back up. Andy was at the front of the line, and popped out way before Kris, who was at the back of the line. Andy suggested we head out immediate, following the first group of guides heading down. I wasn't sure, feeling uncomfortable leaving Kris behind. We caught his attention, however, and asked if he minded. He didn't, so I climbed down with Andy.

The hike out started with a walk along the downstream side of the Deer Creek Canyon along a shelf. The shelf narrowed to the point where the walking space was 8"-10" wide, with handholds at chest level. Tracy was at the narrowest part, offering suggestions where to put feet and hands, as well as encouragement to cross. As I approached the narrowing, I wondered what my options were. When I realized there was one way down from this place that would work given the time constraints, I told myself "Nothing to be done about it, so go," and wasn't nervous or worried about the crossing.

A couple hundred yards later, we caught up to Al, who was taking pictures of graffiti on the walls. A set of handprints were spraypainted onto the side of the canyon wall, with another two sets painted high up, across the canyon wall. I looked at them, disinterested in the marring of the view, and continued on. Andy, on the other hand, paused to talk to Al.

Turns out, I had forgotten about these hand prints, that there were actually hand prints from hundreds of years ago (Anasazi maybe?) blown onto the walls using reeds. I wish I had stopped to take pictures. I didn't.

Andy and I continued down the trail, eventually spilling out into the Deek Creek Falls, where water thundered down the side of the canyon wall, and older people from another commercial trip sat playing bridge under umbrellas a short distance from the base.

I didn't take a picture of them either.

I'm sure this was the side canyon we hiked up ten years ago, based on the hike down.



We stayed tonight at Stone Creek, around mile 132. Turns out, Stone Creek actually has flowing water this time of the year, unlike many other of the side canyons. Not only that, but Stone Creek has a waterfall, too.

After finding a place to pitch the tent, on an peninsula in the lee side of a large stone, Kris, Andy and I walked over to the creek and started walking up it into the side canyon.

After about 50 meters up Stone Creek Canyon, Kris and Andy paused, and noted the creek running down. After this morning's lessons about dams and hydropower, Andy and Kris jumped at the opportunity to build a dam on the creek.

I kept walking up the creek, a little annoyed with the two of them. There was a waterfall to see! And a side canyon to walk up! What were they doing building a dam? I continued up the creek, taking pictures of the sedimentary rock and other interesting rocks along the way, walking farther and farther away from the two of them.

And then I realized, this whole trip wasn't about how fast I could hike up to a waterfall in the Grand Canyon. I was on a once-in-a-decade trip with my husband and with a good friend: the journey with them was far more important than the destination of this walk. If I missed the waterfall (which I didn't) would it matter if I had spent that time building a dam with Kris and Andy?


So, I turned back around, walked back to where they were, and started filling in the cracks of their dam between pictures.

And when we were done, what do you know? The three of us made it to the waterfall just fine.

Ant bean


After the hike today, we had lunch before setting out for the afternoon. I had started walking back to the boats before Charly and Sam came up the side canyon to get us, so I was able to hurry back down to the beach and have firsts before anyone else started having seconds.

The lunch serving table was set up next to a nice comfy rock that would have been perfect for sitting, if not for the red ant colony entrance directly next to the rock. Standing within even three feet of the hole meant that ants would be crawling along your feet and up your legs to get to that burrito thing in your hand faster than you can say, "Red ant?"

While eating, Kris stood close to the rock, but far enough away to avoid the ants. He warned people thinking of sitting on the rock of the ant hill behind them, suggesting perhaps they might want to sit elsewhere. Everyone did.

At one point, Kris dropped a bean from his burrito, and it landed on the sand in front of him. For small pieced of food, we're supposed to pick them up and throw them into the river. Larger pieces go into the trash if you can't dust them off and just eat them.

Kris waited before picking up his bean.

As he watched, an ant approached the bean. It seemed to be smelling it, analyzing it. It then scurried away, into the ant hole.

Moments later, a swarm of ants burst from the ant hill and rushed the bean. He said they swarmed all over it, presumably to cut it up for food for the nest. He said that it couldn't have been more than 30 seconds between scurry and return swarm.

He decided to leave the bean.

Stayed behind


Started today on the river in the paddle boat for the two miles on the river until the morning hike. We walked up a dry creek bed for maybe 150 yards, before coming to a section that required rope to continue. The mountain goats of guides that we have ran up the face of the canyon end, secured a rope at the top, and had everyone head up after them.

The rope climb involved putting your feet on the walk and resting backward so that your body was about parallel to the ground, and walking up the wall stiff armed.

Kris made it up with a little difficulty. Several other people had some trouble, but everyone who tried made it up to the top. I decided not to go, and handed Andy my camera, asking him to take pictures, please. Kris had already told me he didn't want camera duty, so he didn't get it.

Andy did a great job with the pictures.

I didn't go. I chose not to go, sure, but I was definitely frustrated with myself for not going. Honestly, I was too scared to go. What a stupid reason not to go. I stayed back with Pam and Adam, the parents of Michael and Sonya, all from Boston, and Erin, whose sister shimmied up the rope in the blink of an eye, Greg, a trip assistant and Pat.

I spent the time lying on rocks, munching on one of my luxury items that Kris bought me (also known as "peanut M&Ms"), and reading the book Sunk without a Sound. Tracy told Kris and I the story about Glen and Bessie Hyde, who tried rafting the Grand Canyon in the thirties and were lost. Their boat was found with items in it looking like they had just walked away from it. Andy found the book in the trip library, and I kinda snagged it from him.

The book mentions a "Glen Sturdevant," who was the Grand Canyon Park naturalist in the twenties. He died in the Colorado River back in 1929. I wonder if he's the namesake of the Sturdevant Falls in Pasadena. I'll have to look that up when we get back.

Update: Apparently not. Wilbur M. Sturtevant from the 1890s instead.

I really need to learn how to do some rock climbing. This lack of both confidence and upper body strength is both retarded and unacceptable. Seriously.

First full day on the river


Finally! Took pictures today! I figured out that if I keep the camera in the dry bag, the tiny one that Mom and Eric loaned me, and tuck it under the secured dry bags, I can pull it out during the day and take pictures. Lots of pictures. I'm happy.

Kris and I spent the morning in Matt's boat, as Andy took to the paddle boat. With his sunglasses on, Matt looks like Brad Pitt with dark hair. Sounds similar, too. I'll have to reassess that statement after seeing him without his sunglasses on, which I haven't done yet. Eyes are key in this.

I'm thrilled to say I've figured out this peeing in a boat trick, and have been peeing a LOT. The guides keep telling us about keeping hydrated. Given how I spent a large amount of time peeing, I have to say I'm listening. Though Matt did figure out my bladder is the Smallest Bladder in the World pretty quick.

The trick, at least for me, is to pee into a can, then dump the contents into the river and wash out the can. I picked up a can last night before dinner, managing to get the ERG canister, which has a lid. I recalled my need to urinate all the time was a problem last trip, with my being unable to pee with my butt hanging overboard, with my lower body in the water, or (as usual) with anyone hearing. I couldn't care less if you could see me. If you could hear me, well then, the flow clenched.

Turns out, Matt has a similar "issue": he needs cover sound, too. Not normally a problem on a river with 18000 cfs flow, I think.

The day started off pretty rough for me. I was in the back of the boat, with Kris and Pat, a trip assistant and a friend of Matt's, in the front. I sat on the back left, Kris being in the front left, during the rapids and, at the end, crouched in the back and started crying. During the rapids, I was overcome with worry and was scared. It wasn't for myself, though. I was worried about Kris.

Realizing that this was going to make for a pretty horrible trip down the river if I spent the whole thing worrying about Kris, I calmed down, thought about the absurdity of my reactions, and was fine the rest of the day.

Today's hike was to Elves' Chasm, where a small waterfall fell at the end of the short hike. I remembered this waterfall, though not the hike into the side canyon. I also recall Eric jumping from the waterfall. Guy probably did, too, but I don't have any strong memories of his doing so.

Once the guides showed us we could jump off the waterfall, people started rushing the climbing hole to get up. Andy and Kris went, as did most everyone else, before I decided I wanted to go.

When did I become so fearful? When did everything become so hard for me?

I climbed up, slipping slightly once with Andreas helping me out. I froze at the top of the waterfall, even though it wasn't very high up and 10 people had made this jump before me. I needed Kris to call out 3 2 1, then needed everyone to call out 3 2 1 for me. I still paused, then jumped.

Well, Abbey commented that I more "slid off" than jumped, but I did go over the edge.

And looked terrified doing it, unlike Kris and Andy who looked calm and entertained.

My camera battery died just before Kris jumped a second time.

Tragically, I had left my spare camera battery in a ziploc bag, instead of the dry bag. Water was in the bag when I went for the battery, with blue acid oozing out of the terminals. The good part was that it was the crappy Lennar camera battery, which lasts less than half of the time as the Canon camera batteries. Unfortunately, I'm down to four camera batteries, and it's day 2 isn't even over yet.

Slept like crap


I slept like crap last night. I was sleeping on the outside of the group of us, closest to the beach, with Kris in the middle, and Andy farthest from the beach and other activity.

I woke up many times from the surrounding nature, mostly startled awake with my heart pounding from wind in the trees, branches shaking, bugs crawling on my legs, lightning and thunder, and large goats tap dancing on my sheet. Oh, and the rain. It rained a little last night, but not much more than a few drops.

I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't have taken that nap yesterday afternoon, given how well Andy and Kris said they slept.

This morning, we head down Granite Falls, just after checking them out:

Kris says the river looks like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory's deep chocolate river.

I have to agree, even though it doesn't taste like it.