Grand Canyon Rafting 2009

Diary of Roger's trip to the Grand Canyon Rafting September 11 to 21, 2009


09/11/09 I arrived in Flagstaff, AZ via truck today at the Radisson Hotel to begin my 10 day Colorado River rafting adventure. I roomed with Jose Magsaysay and his friend Ester as there were no rooms available at the hotel. My trip was booked at the last minute with AZRA Arizona Rafting Adventures. The cost was $2780, plus hotel 2 nights hotel, transportation cost to and from Flagstaff, AZ. We had an orientation meeting at 7:00pm for the trip. There were 9 paying customers at the meeting. We introduced ourselves to the group and explained to the group why we were taking this trip and what we expected. We were given two dry bags for our personal equipment and instructions of what we should have to survive the trip comfortably. If something was forgotten a nicely stocked company store was available with reasonably fair prices. After the meeting Jose, Ester, and I had a great dinner at the hotel Japanese Tapenyaki restaurant.

 

09/12/09 -Day 1 on river -mile 0 to 22- We got up early at 5:30am and took our filled dry bags to the hotel departure area. AZRA stored our suit cases with car keys, money, etc while we were on our 10 day trip. Passes were issued for our vehicles so they could be stored in the parking lot without fear of being towed. We had a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel. We were loaded up in a comfortable van and started our 3 hour 135 mile drive to Lee's Ferry 12 miles below Lake Powell and the Glenn Canyon Dam. On the way we stopped at the Navaho trading Post for a shopping and rest break. We also stopped at Navaho Bridges and walked across the river. When we got to Lee's Ferry our motorized pontoon boat was ready and in the water. Our dry bags, camera gear etc. were loaded onto the boat. We were given life jackets along with some safety orientation and we were off within an hour. The weather was perfect; dry and sunny in the 80’s during the morning. After 2 hours floating down the river we stopped for lunch. The food on the trip was generally outstanding with very balanced nutritious and fresh healthy meals. The kitchen equipment was a bit of work to set up each evening, including 4 metal tables, washing buckets, and hand cleaning station. After about an hour we continued on through some rapids which kicked up some cold 46 F. water on us, giving one a real jolt. The motor powered pontoon boat negotiated the rapids quite effortlessly. The odds of flipping this boat are virtually nil. The major danger would be hitting rocks or getting hung up on one. The motor was a 35hp Honda 4 cycle engine which to my relief was very quiet. Around 4 pm we stopped and anchored the boat at mile 21.5 Wash our first camp site. We selected a sleep site and set up our equipment which included: a ground tarp, 2 person tent, 2 - 1”pads, and a sleeping bag. A bathroom (called a groover) was set up in a remote place for use. Most of us helped carry all the kitchen equipment to the cook site. 14 chairs were unloaded and set up near the kitchen area. A salmon dinner was served around 6:00pm which was delicious including a great salad, cous cous and desert. I was dead tired every night by dark 8:00pm and usually retired quickly to my tent when it got dark.

 

09/13/09 - Day 2 on river -mile 22 to 47- Most campers started getting up at or before sunrise. I was kept awake a good part of the night by snoring and made a mental note to locate my sleeping site further from the offenders on night two. The conch horn was blown when coffee was ready. About a half hour later breakfast was served; eggs to order, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, and English muffins. We stopped at Redwall Cavern a huge opening carved out by the river. Powell thought it would seat 50,000 people, a bit of a stretch in my opinion. About 6 of us did a short but steep hike perhaps 3 miles total. There are virtually no hikes without elevation gain in the Grand Canyon. We stopped at mile 47 Upper Saddle Camp site. I set up tent further away from snorers this time. Ed had a black light which exposed scorpions very clearly. There was one on the wall within 5’ of me, but fortunately I got out of the canyon without getting bit. They are nocturnal so the night is dangerous time and this probably a good reason to use a tent.

 

09/14/09 - Day 3 on river -mile 47 to 61- Breakfast was different every morning. I believe we had french toast this day. Real warmed maple syrup yum yum. We did a hike today perhaps 2.5 miles round trip with lots of elevation. As I said earlier most hikes here in the Grand Canyon are going to include some (or allot) of elevation gain. I did all the hikes but did cut off the end on two of them. I enjoyed the hikes allot and they were really an important part of the trip for me. I think they prevented me from gaining weight. Ed was a terrific leader and even became a human bridge on a couple of slippery climbing areas. One of the guides always remained at the rear of the hike to make sure everyone stayed with the group. It is important to be in relatively good condition to do these hikes. I recommend anyone considering this trip for the hiking to do some conditioning for uphill climbing. We camped at mile 60.5 Ledge Campground tonight, just above the Little Colorado River junction. Staying clean on the river was a problem for me. The water is 46F which I refuse to submerge myself totally in. I decided to use a pail and do sponge baths on land in camp, which I did for the first time today after the hike. I did this about every 2 days from this point on. I decided to abandon the tent also from this point on. Sleeping under the stars is great. The Milky Way is phenomenal out here where I saw no evidence of light pollution. If your worried about scorpions, do put up your tent and keep the door closed. Fortunately the ants sleep at night. The mosquitoes, bees, flies, and chiggers seem to present them selves at sunrise and sunset. I did come home with a collection of bites but nothing serious.

 

09/15/09 - Day 4 on river - mile 61 to 184- When we floated past the Little Colorado junction the beautiful clear river water changed to a muddy silty brown color. Before we reached this silty water Ed used an electric pump with two large filters to fill our fresh water tanks. The taste of the water wasn’t great but drinkable. My attire on the trip was mostly long sleeved high tech Capilene garments which I found to be the best attire for hot and cold. I tried nylon pants but they were hot and collected water. I tried cotton wet to keep me cool in hot sun, but the Capilene worked just as well being light weight, warmer when drenched, and moisture wicking when dry. There is a reason Capilene cost the most, it is simply the best fabric out there for outdoor enthusiast. Shoes were a problem for me. For tough climbing and hiking I used my standard high top New Balance hiking boots. This was fine until you had to cross creeks and streams which most hikes had. Many people like our leader always hiked in their flip flops. The most popular brands were Chaco and Keen. I used Keen which has good arch support but fills with sand quite easily. I did get interesting marks on the top of my feet where sun came through the shoes. The Chaco shoes seem to have good arch support and look easy to take on and off. I must try on a pair and purchase if I like them. We camped at mile 83.5 Clear Creek campground tonight.

 

09/16/09 - Day 5 on river -mile 84 to 108- We stopped at mile 88 and took 2 hours to hike in and out of Phantom Ranch this morning. I have been here many times on hikes into the canyon and it was beautiful as usual. I purchased a souvenir shirt only available at the Ranch. Ed filled our water tanks up here with processed water from the canyon pipe line to the south rim. To this point he had been pumping water out of the river and filtering it.

 

The toilet consisted of a large ammo like box with a commode on top. I was told that it is called a groover because in the old days, a large ammo box with no commode top was used. You sat right on top of the open box which put grooves in your butt, hence the name groover. Now thankfully the outfitters have put commode tops on them eliminating the grooves on our butts. A wash station was provided to wash your hands after use. We were told to urinate in the river. The river can apparently process it better than the desert. It sure makes you think twice about drinking river water or even bathing in it.

 

I believe this was the day that our motor casting was hit by a hidden rock perhaps at Horn Rapid (class 7-9 out of 0-10) making our Honda motor useless. Fortunately a spare motor was carried on board. Ed and Birt changed the 200 pound motor out floating in mid river. I was very concerned that Ed did not tie up the boat at the shore, as he had the opportunity. I was worried that the backup motor might end up in the bottom of the river, but all turned out well. Fortunately motor #2 was never hit by a rock. A 2nd AZRA trip was one day behind us, so we would not have been stranded long.

 

We camped at mile 107.5 Parkin’s Inscription campground tonight. I believe steak was on the menu tonight and it was delicious grilled with a dry rub over the charcoal coals. You could easily gain weight on this trip as there is no shortage of food. Unfortunately lots of food was thrown out as I believe the menu portions were chosen for a younger group. I was really tired from the hike tonight and retired to bed at 7:30am.

 

09/17/09 - Day 6 on river -mile 108 to 123- I awakened feeling much better this morning. We were all getting into a groove now awakening at sunrise and bedding down at sunset. We saw a fair amount of wild life on the river. Here is a list of what I recollect seeing: -Birds- American Dipper (Water Ousel), Canyon Wren (heard many more than I saw), California Condor, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Turkey Vulture, Black Phoebe, Great Blue Heron, Snowy White Egret, Great White Egret, Western Seagull, Belted King Fisher, Anna’s Humming Bird, Common Raven, Violet-Green Swallow, Mallard, Common Merganser, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Grebe, Eared Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Red Tailed Hawk, -Mammals- Desert Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer, Coyote, -Snakes,lizards, toads- Whip snake (non poisonous), Banded Gecko, and a Canyon Tree Frog (most likely guess). We camped at mile 123 Below Forester Right campground tonight.

 

09/18/09 -Day 7 on river -mile 123 to 152- I hiked Deer Creek to a falls today. It was about 1 mile with 400’ elevation rise. The hike was in a beautiful carved out section of Tapeats Sandstone canyon with a fast moving clear creek 60’ down. This hike was really scary for me because of the narrow section perhaps 30 yards long of only a 6” wide ledge with 60-100’ drop off into the center of the canyon. Our guide Ed recommended the Michael Jackson shuffle to avoid crossing your legs causing loss of balance wand sure death or permanent crippling. I tried it and it was definitely easier to walk. Only 4 out of the 9 passengers did this hike. Coming down always seems to be easier and I was glad I did the hike. We camped at mile 151.5 Upper Ledge campground tonight.

 

09/19/09 - Day 8 on river -mile 152 to 177- We had breakfast and got off early to stop at Havasu Creek only about 6 miles down stream. Our vessel was too large to moor at the creek opening, so we had to moor in an eddy down stream a bit. The current was fast here and it was a tricky maneuver to disembark the passengers here. We got off the bouncing boat wearing our life jackets onto a cliff ledge. We hiked and climbed to the creek perhaps a quarter mile away. The good sized creek had beautiful crystal clear vivid turquoise blue green colored water. The color was apparently caused by travertine and salt mineral content from upstream. Part of the group stayed at the first pool we came to and rest of the group continued on about a half mile to a huge pool area and small water falls. Hiking and seeing this creek was the highlight of the trip for me. We lounged and played in the warm water for perhaps an hour. This place was so beautiful and soothing . I really felt happy here and completely understand why the Havasupai Indians lived near this creek. Some day I hope to visit Supai Village from the top. We returned to our boat and every one got on the boat without falling into the river. We camped at mile 176.5 below Red Slide campground tonight. Our camp site was near a rapids which really helped me sleep at night. The dropping sun put some great lighting on the red rock along with the clouds made for some great photo opps.

 

Regarding the number of canyon permits issued by the national park service, I believe that they are on the edge of putting to much pressure on the canyon. It was quite busy and some what congested, especially at the major creek and side canyon locations. I would love that everybody has the opportunity of going through the canyon but not at the expense of trashing it. I think the park service should definitely continue to limit entrance and perhaps cut back slightly. Of course this is just my personal opinion only based on my personal observation with no scientific back up.

 

09/20/09 - Day 9 on river -mile 177 to 214 - We did Lava Falls rapids at mile 179 just after breakfast this morning. It is probably the most famous rapids in the canyon with a rating of 8-10 on a scale of 0-10. We had to sit down in the middle of the boat so Ed had visibility to navigate through the rocks and perhaps to prevent us from being ejected. Probably the biggest V wave we encountered (8' high I would guess) on the trip near the end of the rapid. The boat road up and over the wave at perhaps a 60 degree angle. I would be worried big time in a smaller boat. We all got wet from the waves, but the rapid was negotiated with no problem. We had a long hot day on the river. In mid after noon the guides broke out an ice cold water melon from the ice chest. We all agreed that no melon ever tasted better than this one. What a treat this was. Some times the simple things in life are the best. We camped at mile 214 campground tonight. A spicy curry coconut sauce with chicken and vegetables was offered with white rice tonight. It was delicious as was most of the food. I could have done with less Mexican style food but even it was good and well prepared.

 

09/21/09 - Day 10 on river - mile 214 to 226- We had a leisurely last breakfast on the river and continued down stream the short 12 miles to Diamond Creek. We arrived at mile 226 our put out at Diamond Creek around 10:00am. This is a very busy place as it is the only put out before Lake Meade Pierce Ferry which is another 54 miles down stream. The AZRA shuttle was there waiting for us. A truck and trailer was also waiting to transport our boat out. The long 1.25 hour jarring ride out on the dirt gravel road to the rim was an adventure in itself. When we finally arrived at the Hualapai Indian Reservation town on the top of the rim our truck van stalled. Most likely cause per our shop teacher expert Phil was vapor lock. We had lunch (cold cut sandwiches and shrimp cocktail with icy cold sodas), which the driver brought for us. He called a 2nd bus which was 2 hours away. He tried restarting the stalled van and it ran. I guess it had vapor lock from the slow steep climb out of the canyon.

 

We continued on, another hour and stopped at Seligman, AZ an old route 66 tourist town restored to look like a 50’s - 60’s town. I had a delicious chocolate malt at the famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap. We got back to Flagstaff around 3:30pm and got checked into the Radisson Hotel. The modern conveniences and that long hot shower was really heavenly after being without, on the river for 10 days. I loved the trip, but it was also great to be back in captivity.

 

That night the whole group including the guides attended our farewell dinner at the Greek Grill in Flagstaff. The wine and food was excellent. We presented the guides with an enveloped filled with tip money. Sad good byes were done by all. This was an Adventure I will never forget and would even consider doing another, as it is good for the soul.

Last updated on October 8, 2009