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Interesting Trips With Our Inflatable Products

Grand Canyon Trip with 27" Daddy Cat

Everytime you ask a canyon veteran about their trip they get a glazed over look and must be severely shaken to bring them back to reality. Seemed reason enough for me to go. Trouble is the permit is harder to get than TV reception in Durnago. So began my quest to invite myself on a permit. After about a year of replying to all requests for spaces on the Grand Canyon Boaters email list, I finally succeed on a March 22, 1999 launch with permit holder Mike Braden from Seattle. Next came quitting my job and securing needed gear through the Durango barter system. Then we pleaded with Esther's boss for the time off. Fortunately he is a canyon vet himself and bestowed great mercy upon us.

Anyway what follows are mostly accurate details of our journey. The flow was averaging 14,000 c.f.s. and probably never went above 18,000. We didn't scout unless the rapid was rated 7 or more on the Grand Canyon 1-10 scale. I probably forgot some things like all the places we camped etc. I go by mile and not by day since most of the time I did not know what day or time it was. In fact no one brought watches and a common question throughout the journey was, "What time do you think it is?". While this may sound noble it did not help when cooking food. Next time the watch is coming along.

Late on March 20th the truck is fully loaded. I think about sticking a poster on the side of the truck which says, "Lava Falls or bust" but decide on "Free Glen Canyon". We leave early on the 21st and carefully avoid downtown Page due to my inflamatory poster. By 2 P.M. we arrive at the put-in and begin rigging the boat (a bouncing baby cat - actually a daddy cat made by Jack at Jacks Plastic Welding). And, by the way, we meet Mike and Dave who we would be spending the next three weeks with. Mike is running a 14' Sotar cat and Dave has a new 16' Hyside raft.

Mile 0: Lee's Ferry. Here we see mostly fishermen and fisherwomen and fishinboats. The only whitewater boats belong to Mike, Dave and myself. It is a good time of year to go downriver if you like solitude. We all spend most of the day rigging, adusting and tweaking our boats. We go to town, get our last microbrew and buy some postcards.

In the morning the world's longest trailer with the world's largest whitewater raft (35' long) pulls in, unloads and awaits the orange vested clientel. The clients arrive via air condition bus and depart after a short brief. We will not see this group again since they are on a 10 day trip.

The ranger briefs us in fine fashion on the dangers of scorpions, haunta virus, red ants, snakes, mountain lions, high water, low water, dirty water, cold water, backpackers etc. I help him fix his computer once he finds out I had a job in internet tech support. Bonus points never hurt.

We finally set off around noon in hot sunny weather. Perfectly Arizona.

Mile 4: We pass under Navajo Bridge and leave the last sign of civilization. Good riddence. Marble Canyon wastes no time in getting very deep. The sun is warm and we float quietly downriver. I comment to Esther that I could get used to this.

Mile 8: Our first rapid, Badger Creek, gives us a sense of what is to come. Waves are much larger than I am used to on Colorado rivers but we don't have a problem - yet.

Mile 11: Soap Creek rapid. I don't remember this so it must've been okay.

Mile: 17: House Rock rapid. We don't know this is House Rock rapid but assume it is just a riffle. We follow the water around to the left and nearly end up in a VERY large hole. We camp just downstream and are all a little shaken (we still don't realize it was House Rock rapid). I am thinking, if this is what the riffles are like then we are "hurtin for certin".

I am happy to try out my new Paco Pad from Jacks Plastic Welding. It's perfect for sleeping out on the beach in the Canyon or on a pile of rusty nails and broken glass. Esther wants me in the tent though and we watch in horror as the Paco Pad dominates Esther's poor little Therm-A-Rest. She calls me Paco man and sings to the tune of Macho Macho Man.

The next day we realize that we had run House Rock rapid after all and I feel better. Had we known this we could have pulled right like you're supposed to. Now we run the "roaring twenties" including 21 Mile rapid, 23 Mile rapid, 23 and a Half Mile rapid, 24 Mile rapid, 24 and a Half Mile rapid, and 25 Mile rapid. Could someone please come up with some more interesting names?

Mile 29: An excellent camp at Shimuno Wash. Here we spend a great deal of time rearranging our boats since no one seems to like the way they have them setup. I drop one of the steaks I am cooking in the sand and get to eat that one since it was my bad. This is good practice for all the sand I will be eating in the next couple weeks. You can't have a sandwich in the Grand Canyon without sand.

Mile 32: Vasey's Paradise. Water emerges from the canyon wall and many vine/fern things grow here. Dave fills his water jugs and I recall the ranger's warning that they found many bad bad things in all the water sources in the canyon. Later in the trip I read how Ed Abby drank pretty much anything without treating it. Suffice it to say no one dies during the trip.

Mile 33: Redwall Cavern. Just a very large hole in the wall but quite nice. At this time of day and year the water reflects onto the ceiling of the cavern and dances around like a Fort Lewis student on Saturday night. The water is very green as it has been and will be the entire trip. No muddy Colorado for us.

Mile 35: We stop at Nautaloid Canyon and take the short hike to look for the Nautaloid fossils. We make it to an impassable spot in the canyon and haven't seen them. Mike states that there is Not-A-Loid to be found. On the way out I step on one and holler that I found them. They are about 2 feet long and look like giant grubs. We speak of boat eating Nautaloids and Nautaloid stew for dinner.

Mile 40: Here we see the scars of the dam builders where they tested the rock for the Marble Canyon dam site. Thankfully this will never happen. I remember learning about renewable and non-renewable resources in grade school. Trees and water are renewable because you can cut the trees down and they will grow back, and you can dam up the rivers and the dams are always full. It seems conservation used to mean not letting the water get downstream.

Mile 47: Saddle Canyon makes an excellent hour or so hike to a slimy green waterfall in a slot canyon. Many cotton woods grow in here.

Mile 52: Nankoweap and Little Nankoweap Canyon. We stay two days here so we can hike and chill out. As we pull in to camp we meet two female Durangoans who hiked down Nankoweap Canyon. Later the lone male in the group stops by. It's Gunner, local photographer, frequent Pine Needle customer and fellow Silverton Avalanche School Graduate. Surely it is a small world or at least a small town we live in.

Esther, Mike and I hike Little Nankoweap to an interesting slot canyon and very dead end. It is still very hot and sunny and we enjoy the shade of the canyon. Someone has made some stones into the shape of a heart on a flat rock. How nice. I sweep them aside, back where they belong.

We don't bother to hike to the Anasazi grainery high on the wall above our camp. Weather this is due to laziness or one to many Anasazi ruins I cannot guess.

Mile 56: Good sized waves douse us in Kwagunt rapid.

Mile 61.5: Little Colorado enters from river left. The water is swimming pool blue as I call it. Later we meet a hiker who tells us he poached a duckie trip down all 15 miles of the Little C. This would be worth a longer hike but we only went about a half mile.

Mile 72.5: Unkar rapid. We generally followed the tongue but stayed on the right side of it to avoid crashing into the left wall. We camped at a so so campsite just above the rapid on river left since some backpackers were already camped at our intended site at Cardenas Creek.

Mile 75: Nevills rapid has some large holes in the center of the river near the bottom of the rapid. They are easy to avoid but keep an eye out for them.

Mile 76.5: Hance rapid is the first of the bad boys and is rated 7-8 in our guide book (Class IV in real river runner language). The scout is on the left. Large holes and boulders permeate the run. We watch another private trip from Santa Cruz go through mostly willy nilly, sideways and such, and they don't flip. This encourages us but I choose a sneak route throuh some boulders on the left and Mike and Dave both go right into the main mele. We all have excellent runs. The ranger had warned us to try and do this one when the water was higher in the dam release cycle (I think so the left sneak route would be available).

Mile 78.5: Sockdolager rapid rated 5-7 has a big punch (hence the name) but is hard to scout (so we don't). We follow the left side of the tongue to avoid getting munched on the wall/hole if you go to far right.

Mile 81.5: Grapevine rapid. Mike had flipped here on his last trip by going left. We all stay right and could see why one should not go left.

Mile 84: Clear Creek side hike. A tricky eddy to catch on river right. Esther and I hike a couple miles up this interesting creek while Mike and Dave go on to camp. There is a refreshing spout of water that you can take a shower in and by this time in the trip we really needed it.

Mile 88: Phantom ranch. Back to civilization sort of. Here we refill our water jugs, enjoy a flush toilet, purchase ice and send postcards. They are selling Tecate beer in a can for $3/can. We feel no temptation since there is a case of this stuff in my boat. It is another hot sunny day. At the water pump there is a guy who seems to be in his late 20's trying to impress some girls who seem to be in their late teens by telling them his plans to move to Durango. I say nothing but inside I am laughing like ha ha.

Mile 90: Horn Creek rapid rated 7-9. Another rapid that the ranger suggested running when the water was up. The water is down. We scout right but I would recommend scouting left since the run splits two rocks near the left side. Despite the heat we wear wetsuits or a drysuit in Mike's case incase we swim. I curse the dam operators for releasing such dangerously cold water and then I curse them for being dam operators. Then I think of Chevy Chase on Hoover Dam in the movie Vacation and laugh.

Anyway we split the two rocks (horns?) and slam into a big wave and then another big wave highsiding as we go. Come out okay. Say that was actually quite fun. Quit being nervous.

Mile 94: Granite rapid. The meanest looking rapid I have seen in a long time. Many boulders and holes and big waves. Scout this on the left. The Santa Cruzians pull in to watch us this time. They give obvious hints for us not to camp where they will be. Okay whatever. Mike and I choose a hole filled sneak route on the left and Dave chooses the hole filled right side route. We survive and no one ends up in forever eddy at bottom right.

Mile 95: Hermit rapid. We scout left. It appears to be a no brainer. Follow the tongue and by all means keep yer boat straight! The standing waves are between 15 and 20 feet high and this turns out to be quite a ride. The moment at the top of the first wave is the kind of moment I live for. Probably my favorite rapid on the trip.

Mile 98: Crystal rapid. Rated 7-10. The scout is on the right. Large hole. Esther decides to take pictures of us. Look, here's Mike, Dana and Dave entering Crystal rapid. Here they are sneaking right, avoiding all major holes and waves. Sneaking, Sneaking, Sneaked! I would like to see this run down the center since I think it would go at this level. We later learned the Santa Cruzians ran center and had only one boat flip out of three.

There is time for one beer before entering Tuna rapid (Mile 99). Dave misses the eddy for our intended camp at Tuna and we float down many miles of river with no campsites in sight. We find a small beach at mile who knows where. Here we commence with the ABC party (Alive Below Crystal) and break out the Rum or was it Tequila or maybe Whiskey?

In the morning three large moterized pontoon rafts from Western River Expeditions chug by. We pretend to be the guides, "Over there on river right you will see what is known as a private party. Look at the poor bastards cooking their own meals, rowing their own undersized boats and generally being self relient. Do not try this at home. Be grateful you are being coddled and whisked through here as fast as possible for only $4000."

Mile 101: Sapphire rapid is best run on the left side.

Mile 106: Serpentine rapid is also run left if I recall.

Mile 108: We stop at Bass Canyon for a couple days. The wind becomes so fierce at times it demolishes our well staked out sun tarp. Sand blows into everything. We hike up Shinumo Creek (I keep calling it Shimano) to escape the wind/sand. We find a prospectors camp and some names carved into the rock from 1912. So and so from Claude Texas. Never did like Texans.

Mile 112: Waltenberg Rapid almost eats us for lunch since we don't bother to scout and run smack into the large wave/hole.

Mile 116.5: Elves Chasm is a short excellent hike with small pools and waterfalls dressing up this canyon. We look at the lower pool and then the main pool and everyone is happy. Esther tries a route up to the next pool on the left side but turns back due to scariness. I say to Mike that if Esther doesn't like it then it must be sketchy. Mike shows us a route up the right side that takes us across and under a ledge high above the main pool. Mike and Esther climb up to see yet another pool and I climb back down to the main pool.

By the time I get here I see Dave about 35 feet up on the left wall where Esther turned back. He looks a little shakey but keeps crawling farther out on a dime sized ledge. I start thinking he will fall and consider getting out my camera. Then I think no, that would be morbid since the pool is only waist deep and he is very high. Two broken legs? Fractured skull? Evacuation? I can't watch, but then I hear Dave yell and look up to see him falling. He slides about 15' down a steep chute, sails into the air and falls another 20' into the pool. Oh no. I run toward him but suddenly he stands up in the pool and says, "Did you get a picture?".

Mile 120: We camp at Blacktail Canyon and take the short hike into it's snakelike innards. Here we touch the Great Unconformity, a geological break in the layers. I proclaim that I am now the Great Unconformist.

Mile 130.5: We stop to scout Bedrock rapid on the right. If you pull in above the beach you get to snake through some cool rocks to get to the scout. Here the river slams full force into Bedrock rock, a house sized boulder in the middle of the river. Looked like no problem. We enter the tongue and I am pulling right to go into the right channel. I realize right away that we are not far enough right and pull harder and faster. Still heading for the rock and pulling with all my might. Just before we hit the rock, the "oh shit" moment, I point the front of the boat at the rock to try and minimize chances of wrapping. The bow climbs higher and higher up the front of the rock and Esther and I climb higher and higher up the boat. Suddenly something gives (one of our air chambers) and we go down the left channel, upright but missing some valuable air.

We limp over to the smallest beach in the Canyon and I begin repairs. As usual sand is blowing everywhere and I can't keep it out of the glue. Jack's instructions say to let the glue cure overnight and whatever you do don't get sand in it. We camp here and all night I think the sand is going to screw up my patch. The next morning it holds air. I name the boat Dino in honor of Bedrock.

Mile 132: Dubendorff rapid has me a little worried due to my recent mishap but it runs clean. We scout left and row just right of center.

Mile 134: Tapeats Creek makes a long but excellent hike up to Thunder River where a large volume of water falls right out of the rock. This water I felt safe enough to drink, especially since I was out. I decide to run back to the boats for some reason (in Teva's) and leave Mike and Eshter at a fast pace. Near the boats I meet a crying woman who is upset since her boyfriend would not wait for her. I mumble something about men and leaving my wife behind too but offer to walk with her down the steep section. We end up giving both her and her boyfriend a not so legal raft ride down to Deer Creek so they could do a loop hike. She tells us the news of bombing the evil Serbians. I think this is probably the right thing to do but then I remember I am in the Air Force Reserves and really don't care to visit Serbia.

Mile 136: Deer Creek falls appears and it is spectacular. We take a little hike up the canyon above the falls and cross a couple "if you fall you die" sections on the trail. We say goodbye to our new hitch-hiker friends.

Mile 143.5: Kanab Creek is on the right but we don't stop. This would probably be a good hike.

Mile 148: Hard eddy to catch is worth it to shimmy up Matkatamiba slot Canyon. The Santa Cruzians boats are all in here clogging up the eddy but I stop anyway where Mike and Dave decided not to stop. It's raining.

Mile 150: Upset rapid appears but Mike and Dave do not. Did they have some trouble and needed to chase a boat downriver? We scout on the right and see the big hole mentioned in the notes. This one can be run right or left of the hole and we choose to run right (more of a sneak route) since we had no other boats for safety.

We find Mike and Dave in an excellent camp on river left under overhanging rocks. It turns out they were just cold and decided to run the rapid and make camp. The Santa Cruzians go by and ask if we have seen the case of beer they lost in Upset rapid. "No", we say. After they pass we frantically search the eddies for the lost beer. Dave explains that all Santa Cruzians are a bunch of freaks.

Mile 157: Havasu Creek is another magical turquoise colored creek with the addition of several good sized waterfalls. We hike up the tricky trail at times with the Santa Cruzians. A guy with blue hair again makes sure we better not camp where they want to camp. I think Dave is right.

We make it to Mooney Falls where apparently Mr. Mooney tried to rappel down it's 200 foot face with a less than 200 foot long rope. He hung there for two days before falling to his death. You can relive this experience by hiking up or down the current trail around the falls.

Mile 166: We hike up National Canyon as far as we can go and this turns out to be one of my favorite hikes. Maybe because it was nice and flat and I was tired. Anyway it's pretty cool and worth doing.

Mile 168: We stay at Fern Glen Canyon for a couple days to rest up and prepare for Lava. Lava Falls, or simply Lava, is the most feared rapid in the Canyon. It looms over my head like my unfinished taxes. We prepare by moving lots of weight to the front of the boat to keep from flipping. Some boaters have been known to fill their front coolers with water but instead we put all of our remaining canned goods up there.

The side hike is short but sweet and as expected there are plenty of ferns. Back at camp I do laundry but due to blowing sand my clothes seem to be no cleaner than when I started. Esther and I make pizza in the dutch oven which everyone likes. We take stock of our beer supply and our worst fears are realized. We have only a six-pack left. Mike, Dave and I drink half of it reasoning we should drink some now incase we don't survive Lava.

Mile 178: Vulcan's Anvil appears. It is a black volcanic plug in the river announcing that Lava Falls is only one mile downstream. Mike leaves an offering of leaves for the rivergods and Dave touches the rock for luck. I believe in no such thing and float on by. We are the rivergods.

Mile 179: Lava Falls is rated 8-10 and makes an unmistakable roar as we approach. We scout right. I see the infamous ledge hole and begin plotting my course around it. The water goes toward the hole but then curves right and goes into a terrific V wave and some more wave/holes below that. A commercial trip has gathered at river left to watch our run. The guides probably told the clients something like, "this'll be some good carnage for ya to watch."

We set off. Mike first. He pushes hard to the right, not trusting the current to keep him out of the monster hole. He disappears, reappears, disappears, reappears sideways up against a rock, and backs out okay. The crowd cheers. We go in. Hit the V wave highsiding. I loose my grip on an oar, grab it, get in one stroke, hit the next wave highsiding, loose my grip on the oar again, hit some more waves, miss the rock and wash out smiling. The crowd goes wild. Dave comes in boat disappearing and reappearing. More cheers. We pull over to dry out and celebrate our success. I comment that we've gone a long way for that rapid.

We camp at mile 186 and finish the last of the beer and tequila, an alive below Lava party if you will. This next 40 miles better go okay.

Mile 209: We camp here and scout mile 209 rapid which has a large hole on the right. This is our last camp and we will be taking out tomorrow. It's been a good trip we all say. We chat about other rivers on our list and when we may meet again.

Mile 217: Esther rows through this rapid in excellent form. She turns the boat around just in time to get me wet and claims it was in the best interest of the boat. Hmmmm.

Mile 226: Diamond Creek. Our takeout. Some take out in Lake Mead but I have no interest in artificial lakes. Separation rapid and Lava Cliff rapid (harder than Lava Falls) were buried by the "Lake" after the dam.

A vanfull of older folks on vacation appears at the river as we de-rig the boats. We hear one gent comment to another that he would never want to do such a thing and doesn't much care for camping anyway. They get back in the van and leave. I think that I would never want to do such a thing and don't much care for vans anyway.

We make it to Flagstaff and find a cheap motel and the nearest microbrew. Boy it's a good thing we have wilderness or we could never appreciate the finer things in life, like showers and beer on tap.

Hope you enjoyed our story. Price.

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