Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rafting the Colorado River through Grand Canyon - November 16-December 6, 2012

With a loving, trusting, open heart, one can taste the nectar and pure bliss of life. 
I woke up in North Creek, NY and was in Las Vegas by noon. I read a book about Georgie White Clark (the whitewater rafting pioneer) most of my flight and while I waited for my ride at the airport. What an inspiration. Greg and Willie picked me up and we drove to Flagstaff. We met Nate at a grocery store and the four of us purchased the perishable items for our 10 days of the menu. In our van sat the MANY non perishable items already. David and Heidi planned to cover the other 10 days. The people in Flagstaff were friendly and helpful. Eventually we found a hotel for the night. We planned to head to the put-in the next morning.

We got to know Willie pretty quickly. We had never met him before. He also brought a book called Medicine Cards written by David Carson and Jamie Sams. The same book I carry with me most of the time!Carson was raised in Indian Country in Oklahoma. At an early age he was taught the ways and signs of animals by his Choctaw mother and aunts, Opal, Ruby, Agnes and Phoebe. Jamie Sams is a Native American medicine teacher and a member of the Wolf Clan teaching lodge of the Seneca Nation. She is of Iroquois and Choctaw descent, and has been trained in Seneca, Mayan, Aztec, and Choctaw medicine. Jamie lived and studied with Mayan and Aztec teachers in Mexico during the 1970s. Whenever I encounter wildlife, I have the pleasure of reading what message that animal conveys according to Native American legend.

In the AM we ate at a diner. The diner had some interesting photos of how it looked at the establishment many, many years ago in the wild, wild west. After a few short stops for supplies, we headed to the put in. When we pulled in David, Heidi, Mark and Marianne had arrived about 5 minutes before us from Colorado. The group was united for the first time. We helped them unload their equipment. Then we unloaded our van which took some time because there was a lot in it. We started realizing decisions had to be made about what could be left behind due to lack of space in our 16 foot raft. It was a challenge. 

We watched the USGS scientists take off in their boats rigged for the high water experiment they were there to conduct. Their motor-powered air-filled rafts were enormous and had extra raft tubes strapped to the sides for extra floatation. One boat was a hard boat and a lot smaller. It also had a motor. I assumed it would be used to navigate to more difficult spots along the river.

We rigged our 16 foot rafts with two oars each into the dark and then made it back to the Marble Canyon Trading Post for dinner. Pretty much everyone who rafts the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon stops there, so besides tons of history to read about, the Trading Post is convenient for all the gear you could need to get outfitted and out the door. Also available are landscape photos, handmade jewelry, as well as Navajo pottery, ceramics and mugs. The Marble Canyon Trading Post was originally an Indian Trading Post that was run by Lorenzo Hubbell. Hubbell ran more than thirty such trading posts in New Mexico and Arizona. Serving as a cultural bridge between the newly arrived whites and the Navajo, he was known as “Don Lorenzo”, “Old Mexican” or “Double Glasses.” Nate and I splurged for a room at the Marble Canyon Lodge next door. The rest of the group stayed together in an apartment on the grounds. Nate and I spent the evening organizing, sorting and packing our gear. I also started writing postcards. I wanted to send one to each elementary student at Long Lake Central School.

11/16/2012 ( Day 1) Badger Rapid Camp Mile 8.5                   
Ranger David Chapman (who was originally from Saranac Lake) was at the put in at Lee's Ferry where the trip began. We were told all the do’s and don’ts of Canyon living, and informed when the huge dam release was planned. David Chapman met Georgie White Clark, and said she liked leopard costumes and Coors beer. So far we had seen a Great Blue Heron (the heron made noises I have never heard a heron make before and I’ve seen a lot of herons on the Hudson), rabbits (two scurrying in the brush), beaver (swam around while David Chapman was talking to us), fox, and many other birds. 

We got on the river around 2 pm today. In the first few miles, we saw a bird that acted like a loon. It dove down into the water and then came up in another spot. After the first major rapid, we pulled over and set up camp. There was lots of driftwood there. In the Grand Canyon, rafters are permitted to burn drift wood only and the fire has to be contained in a fire pan with a fire proof blanket underneath to catch any embers that fly out. I cooked Spicy Jasmine Rice with Carrots and Cashews. Our kitchen each night of the trip contained a mesh floor to capture any food particles that dropped. The floor was made to allow sand in and out. It worked great for the fine canyon sand. Dinner hit the spot. The weather was great, sunny and warm. Everyone woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of roughly 20 drops of rain.

11/17/2012 (Day 2) North Canyon Camp Mile 20.5                       
I started this morning and every morning of the trip by stretching in my toasty warm sleeping bag. We shoved off this AM at around 11:30. Also everyday I wore my two piece dry suit with multiple synthetic layers on my top and bottom on the river. We saw Great Blue Herons and Big Horn Sheep along the way. Willie got some great pictures. We ran House Rock Rapid smoothly. We lightly touched the enormous hydraulic at the bottom. A hydraulic is when there is a boulder in the river and water pours over it and heads towards the bottom of the river. The water shoots back up forming a curling, crashing wave. We pulled into camp at North Canyon after 3 pm. I really liked this cozy camp. It had a tall beach and canyon behind for hiking. Several of us hiked up North Canyon until it got dark. We sat in North Canyon to see the moon appear. Then we headed back down by the light of our headlamps for dinner. We cooked Sweet and Spicy Chili with Cornbread (the cornmeal was from Chris Thompson). 

11/18/2012 (Day 3)Tatahatso Camp Mile 38.5                               
We ran the Roaring 20s today and it was exciting and smooth. The only incidents occurred in Georgie’s Rapid. Nate got washed out of his seat by a wave and I pushed him back into the seat. Greg lost an oar out of his hand at Georgie’s Rapid too. Both men deserved it for making jokes about Georgie! I had been talking about Georgie a lot because I was still reading about her adventures. We saw a Bald Eagle as we entered one of the rapids today.

Our campsite had tons of mice. Many of them drowned in our dishwater. We threw a dead mouse in the river and fish swarmed around and then dispersed. Vassey's Paradise (see below) was a moist wall of vegetation. Redwall Cavern (see below) is popular among humans and mice. However, there were many more mouse footprints than human footprints there.

11/19 and 20/2012 (Day 4 and 5) Main Nankoweap Camp Mile 53.5                
We shoved off early this morning in order to find the perfect camp for the BIG WATER to arrive. Only one difficult rapid was run today. Again, I was amazed by Nate’s navigating skills. Suddenly all the trips I’ve missed out west in the past 5 years had paid off. We made it to Main Nankoweap before the experimental dam water. When we arrived there was a somewhat large beach. The water began rising. We put a stick into to mark the spot where the water was when we arrived. We set up camp and I made Indian Spiced Soup (Yum. It is a “must have” on future trips). 

The men stayed up most the night watching and repositioning the rafts and giggling like little girls. They were so excited to see this rare occurrence. By the end of the night, in the wee hours of the morning, the water had covered our old kitchen spot and fire pan area. I got up because I no longer heard giggling. I found Nate snoozing on his back along the rope he had our raft tied to. The water was rising as he slept there. He was making sure he would wake up if the water came up much more. He had placed himself between the water and our large stake holding the boat in place. I went in search of higher ground in case we needed it. We would have had to scramble through vegetation which means the sharp quills of cacti if we had to move to higher ground in a hurry. The lyrics from the old Jugband song rolled through my head. “The river is rising. The floodwaters are coming. Better grab what you can and head for higher ground”. The river came up a few feet below our tent. It entered many paths and caused us to move the Groover (toilet) more than once.

We had a layover day. A layover day is a day that you don’t travel on the river. You stay in one place and do whatever you need or want such as hike, make repairs, read, sleep, etc. I caught up on postcards. When the sun became hot on the kitchen, a swarm of bees arrived and would not leave me alone. I think it was my lavender moisturizer they were attracted to. I was forced to hang out in my tent for safety from the bees. The sun eventually left camp and so did the bees. We hiked up to the Anasazi Granaries (see below). The Granaries are where the Anasazi stored their grain high up in the walls of the Grand Canyon 1000 years ago. They put their grain in such remote spots to protect it from rodents, heat and other humans/pests. We found 3 fossils along the path. There were also some ancient rockwalls build by the Anasazi. We never saw the turquoise beads or pottery chards that were reportedly there. We walked up a creek bed from the river. Many creeks we have seen have been dry but not this one. There were tons of beautiful rocks in the creek bed. Heidi and David made a Mexican dinner. They love green chili peppers. Yum yum. I hit the hay early because I could not resist the call of my cozy -20 degree sleeping bag on a brisk night.

During the night at this camp, Nate got up for various reasons and saw 2-3 ring tail cats. Ring Tail Cats are related to raccoons so I looked up raccoon in my book. The raccoon was considered the "generous protector of the animal kingdom" according to my Medicine Card Book. It was funny because that is how I started to see David and Nate on the trip. They tended to the needs of the “tribe” before taking anything for themselves. "Benevolence and generosity would come full circle to reward the giver" according to the book.

Greg lost his river map last night. We thought it was washed away in the flood.

11/21 and 22/2012 (Day 6 and 7) Hance Camp Mile 77
We were on about 42,000 cfs as we progressed 24 miles today. The water was fast moving, brown, squirrely and filled with floating debris. The easier rapids (class 2 through 5) became more difficult. There were five of them. The more difficult rapids (class 6 and 7) became somewhat washed over. There were three of them. The boils, eddy lines and whirlpools were scary. A couple of times we got swirled around and sent back up toward rapids we had already gone through. With the water so high, it was hard to stay together as a group like we had been other days. At times we felt alone as the group was out of site. It was uncomfortable and not the way we like to run rivers to put it mildly. Nate was exhausted and our nerves were shot by the time we made it to Unkar Rapid. We had intended to camp above Unkar Rapid but found the beach was covered by the excessive water. We tried to scout Unkar Rapid without success. We pressed on. Unkar Rapid was fine. I was sad we couldn’t stop at the Unkar Delta to see ruins from Native Americans from over 1000 years ago. We could not find a camp that wasn’t washed over until above Hance Rapid. Even this camp was under water somewhat when we arrived. I located a tent site towering above the river. It was the most scenic tent spot we had had thus far. I wanted to get as far away from the river as possible after the river almost reached our tent at the previous camp. We passed another group rafting today. It was most likely the group from VT who had Nate haul out some of their gear in our van. They were also a small party of 8. 
Today was Thanksgiving. David and Heidi cooked a giant feast (see above). They even made vegan gravy. It was delicious. That was the first time I have had vegan gravy and go figure it was at the bottom of the “Big Ditch” aka Grand Canyon. So far on the trip we have seen 7 hikers. One hiker asked if he could use our Groover. We did not give him a straight answer. David set up the teepee he built and we sat in it by the warm wood stove made out of an old military ammo can. The teepee had a Velcro door. Oddly someone on the last trip drew a turkey on the wall of the teepee. As I sat perched up by my tent in the sun and wrote postcards, lizards crept in and out of the cracks in the nearby rocks.

11/23/2012 (Day 8) Granite Camp Mile 94                     
The high water moved through the canyon before us and with us. After that, we had fresh beaches for the remainder of the trip. I think this may have reduced the number of rodents (mice and bees) we saw afterward and definitely reduced footprints to nearly none. Today we woke up high above Hance Rapid again. We packed up. There was a pair of white ducks hanging around our camp. Someone said that one of the duck's wings was injured. We saw a few Monarch Butterflies once we got on the river. Butterfly symbolized "change". We had seen a Great Blue Heron everyday so far. The Heron signified "self- reflection". "Heron urged us to dive into the watery world of feelings to seek the truth. Heron taught us to develop our self-reflective skills so that we may come to know ourselves in an intimate way. The Heron invited us to examine ourselves to see what we wish to improve and how we want to change. Heron encouraged us to dive deeper, to know ourselves, and trust our path."

We have seen and heard bats and several small spiders. The bat symbolized the idea of a "shamanistic death". "The ritual death of the healer was steeped in secrets and highly involved initiation rites. Shaman death was the symbolic death of the initiate to the old ways of life and personal identity." The spider reminded us that "it is typically human to get caught in the polarity of good and bad fortune without realizing that we can change it at any time. We needed to remember that if we are not decisive enough about changing our lots in life, we may end up being consumed by our fears and limitations." Spider inspired me to use this journal to write out and review our progress. By doing this I will not forget how "I am creating a new and different phase in my life."

Today was Black Friday and ironically the only opportunity in 21 days on the river to shop at a snack bar. We arrived at Phantom Ranch. I sent postcards, sipped cold refreshing lemonade and received a package from my friend Betsy Ross who lives in VT. Betsy sent us 8 lanterns to send up into the sky. Sadly, all 8 of us decided that sending flames into the sky of a National Park in a desert was a dangerous idea. She also sent delicious KIND bars for us to snack on. Thank you Betsy. 

11/24 - 26/2012 (Days 9, 10, 11) Bass Camp Mile 108.5                   
It was a big day on the river in the Granite Gorge with six rapids rating over class six. We started with Granite Rapid. It was a smooth run for us. David and Heidi had somewhat of a wild ride. Heidi’s head cam was washed off her head by an enormous wave. She managed to hold onto it. Next was Hermit Rapid (see below). Our ride was turbulent. Nate warned me as we scouted that he wanted to hit the enormous wave train at the bottom. He did. Our entrance was fine. I was hooting and hollering through 3+ of the 5+ huge crashing waves at the foot of the rapid. By the 4thish wave, we had lost our momentum (see below). The raft slid backwards down the wave and turned sideways. For seconds we side surfed. Nate began to tumble toward me and I knew the raft was going over. I attempted to push Nate forward without success. I held onto him by his life jacket as he toppled into the river. I took a deep breath. The raft capsized. 

         Watch the video:

I came up under the raft. It was dark. I was confronted with fear but remained calm. I walked my way to the left a bit with my hands crawling across the gear above my head and the water. I popped out for air. I swam through a few more waves, and took some water into my mouth. I saw that Nate was with the raft, so I swam for the side of the river. Greg was on the right side of the river. I was relieved to get close to him. An eddy made it hard for me to swim for a bit as it was preventing me from moving. I heard Greg say, “I’m coming Becky”. He was taking a video of us but his batteries died just as the raft flipped. My swim was a total of two minutes.  He pulled me by my life vest into his cataraft. I was so happy and so soaked. We rowed down to our capsized raft. The folks downstream had made a quick recovery. They were standing on the bottom of our raft with ropes ready to flip the raft back over when we got to them. They flipped the raft back over with ease. We didn't lose any of our belongings in the upset. Nate did an excellent job rigging the raft for this scenario.
I was chilly by the time we got to Crystal Rapid. I changed EVERY item of clothing just before riding the second most talked about rapid on the trip. Brrrrr after that. Nate had clean lines through the remaining massive rapids. I barely got wet. We were ecstatic when we got to Bass Camp. All of our belongings that were in regular old dry bags were wet in spots. Good thing we were in the desert. Most items were dry by bed time. Everything was dry by the end of the next morning. The bat, who hangs upside-down like our raft did, symbolized learning to "transpose our former selves into newborn beings". We did. 
Nate and I woke up early to hang out in the teepee by the woodstove. I sat in the sun all morning, soaking up as much as possible in order to motivate myself to hop in the cool river water for a bath. When I did, it was so refreshing. I stretched and then hiked in the middle of the day to the mining camp. It was a hot hike up the valley of the Colorado River. We crossed a ridge and then descended down the other side by Shinumo Creek and the mining camp. It was cool in the shade. We walked along Shinumo Creek (see below). The rock creek bed was cream and maroon in color. Greg, Mark and Marianne hiked back along the creek. Nate and I went back the way we came. We sat to take in the view (see below) and spotted a purple rock with water ripples etched into it on top of the ridge. We noticed bright yellow rafts on the water way down below. When we got over the ridge again, we heard humans making sheep noises. When we got a little closer to camp, we saw a herd of Big Horn Sheep walking a ridge above camp. I fell asleep that night listening to Greg laugh. 

We decided to layover again today. Bass gets sun from 8:30 to 2:30. I went in the river again today. Heidi and I washed each other’s hair off the back of her boat. Ahhhhhh. Everyone floated on Greg’s cataraft to the mouth of Shinumo Creek to see the falls. I stayed behind to be alone at Bass and finish the book I had been reading about Georgie White Clark. Bass Camp was my favorite camp.

The following words were read at Georgie White Clark's memorial.

Miss Me a Little But Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me.
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love we once shared,
Miss me but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master’s plan,
A step on the road home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart,
Go to friends we know,
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,
Miss me but let me go.

11/27 and 28/2012 Full Moon (Days 12 and 13) Owl Eyes Camp Mile 135 
We got up early and were on the river before 9 am. We hiked up to Elve’s Chasm (see small waterfall above) with the group from VT (see above our group and group from VT floating together). One girl, who was part of their group, had worked for Gary S at Adirondack River Outfitters a few years back. The girl was tough. She was wearing a one piece wetsuit and dove off the small waterfall a few times into the pool below. Greg did a flip. Heidi and David were cold and stayed with the boats. 

I rowed a bunch today, riffles and all (see above). Riffles are small rapids that are not labeled on the map. In a raft this heavy on water this big and with such sharp rocks and turns in the river, even the “small” rapids have serious consequences. There were many rapids today. Four were above class six. The first one worth noting was Spector Rapid. A hydraulic turned us sideways toward the end of the rapid. It stalled us out for a second and then set us free. Bedrock was intense because the boulder to avoid in the middle of the river was so gigantic. The river wanted to push us into the boulder. It seemed as if we were too close to it but ended up alright on the right side. The last big rapid of the day was Deubendorf Rapid. Heidi was dancing on their raft by the time we reached Deubendorf Rapid. She wanted to row it. I was glad she didn't. This rapid is longer than most with a couple of important moves to make. Again, a hydraulic spun the boat and Nate ended up teeing up to a hydraulic at the bottom of the rapid BACKWARD. This meant I was now in front being launched into a hydraulic or a “hole”. I looked over to see Greg was taking video as we went. Despite the unexpected changes in our course, it was a clean run. We barely avoided the hole at the bottom which was imperative to avoid. At camp we celebrated a successful day of river running.  At dusk, looking for a spot to camp, I walked the clean, fresh beach without shoes and stubbed my toe. Ouch. It was black for a few days. I also lost my glasses in the sand which I recovered with Nate’s help the next morning.


This camp got sun early in the morning and for a while. It was a beautiful long beach and our tent was right in the middle. Nate took a photo of this beach without footprints on it when we arrived. It was named Owl Eyes for the two enormous depressions in the canyon wall above the camp (see below). I walked with Nate, Greg and Mark up the river a bit to sit on a enormous purple boulder. From the boulder you could our see our camp. This beach was changed quite a bit by the high water experiment, according to David. This was David’s fourth time down the river and Heidi's third. The beach at this camp was bigger now. It was the biggest beach we had seen thus far. From the boulder we could also see the group from VT up at the Tapeat’s Creek beach. The guys kept hiking. I turned around and went back to camp. I had a strange feeling there were snakes around and plus my toe hurt. Nate found a river map right where the river reached the shore. We suspected it was Greg's map. He lost his at mile 53. 

I’m forever thankful that my mother in law, Kathy, gave me some applicable Young Living Essential Oils (YLEO)– Breathe Again, Deep Relief (which helped my toe) and Stress Away. I did not use any of my usual herbal tinctures from Dr. Schulze as I found YLEO to soothe what ailed me. 

Heidi and David made the trip possible.

Here are some tips I learned from Heidi:
·         Wash hair off the back of the boat with warm water
·         Gather water in buckets off the back of the boat
·         Have easy access to dry clothing for days on the river
·         Get covers for dishwashing buckets to keep the water warm
·         Plan light lunches with no prep time
·         Use reflectors to mark the Groover path
·         Bring plastic fruit cups for lunches on the raft

We were so thrilled with the trip and excited with how much we had learned by this point that we started planning our next trip.

·         Create list of duties and a way to break them up (ex: Groover, water, dishes, cooking, cans/garbage, fire/wood/tikis, video)
·         Bring a  bigger raft
·         Build floors for all raft sections
·         Purchase a better water filtering system
·         Bring a down comforter rather than sleeping bags (if we are not doing the night float)
·         Bring tennis ball for the end of anchoring stake
·         Bring more buckets for aluminum, burnables and trash
·         Bring hammer for smashing cans
·         Bring mechanic gloves
·         Bring zinc oxide (Burt’s Bees) for hands
·         Bring scent less moisturizer (bees attracted to scents)
·         Use water shed bags rather than Bill’s Bags (items in Bill’s Bags got wet when we went over)
·         Use smaller box for kitchen
·         Purchase a vacuum sealer
·         Bring more charcoal (especially if there are dutch oven items on the menu)
·         Bring pump for coolers (to pump out the water without moving the coolers)
·         No pasta strainer needed
·         Bring garlic crusher
·         Bring more paper towels
·         Make sure spices have caps that screw on
·         Use cast iron cook ware only (Dutch ovens)
·         Bring less bread, have snacks (dried fruit, nuts, etc) for lunches rather than sandwiches
·         Ask group to bring some of their own dishes (each person more responsible for their items)
·         Use bread flats on bottom of coolers to keep food out of the water
·         Bring day cooler for breakfast and lunch (packed the day before)
·         Bring plastic containers with milk (regular cartons disintegrate)

·         Spicy Jasmine Rice with Carrots and Cashews
·         Chili with Cornbread
·         Pasta
·         Mexican
·         Indian Spiced Soup
·         BBQ night

11/29/2012 (Day 14) Matkatamiba Hotel Camp Mile 149                      
Today was a mellow day on the river. I rowed a bunch. We traveled ~ 13 miles. Some hiked up to see Deer Creek Falls (see above). There was a pack of red ants on the path near the falls. Ant reminded us "to work for the good of the whole. If you do, you are assured that the whole wants the same goodness for you and it will be provided." Ant also reminded us "not to make mountains out of molehills." Although it was November and December, there were wildflowers in bloom throughout the trip (see above). Some folks hiked up Matkatamiba Canyon (see below) a little bit. I stayed near the rafts once I realized the hike was mud that you’d sink into up to your knees. I admired some amazing pebbles as I stood there holding the raft. David and Heidi ventured downstream with the walkie talkies to find a camp for the night. When we got to camp, I found a sweet tent sight that overlooked the river. I went to bed early. 

This morning Big Horn Sheep lingered on the ledge across the river from our camp. I looked up Antelope, “The time is now, the power is you”.  I called Kathy, Nate's mom, from this spot from our Sat phone. She said she felt like we were on the moon. Funny, I did too. There was also a flock of black feathers on the rocks above our tent. I looked up Raven in reverse in the book. I needed to block some negative energy sent by another person.  I looked up Crow in reverse. "The rebel in me was about to give a yell, and all he*& broke loose. A word to the wise at this point: Make sure that if you are stepping on toes, you have some back-up. The catalyst for a barroom brawl is usually the person with two black eyes." That is what it means to eat crow.

Today was another calm day on the river. The only major rapid was Upset Rapid. It was big but Nate ran a smooth line. We attached ¾ rafts together and floated for a bit as a group. I saw a Dragonfly by the outlet of Havasu Creek. The water was a chalky turquoise (see above). The color of the dragonfly’s wings and this water were not colors found in our everyday experience. We applied the dragonfly’s "art of illusion" to our present situation and remembered that "all things are never completely as they seem." We noted a rock we called “The Brain”. It had fossils in its many crevices. It was tan. 

As the sun set, some folks hiked up TuckUp Canyon (see above). I stayed behind to bathe, read, write and reorganize. Once it got dark, I burned my lantern from Betsy in the fire pan. I made a wish we’d make it through Lava Falls upright. 

Nate found a horseshoe shaped log that he set ~20 feet from the door of our tent. I hung the prayer flags from it (see above). We also had a water-logged rectangular log as a small table near our tent. Mark threw it in the water as we packed up for “Lava Day” (the day we ran Lava Falls Rapid – the one and only class 9 rapid on the trip). It re-circulated until we left. I bet I wasn’t the only one who was quietly wondering if it was foreshadowing one of us re-circulating in a hydraulic in Lava Falls.

I saw my Grandma in a dream last night. She was dressed in red and looking as radiant and vibrant as ever. I knew she was gone. I cried. I woke up crying. Grandma is lizard, actually newt but newt is not in the book. The closest animal is lizard. Lizard is the medicine of "dreamers". "Dreamers helped us see the shadow. The shadow was our hopes, fears and the very thing we were resisting. Lizard reminded us our shadows follow us around like an obedient dog. Lizard helped us look and see what was following along behind us. Is it our fears, our futures trying to catch up with us, or the part of us that wants to ignore our weaknesses and human-ness"? 

12/1/2012 (Day 15) Tuckup Camp Mile 165                       
Many feelings were flying around on Lava Day (see above). It was pretty much a peaceful float for ~13 miles before the “Chunder Dome” as Willie called it. Between the Vulcan’s Anvil (an enormous chunk of Lava in the middle of the river prior to Lava Falls - see below) and the rapid, surprisingly there was quite a bit of vegetation on the shores. It smelled like a fragrant meadow as we approached the rapid. The clouds were different too. 

We saw two ravens flying together. We were about to experience a change in consciousness: The post-Lava consciousness. Right above the spot where we stopped to scout was a white heron, all puffed up and sitting on a rock. Nate took a picture (see below).

Scouting the rapid was intense. It looked like a wild ride any way you went. The scariest part was the enormous pulsating, crashing wave at the bottom. No matter what, our raft was going through it. The tension was thick. I was terrified. We got back to our rafts and straped everything down one last time for the sure-to-be turbulent ride. “Here we go little buddy”, Nate said to me with confidence. We ran last, as usual. It was all over in 20 seconds as the map described. Willie banked off cheese grater rock and avoided the huge crashing wave at the bottom. We headed straight into the monster wave as it was crashing. I felt Nate pushing backward in his seat and I thought at the time he was being washed backward by the wave. It turned out it was the force of him digging his oars in that pushed him back toward me. We stalled out for a few seconds, surfing. I thought we were going over again and my chest felt like it was going to explode. Then the giant white wave spit us out. We made it. Everyone made it through Lava Falls upright.

Watch video of our trip through Lava Falls at:

We stopped at Tequila Beach to celebrate with photos and stories. We camped across from Hell’s Hollow (see below).

12/2/2012 (Day 16) Upper Chevron Camp Mile 183                       
The depressions from several rafts way up from the water on the beach told us an interesting story of what had happened to a group on this beach before us. The high water experiment beached their boats thoroughly. We empathized with the marks we saw where desperate rafters dragged their heavy gear many, many steps to the water. It was day 16 of a major gear hauling mission.
Today was Mark’s 30th birthday. We spent a laid back morning packing up the rafts. I rowed a bunch of riffles (rapids too small to be mentioned in our guide). I’m getting smoother on the oars ( : We saw a smiling face high up in the rock wall after waiting for Mark who was lingering behind in his kayak. We stopped by Whitmore Wash to see the pictographs (see below). While stopped, Greg found a snake coming out of a hole (see below). He drew Nate’s attention to it. The snake means to "transmute". We actually did not see a heron today. It was one of the only days we didn’t see one. It was the only day we experienced wind. The wind picked up a few miles before camp. It was hard rowing the heavy raft. We were forced to travel a bit further than planned because another group was camped at Parshant Camp. 

Nate set up the kitchen and then our tent. The tent actually blew away into the dark. Thankfully, Nate ran fast and caught it before it got away for good. We staked down the tent, filled it with gear, and tied it to a tree so it wouldn’t blow away again.

12/3/2012 (Day 17 and 18)Two Hundred and Two Mile Camp Mile 202                    
Layover day! It was the last one for the trip and the perfect camp to celebrate. The fire pit was central among our village of tents. I got up before the sun to wash a few items of clothing for the first time of the trip. I wanted them to have time to dry. They did. I love that dry desert air. 

I watched Nate sleep and thanked the moon for such a handsome, capable, confident, calm, smart, strong, graceful, patient, funny man. I loved him more than ever. I downright adored him. We had never been closer than on this trip. The only time we spent more time together was when we drove cross country for 10,000 miles in 6 weeks. That was in 1999. We hit more than half a dozen National Parks including the south rim of the Grand Canyon on that trek. This expedition felt like the honeymoon we never had. We realized we have to get back here and often.

We saw some courageous mice in the kitchen. The mouse signified "scrutiny". "It is good medicine to see things up close. It is good medicine to pay attention to every detail, but it is bad to chew every little thing to pieces.There is always more to learn. One can always delve deeper and deeper and deeper. Observe the details of the present pathway."

Nate woke up this morning and instantly wanted to read about raccoon and mouse in the Medicine Card book. I told him that the messages apply to him in a big way. He read. We smiled.

We spent a glorious layover day in the sun. My clothes were dry by noon. Willie was entertained by watching the sand of our beach crumble into the river. Willie was like a child from the noises he made to the way he ran up canyon trails. Nate and I spanked David and Heidi at horseshoes (see below). Willie sat in a chair on a stand-up paddle board floating around the enormous eddy nearby. After horseshoes, we sat on the beach and watched red ants crawl. The message that came from them (again) was that "we will always receive what we need at the time we need it most. We must trust that if we are working for the good of the whole that the whole will want the same goodness for us. We were reminded to trust that whatever we need, will be provided; to trust life and not make mountains out of molehills." I bathed in the river today. With clean clothes and body, I felt fantastic. 

12/4/2012 (Day 19) Upper 220 Camp Mile 220                                                      
I was up early this morning thinking about how to summarize our trip. For 21 days we created a world based on sharing, trusting one another and taking risks.

We got to camp with at least an hour of sunshine left. We soaked up every last bit. We found another, more tattered, river map in the river. Nate called the number on the map from our Sat phone and left a message. We were interested to find the tale behind the missing map. Bats swirled around us as the sun went down. The bat signified "rebirth". We ate a delicious Mexican dinner around our last campfire. As I lay in my sleeping bag that night, I counted blessings not sheep. 

12/5/2012 (Day 20) Night Float from Separation Canyon to Pearce Ferry Mile 281      
We woke up this morning with dew all over our tent, clothes and rafts. This was the first morning it was not as dry as a bone when we got up. My favorite canyon plant companions and unusual boulders were strewn around camp. There were surprisingly several major rapids today. There were five class five rapids. We were pretty far behind the rest of the rafts and unable to see anyone go through the rapids first. It was a smooth day though. One rapid had a huge hole that seemed to want to suck us in. Nate kept pulling away from it and eventually we skirted by it. In the very last rapid of the trip, David somehow got his raft tucked into an eddy that was tricky to get out of. Of course, being David, he stayed as calm as a cucumber. 

It was neat to sail on by the Diamond Creek take out. We chose to go to Pearce Ferry because we wanted to avoid paying fees for using the land at Diamond Creek. Plus the ride out from Diamond Creek is basically through a creek bed which is rough on vehicles.Travertine Falls (see below) was after the Diamond Creek takeout.

Vishnu Schist (see below) is the oldest layer of rock in the Grand Canyon and over a billion years old .

We stopped at Separation Canyon (see above for a boulder on shore at Separation Canyon), where members of the first expedition through the Grand Canyon in 1869 attempted to hike out. We looked for a plaque to honor these men but could not find one. We ate some food and then began preparing for the night float by strapping our boats together. Our boat was in the middle. This meant we had no way of putting our oars in the water so we were able to relax almost completely. One person rowed on either side of the big rig. Greg’s cataraft was attached to the back of our boat.

By the end of the float, we were all in our sleeping bags on sleeping pads that covered our gear that was strapped to our boats. David stayed up most the night steering and moving the rig when necessary. Willie, Mark and Greg assisted. A few times everyone fell asleep at the same time. With a boom, we went crashing into a canyon wall. Greg was almost swept off of his cataraft in his sleeping bag at one point. The stars were unbelievably bright as I lay there watching from my sleeping bag. I saw two shooting stars. 

In the early morning, I was at the helm of the “triple rig” (like Georgie) and the only one awake. It was surreal. Once it was light and we could see the banks of the river, we realized there were sand walls at least 10 feet high and crumbling on either side of us. The walls were totally vertical. Many times there was no way off the river without a two+ story ladder. 

Our last morning on the river was damp and brisk. We detached the boats before we got to the take-out at about 8am. The take-out is tucked at the southern end of Pearce Bay. The VT crew was there when we pulled in. We unloaded our equipment, washed it off as needed, and packed it all up by 2pm. The rest of the crew left a half hour before us for Flagstaff.  In the warmth of the sun, Nate and I took one last dip in the Colorado River, for the first time, alone.

I'd love feedback from you at 

I was interviewed by Todd Moe from North Country Public Radio and it aired New Year's Day 2013. Listen at:

Watch video of rapids at:


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