Rafting the Grand Canyon, Day 13. This trip was April 3-18, 2021, with AZRA--Arizona Raft Adventures.
See previous reports:
Remember how back on the 3rd day I wondered if 16 days was going to be too long? By the morning of the 13th day, with only 3 more real river days to go, I knew it wasn't going to be long enough. It would have been wonderful to have spent more days moseying through the upper parts of the canyon, because now with ocatillo on the shores and lower walls, we could feel the beginning of the end.
Still: I thought this would be a final report and cover the last 4 days, but when I looked at the photos... nope. There was still a lot going on, including the exciting passage through Lava Falls Rapid. A big day, it deserves a post of its own.
There may have been some who felt a little nervous about our 13th day being the one we would run Lava Falls Rapid, possibly the single most famous (after Crystal?). But for most of us, we probably didn't know what day it was, and in any case by that time I had enough faith in our guides to feel only a little excitement, no more fear (a nice contrast to my terror at the idea of rapids before we began running them).
As usual, the morning started about 5:30 with the coffee and a quick packing job.
|By this point in the trip, we were masters at packing, and had learned to stage the gear based on what the guides would want on each boat.|
Breakfast was something new every day. This day, we had lox and bagels with cream cheese.
|It's the garnishes. Our 13th morning on the river and there are garnishes on breakfast!|
Before we left, guide Jed Tarlow drew a dynamic diagram of Lava Falls rapids in the sand, and illustrated how we would like to go through, and a few of the less desirable things that could happen. In spite of this most of the paddlers wanted to ride the paddle raft through!
|Into the calm|
Even with the Big Rapids looming ahead of us, we had time to stop for a really nice hike up Mohawk Canyon, though the guides may have regretted it later, when the wind came up something fierce.
Not everything we saw was beautiful, and not every bighorn is a survivor, apparently.
|I don't know if this ram lost a fight or lost it's footing, though from the location of the skeleton, probably the former.|
The hike up the canyon was a perfect blend of really pretty and some fun scrambles.
|People wait their turn, and try to decide which of three routes to take. For the record, I chose badly.|
|In this case, our leader chose badly. The rest of us walked around on the obvious ledge.|
Water in the desert. Even this close to the big river, it feels magical.
|A trickle reflects the gold of the canyon walls.|
|Even a little stream can create a miniature wetlands.|
It felt like passing through the gates of heaven. I'd have loved to spend a whole day exploring way up the canyon, but we had a rapid to run.
It was a long eight miles from Mohawk Canyon to Lava Falls rapids, with the wind picking up to the point that the guides had to find their own ways to cope. Our leader, Lorna, with the wisdom of decades on the river, pulled out a couple of paddles and got her passengers to help. The paddle raft got a tow from a motor raft. And my guide asked us to tell him jokes and stories. I dug deep for silly songs and bad jokes, and at least we saw Vulcan's Anvil, the sign we were entering the volcanic portion of the canyon and nearing the rapids at last.
|A sentinel marking another gate.|
|For anyone into omens, a small herd of bighorns with lambs at the Lava Falls scouting point was a good one.|
We did stop to scout the rapids, our guides pointing out how this water matched the diagram Jed drew for us in the morning. It's hard to get perspective on it from up here, but we saw soon just how big that water was.
Proof of the big water: That motor raft is about six times the size of our rafts.
I decided to follow the guides' advice about dealing with places where you get wet: skin to wind. Honestly, if not for the sunburn issue, I'd have done it a lot more, as it was much less unpleasant to get clobbered by waves without wet clothing sticking to you.
|Photo by Tom Dempsey, Photoseek.com|
|Through the first half, with a moment to look back before "Son of Lava Falls" nailed us.|
After Lava Falls comes Tequila Beach, and we managed to be early enough to snag the campsite.
|We enjoyed our post-rapids party, but were mellow enough to enjoy the evening light, as well.|
|Huge mounds of evening primrose distinguished the camp|