Saturday, November 01, 2014

Day 6 - Part 1 :: Unkar Rapid to Rattlesnake Canyon

Monday, September 22nd would be a jam-packed 14.5 miles in the Canyon, going from mile 73 to mile 87.5. Though we would only travel a mile and a half in the morning, the remaining 13 miles in the afternoon would include 8 rapids (a couple of the biggies) and a few little riffles.

The morning sun casts it's rays on the far side of the canyon.

Our campsite at Unkar Creek was in the middle of a long, sweeping s-curve and we would travel away from Tabernacle Butte (aka The Tabernacle), in the upper-right side of the above photo, before turning back toward it. The River takes so many different twists and turns as it goes through the canyon that you lose all sense of direction and it was really confusing sometimes.

As soon as we left camp, we went through Unkar Rapid, rated a 6 on the Grand Canyon scale. Nothing like a refreshing jolt of cold water to start the day! Especially since the sun had not yet reached that section of the canyon.

After passing through Unkar Rapid, a perfect reflection appears in a calm, smooth section of the river.

Arriving at Rattlesnake Canyon where we find that a private group spent the night there. No problem, they had done the hike to the Tabernacle the previous day and were packing up to leave.

If you look closely, you can see a group of hikers along the ridge just left of center in the above photo. They are walking along a narrow fin with steep drops on both sides.

Matt had described the hike to us the night before as being more than 2 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet that would take us (them actually) to the summit of Tabernacle Butte. There would be no shade. It would be hot. It would take about 4 hours round-trip. The views would be awesome.

I really, really wanted to go but knew that my legs and probably my lungs could not handle it. I also knew that I'd never be able to keep up with the fast pace that Matt sets. Afterward Sue told me the hike "was brutal."

Deanna was still hobbling around with her sprained ankle so she didn't go either. Priscilla and KJ hiked up over that first ridge and a little further then returned to the river about an hour later. I wandered along the river bank for a while, going from one side to the other as far as I could.

The view looking toward the North with Comanche Point on the far left, some seven river-miles distant.

The view to the South. What lies around the bend?

A hearty flowering plant brightens the landscape.

There were several of these round "holes" in the rock ledge along the river. This one was about two inches deep and 12-14" in diameter.

This was about the same size as the one above but much shallower. Several others were about the same size and a couple were smaller. Are they natural or man made? 'Tis a mystery to me.

On the northern edge of the area was a small "forest" of Tamarisk trees. A path took you out to the rocky shore.

After a couple of hours of "exploring" the area I found a nice shady spot among the Tamarisk trees. With a paco pad to sit on, I read about the Kolb brothers and their adventures photographing The River and Grand Canyon in the early 1900s. They were amazing men!

Shortly before noon, the first of the hikers climbed down off the ridge.

Back on the river again after lunch. Looking North, this was our last glimpse of The Tabernacle, which would soon be out of sight as we traveled southward.

A few miles further down-river the canyon would change dramatically. The "open space" we had been traveling through would disappear as we entered "the gorge."

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 6 - Part 1 :: Unkar Rapid to Rattlesnake Canyon," Kinexxions, posted November 1, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 5 - Kwagunt Creek to Unkar Rapid

Sunday, September 21st.
16.5 miles ~ Mile 56.5 to Mile 73.

Heading in to 60 Mile Rapid, the first one of the day. 

It was a nice easy ride through.

Here we are approaching the area where the Little Colorado joins the Colorado River. Known as "the Confluence," it is considered a sacred site by the people of the Navajo Nation. While driving to Lee's Ferry on September 16th we saw numerous signs stating "Save the Confluence" along highway 89 before and after the turn-off to the east side of the Grand Canyon. We later learned that there is a very controversial proposal to build a  resort and aerial tramway in this area, though not directly at the confluence.

We watched the river change color. The blue-green water is the Colorado River while the brownish water along the edge is coming in from the Little Colorado.  It isn't always like this but recent storms had created runoff from the canyons which stirred up the silt. Oftentimes the Little Colorado will be a turquoise color due to its mineral content. As we traveled further into the Grand Canyon the water would gradually change to a light chocolate color, and then even darker, mostly from the numerous creeks and streams flowing in from the side canyons.

There was a bit of "splashy stuff" at Mile 63.

Between mile 64 and 65 we went by the campsite of some scientists who were studying the Humpback Chub, one of the fishes native to the river in the Grand Canyon. They had traps set out in quite a few spots and were attempting to get a count of how many were in the river. A little further downstream, one of the scientists in his motor boat stopped to chat with KJ about the project.

We passed through another little riffle.

At mile 65 we stopped at Carbon Creek for a hike. The Desert View Tower,  nearly invisible due to the distance, is on that ridge in the center of the picture. Really! There was the threat of rain but the group started out on the hike knowing it would be aborted if it started raining. It did. But the rain didn't last long.

Within about 10 minutes the sun had come out.

An impressive landmark, starting at mile 68, is Comanche Point. Its peak rises about 4,000 feet above the river! Impressive indeed.

Another view of Comanche Point after having gone around a bend in the river.

At mile 69 we went through Tanner Rapid, which is only rated a 4 on the Grand Canyon scale but drops about 20 feet from beginning to end. And yeah, it was a fun one!

At mile 71.5 we stopped  at Cardenas Creek for a hike up to Hilltop Ruin.

I was assured by Matt that this was a hike that I could do, but I just couldn't keep up with the pace and after about 20 minutes gave up. The view was fantastic. A portion of the rafts can be seen in the lower left corner. In the lower right corner, Justin and Chelly are coming up the hill. And, Comanche Point is that high peak to the right of center.

Another wonderful day on The River comes to a close at our campsite at Unkar Creek.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 5 - Kwagunt Creek to Unkar Rapid," Kinexxions, posted October 31, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 4 - Eminence Break to Kwagunt Creek

Monday, September 20th was a short day on the river - just 12 miles (from mile 44.5 to mile 56.5) and two small rapids.

The day started at Eminence Break. As usual, after breakfast the rafts were loaded with all of our gear. But Matt had a "little" hike planned for this morning.

The group heads out on their trek that begins on the sandy beach at the Eminence Break campsite.

And they go up there. See the little stick-figures way up there? Sure you do - there in the center of the photo where the ridge starts to flatten out.

How about now? Yeah, they went up there. Those weird-looking, shadowy, stick-like figures are them.

I'm sure the view was fantastic but I don't know. You guessed it - I didn't go. But I wasn't the only one. There was Deanna with her sprained ankle, Priscilla, Sue Elliott, and me that opted to stay on the beach. We had a couple of hours to read, gather our thoughts, get caught up on note-taking, and just plain relax or take a stroll along the beach.

No pictures were taken while on the river today 'cause I was in the paddle raft!

Deanna, shown above riding with KJ, had fallen off of the paddle board the day before and sprained her ankle. Her misfortune was my good fortune. I eagerly volunteered to fill her spot. Of course, I was aware that we weren't going to do too many miles and there were only a few small rapids to get through.

Still, it gave me a feel for what it was like to paddle a raft. The company was great, and it was fun! It would definitely be challenging for a 15-day trip. This and the photo above were taken by Dawn.

This photo was taken later in the afternoon by Sue Elliott.

We arrived at Kwagunt Creek, our campsite for the night, with the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds.

The shadows of the clouds and the light from the sun simply danced around the canyon walls. It was absolutely beautiful!

But a heavy layer of clouds was moving in our direction.

We were still in what was called the Monsoon Season for the Grand Canyon and it looked and felt like it was going to rain. The guides recommended that tents be put up, just in case. And so we did. As night fell, I noticed that the stars weren't as bright as usual. It was like they were covered in a sheath of thin mesh cloth, you could just barely see them through the layer of clouds.

Photo courtesy of Sue Elliott - their site at Kwagunt Creek.

The heat of the day did not dissipate after the sun went down and it was still rather warm when I laid down for the night. I decided to stay outside, with a view of the night sky. The air was still, no breeze was stirring.

Shortly after laying down, I thought I felt a few sprinkles, then nothing. A short time later great big raindrops started falling and the wind started blowing. I jumped up, grabbed my sleeping gear and rushed into the tent just in time! The rain came down... and the thunder rolled. Oh, did it ever!

It was like nothing I had ever heard before. It bounced off the canyon walls.  It rolled and rolled, grumbling its way through the canyon.  It wasn't frightening, at least not to me. It was awesome and, quite simply, enhanced the overall incredible experiences of this journey.

The thunder eventually passed but the rain stayed, stopping and starting throughout the night. When morning came, the sun-filled blue sky was once again dappled with white clouds. What would this new day bring, I wondered.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 4 - Eminence Break to Kwagunt Creek," Kinexxions, posted October 14, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 3 on the Colorado River - Mile 26.5 to Mile 44.5

Friday, September 19th was a slow, easy, gorgeous day on the river! We traveled 18 miles, went through 5 small rapids, and stopped at 2 very interesting sites along the way.  Enjoy the journey...

Vasey's Paradise at Mile 32 is named after G. W. Vasey, a botanist who traveled with John Wesley Powell in his first expedition of the Colorado river in 1869.The waterfall is created by water that seeps through the upper sandstone layers of the canyon. The water gathers in the harder rock layers below then flows out from the cliff face through holes in the canyon wall.  It was just a narrow trickle of water on the right, but under better conditions (lots of rain or spring snow melt) there would be more water flowing, including a large cascading waterfall on the left.

From the river, Redwall Cavern between mile 33 and 34, doesn't appear to be much more than a nice sandy beach at the base of a towering canyon wall.

Appearances can be deceiving. Once you get out of the raft and start walking into the cavern you begin to get a feel for the enormous expanse that it encompasses.

The photo above, courtesy of Jeff whose GoPro camera has a very wide angle lens, shows it better than any of the shots I took. However, photos truly don't do it justice. To say that it is huge is an understatement! Golf clubs (using "soft" golf balls) and horse shoes mysteriously appeared and we enjoyed lunch here. It was truly a remarkable feature in the canyon.

Looking out from inside Redwall Cavern.

Moving on down the river.

Above and below are some of the many features we would see along the walls of the canyon.

Looking down on the river from the proposed Marble Canyon Dam site between mile 39 and 40.

At the entrance to one of the tunnels dug for the Marble Canyon Dam. It was one of several proposed sites for dams to be built on the Colorado River back in the 1950s. Thankfully, the project was abandoned although the subject still comes up now and then.

We entered the black hole with a few flashlights, carefully watching our step, and walked a short distance inside. We stopped when we got to the point where the main tunnel split up into four (I think) other tunnels. There was also a "tunnel" that had been drilled straight up! It was wet, dark, and dank inside so we didn't stick around long.

Another cave-like feature in the canyon wall.

A short distance beyond mile 43, the 600 foot high canyon wall conceals an ancient relic within its black algae-covered facade.

Discovered in the 1970s, the Anasazi Bridge is more than 1100 years old. Just imagine what it would have been like to carry the logs and other materials up to the site to build a bridge to cross that crevasse. Back-breaking. Dangerous. An incredible feat.

Our campsite at Eminence Break was just around the bend.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 3 on the Colorado River - Mile 26.5 to Mile 44.5," Kinexxions, posted October 29, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])