Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 14 - Pumpkin Springs to Mile 241

Tuesday, September 30th would be another long-mile day, and sadly, it would be our last night on the river. Traveling 28 miles (mile 213 to mile 241) we would run 13 rapids (half of which were very small), go through a bunch of riffles, and take a hike.

The day began at the Pumpkin Springs campsite.

Pumpkin Springs, aptly named, has the shape, color and striations of a pumpkin.

As pretty as it looks on the outside, drinking the water in Pumpkin Springs could be hazardous to your health! It is the only water in Grand Canyon that the National Park Service advises people not to drink. It contains high levels of arsenic as well as other chemicals that contribute to its colorful exterior. We had a view of the water in the spring from the groover and it looked pretty nasty with a lot of green slimey stuff on its surface.

Before leaving Pumpkin Springs, someone (one of the paddle boat rafters, I think) decided that we needed to take a group photo. Great idea!

This was taken by KJ with Patrick's camera. (I cropped it and made some adjustments to the brightness and contrast.)
        back row, from left: Tom, Nancy, DJ, Fred, Sue, Jason, Sarah, Russell, Dar, Becky, Tony and Carrie
        front row, from left: Patrick, Dave, Mary, Tana, and Jim.

Also before leaving camp, we each packed our lunch for a hike later in the day. Apparently, the spot where we would be landing for the hike was not suitable for preparing lunch as usual.

Going through "224 Mile Rapid" with Diamond Peak up ahead. By this time we had already gone through five rapids.

Dar taking a turn at the oars. When she finished, I took a turn at them too. The guides make it look so easy, but it takes a lot of coordination and strength! It's much more difficult to "push" with the oars going forward than it is to "pull" when going backward.

We're still in the "lower gorge" where the canyon walls tower above us.

We stopped at Travertine Canyon, at about mile 229, for a hike to the Grotto. (Photo taken after we returned from the hike. I didn't think to take one from the raft as we approached.) We had to climb (practically crawl) over these boulders before we could even start on the hike. For those of us whose raft was on the far end, it was a little challenging since the hill was a little steeper and there were more boulders. Getting back into the rafts was just as challenging. And now, it made sense as to why we had to pack our lunches before leaving camp!

I was standing in the middle of the stream when I saw Sue and Fred and some of the other hikers returning from the Grotto. When we arrived at this spot earlier, I was advised not to go any further. I had already had problems negotiating my way over and/or around some of the larger boulders and was quite agreeable to staying behind. I played in the stream and it's numerous little waterfalls (bathing sans soap) and ate my lunch listening to the flow of the water over the rocks. It was a brief, soothing interlude, they returned all too soon.

Travertine Falls, at mile 230.5

Matt (with Sue and Fred in front, and Sarah and Jason in the rear) begins his run through 231 Mile Rapid (rated 4-7 on the Grand Canyon scale).

Like ducks in a row, floating toward yet another rapid. I don't know which rapid it was, just that it was about half an hour after 231 Mile Rapid. Starting at mile 231 and ending at mile 236 we ran five rapids (rated at either 4-6 or 4-7). It was almost as amazing as Day 8 when we ran the "Gems."

It was in one of those rapids, from mile 231 to mile 236, that we would have the only swimmers of the trip. By their own admission, the paddle boat crew had become complacent and a bit cocky, after all they had made it safely through Lava Falls Rapid as well as all of the other rapids in the Lower Canyon.

We watched, as if in slow motion, as their raft was carried up by a wave on the right. The right side of the raft went up further, nearly to the tipping point, and the three paddlers on that side simply dropped down, hitting the three paddlers on the left side and throwing all of them into the river. Somehow, Tom, guiding from the rear, managed to stay in the raft. The swimmers recovered quickly and made it back to the raft safely with only a few bruises and a good story to tell all of their friends and family.

Matt and the gang dropping into the rapid mentioned in the previous photo.

Follow the line of Matt's oar and you'll see Sue, just barely visible on the left side of the raft!

We're approaching the end of the journey. Though still within the borders of Grand Canyon National Park, we officially enter Lake Mead a short distance around the bend.

At about mile 240, the rafts gathered and were tied together. We were officially in Lake Mead. We drifted like this for a while then it was time to move on to our campsite.

Pulling in to our last campsite, at mile 241.

For some of us, our sleeping area was this stretch of beach. My spot is between the first two tents. I'm using the paco pad to try and dry the clothes I wore in the raft. There was another section of the beach off to the left that curved on around where others set up for the night. (Above photo courtesy of Sue Elliott)

The blue boat on the right is a jet boat that had brought a motor and other gear needed to take the rafts out later that night. It would return for us, our personal gear, and the rest of the camping gear the next morning.

After supper, the air was let out of the paddle raft and it was bundled up and put into one of the bigger rafts. The remaining rafts were then tied together. A big outboard motor was hooked up and they were driven off to the take-out point at Pearce Ferry, 40 miles downriver. Matt and Tom stayed in camp with us, but the other guides went with the rafts so everything could be unloaded by morning.

It was really sad to see KJ, Allison, Justin, and Chelly leave. Even though we knew we would see them again tomorrow, it brought home the fact that this trip was actually over. And most, if not all of us, truly did not want it to come to an end.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: The page Grand Canyon Raft Trip lists all of my posts published about this Grand Adventure!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 14 - Pumpkin Springs to Mile 241," Kinexxions, posted November 13, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 13 - Hell's Hollow to Pumpkin Springs

Monday, September 29th would be our longest day on the river. Traveling 30 miles (from mile 183 to mile 213), we would go through six rapids (two good sized and four small ones). Much of the day would be spent floating in calm waters.

Taken as we were leaving Hell's Hollow campsite.

The darker areas in the canyon wall are remnants of ancient lava flows.

The same lava flow as we passed by.

That group of scientists that we saw back on September 21st studying the Humpback Chub had completed their research and were heading to their take-out point at Diamond Creek (at mile 226).  There were at least half a dozen boats/rafts of various sizes, all with motors, that zipped past us and were soon out of sight.

As a side note, Diamond Creek is the only place in Grand Canyon National Park, aside from Lee's Ferry, where there is vehicular access to the river. However, Diamond Creek Road is a 20+ mile long, non-maintained, dirt and rock road through the Haualapai reservation that starts at Peach Springs. There are some raft trip concessionaires that end their trip at the Diamond Creek take-out.

I don't know if the formation on the right has a name, but we dubbed it "The Cathedral" and we named the formation to the left "The Organ."

To us, the basalt columns beneath the overhang looked like the pipes of a pipe organ.

A huge lava rock in the middle of the river. (Taken about 10:30 a.m)

Ocotillo Cactus were prolific in this area. Taken about 2 p.m.

Just some more interesting formations.

This was most likely Kolb Rapid, at mile 205, since the photo was taken mid-afternoon.

It had a heck of a drop to it.

Jim took a turn at the oars for a while.

If you've been following along on this journey, by now you probably realize that I was totally captivated by the reflections on the river!

Matt's raft dropping backwards into 209 Mile Rapid, the last one of the day.

Holes in blue-gray colored canyon wall...

Getting close to our campsite at Pumpkin Springs and bringing to a close another magical day on the Colorado River.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: The page Grand Canyon Raft Trip lists all of my posts published about this Grand Adventure!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 13 - Hell's Hollow to Pumpkin Springs," Kinexxions, posted November 12, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 12 - Part 2 :: Lava Falls Rapid

Caution. Graphics intensive. Way more than usual!

Sunday, September 28th... continued.

It was after 3 p.m. when KJ, Dar, Jim and I pulled into the scouting point for Lava Falls Rapid. We were the last to arrive. Some of the group had already gone to take a look and returned to their rafts.

I wish that I had thought to take a picture of where we tied up, it was a rocky shoreline that required climbing up and over big boulders.  I started to get out of the raft with Jim and Dar, but KJ said no, I was to stay in the raft. Time was of the essence and the others were waiting for him and it would have taken me much longer. So I stayed.

He seemed to be in a hurry when he came back. He told us to remove our hats and sunglasses then stashed them in one of the waterproof storage bins. That's when I started getting really nervous. Then he reminded us how we were to sit - lean forward into the raft, not backward. The fact that he thought he had to remind us made me even more nervous. Then he said we're going first! Good grief, we almost never go first!

And then we were on our way...

Sue, Fred, Jason, Sarah, and Allison were laughing as we pulled out. And, they still had hats and sunglasses on. What's up with that? I wondered, so why did KJ make us take ours off?

This was our view of Lava Falls Rapid before we dropped down into it. Once through, we would be stationed way down on the right, on the other side of those last boulders - the ones just before the river disappears out of view. Our job would be to retrieve any swimmers who happened to get tossed overboard. Of course, we didn't know that until after we had run the rapid. And now I wonder, Who would have caught us if we had flipped?

This shot is zoomed in and cropped drastically, Chelly is standing by as the paddle raft crew successfully maneuvers through Lava Falls Rapid.

This was actually our view of the rapids. If I had my druthers I would have been stationed where that other raft is, so yeah, I was a little disappointed. However, that disappointment was alleviated considerably by the fact that Patrick, who was in Matt's raft - the last to go through - was stationed up on the rocks about midway through the rapid and would be shooting video of the runs, which he would later share with us.

Patrick had his GoPro camera and took standard-motion video of every raft (except his, of course). But he also had another digital camera with which he shot slow-motion video of several rafts! I asked, and he gave me permission, to use some screen shots of KJ's raft (the one I was in) going through. The images below are courtesy of Patrick Grelier, and used with his permission. Thank you, Patrick!

Patrick didn't capture our entrance into Lava Falls with the slow-motion camera so the first two images are wide-angle shots from the GoPro. They also show how small the raft is compared to some of those waves. Huge waves. Tiny, tiny boat.

We were going in straight just like he planned, then the current grabbed the raft, and turned us sideways. Definitely not part of the plan.

Then it kept turning us...

Uh Oh, not supposed to be going backwards into Lava Falls Rapid! Was it luck or skill on KJ's part that we weren't running in the roughest waters, rather alongside them?

It was still pretty darned rough.

Then we got clobbered. Hard. Oh, my. Looks like Dar was slipping out of the raft! (She didn't.)

Maybe we should be thankful that we were going backward...

Nearly through that wave... but totally drenched.

The wave was powerful enough to knock KJ off his seat and it filled the raft with water, which quickly drained.

Control regained. Sort of.

Approaching the 4th wave...

Going down...

And over. Whew!  Just like you're supposed to! I thought sure we were going to get hit again but the wave broke before we got to it.

A bit of a splash on the 5th wave and then we're through. All's well that ends well. Elapsed time? Less than 30 seconds. Probably the most exhilarating 30 seconds of my life! It was Awesome!

Once everyone was through, we gathered together on the river for a little celebration as we always did after safely "conquering" a major rapid. Then it was three more miles down the river to our campsite at Hell's Hollow.

At camp that night, we all got to view the slow-motion videos on the tiny screen of Patrick's camera and were even more psyched about the run through Lava Falls Rapid. About half-way through the run, Tom and the paddle raft had gotten turned around too and went backwards for a while. Allison, Chelly, Justin, and Matt all had nearly flawless runs; they made the run look easy. It wasn't. It was a combination of skill and good fortune that got us all through safely.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: The page Grand Canyon Raft Trip lists all of my posts published about this Grand Adventure!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 12 - Part 2 :: Vulcan's Anvil to Lava Falls Rapid," Kinexxions, posted November 11, 2014 ( : accessed [access date])