Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rafting in the Grand Canyon, part 2

The raft is dwarfed by the rock walls of the canyon.
 Our first full day on the Colorado River we’re awakened at 5:30 a.m. by the conch shell horn signaling that coffee is ready. Randy Tucker, lead guide on the trip, wasted no time getting breakfast started: honey dew melon and cantaloupe, English muffins, and eggs cooked to order.

Every turn brought another spectacular view--sandstone and limestone formations in upper canyon.
After this hearty meal, we broke camp, packed our blue and white dry bags, and set off on the day’s journey shortly after 7:30 a.m. Soon we entered the “Roaring 20’s,” a stretch of 10 rapids within the 20-30 mile span. Among these are North Canyon Rapid and 21 Mile Rapid, both with drops of 12 feet. Water splashing from the swirling waves served to keep us cool.

Enormous Redwall Canyon was a shady spot.
We took a short hike to see petroglyphs near Stanton’s Cave and then another hike to Vasey’s Paradise, a lovely spot with two parallel waterfalls streaming over red rock. Despite the cold temperature, the falling water provided a refreshing interlude as the spray glistened in the sunshine. Shortly past mile 33 we stopped at the Redwall Cavern, a vast chamber carved by the river and characterized by a deep overhanging rock ledge with thick sand underfoot that made walking a challenge.

Hiking to the waterfall.
Because we chose a 10-day trip on motorized rafts (instead of the usual 8-days to cover the same distance), we had time to stop, hike, and enjoy additional sights such as these.

Lunch consisted of Mexican salad in tortilla shells—with lots of trimmings. “Eat by the river,” we were told, so any dropped food particles could be washed away. We eat standing up or sitting on rocks without plates, napkins, or utensils. It’s no frills but hearty and very tasty.
Get wet--stay cool.

Lower Saddle camp ground at mile 47.5 was our stopping point for the day. Right after unloading the rafts, we started hiking to another waterfall. Although the distance was only 1.5 miles each way, scrambling over rocks and boulders and along narrow trails made the trek quite challenging. Rest and dinner (and a glass of wine) upon our return was quite welcome. With tents set up, a fine meal of salad, ravioli, and garlic bread (plus brownie cake to celebrate Larry’s birthday), we were ready for sleep by 9:00 p.m.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, part 1

First look at Colorado River from Navajo Bridge
The Grand Canyon of Arizona is one of the most spectacular natural sites in the world. It’s a grand geologic adventure with layer upon layer of rock—brown, red, gray, tan, black—that tell myriad stories of volcanic eruptions, upheavals, and the power of wind and water to carve a deep gorge through sedimentary and igneous rocks.

Our two rafts--transportation for 10 days
If you’ve seen the canyon from the rim, you understand the immensity of the formations which date back almost two billion years. Layers of sandstone and limestone form vertical cliffs that glow gold and red in brilliant sunsets, drawing visitors to this monument of natural effects and time. Far below the rim can be seen a winding ribbon of water, the Colorado River, which played a large part in carving the steep canyon called the Inner Gorge.

Starting our journey on the rafts
When I first saw this scene more than 10 years ago, I was fascinated by the enormity of this gorgeous site and decided some day to venture down into the canyon and traverse its depths on a raft trip along the Colorado River. I knew the trip would be a stretch for me because I’m not a camper, not fond of roughing it and foregoing usual habits of cleanliness and comfort. But for this adventure I was willing to challenge myself –as it turned out, in more ways that I realized.

View of Navajo Bridges from rafts at mile 4
For 10 days our group of 16 travelers and four guides explored 225 miles of river from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek. We splashed over 160 rapids large and small, scrambled over boulders and rocks hiking to waterfalls and other scenic sites, brushed sand out of everything we had, pitched and broke camp and loaded and unloaded the boats daily, and marveled at the beauty that surrounding us. It was truly the experience of a lifetime and one that I’ll share with friends and readers through these posts. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier