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

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