Wet bed


Andy: "Wow. That doesn't look appealing."

Me: "What does it look like?"

Andy: "A wet bed sheet."

At dinner yesterday evening, Tracy offered the suggestion of wetting our bed sheets in the river before going to bed. Both Kris and Andy did so. I opted to stay dry. I'm not sure either of them slept better last night for the wetness, as it also rained last night. A lot.

Kris, Andy and I had put up the tent before we went to bed. It had sprinkled a small bit last night, so we knew that rain was a possibility. It hadn't, however, rained enough to send us into the tent. Last night, we put up the tent just in case. We had also decided, based on the amount of wind in the Canyon at night, and how much sand said wind kicks up, that we were going to choose sleeping locations based on wind protection. We looked for areas where we were downwind of a large rock, outcropping or bush, and used our tent for wind protection in the other direction.

Last night, however, it rained. Not just the spattering of the night before, but full gusto, big drop, Arizona monsoon rain. I had jumped into the tent still dry, but Kris and Andy waited until the rain was really coming down. I then insisted they put the rain tarp on the tent, which we had neglected to do last night, so they were even wetter when they finally came in.

Before the rain began, the sky had cleared and I managed to see the black sky with so many more stars than I normally see. I managed to see the new constellations I learned on the plane flight over, though I didn't recall their names, as well as draco and a few others I did recognize.

We were camping at the 118 dune camp, which is in Steven's Aisle, after rafting though some big rapid yesterday.

Small? Big!


I'm more than a little entertained about the way that the canyon forms not only on a big scale, but also on the small scale.

As the waters receded from the dune we camped on, it created small sculptures and carvings that looked like the big stuff.

And the big stuff:

Right length


Andy commented to me last night that the lower half seemed the right trip to go on, the right distance to go.

He wouldn't like the 7.5 mile hike out of the Canyon, which happens at the end of the Upper Canyon trip. The same hike where 45 minutes out of Indian Gardens rest stop, which is 4.5 of 7.5 miles into the hike DOWN, we met the Upper Canyon group coming up. A boy of maybe 16 in the group asked us how far to go to the next resting spot, so I answered that we had travelled the 45 minutes down, and they had about 75 minutes to the next resting spot. He looked at me in complete disbelief, to which I though, "Oh, kid, you have a long way to go to get out."

So, the Upper Canyon trip was out.

Doing the full canyon trip would take two weeks to complete. At that point, Andy commented, going home would be hard. Going back to the same job, the same life? Very very hard, as he would want to just stay in nature instead.

So, yeah, the Lower Canyon trip?

Best choice.



Yes, this trip is more than just a float down some of the best brown-water rapids in the country. It is also an opportunity for learning, not only of the rock formation and geological history, but also of water resource allocations and the unrelenting abuse of nature by humans.

We also had a group circle where we all introduced ourselves to each other. It was an opportunity led by Charly, one of the guides, for us to "merge tribes," instead of having an us-versus-them sort of dynamic. I don't know how much it helped, but at least I know everyone's names now.

Stayed behind


Started today on the river in the paddle boat for the two miles on the river until the morning hike. We walked up a dry creek bed for maybe 150 yards, before coming to a section that required rope to continue. The mountain goats of guides that we have ran up the face of the canyon end, secured a rope at the top, and had everyone head up after them.

The rope climb involved putting your feet on the walk and resting backward so that your body was about parallel to the ground, and walking up the wall stiff armed.

Kris made it up with a little difficulty. Several other people had some trouble, but everyone who tried made it up to the top. I decided not to go, and handed Andy my camera, asking him to take pictures, please. Kris had already told me he didn't want camera duty, so he didn't get it.

Andy did a great job with the pictures.

I didn't go. I chose not to go, sure, but I was definitely frustrated with myself for not going. Honestly, I was too scared to go. What a stupid reason not to go. I stayed back with Pam and Adam, the parents of Michael and Sonya, all from Boston, and Erin, whose sister shimmied up the rope in the blink of an eye, Greg, a trip assistant and Pat.

I spent the time lying on rocks, munching on one of my luxury items that Kris bought me (also known as "peanut M&Ms"), and reading the book Sunk without a Sound. Tracy told Kris and I the story about Glen and Bessie Hyde, who tried rafting the Grand Canyon in the thirties and were lost. Their boat was found with items in it looking like they had just walked away from it. Andy found the book in the trip library, and I kinda snagged it from him.

The book mentions a "Glen Sturdevant," who was the Grand Canyon Park naturalist in the twenties. He died in the Colorado River back in 1929. I wonder if he's the namesake of the Sturdevant Falls in Pasadena. I'll have to look that up when we get back.

Update: Apparently not. Wilbur M. Sturtevant from the 1890s instead.

I really need to learn how to do some rock climbing. This lack of both confidence and upper body strength is both retarded and unacceptable. Seriously.

Ant bean


After the hike today, we had lunch before setting out for the afternoon. I had started walking back to the boats before Charly and Sam came up the side canyon to get us, so I was able to hurry back down to the beach and have firsts before anyone else started having seconds.

The lunch serving table was set up next to a nice comfy rock that would have been perfect for sitting, if not for the red ant colony entrance directly next to the rock. Standing within even three feet of the hole meant that ants would be crawling along your feet and up your legs to get to that burrito thing in your hand faster than you can say, "Red ant?"

While eating, Kris stood close to the rock, but far enough away to avoid the ants. He warned people thinking of sitting on the rock of the ant hill behind them, suggesting perhaps they might want to sit elsewhere. Everyone did.

At one point, Kris dropped a bean from his burrito, and it landed on the sand in front of him. For small pieced of food, we're supposed to pick them up and throw them into the river. Larger pieces go into the trash if you can't dust them off and just eat them.

Kris waited before picking up his bean.

As he watched, an ant approached the bean. It seemed to be smelling it, analyzing it. It then scurried away, into the ant hole.

Moments later, a swarm of ants burst from the ant hill and rushed the bean. He said they swarmed all over it, presumably to cut it up for food for the nest. He said that it couldn't have been more than 30 seconds between scurry and return swarm.

He decided to leave the bean.

Stupid FAF


I find the changes in "favorite" phrases of the river guides interesting. Last time I was here, there was a lot of "FAF" talk, where FAF is an acronym from Farting Around Forever (or, of course, the more offensive F word, if you prefer). I think the guides then were concerned about the time, and getting everyone to move along, hurry up, we have a lot of rowing to do today.

This time down the Canyon, though, the key phrase is, "If you're hot, you're stupid." Given we're floating along a river with water not higher than 55° F, and all it takes is a quick splash to cool you down, it doesn't matter much if the outside temperature is 95+° F, there's no reason to be overheated (or even just heated).

Update: I mentioned this to Charly, about the different phrases. He said that, yes FAF is still used. He didn't realize it was an acronym, though.

Hold on!


Today was another big day of rapids. Kris and I were in Matt's boat, after I transferred away from the paddle boat. Sure, I was behind Andy in the paddle boat, a big reason to stay in the boat, sitting behind him, but we were going through rapids today, big rapids, and I really didn't want to paddle through them.

So, I jumped ship, and joined Kris and Pat in Matt's boat. I suspect that two consecutive days in the same guide's boat is a little discouraged, but it worked for us. We knew what to expect, having spent the previous day running a large number of rapids. Well, and Matt knew what to expect when I jumped into the back of the boat, where I enjoyed looking around, taking pictures, and, when the need arose, peeing in a can without effort.

Today's rapids were Forster Rapid (6), Fossil Rapid (6), 128 Rapid (4), Specter Rapid (6), Bedrock Rapid (8) and Dubendorff Rapid (8). The only one of note, of course, was Specter Rapid.

So, here we are, going along down the River. We've had a couple rapids, nothing too spectacular, Kris has ridden the bull on one, which involves sitting at the very front of the boat, feet over the front, holding onto the chicken rope between your legs, and crashing through the rapids chest first. I've spent most of the rapids standing behind Matt, as standing gives me more flexibility: I can shift my weight, I can duck, I can crouch, and I can jump clear over everyone in the appropriate case. Better, if needed, I can take a picture of Kris getting pounded by the water. Best thought ever.

Coming up on Specter, however, Matt started tying down everything on his boat, making sure everything was well secured. He told me that, no, I'd have to sit for this one.

I chose to see in the back right.

So, being my normal worried self, I held on when we entered the rapids.

Rapids in the Grand Canyon often come with wave trains, which are standing waves of water, sometimes breaking, sometimes not, and usually diagonal to the direction we want to go, which is straight down the river. If the wave never breaks, a boat can usually just slide up the front of the wave, and back over the back of it. If the wave is breaking, it will do so either continually (churning white water) or periodically, where it crashes, then smooths, crashes, then smooths.

In these latter crashing-smoothing waves, if the boat has timed the wave so that it enters while the wave is smoothing, the boat will just glide up and over the wave. On the other hand, if the guide times the boat to enter the wave when the wave is crashing, we all get gloriously super soaked.

Sometimes we fall out of the boat when this happens.

Sometimes the boat flips.

Of course, all of this assumes the boat hits the wave head-on. When it hits it sideways, crashing or smooth is irrelevant if the wave is big enough. A big enough wave means the boat is flipping sideways.

So, we enter the wave train of Specter Rapid, Pat and Kris in the front, Matt rowing, my sitting back right.

First wave, perfect entry, no problem.

Second wave hits the boat oddly, and we spin counter clockwise.

I'm watching the next wave, the one in a breaking-smoothing cycle in front of us, and note with detached interest that, hey, I'm the one approaching the wave first. The boat had spun around about 120° and I was closest to the wave. Had I reached out and up about a foot with my right hand, I could have touched the top of the wave, which was above me, as the right side of the boat lifted up, the left side dropping down. Matt pulled in his right oar, we rounded the top of the wave without it breaking on or under us, and Matt pushed out his right oar again to straighten us as the next wave came crashing down on us.

At the end of the rapids, Matt pulled out into an eddy, and we waited for the other boats to come through. Josh pulled up and started heckling Matt for going in sideways.

Turns out, Matt admitted later, that when we were knocked sideways, he thought we were goners and were going to flip on the wave I could have touched. Kris and Pat had also thought we were goners, being much more aware of the angle the boat was in.

Me? I had been concentrating so hard on that wave, that I had no idea how far the boat had tipped. I don't know if my sitting on the high side of the boat had any effect on the outcome of that rapid, but I'd like to think it did.

Camera notes


7 days (including today) left. 3 batteries ~ 1500 - 1800 pictures left. So... 200 - 250 a day. might be difficult. May not get so many macro shots. Andy's taken maybe 20-30 to my 600-700. Quality, man.



We stayed tonight at Stone Creek, around mile 132. Turns out, Stone Creek actually has flowing water this time of the year, unlike many other of the side canyons. Not only that, but Stone Creek has a waterfall, too.

After finding a place to pitch the tent, on an peninsula in the lee side of a large stone, Kris, Andy and I walked over to the creek and started walking up it into the side canyon.

After about 50 meters up Stone Creek Canyon, Kris and Andy paused, and noted the creek running down. After this morning's lessons about dams and hydropower, Andy and Kris jumped at the opportunity to build a dam on the creek.

I kept walking up the creek, a little annoyed with the two of them. There was a waterfall to see! And a side canyon to walk up! What were they doing building a dam? I continued up the creek, taking pictures of the sedimentary rock and other interesting rocks along the way, walking farther and farther away from the two of them.

And then I realized, this whole trip wasn't about how fast I could hike up to a waterfall in the Grand Canyon. I was on a once-in-a-decade trip with my husband and with a good friend: the journey with them was far more important than the destination of this walk. If I missed the waterfall (which I didn't) would it matter if I had spent that time building a dam with Kris and Andy?


So, I turned back around, walked back to where they were, and started filling in the cracks of their dam between pictures.

And when we were done, what do you know? The three of us made it to the waterfall just fine.