Grand Canyon – Day 17

Day 17 – February 19

Above Anvil (178.0) to Hualapai Acres (194.6)
River Miles: 16.6

The wind gusted all night long. I heard it down at the river or rustling the grasses and then a few second later the whole tent would shake. We slept poorly from 2:30 AM on. We woke to the pitter patter of rain on the tent. Hurriedly we dressed and packed up our tent. Much better to pack it dry! Once that task was done we went down for breakfast – huevos rancheros – eggs, beans, cheese, enchilada sauce on corn tortillas.

Morning routine ensued and we were on the river by 9 only to be greeted by a fierce headwind. Daddy rowed hard for those two miles to get to Lava Falls Rapid. We pulled over on river right to scout the rapid. It was huge and confused with no clear path through.

Daddy and I decided on a right run that required left lateral movement in the rapid. Shawn and Matt were leaning towards a left run through a narrow channel that came precariously close to a huge hole caused by a ledge and followed by 2 significant pour overs.

Cory wanted to get photos of boats going through so he volunteered to photograph the first three boats (Matt, Daddy, & Shawn) and then have Shawn photograph him. All agreed to this plan and we were about to head back to the boats when the pirates appeared. We decided to wait and watch them run the rapid first. They spent some time scouting and talking and then also went in two batches.

First three of their kayaks went, then three of their rafts, skirting dangerously close to the ledge hole but passing on the right. All three rafts had clean runs with the last being the best.

Daddy was ready now! But we had to wait for the second half of the pirates to go. Fortunately, the wind had died down and the sun was out. The pirates did well, their last two rafts cheating farther left but still making it through unscathed. Our turn!

(Oh, one of their kayakers flipped after the first wave and couldn’t get back up. She spent about 15 seconds underwater until she finally pulled her skirt and popped up. Her boat floated away but one of the other kayakers got her to safety.)

Anyway, Matt went first – we were behind him but as soon as he dropped in we lost sight of him. The depth of the drop was that significant.

He got pushed right into some gnarly lateral waves/holes/rocks but the raft stayed upright.

We entered right where we planned but very quickly got knocked by a wave and the downriver pontoon got sucked into the water.

Andrew was on that side and he disappeared under the water as the raft rose behind me.

I grabbed for him as I slammed my body towards the high side of the raft. We righted and Andrew was still in the raft but Daddy was not!

Andrew discovered it and lunged for the oars. I spotted Daddy, head up and toes downriver.

We slammed into another wave and up the raft tilted – we high sided again and the raft righted itself. At this point Andrew yelled that we lost an oar. He was doing his best with one oar and I kept eyes on Daddy.

One of the kayakers paddled towards him. We were also moving towards him so I grabbed the rescue rope and after making eye contact with Daddy I threw the rope at him. It was a perfect throw (Praise God!) and Daddy grabbed hold of the rope over his shoulder and hand over hand I pulled him in. When he got to the raft Andrew and I each took a shoulder strap on his PFD and hauled him in. Daddy took back over at the oars, pulled in the one we lost (it was tied with a safety string) and got us over to an eddy on river left. Daddy was so bummed! But this is huge water and the force it can wield on boats is no joke. I think he did well even though he got ejected – he didn’t flip the raft, his passengers were safe and we got him back in before the rapid was over. In whitewater these things will happen and the way we handled the situation was perfect.

There was lots of laughing and joking afterwards when we were all through and safe.

Shawn also got knocked but was able to stay in the raft – he even bumped a rock. Cory had the cleanest run and he was mighty proud of that.

Well, we still had some miles to go so after a bit we loaded up and downriver we went. The wind picked up again which made tough going. We stopped for lunch at a sunny beach and found a spot protected from the wind. We didn’t linger though because we still had 8-9 miles until camp. The afternoon was one of our roughest. The temperature was cold even with the spots of sun and the wind continued to be formidable.

We finally made it to camp – my feet were aching with the cold. This camp is quite protected with little trails through trees and brush.

Daddy, Gerry, and I made dinner – chicken pot pie in the Dutch oven, spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer, and mint cookies for dessert.

The clouds closed in again and we had a few drops of rain. Daddy mentioned that the tent zippers have failed.

I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and then turned in to write to you and warm up. I was dismayed when I saw the tent. The zipper has completely failed. The door hangs open except where the zipper pull is. I struggled with it for about 20 minutes. I got out Jude’s toothbrush – the one I sanitized for our drysuit zippers – and tried to clean the zipper and then work it closed. I got ⅓ of the door closed but no luck for the rest. It is cold tonight too! I have on 2 shirts, long underwear, socks and my winter hat. I think I’ll wear my winter gloves. It’s going to be a chilly night but after such an adventure filled day, I’m exhausted. I’m counting down the days until we see each other again. I miss you all greatly. Lots of love.

XOXO – Mom