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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona River Runners’

This is my fourth summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for Arizona River Runners. My first trip launched on June 9th and I was pretty concerned that I hadn’t adjusted to the heat yet. My trip to Portland and trying to get things squared away with my Arizona Trail job meant that I hadn’t quite acclimated yet. Little did I know, I needn’t have worried- there was a tropical storm that came in that made it unseasonably cool and rainy!

On June 8th, I arrived at the warehouse in Flagstaff to pack up the boats and put them in the water at Lee’s Ferry. The crew was Joe as trip leader, Brie as second boatman, me as the swamper and Brie’s friend Nick as our work-your-way. The morning of June 9th was cool and overcast as the passengers arrived and loaded onto the boats. It’s always a flurry of activity, with lots of questions about the adventures to come. We headed downstream and I was excited to have returned to the Grand Canyon for the summer.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee's Ferry

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee’s Ferry

I was on Joe’s boat and did most of the interp- telling stories about the people, plants, animals, and geology of the place as Joe drove. It stayed overcast and got so chilly that I had to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! Never before seen- we started calling it Junuary.

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

At North Canyon, we pulled in and made camp and folks got settled in to their tents. We made salmon, broccoli, rice and salad for dinner and most went to sleep early. I went for a little hike up North Canyon and listened to music and played with my headlamp and camera. The crew sleeps on the boats, and I had been looking forward to sleeping under the stars, but the strange weather meant I put up a tent. The rain started in the middle of the night, big drops and intense at times.

North Canyon

North Canyon

The next morning, I was trying to cook breakfast when it started raining again. We put up a canopy and went about our business. We had to go through the Roaring Twenties, a series of rapids that are one after the other and people got cold. Joe made the decision to stop at Redwall Cavern after the Twenties were done and make hot soup. It was a real crowd-pleaser and morale booster- amazing what a little hot soup can do for the soul. Of course there was the fact that it was June 10th- a day that historically would have had us running into Redwall Cavern for shade- crazy! Joe and I must have said “Crazy” to each other a hundred times that trip because of the weather. Didn’t get a pic of the soup stop, but here’s one from another trip of Redwall Cavern.

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Mist and low clouds

Mist and low clouds

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

After our soup stop, the mist and clouds began to clear and the sun came out. We stopped at the Little Colorado River for a hike and swim. The LCR was a milky whitish blue from the storms. Camp was at Crash Canyon, a short distance downstream.

Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River

Set up the tent and it rained again that night with a second morning of cooking breakfast under the canopy. The clouds cleared again and it warmed up, which was good because on the third day we were going to run the Gorge, the biggest concentration of large rapids on the whole river. Joe and Brie maneuvered through the rapids with skill and we had an amazing day. There is no rapid on the river more fun than Hermit and we hit it just perfect for the optimal ride! Here’s a video taken by one of my coworkers a couple of years ago of a run through Hermit:

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

We stopped at Shinumo Creek to check out the waterfall, I was interested to see what it looked like, it is a side stream that flash-flooded several times recently. The waterfall is very different and the swimming pool at the base has been graveled in, but it’s still a great place for a stop. Camp was at 110- I could see my camp spot from my 2010 Royal Arch Loop.

Shinumo Waterfall

Shinumo Waterfall

And there's our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and North Bass Beach

October 2010- And there’s our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and Bass Camp. 110 is the beach to the far left of the picture

The next day we commonly call Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day like that? We started with the sublime Elves Chasm- a two-tiered waterfall with a perfect cave to climb up and jump off! This place exemplifies the differences between rafting and backpacking in the Canyon. When I visited on foot, it took three days of a rugged route and 20′ rappel to get there. Rafting, we pull up and it’s 1/4 mile from the boats. It’s great to give a wide range of folks the opportunity to see these amazing places.

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

After Joe and Brie had great runs through the technical Bedrock and Deubendorff Rapids, we stopped at Stone Creek. The warm, clear waterfall was welcome after days of the icy and silty river.

Deubendorff Rapid

Deubendorff Rapid

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Then it was on to the main event: Deer Creek Falls and the hike up to The Patio. Deer Creek is a 174-ft. cascade just minutes from the boat and is a destination in and of itself. My favorite part of the day is the hike up to the Deer Creek Narrows and the Patio. It’s usually pretty warm for the hike up the hill, but once on the Tapeats Sandstone, you get wonderful views up and downstream. The trail turns into the canyon above the waterfall, a slot canyon with the sound of the water rushing below. The trail narrows in a couple places that make it very challenging for the acrophobic. I have ushered countless people across this piece of trail and love helping people overcome their fears to get through the journey. The destination is certainly worth it- the Patio is a wonderland of cottonwoods and waterfalls. It is a place sacred to the Paiute Indians and there are small hand outlines where the ancients used reeds to blow paint over their hands along the trail to the Patio.

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Love this place.

Love this place.

Handprint in Deer Creek

Handprint in Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

We spent some time at the Patio and then hiked down to enjoy the big waterfall for a while before making camp across the river. It was Fajita Night for dinner, a crowd favorite.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

In the morning we went through the narrow Muav Gorge and visited Havasu Creek, a tricky place to park and tie up the boats, because we park in a rapid. It’s often called the Swamper Olympics because there are numerous extra lines that have to be tied to make sure the boats are secure. Everyone enjoyed a swim in the blue-green waters of the refreshing creek.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon

After Havasu, we had a couple of hours before the grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls. The river falls 37 feet over the span of several hundred yards and it can often be quite a ride. Other times, you hit it a certain way and it doesn’t feel like much. On this day we had a giant full-boat soaking wave cover every inch of the 35-foot rig- it was fantastic!!

Lava Falls

Lava Falls

We pulled up at Angel Camp for our last night and cooked up a steak dinner and celebrated one of the passenger’s birthday with a dutch-oven cake. Afterward, everyone sat and shared their reflections of the trip. It’s always fun to see what parts of the journey stand out to each person.

I snuck away, because I had a surprise for the passengers. If the group is right, the camp is right and I’m not too tired from working all day I put on a short bellydance performance on the beach. This beach was perfect, there was a spit of flat sand that extended along the shoreline. After the group was done, I invited them down and surprised them with a show, complete with music from a portable speaker. It was quite the venue- as I danced I could see the walls of the Canyon and the sky scintillating with stars. Everyone agreed it was a great way to end the night.

The next morning we only had a short distance to go to the Whitmore helipad, mile 187, where the six-day journey ended for our group. The river brings people together and there were many hugs given and promises to keep in touch. We waved as the helicopters took the folks to the Bar 10 Ranch.

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

I feel so fortunate to be able to call the Canyon my home- it is the place that inspires me like no other. I enjoy seeing people from all over the world come to experience the Canyon at a deeper level than just peering over the rim for a day. Seeing people get that sparkle in their eye when I point out something beautiful or interesting or the look of satisfaction that comes from a great hike. What an infinitely fascinating place.

To find out more about the different river trips offered, visit www.raftarizona.com.

In Wildlife Rehab news, we got a Crested Caracara that was hit by a car down by Kitt Peak. The Caracara is a Falcon that acts more like a vulture and is only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida. What a treat to see one up close! To donate to help feed and house the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, use the link below.
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Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

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My blog hit 100,000 views yesterday- thanks to all who have visited! Whether you came for my journals, pictures of hiking, animals or stumbled on it randomly- I’m glad to be able to share the wonderful experiences I have with you.

This year for the Arizona River Runners/Grand Canyon Whitewater end-of-the-season party we got to go for two nights at the Bar 10 Ranch on the Arizona Strip. This is where our passengers helicopter out  to on our six and seven day trips from Whitmore helipad, mile 187. We also do a shorter 3-day trip where they stay at the ranch for one night and one night on the river. The ranch is part of the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.

Flying from the South Rim

Flying from the South Rim

Brian and I met the others at the Grand Canyon Airport for a half-hour flight to the ranch. This was my first time flying over the Canyon and it was so incredible to see familiar landmarks from a totally different perspective! I particularly liked the views of  the temples in the Inner Gorge and the lava flows farther downstream.

Fantastic Grand Canyon Temples and Buttes

Fantastic Grand Canyon Temples and Buttes

Vishnu Temple all the way to the right

Vishnu Temple all the way to the right

Lava Flows from above

Lava Flows from above

We landed in what seemed like the middle of nowhere- it’s 80 miles of dirt road to get here from the nearest town of St. George, Utah. The Arizona Strip is the part of Northern Arizona that is geographically cut off from the rest of the state by a certain big hole in the ground- the Grand Canyon. Brian and I put our things in one of the covered wagons that are available. Kinda goofy, but when do I ever get to sleep in a wagon?

Whitmore International Airport

Whitmore International Airport

Whitmore International Airport

Whitmore International Airport

Covered Wagon

Covered Wagon

Bar 10 ranch house and covered wagons

Bar 10 ranch house and covered wagons

We had lunch and then most of the group went skeet shooting. I took the nature trail around the ranch. The ranch is in Whitmore Canyon about 10 miles from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Fall colors and cooler temps made for a perfect afternoon.

Marine Fossils

Marine Fossils

Grand Canyon Rattlesnake in the Nature Center

Grand Canyon Rattlesnake in the Nature Center

I was excited to go horseback riding, I just love being able to look around from up high on the trail. We rode over to the old ranch house and heard stories from Gavin, who grew up at the ranch, and Garth, who has lived on the Arizona Strip for many years.

Bar 10 Horseback ride

Bar 10 Horseback ride

Horseback riding in Whitmore Canyon

Horseback riding in Whitmore Canyon

Garth Bundy tells stories of long ago on the Arizona Strip

Garth Bundy tells stories of long ago on the Arizona Strip

Meow!

Meow!

The day was filled with activities- next was a short ATV ride to a place called Pa’s Pocket, where Garth told stories about working out here. I’d never ridden an ATV and it was noisy, dusty, and bounced me all over the place. Still, I appreciated the ability to travel through this vast landscape.

Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater

Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater

Cabin at Pa's Pocket

Cabin at Pa’s Pocket

Dam in the sandstone- one of the "Pockets"

Dam in the sandstone- one of the “Pockets”

Sunset from Pa's Pocket

Sunset from Pa’s Pocket

We drove back to the ranch in the fading light and were treated to an incredible meal. Afterwards, we sat around the campfire where a couple of guitars were passed around, punctuated by the occasional joke or story. What a fantastic day!

Brian and I slept soundly in the covered wagon and the next day got ready for another ride, this time out to the Whitmore Overlook, where we’d get to see the Colorado River. This time we opted to ride in a side-by-side, a larger vehicle that gave a much smoother ride. It was 11 miles out to the overlook through ledgy sandstone and lava fields.

Lava Flow

Lava Flow

Whitmore Overlook

Whitmore Overlook

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon

It was so much fun to see the river so close, only 900 feet below the overlook. We had views of the lava flowing into the canyon and could see the tiny helipad below. I’m going to have to plan a trip out to this area to explore more on foot. This trip was for spending time with Brian and my coworkers on vacation.

We returned to the ranch for lunch and everyone went back out for another drive to an overlook of Parashant Canyon. Brian and I had had enough of being in a vehicle and we stayed back at the ranch and napped under a giant golden cottonwood.

Fall colors on the Bar 10- Photo by Anilee Bundy http://anileebundy.blogspot.com/

Fall colors on the Bar 10- Photo by Anilee Bundy

After watching the sunset, the others came back and we had dinner, then another round of stories, guitars and singing. I am lucky to work with such fun and talented people and to work for a company that treats its employees well.

Smoky sunset

Smoky sunset

We flew back to the south rim and wished each other a good winter- many of my friends are going to exotic locations and traveling. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to being at home with Brian and my dog Bailey.

Here’s a picture of a beautiful Great Horned Owl from Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. Click below to donate to feed and house these amazing birds!

Donate Button with Credit CardsGreat Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

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