We ended up getting a late start today, so we skipped lunch. I definitely need to put more snacks in my boat! The riffles early on had some pretty decent waves, but the waves in Badger Rapid were crazy! The waves are very chaotic to say the least and at this point, it’s hard to tell where I’m going in the rapid. Tomorrow we’ll start with Soap Creek Rapid. We’re camped right at the top, so I got to take a look at it. It’s very, very long! I flipped and rolled up in Badger today, but I was nearly at the bottom. We’ve got some pretty tough rapids tomorrow, so I’m definitely concerned. On a bright note, we have a little bit of cell signal tonight. I was able to text Sheila and the girls, but phone calls didn’t go so well. I did manage to leave a quick message on Sheila’s voicemail a while ago though. It’s early, but I think it’s time to get some sleep! It’s been a long day!
Tuesday – March 27, 2012 – Shinumo Wash (Silver Grotto)
I started the day at Soap Creek Rapid cold. I had a perfect line and it was easy rolling waves all the way down. House Rock was absolutely huge! I took a sneak down the right side, but it was actually a pretty tough line. It definitely required a lot of effort and some moves around rocks! We stopped for a short hike up North Canyon, which was beautiful. Afterwards, I led for North Canyon Rapid and pushed across the eddy line mid-rapid. I took at absolute beating. It sucked me back in and I got slammed by a huge lateral from behind. I braced and braced and braced and finally fought my way back into the eddy. I was a little shaken up, but I forced myself to paddle back into and finish the rapid. I got absolutely slammed by a lateral wave in Indian Dick, but I rolled right up…after a long wait to get back to the surface. I fought hard to the left, in order to avoid a hole in 24-1/2 Mile Rapid, but turned downstream too soon. I ended up running the worst part of the rapid and flipped. I rolled in pretty much the worst conditions imaginable and came up backwards, so after orienting myself, I finished it backwards. The only other big action was Tiger Wash Rapid. I got hit harder than I ever imagined being hit, but just braced and floated right through it. We got into camp late and tired. I had cook team duty and cooked till after dark. I’m super tired and going to bed!!! :)
Wednesday – March 28, 2012 – President Harding
Today we started with Vasey’s Paradise. It’s a beautiful spring fed water coming out of a hole in the wall of the canyon. Then we continued on to Redwall Cavern. It was beyond explanation…just huge! Then we had lunch at Nautiloid and “hiked” up to see the fossils. It was more of a climb than anything! Lol Fish was not having fun! The only rapid today was 36 Mile Rapid. It’s only a 4, but a lateral flipped me. It was such a relaxing day that I let my guard down. I lifted my head on the first attempt, got a breath, setup and rolled! The rolls are a bit of a pain, but not bothering me much anymore. I just Sheila a SPOT message to tell her my roll is bombproof, then read the letter from her saying she hoped it was bombproof. Too weird! Lol Cowper offered to take pictures at President Harding Rapid, but I was ready to get to camp. I missed a good photo op though…very cool looking rapid. I took a quick bath in the river this afternoon…so cold…but I feel so much better. I had a little vodka and sat around the fire tonight. Doc played his guitar and sang. Then it was basically story time. What a great bunch of guys! The moonlight on the canyon walls is beautiful. I so so so wish Sheila had come. Oh and one of my favorite activities is watching the bats…so cool! My confidence is soaring and I think I’m ready to just release my fears and paddle. I can’t imagine 15 more days out here and at the same time, I can’t imagine life without this place. It’s so magic!
Thursday – March 29, 2012 – Lower Kwagunt
The highlight of the day was hiking to the Nankoweap Granaries. It was quite the climb and pretty narrow at the top. The view was incredible though! The only real rapid today was Kwagunt. I was pretty relaxed and had no problems. Hopefully, I start feeling the same way in the bigger ones soon. Tomorrow should be an easy day, but the action will pick up after that! It’s hard to believe we’ll be at Phantom in a couple of days. Fish will be gone and three of the most notorious rapids will be waiting. Everyone seems to be really impressed with my paddling and confident that I will do great! Sheila went on a 4x4 beach excursion today! Too cool! I hope she’s having fun. I can’t wait to see her and the kids. She got themt o include some really cute notes for me! Bo and Yogi wrote me the other night! Lol I bet Yogi is wondering where I am by now. Oh well I guess I better start my nightly regimen of lotions and pain killers! Lol Good night! :)
Friday – March 30, 2012 – Upper Unkar
Today was another fairly slow day, but it picked up towards the end. The Little Colorado was running, so the river is now a reddish brown color. It doesn’t make it much harder to read, but the water drops are leaving a film on my sunglasses. The lack of visibility is going to make rolling more difficult. I won’t be able to see when I resurface or watch my paddle blade. The real action starts tomorrow. We have Unkar Rapid right away and Hance soon after that. Hance will be the biggest rapid with the biggest gradient yet. I’ve gotten much better at reading water and it all seems a little slower. I’m still getting surprises and big hits though. I have no doubt the big rapids are still going to have their way with me at times. I feel very privileged to be out here doing this though. I’m going to do my best to paddle everything! I’m officially homesick now. I really want to be home, but at the same time, this place is amazing! I’m glad Sheila is having fun on her cruise. I hope she isn’t lonely while the kids are gone for Easter. I’m sure Yogi and Shadow will keep her busy, leaving presents for her in the new house! Lol I’m too sore to write anymore…oh well…goodnight!
Saturday – March 31, 2012 – Hance
I skipped looking at relics at Unkar and scouted the rapid instead. There was an easy sneak down the right, but I decided to run the meat instead. I had to hit a line between three holes and punch some pretty big waves, but it wasn’t bad. A little while later, we ran Nevills blind. It was massive! It was the biggest waves I’ve ever paddled over and I was sure I was going into a hole…twice. It was the steepest and biggest wave troughs I’ve ever seen. Then just when I thought it was over, I spotted a huge hump in front of me! I charged left and barely missed a massive hole! We ended up camping above Hance, due to all the groups doing exchanges at Phantom tomorrow. Fish is going to have a long day hiking out. We’ll start out with an early morning run of Hance and finish up with an afternoon run of Horn. There’s a few mid size rapids in between. I have a really bad sunburn on the bridge of my nose, so I got some steroid cream. I’m hoping to get some zinc oxide tomorrow at Phantom. I have a great campsite tonight. I’m under a tree overlooking Hance rapid up on a little hill. The tree has a cool, social lizard that is wreaking havoc on the insects. I didn’t put my fly on my tent tonight (as usual) and the winds have been horrible. Everything in my tent is covered in sand! Oh well, I better get to sleep. My cook team has to make breakfast in the morning. I hope I get to talk to Sheila tomorrow!!! :)
Sunday – April 1, 2012 – Horn Creek
We started out quick today with Hance. I punched the hole in Son of Hance and followed up with a duck dive in Sockdolager. I rolled for the first in days in Zoroaster. We waited until 5pm for Zach to show up at Phantom. I didn’t reach Sheila or the girls on the phone, but I did talk to Betsy for a minute. The whirlpools were really bad after Phantom. We ran Horn in the wind and rain. I went over the last wave (monster!!!) sideways, by leaning into it with my shoulder. Big day tomorrow…goodnight!
Monday – April 2, 2012 – Ross Wheeler
Today started out a little rough. The first rapid was Granite and we (the kayakers) entered too far right. We one by one got flipped by the first reactionary wave. The conditions to roll were near impossible. I was up on a brace at one point, but got knocked over again. I hung out a while and tried one last roll, before swimming (my first and hopefully my last). I pretty shaken up and took the sneak on Hermit. Everyone pretty much took the sneak on Crystal! The Gems were pretty wild! I flipped and rolled in Sapphire. It also flipped a raft. Then a couple of us flipped and rolled in a big crashing wave in another gem. Now we’re camped near a historic boat at the top of a small rapid. We have one “big” rapid tomorrow and the Elve’s Chasm hike. I’m super sore, so it’s bed time!
Tuesday – April 3, 2012 – Upper Blacktail
Waltenburg Rapid was the only big one today. There was a fairly easy line to the right. The rapid before it had an awesome entrance wave! I caught air off the top of it! We had lunch at Elve’s Chasm. I went up and jumped off the waterfall. To get to it, you had to dive into a little pool full of freezing water and then climb up through a little rock passageway. I almost chickened out, resulting in a pretty funny picture of me landing goofy. Lol We finally got a really nice camp, Upper Blacktail. Black Tail Canyon is just past my tent. It’s a really cool slot canyon, with a cool little waterfall. It has some really cool geology too…granite and sandstone together. They should be like a billion years apart. Oh and after dinner, I was cleaning a cut on my foot and a bat flew by and his wings brushed the back of my neck! I guess my headlamp was attracting bugs. Well I better go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be an easy day. We’re going about 20 miles with lots of 4-6 rapids and Bedrock!
Wednesday – April 4, 2012 – O.C.’s (Deer Creek)
We had a bunch of cool rapids today! Not to mention, some cool hikes! We had Forster, Fossil, 128 Mile, Specter, Bedrock, Dubendorff, Tapeats, and 135 Mile Rapid. Fossil was pretty cool. It was basically a really, really long “S” turn. Specter caught me by surprise. It knocked me sideways and went over a couple waves. Then I ended up backwards and finished the rapid that way. Bedrock turned out to be the easiest rapid, despite the rating. The left run looked pretty bad though. Dubendorff was a big, bad rapid, so we ran the right sneak. I caught a rock and spun around backwards. I ended up catching the eddy backwards, which was pretty cool! We had some excitement at helicopter eddy (the narrowest spot in the Grand Canyon). The raft in front of us came to a complete stop. We charged right to avoid it, but I ended up flipping. There was a kayak on top of me, so I couldn’t roll up. I stayed cool and hung out for a bow rescue! We hiked Clear Creek and Deer Creek. Deer Creek has got to be one of the most amazing places on the planet! I can’t believe we have a week left. It seems so soon to be leaving the river, but so far away from going home! Tomorrow is the last major rapid before Lava Falls…Upset Rapid. I paddled great today, so hopefully I’ll keep it up. I’m still bummed about having a swim! :(
Thursday – April 5, 2012 – Matkat Hotel
Today was a pretty easy day. We went about 11 miles to Matkatamiba for the hike. It was pretty cool, but not as pretty as Deer Creek. There were a couple of decent rapids this morning. They were all rated 1-3, so I was surprised when I hit a huge crashing wave. I whooped and blasted over it! There was also a big whirlpool that sucked down the bow of my boat at the bottom of a rapid. We had planned to run Upset, but will be first thing in the morning instead. I can’t believe we’re only 30 miles from Lava! Matkat Hotel is a tiny campsite. I might be sleeping on the ground tonight. Hopefully, no scorpions decide to join me! Lol My nose is still a little crusty from the sunburn I got at Lee’s Ferry. I guess I’ll give the steroid cream another try. I can’t wait to talk to Sheila. I bet she has a long list of things to tell me! :)
Friday – April 6, 2012 – Fern Glen
We went to Havasu Creek today. It was beautiful shades of blue and relatively warm. We kayaked up to the first waterfall and then hiked up for a while. We swam a little on the way back. Oh and we ran Upset Rapid this morning. I took the right sneak (same as rafts). The other kayakers ran left of the hole. I wasn’t really interested in pushing my luck first thing this morning! We’re at a really cool campsite. You can hike up into the canyon, but after paddling 20 miles today, I just wanted to take it easy. After dinner, we played bocce ball (my first time) and found scorpions with a black light. We have 11 miles in the morning and then Lava Falls!!! Sheila mentioned it in her note today…very cool! I’m where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing! I feel pretty confident that I’ll see a line and be able to run it. I’m going to do everything I can to stay upright and if I flip, to stay in my boat! I have no desire to repeat Granite on a larger scale! I’m looking forward to celebrating tomorrow.
Saturday – April 7, 2012 – Whitmore Wash
Lava is definitely the story of the day! The first time I looked at it, I didn’t see a line. At least not one that I wanted to take! Lol It’s big and violent and hard to make sense of. It was a long time before I got to run it. There were a bunch of groups ahead of us, including a trip of historic dories filming a TV show. I was the very last person to run it out of all of the groups. Once I entered it, it was hard to read. I got pounded by a huge wave, but stayed upright. Then I hit the “V Wave” or I should say it hit me! It crashed down and I flipped. My first two roll attempts I lifted my head. Then I calmed down and rolled up (I’m told near Cheese Grater Rock). I ran the bottom waves and went crazy! I threw my paddle into the air and yelled for joy! It was amazing!!!
I passed out Gold Brick eggs this morning for Easter. I was the only one kayaking today. I’ve paddled 220 miles now…crazy! We paddled 31 miles today and it was pretty busy. There were lots of small rapids and a couple pretty good ones, plus lots of hippo water! I ran the “Big Bubba” line this afternoon at Rapid 217. I went far right and hit the massive waves and laterals coming off the wall. The general consensus among the raft captains was that I was out of my mind. Lol We have quite a few miles and rapids left, but at this point, it’s becoming a pride thing. I’m very sore, but I want to paddle the whole thing. Plus, I’m excited about running rapids that had been covered by Lake Mead. My guidebook doesn’t even have rating for anything past 235! It’s going to be cool to paddle my kayak into Lake Mead! I hope to get a cell signal and surprise Sheila with a phone call. She picked the girls up tonight. I hope everything is going good there! Oh yeah…the stars are incredible tonight. I wish I had prescription glasses with me! We saw a really bright shooting star a while ago. Oh and the bats were putting on a show tonight!
Monday – April 9, 2012 – Separation Rapid
We did another 20 mile day and it was pretty intense! The rapids after Diamond are no joke! Diamond Creek Rapid was full of holes and pourovers. Every rapid the rest of the day had at least one huge hole. We had lunch at Travertine Falls and then went down to Killer Fang Falls. You definitely had to work hard to avoid the fangs! Soon after that, there was a rapid with a nearly river wide hole and a tongue on the right with huge reactionaries. There was a rapid at 234 that was a monster…holes, waves, and reactionaries galore! Then there was another rapid with a wave coming off the left wall that knocked me a good 6 to 8 feet to the side. I felt the hit through my arm and all the way through my lower back. The gasket ripped on my drysuit wrist today, so I spent all afternoon wet. There may be more rapids below, so I’m going to duct tape it tomorrow. Only 40 miles to the takeout! I can’t wait to see Sheila and the kids! Plus, I just hurt all over. My right hand keeps going numb and the pain wakes me up. Just writing this has several fingers numb!
Tuesday – April 10, 2012 – Dry Canyon
We paddled 25 miles today. We only had a couple of riffles. We’re getting close to Lake Mead. There are lots of boat and helicopter tours. It feels like we’re back to civilization, but not quite yet. I hope my cell phone works tomorrow!
Wednesday – April 11, 2012 – Lake Mead
It was a pretty enjoyable paddle today. Tom built a sail to take advantage of the winds. Right at the end of the day, we had a strong head wind. We were worried we wouldn’t find a campsite, but I pushed ahead and found an amazing spot that wasn’t in any of the guidebooks. The campsite actually had 3 levels with tons of room to camp! We made a last ditch effort to get rid as much of the beer and liquor as possible. I was surprised how good a semi-warm Corona Light in a can is after weeks of paddling. Lol We had a little rain storm blow through and everything I had was covered in wet sand! I took a short nap during the storm though and then got up and made the last dinner. I still don’t have a cell signal. :(
Thursday – April 12, 2012 – Pearce Ferry
We were only a mile or so from the takeout. I got out front and finished up in my kayak. It was a great feeling. I managed to get everything sorted out, so I don’t have to get back in my bags tonight. It was great to finally take a shower. I think I washed several times before I finally felt clean. We went out for dinner and I had some amazing food and some good margaritas. I can’t wait to get home tomorrow!!!