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Grand Canyon dory trip, April 4-19, 2003

Kathleen and I spent 16 days traveling 187 miles down the Colorado River through the heart of the Grand Canyon.  The three 17' wooden boats we rode in are called dories.  We also had three baggage rafts to help carry our gear.  Here is what we saw on our adventure:

(Click on an image to see the full-size view)

Kathleen and Doug are ready to leave Lee's Ferry for 16 days and 187 miles of Grand Canyon fun.

As we pass through the Paria Riffle, the Vermillion Cliffs rise to the west.

Just hours before we had crossed the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge. Now we were floating under the span on our journey downstream.

Appropriately enough, at mile 10 we find Ten Mile Rock, a sheet of limestone that has fallen from the rim and landed on edge in the middle of the river.

At mile 17 we encounter our first major rapid, House Rock. As we did with several of the largest rapids, we stopped to check it out prior to running it. Unfortunately, a 'one in a million' wave flipped one of our boats in House Rock. All emerged unscathed - just a little cold and wet for the ordeal.

Camp for the first night, at 18 1/2 mile wash.

Our tent on the morning of April 5th, the beginning of our first full day on the river.

Early morning light illuminates the upper reaches of the canyon wall.

The view upstream shows our dories and baggage rafts tied to shore at camp.

Heading downstream on day 2.

Day 2 was cold, windy, and wet. It was by far the most unpleasant day on the river. Luckily the scenery was enough to take our minds off of our misery.

The second night we camped at South Canyon, river mile 31 1/2. Wind and rain made setting up our camp interesting.

After setting up camp, our boatmen led us up a path to an area with Indian ruins and artifacts.

In one of the ruins was a sample of flints and pottery shards.

Petroglyphs were visible in a nearby rock.

Bronco, our Trip Leader and owner/boatman of the Yampa, discusses the Anasazi (or Husatzenen) who inhabited the canyon between 600 and 1200 AD.

We sought refuge in a cave as a rain squall passed overhead.

Elena, boatman on the Hidden Passage, shares with us some of her knowledge of the Husatzenen and the geology of our surroundings.

Kathleen enjoying life on the river at our camp at South Canyon.

Day 3 dawned clear and warm. Looking downstream from our camp at South Canyon, you can see Stanton's Cave on the far right. The patch of green with the waterfall on the left is Vasey's Paradise, an oasis fed by a spring emerging from the Redwall Limestone.

Vasey's Paradise viewed from camp at South Canyon.

Another view of Vasey's Paradise.

Approaching Redwall Cavern at mile 33.

Looking towards the river from the back of Redwall Cavern.

The view downstream from the Cavern.

Marilyn and Kathleen examine the fossils in the limestone.

Fossils in the limestone at Redwall Cavern.

Our three baggage raft boatmen (Brooks, Milton & Monte) enjoy the scenery along with the International Hooter Girls (Stephanie and Kelly).

Jason, Josh and Dave pose in front of Redwall Cavern.

Marilyn and Jon at Redwall Cavern.

Doug and Kathleen at Redwall Cavern.

Michelle (our Cook's Assistant for this trip) enjoys the peaceful scenery by donning headphones, closing her eyes, and rockin' out.

The Bridge of Sighs at mile 36. Here we stopped for a hike and lunch.

The view downstream from the top of our pre-lunch hike.

Boats parked at our hike/lunch stop.

Heading down through the Marble Canyon, the first section of the Grand Canyon, at about mile 40.

An ancient bridge used by the Anasazi as part of a route from the river to the rim.

Camp our 3rd night at Eminence Break, mile 44.

Evening light plays off the canyon walls.

'The Unit' Luckily some things that happen on the river stay on the river.

If you get up early enough, you can catch the boatmen sleeping on their dories. Here you can see the Yampa, the Ticaboo and the Hidden Passage, as well as the baggage rafts.

Sunrise paints the top of the canyon walls.

Floating downstream between mile 45 and mile 46.

While stopped for a hike and lunch at Saddle Canyon (mile 47), a motorized 'snout boat' passes us by. Luckily we only saw one of these noisy and smelly rafts on our entire trip.

A Redbud tree blooms in Saddle Canyon.

Bronco and Elena lead the way up Saddle Canyon.

Falls in Saddle Canyon.

After lunch, we were back in the boats. Here we are passing mile 50.

This is an area called Nankoweap. It was an agricultural and population center for the Anasazi. Many consider it to be the most beautiful part of the entire trip.

These ancient Anasazi graineries lie high above the river at Nankoweap.

Jon enjoys the view from the Nankoweap Graineries.

Doug and Kathleen on the trail to the Nankoweap Graineries.

Two of our three boatmen, Elena and Cindell (yes, female boatmen call themselves 'boatmen') at Nankoweap.

Our fifth day was declared a 'layover', meaning we spent two nights at Nankoweap. During our 'free day', Doug climbed up the canyon walls. Here Bronco assists Dave up a particularly vertical section of the 'trail'.

One of our goals for this hike was to see Newspaper Rock, a chunk of Redwall Limestone literally covered with Anasazi petroglyphs.

In the distance you can see snow on the North Rim.

From our perch above the canyon floor, we could look down on Nankoweap.

Another view of the Nankoweap Graineries, this time from the canyon floor.

Riding the Ticaboo on Day 6, we approach the confluence of the Little Colorado River with the main Colorado River.

Here the latte-colored Little Colorado River joins the green Colorado River at river mile 61.

Looking up the canyon carved by the Little Colorado River.

These 'salt mines', where mineral-laden water seeps out and deposits salt, are considered sacred to the Hopi Indians.

At Carbon Creek, we get out of the boats and hike several miles to the Butte Fault, where earth movement has folded the layers of sedimentary rock into spectacular formations.

From the top of Carbon Canyon, we are afforded another view of the North Rim.

Prickly Pear cactus in bloom.

An ancient mud flat that has been tilted on edge by the Butte Fault and exposed through erosion reveals amazing colors and patterns.

Kathleen poses in front of the spectacularly colored layers found along our hike up Carbon Creek and down Lava Canyon.

Camp for night 6 at Basalt Creek, mile 70. The weather was sunny and warm. The guides set up a solar shower for our use (visible on the left).

Comanche Point looms above our camp.

The day's last rays paint Commanche Point.

Morning light illuminates the South Rim. Sand Verbena blooms in the foreground and produces an amazing vanilla-like scent.

Stephanie and Kelly enjoy the ride downstream on the Hidden Passage.

The Hidden Passage and the Yampa pass through mile 73.

We are entering the 'Granite Gorge' of the Grand Canyon. Here the canyon narrows and the serious rapids begin in earnest.

Doug soaks in the scenery of the Granite Gorge

Cindell and Doug watch the scenery change as we enter the Granite Gorge.

Kathleen and Jason enjoy the scenery of the Upper Granite Gorge.

Marilyn & Jon scout Hance Rapid.

Kathleen enjoys the ride through one of the canyon's 150 rapids.

Approaching the Kaibab Suspension Bridge and Phantom Ranch, our only brush with civilization for the entire trip. Here we said goodbye to Kelly, Stephanie, Dave, Josh and Jason and picked up Bob, Chris and Scott.

Kathleen and Michelle enjoy some food and terra firma at Phantom Ranch, "one mile below the rim".

Everyone looks downstream towards a bighorn sheep.

A bighorn sheep at approximately mile 91.

Night 7 was spent at Trinity Creek, mile 92. Here we hiked up the slot canyon of Trinity Creek.

Nature's sunroof at Trinity Creek.

Day 8 dawns on the canyon walls.

Brittlebush blooms, the Tamarisk trees wave in the breeze, and all is peaceful in the Grand Canyon.

Doing chores at camp.

Local resident of Trinity Creek camp.

Here the boatmen scout Granite Rapid at mile 93 1/2, one of the largest in the Grand Canyon.

We've encountered another dory trip camped just above Granite Rapid.

The Ticaboo rides out the tailwaves below Granite Rapid.

Crystal Falls, another of the biggest rapids we'll encounter. Here the river drops 17' over a few hundred yards.

Everyone wants to scout Crystal.

Vishnu Temple looms over the river, at approximately mile 100.

The Powell Plateau, part of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Kathleen and the not-yet-full moon beautify the scenery of our campsite at Bass Rapids, mile 107.

Bass Camp, our home for night 8.

The view upstream of our camp at Bass Rapid.

Kathleen poses with the Ross Wheeler, a metal boat dragged down to the river by prospectors approximately 100 years ago.

Bass Camp on the morning of day 9.

This 'fireplace' was used by the prospectors and miners who frequented this area at the turn of the century.

Bronco next to two Agave plants (also called Century plants). These plants take from 20 to 30 years to bloom, and then they die. Finding two together like this is quite a rare sight.

Looking down on Shinumo Rapid from above Bass Camp.

Two giant lizards who hung out at Bass Camp.

At Shinumo Creek (mile 109), we walked a short distance from the boats to...

...the falls of Shinumo Creek.

Kathleen blasts off the dirt with a walk through Shinumo Falls.

Does she look any cleaner?

Descending through the Granite Gorge of the Grand Canyon.

1.2 billion year old schist and granite fluted and carved by eons of scouring from the abrasive river.

At mile 116 we hiked up to Elves Chasm, a spectacular falls and pool just a few hundred yards from the Colorado River.

We even spotted an elf at Elves Chasm. Since the elf looked so much like Cindell, we decided to call it Cindelf.

Our camp for night 9 at mile 117. Our camp looked right down several miles of the Stephen Aisle.

The Stephen Aisle in late afternoon.

Another view of our camp on night 9.

After floating down Stephen Aisle, we turned the corner and were presented with this view down Conquistador Aisle.

We pulled over at mile 120 to hike up Blacktail Canyon, where a stream has eroded through the Tapeats Sandstone to create a beautiful canyon.

In Blacktail Canyon, we were presented with an up-close view of "The Great Unconformity", where ancient erosion removed approximately 980 million years worth of rock and created a 'gap' in the geologic record.

Seep and pool at the head of Blacktail Canyon.

Judy, cook extrordinaire for our adventure, finds a nice ledge in Blacktail Canyon on which to relax.

The view upriver as we float through Conquistador's Aisle.

Kathleen, James, Elena & Doug watch another boat go through a rapid.

Lunch stop on day 10 just below Fossil Rapid (mile 125).

Again we enter the Granite Gorge as we approach Specter Rapid at mile 129.

Cindell and the Ticaboo go right at Bedrock.

Elena goes right at Bedrock, too. I wonder why Milton has gone left 50% of the times he's run Bedrock?

The scene upriver from Racetrack Camp, night 10, river mile 132.

Owl Eyes, mile 135.

Another section of the Granite Gorge. This is the narrowest part of the Grand Canyon, with the river only 76 feet wide at one point.

Christmas Tree Cave. The boatmen of the Colorado used to maintain a full-sized flocked Christmas Tree in this cave, until the Park Service decided a fully decorated and flocked Christmas Tree had no place in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Deer Creek Falls, mile 136.

The view of the river from the top of Deer Creek Falls. We would camp directly across the river from here that night.

Deer Creek Canyon.

One of the sources of Deer Creek spouts from the Redwall Limestone.

Looking out from behind the spring.

Cindell and Kathleen relax in one of the many chairs created by visitors to the Throne Room.

The 'patio' at Deer Creek.

Looking upstream from the 'patio' at Deer Creek.

Kathleen enjoys the warmth of the sun on the patio at Deer Creek.

Deer Creek Canyon.

The Pauite Indians consider Deer Creek to be a very special place. Perhaps a thousand years ago their ancestors created these hand prints to signify the deceased welcoming the newly dead to the next realm as their spirits leaped across the narrow canyon.

Looking upstream from above Deer Creek Falls.

Doug and Kathleen above Deer Creek Falls.

Deer Creek Falls from our camp across the river.

Late afternoon light and a nearly-full moon above our camp for night 11. Little did we know that the heavens would open with a torrential downpour at three in the morning.

Rainy day at Deer Creek.

The kitchen tarps are up as the night and morning were wet.

As we hiked downstream from our camp at Deer Creek, we encountered a very cold and thus lethargic Rattlesnake - my favorite kind of Rattlesnake.

After hiking up above the Tapeats Sandstone, we looked up river and saw fresh snow on the North Rim from the previous night's storm.

Bronco does the Chicken Dance to keep warm high above the river on day 12.

Day 12 found our group camped at Pancho's, a perfect foul-weather camp at mile 137. We were able to camp under the overhang and dry everything out from the previous night's rain.

Day 13 dawned bright, clear, and warm - hooray!

The Hidden Passage meanders downstream as we float past mile 140.

Kathleen waves from the backseat of the Hidden Passage as we approach Kanab Creek.

Kanab Creek has undercut the wall to create this amazing overhang.

We spent night 13 camped at mile 145, just upstream from Olo Canyon.

Day 14 started out warm and sunny as we headed towards Havasu Creek.

Here Bronco assists Cindell with parking the Ticaboo at Havasu Creek.

Havasu Creek

Wildlife at Havasu Creek. Kathleen's been out in the wilderness so long she's beginning to fit right in.

Elena and Cindell along Havasu Creek.

Pool along Havasu Creek. The blue/green tint to the water comes from calcium carbonate the stream has leached from the rocks.

Ocotillo along Havasu Creek.

The 'harbor' at Havasu Creek.

Jon and Kathleen goofing off at Havasu.

After leaving Havasu Creek, the weather got cold and it began to rain intermittently. After setting up camp at National Canyon (mile 166) and finding warm and dry clothes, Marilyn, Jon and Kathleen enjoy some hot cocoa.

Day 15 starts out warm and bright at National Canyon.

The scenery a mile or so up National Canyon.

Bighorn Sheep just below National Canyon.

Floating down the Colorado at about mile 170.

Doug rows the Ticaboo.

The clouds rolled in to meet the lava as we approach Lava Falls, perhaps the biggest rapid of them all.

Vulcan's Anvil provides a warning that you are a mile upstream from Lava Falls.

The Toroweap Overlook. Here the canyon walls rise straight up 3000 feet from the river's edge.

Approaching Lava Falls, mile 179.

Lava Falls

Doug and Kathleen in front of Lava Falls.

King snake hanging around the trail to the overlook at Lava Falls.

The boatmen scout Lava Falls. From left to right are Brooks, Milton, Michelle (seated), Cindell, Bronco and Elena. Monte is out of the photo to the left.

The boatmen spent about an hour analyzing Lava Falls for the perfect route through the waves, holes and surging water.

Another view of Lava Falls.

Cindell above Lava Falls. It was our treat to ride with Cindell and Michelle aboard the Ticaboo through Lava Falls.

Bronco approaches the tongue of Lava Falls.

Bronco in the tongue of Lava Falls.

Falling in to Lava Falls.

Bronco and the Yampa in Lava Falls.

The Yampa continues through Lava Falls.

The Yampa continues through Lava Falls.

The Yampa hits the big hole...

...and emerges a little wetter but otherwise unscathed.

Elena and the Hidden Passage approach Lava Falls.

The Hidden Passage skirts to the right of the big hole.

The only part of the boat that hit the rock was an oar.

The Hidden Passage slides past the rock and into the tailwaves.

Kathleen and Doug ride the Ticaboo through one of the many rapids.

The view upstream from our camp for our last night on the river, just below Mile 185 Rapid.

Jon has the party shirt on for the last night on the river and 'Lava Follies', the evening of food, drink and silliness that follows every successful running of Lava Falls.

Marilyn enjoys an adult beverage in camp.

Michelle and Judy are busy in the kitchen preparing our steak dinner.

Bronco minding the grill. It seemed like a good idea at the time to put the grill under the tarp to keep the food and the cook out of the wind and rain.

Scott and Elena using a variety of methods to keep warm and dry on a cold and wet night.

Bob and James perform their skit for 'Lava Follies'.

Since Chris celebrated his 50th birthday just before the trip, and Doug was celebrating his 35th birthday the day after the trip concluded, Michelle baked us a birthday cake and created her own symbol to incorporate the numbers '35' and '50'.

Our final morning on the river dawned spectacularly, making it especially difficult to leave the family we had become over the past 16 days.

Upstream view showing the many colors of the lava and sedimenatry rocks that characterizes the Grand Canyon below Lava Falls.

Camp on the morning of day 16.

The group shot. Front row, from left to right, is Elena, Cindell, Michelle, Judy, Kathleen, Marilyn and Jon. In the second row from left to right are Brooks, Monte, Milton, Scott, Bob, James, Doug, Chris, Pat and Pete.

So who took the photo you ask? Good thing Bronco became a boatman and not a professional photographer.

Molly's Nipple (I don't make up the names, I just relay them to you) looms above the river.

Cindell rows us to the helipad for our flight out of the canyon.

Kathleen looks way too happy to be on a helicopter leaving the canyon.

Our shadow as we ascend out of the canyon.

Ahead you can see the airstrip at the Bar 10 Ranch, otherwise known as Whitmore Wash International Airport.

The Bar 10 Ranch.

The mean machine that began our trip away from serentity at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and ended up in the chaos of Las Vegas.

Jon, Marily, Pete and Pat emerge from their trip up and out of the Grand Canyon.

Flying out of the Bar 10.

A final view of the Canyon as we fly to Las Vegas.

Through the cockpit window you can make out the casinos of the Las Vegas Strip as we approach civilization.

F-15s and F-16s parked at Nellis Air Force Base, just outside of Las Vegas.

The Strip and the antithesis of 16 days on the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Our conveyance from the Bar 10 Ranch to Las Vegas and the end of our river adventure.

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