Day 3--Fourth of July and with all the celebrating going on in the cities, we only pass one other kayak group on our way down the river. The rapids are getting bigger and the noise of the river louder. We bank along the shore to get fresh water from a natural spring and to hike up a canyon to an old ranch. The walls of the canyon are wide open, letting an abundance of sunlight through. There are layers of different shades of reds in the rock, green grass and trees. The ranch sits among the trees and has a coral built next to it. Two brothers by the name of Bill and Dan Seamounton built this ranch in the early 1900s. They would pack all their supplies down the canyon trails by horse and mule in the summer and up the river trails in winter. The ranch still had many antique items in and around it, far enough away not to be disturbed by greedy hunters. There was an old wagon wheel, some tools, a wood burning stove and part of a plow.The scenery and the display of this ranch is truly remarkable. I can understand why these traders chose to build on this spot. We head back down the river,into more rapids and changing scenery. Tonight we bank at a place called Jacks Rock. There is a sand beach where our cooks grill us steaks and toss us a salad. I hike up the canyon to view more petroglyphs, while my friends are throwing a frisbee on the beach. That night from our tents, we yelled back and forth trivia questions and jokes. It was fun but I was glad when everyone fell asleep and this canyon returned to the solitude of the water and the animals scurrying about in the night.
Day 4--The day started with one of those infrequent desert thunderstorms around 3:00am. We all raced about to find and attach the rain flys to our tents, trying to beat the
rain as it was getting stronger. The wind picked up and the thunder clashed against the sides of the canyon walls. Too late-most of us spent the night in wet sleeping bags! In the
morning, the sun came out and the fresh smells of the desert were a pleasant sense to behold. The smell of the juniper and pinion trees, the damp sand, the warm sun and breezes. Exhilarating! Like one ranger at the Grand Canyon had once told me, "Thank God for the breezes that blow through the treezes!" After breakfast we paddled a short way to hike up to some petroglyphs and pictographs, visited the remains of an indian granary and another of Cassidy and Sundances hideouts. Back on the river my partner and I shared one of the duckies. The river was calm and serene at first, me in front and him in back. As we neared a bend in the canyon, we could hear the noise of the water-a sort of low roar echoing against the canyon walls. We started moving faster-around the bend and into view of the biggest rapids on this trip! Our heart beats raise-the adrenaline is pumping-the roar is louder-the sound of water and earth
coming together in a clashing and rolling thunder of white liquid mist in our faces-paddle harder-laughing and then afraid. A deep hole of water swirling around--we try to avoid it but the river has caught us in it’s claws-we hit the hole with the mist turning into a huge wall of water! Our boat goes straight up with its nose pointed at the sky. I come up under the boat and look for my partner-he is hanging onto the side-the laughter in his face has changed
to fear. I knew I could not get back in the boat but he could. I let go of the boat as I hear him yelling above the noise, "Don't, don't leave me!" He makes it safely out of the rapids and I go bobbing along, trying to remember to keep feet headed downstream. I bounce off a few boulders and at the end of the rapids, I feel someone grab the back of my vest and pull me into a boat. My friend has vowed that he will stay in the bigger boats and forget about the kayak. We passed through Coal Creek Rapids with no problem, enjoyed calm waters for a short while and watched mountain goats viewing us from a cliff up above. Another bend in the river-the river noise becoming louder again-we are heading for Rattlesnake Rapids! We watch the bigger boats ahead enter the rapids. We start to paddle-the current catches us-water tumbling and churning-crashing against the sides of the vertical cliffs-paddling becomes more frantic-got to stay away from the wall-a huge boulder in our path-paddle harder-stay away from the wall-we are using all our strength-skimming the edge of the canyon wall-water swirling, stopping, starting-reach the end--we make it
through!! Decide to join everyone else in the bigger boats. We float down the river to another sandy bank and our last night on the river near Nefertiti Rapids. So named because of a rock formation that resembles the Queen. Actually, I think it is more of a resemblance to Bart Simpson! We hike to view our last panel of petroglyphs. Our guides fix us a gourmet dinner, we laugh and recap our experiences of the day. We all want the trip to go on-but another time and another river.
Day 5---We head down the river, now in Gray Canyon. It is hard to believe that this canyon is so different than Desolation. There are no more high cliffs with talus slopes and pinion and juniper trees. The cliffs are lower and colored with grays, browns, yellows and off white. The plant life is more sparse and the crickets, blackflies and mosquitoes are gone. The river is the same. We hit a few riffles before reaching Swaseys Rapids-our take out point. We empty our river bags, pull our boats in and head for town. I listen to the cars go by---I will miss the river tonight.