Day 2 – Hot Na Na (16.7) to Shinumo Wash (29.5)
River Miles: 12.8
Hiking Miles: 1
March 19, 2013
I woke at 5am to have breakfast ready to serve at six. Steve-O, the McCumbers, and Chris Atwood were already up and had the coffee going, making it clear who the early-riser coffee addicts would be!
The coffee was done each morning cowboy style, and Steve-O ended up taking on the duty every day for himself. The group’s wake-up call would essentially become Steve’s voice calling out “Coffee!”
We prepared bacon and eggs and put out some granola for breakfast. It went well, with the exception of dealing with the bacon grease in the clean-up process. Despite the extra duties, we managed to have our boat rigged almost in time with the rest of the group.
It was a chilly morning as the sun had yet to reach the bottom of the Canyon. A lot of folks were quiet as we began to load the boats. House Rock Rapid was waiting just around the corner for us, first thing in the morning.
House Rock is the first serious, major rapid in the Canyon. It’s rated a 7, and plenty of people flip their rafts in it. All the preparations were nervously made as we struggled into our drysuits and fastened our PFDs and helmets. Boats were rigged to flip, and we battened down the hatches, as they say.
We did an in-depth safety review. Dave went over the details of what to do in the event that you should go for an unintentional swim in the river, and exactly what those of us still on board the raft should do to aid the swimmer. We also made sure that everyone was on the same page as far as our hand signals and what they mean.
Next we established a running order – Dave would go first, followed by Stephanie, and then Doug (with Jackie and I). Bo would be behind us, essentially in the middle to take advantage of his extra maneuverability. He’d be followed by Josh, the McCumbers, and finally Chris Forsyth to sweep, as he had the most experience after Dave.
Finally Dave went over the details of the rapid itself – how to maneuver through it and avoid the large holes. We chose not to scout House Rock, and ended up scouting relatively few rapids through the duration of the trip. Dave had been down the river enough times that he was extremely familiar with most of the runs, and overall felt that scouting just made him more nervous instead of more confident. I think this attitude trickled through to most of the boatmen.
Not much was said as we approached House Rock, only about half a mile downstream of camp. It’s quite a feeling approaching a major rapid. Everything seems perfectly still and quiet, except for the roar of the water. Your senses are tense and alert, yet strangely calm. For those of you that play golf, it’s a little like that moment of clarity before you swing the club… but with rapids.
Dave’s boat and Stephanie’s entered before us, and seemed to have a solid start. Jackie and I braced ourselves as the tongue dropped us into the waves. We came up on a big wave and seemed to hit it hard, if indirectly. Water slammed me in the face and took my breath away as it washed over the raft. Next thing I knew there was another wave and we touched that too – but not so hard, sideswiping it to the right.
We passed completely on the right, and we were home free. I’ll never forget the look and feel of gazing into that big hole as we swept by.
There were shouts of exhilaration, joy, and relief. What a feeling! The best way I can describing running the “big” rapids of Grand Canyon is to compare it to skydiving – the nervous anticipation and exhilaration after it’s over.
All the boats made it through topside-up, and this fresh group was suddenly rafting the Grand Canyon. House Rock did land a few punches – both Jeremy and Josh got momentarily knocked off their oars and into the water, but managed to climb back on to their rafts almost immediately.
Jeremy’s GoPro video of House Rock – it’s a good one!
After the rapid we had a few miles of smooth water to relax and enjoy ourselves. House Rock Rapid lies at the foot of Rider Canyon, an occasional hiking destination in the Marble Canyon area of Grand Canyon. Doug described a route he once took as a way to make a loop hike out of Rider, rather than the traditional down and back.
This “photography on board a moving raft” thing is going to take some getting used to…
Doug let me take the oars for a little while. Rowing these big old things is hard! Not only is the raft slow to respond and maneuver, but the currents of the river want to do crazy things and anything except take you downstream.
He took advantage of the opportunity to rest for few moments.
I was pleasantly surprised when it was announced that we were pulling in for a hike up North Canyon. Hiking! The river was so engrossing that I’d nearly forgotten about the possibility of hiking today.
House Rock was stressful! Time for a beer before noon.
We’re on vacation.
North Canyon is one of those places that 99.9% of people will only see from the River. The standard hike through the Supai rock layer ends at a picturesque, reflective pool.
This was a nice short hike with a minimal amount of scrambling. The group dynamic may have taken some of the ambiance out of the place – a half-mile jaunt with sixteen other people.
I was simply excited to be back on my feet, back in a sort of comfort zone. Everything still felt very fresh as we unpacked and used our designated hiking gear for the first time.
the reflective pool – our destination
We’re all still sort of getting to know each other… for example, they’ll have to get used to me sticking my camera in their faces 🙂
Chris Forsyth and Bo Beck waded through the pool and slithered their way up the pouroff to explore up-canyon. The rest of us waited around for them for a few minutes, but soon returned to the boats for lunch.
After the hike we prepared the lunch as the final part of our cook duty. This consisted of setting up two tables with hummus, pita bread, and cheese, as well as slicing tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. There was a hand-washing station to be set up and a few dishes from breakfast to be done.
The hummus was delicious and the meal went well, but there was still a little delay and confusion afterward as far as what items belonged to which boat. We’d have it all dialed in soon enough.
We splashed through the “Roaring Twenties” for the afternoon’s adventure. From river mile 20 to 30 there’s a series of nine rapids that are all rated between a 4 to a 6. Many of these are spaced only a half mile apart, so the current is swift.
This section was so much fun! Like a water park of most magnificence, the waves and excitement just kept coming! We were soaked, dried, and soaked again as the grit of the Canyon finally began to wash away our remaining reservations and inhibitions.
I looked up and down river at our party of rafts between rapids, and the reality that we were rafting the Grand Canyon was more tangibly evident than ever before. Smiles, laughs, and exclamations ran rampant.
Doug Nering roars through the 20s.
This may have been in Georgie Rapid, named for Georgie White (Clark), the legendary early Colorado River runner and guide.
We fell in to a nice rhythm as Jackie and I dictated to Doug from Tom Martin’s Grand Canyon River Guide between rapids, accurately describing what lay ahead.
Bo Beck’s cataraft is seen as a speck here in one of the 20s as Josh approaches it.
The day grew long, and we reached our destination for the evening at Shinumo Wash. This was a nice camp with a flat beach, tucked abruptly between cliffs of Redwall as they rose out of the River.
We were off of cook duty, so it felt as though we finally had an opportunity to breath and relax for the first time since departing Lees Ferry.
First we had to attend to “groover duty” but this was a relatively simple chore. “Groover” is the universal rafting term used to refer to our toilet system – specifically a toilet seat designed to fit snugly on top of a 20mm ammo can. The ammo can simply gets filled with solid waste, and stays with the rafts through the end of the trip.
We also have a designated “pee bucket” that stays with the groover and gets dumped into the river in the morning for convenience and safety – to avoid going to the waters’ edge at night.
The Park Service asks that people within proximity of the river should urinate directly into the water, as opposed to the shore. It sounds as though this would contaminate the river, but the large volume of water dilutes the urine.
Groover duty simply involves setting all of this up (And breaking it down in the morning). It includes placing a hand washing station in a carefully selected location, chosen for privacy and ideally with a scenic view for the user.
It was wonderful to enjoy an evening within the Canyon, more accustomed to each other and our floating party of rafts and equipment. Jeremy and Shannon McCumber with Chris Forysth cooked up an excellent dinner of shrimp scampi. Fortunately Bo Beck had a fire started early in the evening, because dessert was s’mores!
It didn’t rain today.