Bob Zache, a longtime Arizona resident, went on his first Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trip in May 2011. The 75-year-old adventurer kept a journal of his 10-day oar-powered trip through the heart of the Grand Canyon. He and Grand Canyon Whitewater would like to share this story with you, from the days before his launch all the way through to the sorrowful goodbyes at journey’s end.
Here’s the third installment in this series, written by Bob.
Day Two – Thursday, May 26 – Quote of the day: “… like herding a bunch of cats.” – Some boatman overheard muttering while we’re loading boats
Coffee call at 5:30 a.m., which becomes a routine in a day or two, and breakfast 30 or 40 minutes later (blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, sliced apples and grapes, cowboy coffee in a bucket with a ladle).
On the river fairly early after breaking camp and loading the boats – the boatmen, patiently for the most part, breaking us in on the routine. Everyone packs their own sleeping bag and cot and helps the crew break down and load the kitchen: three waist-high tables, Dutch ovens, propane tanks, stoves, plates and silverware, tarps, flat hammer for smashing cans and some other stuff.
Then down the river again. Mid-morning, we stopped and hiked about one-half mile up to some Indian petroglyphs and ruins – not extensive ruins but boatman Chris explained them well. Nooned out at Redwall Cavern, an enormous, hugely impressive grotto carved into the bottom of a 500-foot cliff, filled with a sand beach. Another party was there finishing their lunch and playing frisbee when we landed and there was room for everybody. Roast beef sandwiches for lunch.
Then played in the sand. If you don’t love sand, you’d better learn to; it’s everywhere we beach – fine, silty sand that blows in the slightest breeze and gets into everything. Didn’t wear my socks under the Tevas today but carried them in my day bag in case we went for a hike – so naturally my feet got sunburned (raised in the Southwest and still haven’t learned). Got drenched in the rapids a couple of times in “The Roaring Twenties.”
Note to Ellen (my old Canyon hiking partner, been to Phantom Ranch 10 or 11 times with me): We’ve said, “The only way to really experience the Canyon is to hike it.” It’s beautiful from the rim and a great experience but, for the four-plus million people who visit every year, the average stay at the Canyon is 10 minutes. The only way to really see it is to hike down into it. I’ve learned in just two days that the best way to really experience the Canyon is to raft it.
Dinner is grilled pork chops two inches thick with bread stuffing and apple sauce, chocolate Dutch oven brownies for dessert. A bloody Mary courtesy of Vienna and Laurie for helping set up their tent and cots, then more red wine and sitting with others near the kitchen pointing out the Big Dipper and North Star to Hugh from New Zealand, and he explained the Southern Cross, which they can see in the Southern Hemisphere.