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 ninth installment in this series, written by Bob.
“Day Eight – Wednesday, June 1 – Breakfast of scrambled eggs and fried diced potatoes. Made sack lunches to save an hour at noon — besides which, as it turns out, it would have been very difficult to set up the table on the rocks where we landed at Havasu Creek.
Six people got in the paddle boat with Grant piloting and Maria took the kayak – which dumped her in Fishtail Rapid, a wicked little rapid dropping 10 feet in what Chris called ‘Sphincter Canyon.’ A few hours later all the women got on the ‘Booby Boat,’ the Mother Ship, and whooped it up all the way down to Havasu Creek, about 20 miles, 157 miles downstream.
We got our sack lunches and hiked a quarter mile up to a nice wide spot beside the turquoise blue water of Havasu Creek – same hue as the Little Colorado, caused by a high alkaline content and minerals in the water. Some waded the creek and walked upstream a ways; I and others sat in the shade of the canyon wall and watched … people (ours and others from another boating party) posing for photos in the beautiful water; a raven breaking into Chris’ backpack, stealing a sandwich, which he took out of the plastic bag and carried piece-by-piece up to a hole in the rock 100 feet above; Paul and I saw a bald eagle flying upstream eye-level with a fish in its beak.
When we left there Brock tied all the boats to the motorized Mother Ship and we all rode it to Fern Glen Camp, mile 168. Made 30 miles today.
Note about the drag-bag: each boat has a mesh bag tied to the back which carries soft drinks and beer; the water is 50 degrees so the drinks stay plenty cool and it saves ice. Frosty and I have been sharing the beers, three or four each per day, starting with one mid-morning, the second course of breakfast.
Note about the boatmen (the women are called boatmen, too): they range in age from Brock, 38, to Brie, 32, John, 30, Grant, 28, and everything in between, I guess. All are physically strong young people, love the river and their lifestyle, are very personable, patient and good with their charges (us), most of whom have no experience on the river. They know their business and are a pleasure to be around.
About the Booby Boat, something concocted last night apparently: they all wanted to get by themselves away from the men for awhile. ‘You could actually hear us all the way up to your boat?’ one asked. ‘Hell yes, the screams and laughing were echoing off the canyon walls for miles. What was so funny?’ It seems, between straight shots with beer chasers, that the girls were ranking us, the guys, and there was some talk about the ‘cowboys’ guns,’ whatever that meant. I didn’t think there were any firearms in camp.
Smoked salmon, cream cheese and red onion slices on crackers for appetizers, followed by beef stroganoff, green beans and salad for dinner. Later, during the after-dinner happy hours, Brock again read to us, some very touching river rafting poetry, one verse bringing tears to his eyes.
Big day tomorrow, we’re warned: Lava Falls, a class 10 rapid, the most dangerous we’ll see during the whole trip, so most are going home early — 9-ish, judging by the stars.”