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Grand Canyon 1998

Along the Colorado

Up and at 'em. Everyone was up before sunrise, and I was under pack by 8:04 am. By the time I got downstream to Will's camp, he was gone. When I got to the head of the narrows, I waited up for everyone. I figured that we might need a rope to help with lining the packs thru the narrows, because my memory had it that it would be too tight and exposed to do with a backpack on. When push came to shove, everyone did fine. I handed my tripod across, so I could use both hands to feel the shelf at head height. Barbara did great. It seemed to have bothered Sue the most, altho she did fine. It really is a situation of one mis-step and you are dead. You can not lean back with your backpack.

Today was our day to get to Fishtail Canyon. This was supposed to be the easy day. Right. First off, we made the mistake of starting out off the trail that goes down to the falls. We should have gone down to beach, and traversed along the beach. It took us about two hours to get down from camp to the "beach", so it was after 10 am (MDT) before we were starting to make progress going down river. We hopped boulders and walked beach (of which there was precious little) for about 90 minutes. I was acutely aware of the problems that the internet hikers had finding the route that goes up to the shelf and above the cliffs. But at the time we started looking for it, we saw a group of folks going the opposite direction from us. They were doing the reverse route of us, and they told us that the day from Fishtail to Kanab would be "a real bitch". But we could see the route they were using to come down off the bench. It was really easy to see where to go, up the draw, just like Steck says. We climbed up, about 250 feet above the river or so. It was a steep path, but not particularly difficult. We got to a little water pocket, and stopped for a bite. We were at 4,029,000 N, and 362,900 E at 12:30 pm. Beyond that, we came to Siesta Spring. It was nice.

We moved, spread out over about a half mile, to the mouth of Cranberry Canyon and found a shady overhang at river level just past it. The rest of the walk to Fishtail Canyon was pretty easy, but we did not arrive until 3:15 pm. That was over 7 hours to go maybe 4.5 miles. Not very fast. I am convinced that the times you read in book include no resting or eating time. I walked up Fishtail a few hundred yards or so, looking for water, but there was none flowing in the creek bed. There was not much shade either. But there was a little in a flat area about 100 feet from the river's edge, on the flood path of the river. It felt like we were on the beach, because the roar of Fishtail rapids was a surrogate for ocean waves. And Fishtail is a major rapids, with a huge standing wave right in the center of the end of it. Powerful.

Sue and I poked around, looking for clear water. We found some which had settled out right near the river water's edge. I found some more in a pocket on a boulder. I also found a can of German beer wedged under a boulder at the water's edge. With dinner MH spaghetti, I gave everyone a sip who wanted it, and drunk the rest with my meal. That's beer, two days in a row. On a backpacking trip. Barbara and Will got in later than the rest, just moving slowing and deliberately. Better that than twist an ankle. Dinner was not very together. Maybe everyone needed to do their own thing. It was kinda neat with the rapids to lull us to sleep, but I think I would have slept anywhere. One note: we have been lucky with the temperatures: When we got to Fishtail, it was 84 degrees in the shade: 10 degrees cooler than expected. That makes a big difference. I don't know how you could do it with highs at 105 or so. The difficulty is that even though you are walking along the river, you really can not drink the water, at least not without some serious settling and purification. And altho the air is cooler right at river level, it is much warmer just a few hundred feet back.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1998