|The group in silhouette, Redwall Cavern
I’ve just resurfaced from my 9th raft trip in the
Grand Canyon. I have a few observations.
My last few trips were different. Easier. They were gatherings of smaller groups (12 vs
23), shorter duration (10 vs 14 days) and we moved down the river on motorized
rafts. This last thing is relevant
because they travel faster and there’s relatively less time on the water, as
well as the drier experience of riding higher and more security for my camera
gear. Yes, I have insurance, but that
won’t help if my gear tanks on day two. One of the rafts is paddled, as well,
which (though fun) means more work as six guests and a guide propel the
boat. Really, though, I think age is
beginning to catch up with me. Ouch.
Long time readers might remember that I’ve been threatening
to stop doing these trips for some time.
So much for my credibility, but I’ll commit to the following; if I do it
again, I’ll do it the easy way.
|Metallic light, Hot Na Na Camp
It’s tempting to lead with the hardships but let’s talk
about the good stuff. Being in the
bottom of the Grand Canyon is a rare and precious gift. Light plays across the walls and water through
the day and night. The stars are
breathtaking. Nothing smells like the river corridor and cocktails taste
better. Wildlife is everywhere, and I find I have the time and motivation to
notice lizards, bighorn sheep, peregrines, osprey.
After a few days, I’m fully immersed in the experience. Removed from the details and chaos of “rim
life,” I learn about what remains (which I believe is who I really am.)
We scheduled this trip with three friends, and the chance for
the five of us to hang out in this special setting was priceless. We made some
new friends, too.
|The elegant dory cuts through Lava Falls Rapid
Photographing five of the six boats coming through Lava
Falls Rapid was a highlight for sure.
|Granite Rapid detail
I also loved experimenting with different ways to show the
power and chaos of Granite Rapid.
We had wind, gusting to about 50 mph. We saw actual waterspouts on the river, and
anyone who has camped in sand can imagine what that night was like. The wind makes some tricky rapids more treacherous. The Trip Leader, in an abundance of caution, waited
a couple of hours for a let-up (which we didn’t get) above Hance Rapid. What I didn’t want to share with the group is
that there was a death
on the river last season which was partly attributable to wind. Ultimately our skilled professional guides
brought us through safely, though.
|Particulate-enhanced light near Grapevine Camp
The wind created some lovely light, filtering though the
What about the virus, you ask? On day 7, four of the six
guides woke up with vomiting and diarrhea.
By that night two more of us were ill. Eventually there were 8 of 30,
which is very good containment for what was likely the very contagious Noro
virus. The Park Service is apparently
still investigating the situation, so there’s a lot we don’t know. I’ll follow up and amend this post if I can
convince them to tell me anything.
Bottom line: the guides heroically rowed the big rapids while ill and I
lost a couple of days napping instead of doing anything requiring any
effort. There were several days when I
didn’t take any usable pictures at all.
|Moonset and Diamond Peak at dawn, river mile 222
I have no regrets, now that I look at the trip with some
perspective, home with my dog and electric toothbrush.
|Marco doing the thing, near South Canyon
More favorite images are in the Spring 2022 Gallery on the