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  • Writer's pictureKatja

Rafting the Grand Canyon: Of Ogres and Hogs

Day 13 (July 27th)

From the journal:

We had a very long day today. We set out before it was hot which is always awesome and had some time in the shade today. It quickly warmed up to what we guess was around 104 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly more. We needed more water and I helped navigate us to Three Springs Canyon, a listed source of freshwater. The guidebook says a lot of people don't filter or purify this water and we all enjoyed some straight from the creek, but at camp tonight, caution won out and we treated the containers with bleach, just in case. Getting the water required a 100-yard hike in the sun across exposed rocks so it amplified the heat. I have never felt so exhausted from the heat in my life.
By lunch, everyone was beaten down with low energy, but we still pushed on--in part because we had lost track of what day it was and thought we were one day ahead and running out of time, a fact we figured out in camp this evening when I began counting backward through my journal entries and the guys looked at their phones and we realized it was not tomorrow but, in fact, today. So, we knocked out a horrendous 24-mile day and discovered that we now, in fact, need to slow down now. What a surprising win!
We made a notable stop at Pumpkin Springs today. Max, Logan, and Steve took a swim in it. I opted out but had fun taking pictures and exploring a bit. Notes from my family in 2009 say the spring was stinky, but we did not notice any smell other than a small hint of sulfur, but only if we tried really hard to smell it. We got lucky I guess! The spring is a random-seeming formation on the river and fun to take a break at, and Logan pointed out that it reminded him of the scene in the movie Shrek where the ogre, Shrek, is bathing in the swamp.

I am excited and nervous for tomorrow: we will pass Diamond Creek which is where my family ended their trip in 2009 and most groups takeout. Then there will be an entire area still to cover that their notes will not take me through. I am excited to see this last stretch of the river for myself and be able to tell them brand-new stories, but it feels more isolated now.
One story will be about the water. John and Max say they have never seen so many storms or the river this thick and brown before. I have heard of it being silty but this seems a little extreme. We are definitely on a most unique trip of a lifetime, that is for sure.

Day 14 (July 28th)

From the journal:

22 miles yesteday and we were toast! The heat became intense very quickly with limited to no shade or relief below the canyon rim. Even the breeze that came up canyon in the afternoon fetl like a balst from an oven.
We passed the Diamond Creek takeout and had a few tricky rapids to navigate including the rapid at 234, "the killer fangs." I throught we were done with these big rapids! With how much flat water there is now, it is easy to be lured into thinking this is an easy river, but no moment should be taken for granted out here.
The water picked up speed after Diamond Creek and we were thrown past our intended stops at Travertine Canyon and Falls in large part because I could no longer make sense of where we were on the map due to the speed we were flying downriver at. We were disappointed, but managed to take a cool-down break at our lunch stop around mile 236.7. There is not much of a beach or camp left here anymore, but we saw pitons in the rocks from old tiedowns, so clearly this has been a camp before. We named it "Hog Wallar Bay" as we felt like pigs wallowing in the thick, muddy water in attempts to cool down.

Steve captured a nice video of the muddy water and our experiences so far:

After some discussion, we decided to push on to Spencer Canyon at mile 246 which is where the last rapid of the trip is, Lava Cliff Rapid. Luckily the "cliff" disintegrated years ago or this would be a whole new nightmare for our now worn-out crew to face.

The Spencer Canyon camp was meant to be a brief stopping point for us to tie up our rafts and prepare to float out overnight, but because we had made so much progress in miles and were ahead of schedule, we had the blessed option to camp one more night and finish the trip the next day in daylight. There were a lot of exciting moments at camp: a beautiful creek for us to explore as it entered the river (out of respect to the tribe whose land the creek is on, the guidebook asks that visitors do not hike up it, and we were careful to respect this wish), large trees that could support my hammock (something that had been buried deep in the bottom of my dry bag until now and everyone enjoyed), and even a composting outhouse for boaters to use. Such marvels after the last two weeks! We were definitely getting closer to civilization.

The insects at this camp were awful, however. Max had a run-in with a terrifying-looking creature he called a Tarantula Hawk that got aggressive with our headlamps and tried to sting him. I think by this point we had all reached our limit, from near-misses and injuries and swims to angry giant wasp-looking creatures. In the journal, I noted how it felt like we were all still able to function and move forward, but there was nothing left in reserve and at any moment the breaking point could truly occur and break us. Unlike the stories I have heard of people saying their last night on the river is bittersweet and they do not want it to end, I know I was not alone in feeling like enough was enough and it was time to get off of this incredibly difficult journey.

The moon and the stars were lovely that night, and it was a hot yet peaceful final night camping on the river.

The sunrise on our final day would be so breathtaking that it almost changed my mind into wanting to go back up and do it all over again. Almost.

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