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  • Writer's pictureKatja

Rafting the Grand Canyon: One Week Down, One to Go & I Finally See a Scorpion

Day Eight (July 22nd)

The eighth day was mostly uneventful. We had a slow start in the morning because John's dory needed some repairs, including resealing the hull with epoxy and gorilla tape. I am pleased to say that yes, duct tape solves everything.

Note: this photo is actually from our last day of the trip, but shows the repairs that were done that morning.

We loaded the boats in the late morning sun, dripping more sweat than I imagined a human body could produce. We pushed out into the rapid and left the last of the gems behind as we crested some large hydraulic waves and entered a lot of slow, flat water stretches. The guidebooks say that 90% of the Grand Canyon rafting experience is on flat water. I finally started seeing what they were talking about.

I got to row for several hours, my trial-run of Ruby apparently earning me a little more trust in the oars. One of the rapids (I think it was Specter, a 6 with a 6-foot drop) required maneuvering around a large rock and making some intentional movements to get through. It was interesting to have the roles reversed with me in the oars and Steve guiding me through with his words and a steady hand pointing the way. The river is definitely in charge; we can only do our best and hope our luck stays true.

We enjoyed another side excursion to an even more gorgeous waterfall at Elves Chasm (see separate entry). The crystal clear water and the beauty of the side canyon helped improve spirits and made for a fun afternoon.

Our next camp became one of my favorites. We stopped at the large, sandy camp at Randy's Rock at mile 127. It is named for the very large rock in the rapid that one must avoid; a rock that I worked so hard to miss that I almost missed the eddy and had every man in the group shouting directions at me as I pushed us into shore. The numerous lectures on how pulling the oars produces more strength than pushing, and how when I'm told to do something I must immediately do it, were not the most endearing after a long, hot suffer-fest of a day, and I needed some alone time to work through the frustration. One challenging landing at camp seemed to obfuscate all the successes of the days and week prior. I felt like a failure, even though I had successfully brought our boat into camp, and was down on myself for most of the evening. Steve provided some helpful feedback and tried to reassure me, but as always, I was my own worst critic. I needn't have worried: the events to come the next day at Bedrock Rapid would forever wash away any and all issues team-Swan had left. Amazing how one event can change the course of your trip, nonetheless your life, forever after.

Anyway, back to the present... the area was gorgeous with tall cliffs all around us, a luxurious green area to the right and an inviting canyon to the left. While I opted out of hiking up this one (my shins were bothering me a lot from the previous day's boulder-crash), I lay my tarp at the top of the highest sand dune just below the canyon and slept high above the river with a breathtaking view of the stars. The enormous boulders lining the dune's edge down to the riverbank created a sound funnel that brought up the noise of the river and lulled me to sleep. I woke up numerous times simply to sit up and look at the amazing landscape around me, visible in a magnificent display of black, grey, and white in the moonlight.

Note: the left photo is in the early evening, the middle photos is taken as it is getting dark from my vantage point on the dune, and the right photo is in night-mode in the early pre-dawn hours of the morning.

It took a full week on the river but I finally found the infamous scorpions! I had to search hard, wandering back and forth along the sandstone ledges with a careful scan of the black-light. I caught sight of one that ran away in an instant, then managed to catch a picture of another before it cowered behind a piece of rock. I had no idea they were so small and so shy; my mom's stories from 2009 had me imagining a miniature army of fearless arachnids swarming our sleeping pads on a nightly basis. Nope. These little critters wanted nothing to do with us and our flashlights.

They did, however, make use of the clothing the guys spread out to try on the rocks overnight, and the morning found us a half-dozen more as they were shaken out of t-shirts and were narrowly avoided by our tired feet.

Logan helped narrate a mini-nature-documentary after breakfast when Max called us up to see a scorpion and lizard stand-off. The lizard must have realized it had made a very bad judgement call and stayed frozen for most of the standoff before carefully side stepping the situation and retreating back into the safety of the rocks.

The morning of July 23rd dawned with beauty and excitement for another day on the river.

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