Even Bigger Than It Looks: Kayaking the Grand Canyon, cont’d

Day 7

Around another bend

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I didn't take many pictures this day, even though the scenery was no less fantastic. I was just too sick. Another rough day.

But Deer Creek inspired me to take out the camera. Instead of eating lunch with the crew, I hiked up to the creek before anyone else got there. A fantastic overlook and sculpted narrows were all mine for a while, which was really soothing.

And here's another plus to being too sick to eat: don't have to worry about running out of food before the end of the trip!

Day 8

Havasu!

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Heavily concentrated limestone minerals turn the water this mystical color. Upstream is the photo-famous Havasu Falls, home of the Havasupai people. Fewer people make it here, to the end of the creek at its slot canyon confluence with the Colorado. Photo on the left snapped by Curtis England.

This sacred spot was definitely a highlight of the trip, but day 8 really belonged to Jesse Yuan for his domination of Upset Rapid. Everyone else took the conservative line, staying far right of the big waves and holes. But Jesse, who was last to go, had sized it up and made his own plan. He dropped in far left and fired through the meat, which no one saw coming. We braced for the carnage, but he stomped it. 很棒!

Day 9

LAVA DAY

Lava falls is the gnarliest part of the Grand Canyon, with bus-eating holes and raft-flipping waves offset throughout the rapid. Getting around them takes tact and strength.

I was still feeling sick and low energy on this ominously gray and rainy morning, and everyone else kept nervously quiet. I tried to fuel some stoke, for myself as much as for anyone else. I didn't feel like I had the power to maneuver the main line on the right side, so I tried a sneak on the far left, and still botched it.


But all went well. Everyone came out the bottom and stayed in their boats. Now solidly psyched despite the weather, we all enjoyed customary sips on Tequila Beach, where I was then informed me that it was actually Friday. But thanks for just going with it while it counted. You guys rock!

Day 10

Lazy fun day

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We kicked back to enjoy our first late start morning of the trip, even though it was cold. We stayed warm by running some fun rapids, jumping off Pride Rock, and goofing around in the potholes. And this was the day we crossed the 200-mile mark. With Lava Falls behind us, we were on the home stretch of our kayak trip, but we were still inside the Grand Canyon, and days of adventure still lay ahead of us.

Day 11

Riding it out

On this day we ran the last of the Grand Canyon's modern rapids. Below mile 240, sediment trapped behind Hoover Dam has smoothed over the river bottom and lessened its gradient. The canyon's fiercest whitewater used to be on this section, but is no more.

One of these lost rapids is known as Separation, because it is the spot where, in 1869, three men from Major John Wesley Powell's exploration team became discouraged by the seemingly unconquerable canyon, deserted the party to retreat for the rim, and were never seen again. Tragically, Powell would find civilization in only 2 more days, and the Grand Canyon's first river descent would be a success.

Day 12

Flatwater day

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The final stretch of the Grand Canyon is all flatwater, though the current still curls and boils its way downstream toward Lake Mead. We followed the flow for a full 26 miles that day, and part of the distance was aimless floating in our flower-shaped flotilla, which we finally perfected with the addition of cam straps.

Also on Day 12 was the sudden onslaught of civilization, as dozens of tourist helicopters descended upon this less-regulated corner of the canyon.


With the trip's end in sight, we all cut loose for "100% Night" with dinner potluck inside a cozy rockhouse. The evening's entertainment was Sam Jordan's hilarious shadow puppet show, starring kayak star Joe Gnarly and pizza-box-cutout company. He should really take this one on tour.

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Day 13

The home stretch

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On Day 13 we awoke to our last Grand Canyon sunrise. With a long look over the shoulder, we left our final camp and set out for the short remainder of the journey. A pleasant side hike at Columbine Falls rounded out the morning, but soon we were on the home stretch for Pearce Ferry.

Landing on the boat ramp was a mixed sensation. Elation: we had done it! Paddled 280 miles through the Grand Canyon in kayaks. And depression: Our real-life fantasy was over. Now it is back to jobs, school, and normality. Or is it now time for reflection, storytelling, sharing the stoke, and planning the next adventure? Go team!