Twig Adventures

GC Day 15: Lava

Monday, March 4th 2024
Lower National (Sandblaster Camp) mile 167 to Upper 185 Mile camp mile 186
19 miles, elevation 1628′

I’d never been so happy to get back on the river as this day. The wind abated and the skies were clear, so it seemed like perfect conditions to finally break free of Sandblaster campsite. Also, my shoulder was feeling much better. I could even lift some things. Plus, this was the day we were going to run our final big rapid. There was a sense of looking forward to it and of just wanting to get it over with. We got a decent start and crushed 13 miles by lunch, just in time to pull over for the scout. I rode with Cleve once again.

There wasn’t much in-between. We passed the Toroweap overlook and Vulcan’s Anvil…a large volcanic rock in the river that was an indicator of the changing nature of the canyon just downstream. This section (miles 179-255) is famous for the basalt lava flows that dominate the landscape. They occurred 830,000 years ago and were heavy enough to dam the Colorado River on multiple occasions. Some of these dams were hundreds to thousands of feet high, creating massive reservoirs upstream in the canyon. Ultimately these dams failed, resulting in cataclysmic floods. Luckily for us, the only significant remnant (other than miles and miles of columnar basalt formations) was Lava Falls Rapid. It’s a drop of 13′ and rated as a Class 9 or 10, depending on the guidebook.

From the scout, the rapid didn’t look too bad. The main objective was to avoid the major ledge hole in the middle, taking it down the right side. We ate a hurried lunch and Rob ran a clean run first, followed by the rest of the boats. Thanks to Cleve’s expertise, I barely got splashed and I have to admit, it was a bit of a disappointment. Lana stayed on shore take pictures but didn’t capture much excitement. I guess it speaks to how well all the captains and crews performed. Our finally tally of injury and chaos was: 2 oars lost, 1 oar broken, 1 swimmer, 1 dislocated shoulder (not even from the rafting), 1 badly bruised shin, and no flips! I’d say we had a pretty successful run!

The rest of the day was uneventful. We floated on without any more pressure. We just had a few more small rapids the rest of the trip, nothing more than a Class 6 at Mile 205. And we were doing well on our schedule, enough so that we figured we had time for yet another layover. Raft groups traditionally celebrate at this point, so at camp that night, a few of us donned some costumes. I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of my main costume but I have a good one of me dressed as a cactus. Cleve and Dania and I went for a little sunset hike to check out the ocotillos, which had first started to appear in the canyon this day. I’d never been this far west in the canyon before, so it was neat to see the changing plant life. We were now almost as low in elevation as Phoenix.

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