Twig Adventures

GC Day 2: The Roaring 20s

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024,
Hot Na Na Camp mile 16.6 to Nautiloid Camp mile 35,
18.4 miles, elevation 2871′

It was a rough night with my severe migraine and nausea, and then fretting over misplaced supply of sumatriptan. First thing in the morning, I made the rounds to ask if anyone else had the same medication (it’s a fairly common migraine treatment). To my great relief, I found 2 people (who I won’t name in the interest of protecting personal info but am very grateful and indebted to, you know who you are). Both had a pretty limited supply but at least this allowed me to take one of my own pills to finally clear my headache. I felt absolutely trashed after 2 restless nights in a row and still a lingering migraine. I was not looking forward to this day but at least I now had hope that I could continue the rest of the trip. If I hadn’t been able to find more migraine medication, I probably would have needed to cut the trip short on Day 6, hiking out from Phantom Ranch.

It again took a long time to load the rafts and we didn’t set off until probably after 10 am (a pretty standard starting time for most days). We immediately stopped to scout our first Class 7 rapid, House Rock. After my terrible performance the day before, I was assigned boat watch duty while most everyone else went to look at the rapid. This was fine with me, since I was still in such poor physical and mental condition. The first boat crew came back and set off, being the “guinea pigs” of the day. The other crews stayed at the scout location so they could watch the run. Suddenly I heard shouts and the dreaded 3 whistle blast, meaning something bad had happened. I hated not knowing what was going on and even when a few people came back, they weren’t talking much, in a hurry get launched and help with a rescue.

Eventually a few details came through…the first raft had hit a big hole and the force on the oars had ejected the captain. Fortunately the other crew member had been able to take the helm, guiding the raft through the remainder of the rapid and rescuing the swimmer from the water. Having rowed crew for several years and had a few turns at the helm of a raft, I knew how easily an unwieldy oar can launch a person from a boat. It almost happened to me in college when our crew coxswain failed to see a large can buoy on the (New) Thames River. I was seated in the bow and my oar struck the buoy at the catch, while we were rowing all 8’s (full force/speed). It almost took my head off as it whipped around from the impact…I was very lucky not to get seriously injured or end up in the water. The impact was violent enough to break my oarlock and I had to ride in the coaches boat the rest of practice. In rafting, rocks and shallow water pose a similar threat. Fast moving water can act like a solid object too, which was the case in this situation. Fortunately the boat captain was ok, just a bit shaken and cold, and at least he had his drysuit on. I decided not to detail who and which boat this happened to, not because anyone did anything wrong, but simply because I didn’t ask for their permission in making the details public. I’m pretty sure they would be fine with it but I didn’t want to assume.

Obviously this first shaky run gave the rest of us great trepidation about the rapid. It’s a tricky one that requires constant action to avoid getting pulled into the left wall and big hole. Two more boats went before mine and all had successful and uneventful runs. My stomach was in knots as we headed into the rapid, but I was relieved to not have a role in scouting and just do my part in hunkering down. Tina was riding with us and she served as the lookout for the line and rocks. Chris made a great run and we only got mildly splashed. Our sweep boat also made it through just fine and we regrouped at the bottom to make sure everyone was alright. While the details of these first 2 days make it sound like we were in for a wild ride to come, I’m happy to report up-front that we didn’t have any more raft swimmers the rest of the trip. I know, maybe I spoiled some of the suspense but don’t worry, there’s some other action to come.

House Rock kicked off a series of rapids known as the roaring 20’s…as in numerous 3, 4, 5 and 6 class rapids over the next 10 miles (river miles 17 through 29). They seemed to come every half mile and were fortunately all just a lot of fun. It was a good day to be wearing a drysuit though, as were were constantly getting doused by the 40 degree water. We didn’t stop to scout any more of the rapids and all the captains seemed to be getting the hang of things through this unrelenting series. The miles passed quickly and before we knew it, we’d arrived at the Silver Grotto (Shinumo Wash) for a late lunch stop. This was a popular stop for a side hike up the slot canyon, but we found it to be too imposing right from the start. A large pool of muddy red water sat at the base of the first dryfall, which presented an imposing steep and high face. Charlie N ventured into the pool up to his chest and decided to turn back. None of the rest of us were interested in trying to swim or climb, since most were still quite chilled from all the rapids. I’d gotten my fill of slot canyons through all my Hayduke adventures, so I had no problem giving it a pass. We instead focused on eating lunch and heating water for tea. We spent a pretty long time at this stop, then returned to the river for only 4 miles before another must-see stop at the Redwall Cavern.

This feature, at mile 33.3, was first described by John W Powell as being able to fit 50,000 people into the giant alcove. I’d seen many similarly fantastical alcoves along the Hayduke (Muley Twist Canyon and Paria River), but this was a first for most on the trip. It was indeed an impressive formation and we took some fun group pictures.

We covered some big and tense miles this day and so were relieved to settle on a camp just 2 more miles down the river. This was again a really nice camp, with lots of tent sites close to the river, a huge beach, and a fun side canyon for some exploring the next morning. Charlie N took charge of the dinner of grilled salmon and asparagus while Chris worked his magic on the dutch oven apple crisp. Since we hadn’t set a formal rotation in meal prep and dishwashing duties, people filled in as needed. I’m the first to admit that I’m a lousy cook, so I was happy to help with the dishes. I’m also more of a morning person (except these first 2 mornings), so I planned to be more involved with breakfast most days. Being short on migraine medication, I also decided to call it quits on my alcohol consumption for the remainder of the trip. A group struck up a glow-in-the-dark Bocce ball tournament after dinner but I was primarily interested in going to sleep, to catch up for lost time. I did go on a brief scorpion hunt with my UV light but had no luck.

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