Twig Adventures

GC Days 7 & 8: Big Splashes and 1st Layover Day

Sunday, February 25th 2024
Granite Camp mile 93.8 to 110 Mile Camp
16 miles, elevation 2188′

The day was off to a splashy start with some very big rapids. This was the start of the ‘Gems’ section, which is one of the most challenging days on the river. Many of the rapids are named after gems, starting with Crystal. First was a scout of Granite Rapid, easily done from our campsite. I set off with Charlie on his raft, while his usual crew/mate Lana stayed on shore to photograph our group with her nice camera. This was one of the most fun rapids yet, with a big wave train but not too much peril. Lana got some really great photos of all the rafts.

The captains scouting Granite Rapid

Then we had Hermit rapid, which was again so much fun. Lana photographed this one from shore, too. Little did I know that there were probably also some people watching us from far far above on the South Rim. Weeks later, I went back as a tourist with my partner and discovered that Hermit and parts of Granite Rapids were visible from various viewpoints on the western (red) shuttle route to Hermits Rest. By then, the river had turned muddy brown and I didn’t have the luck of seeing any rafting groups running the rapids.

A view of this stretch from far above…note the muddy brown ribbon of river and passing snow showers.

Finally we came to Crystal rapid, which had been perhaps our most anticipated rapid. Rob had previously experienced 2 rafts flipping on this rapid and was understandably nervous about a repeat. The rapid features a very large hole in the center and is sometimes classified as much as a Class 10. On this day, it was probably just an 8. Charlie volunteered to go first and to attack the rapid like he always did. He sent the raft almost right through the center, but with enough momentum that we simply exploded up and over the giant wave. It looked to be about 10′ high but the raft felt so secure and competent going over it, not once did I feel scared that we wouldn’t make it. In fact, I barely got splashed!

There was a large island that we had to be careful to steer clear of at the bottom. It’s easy to get a raft hung up on the shallow cobble bar and some have actually had to be helicoptered out before. The rapid was therefore over half a mile long by the time we were in the clear and able to turn around to watch the other rafts. We had a hard time seeing the line that each took but all seemed to make it through relatively easy, though none were as bold to venture as left as we had. I could see the relief on Rob’s face that none of us repeated his previous misfortunes.

The rest of the day was just a lot of fun 3-6 class rapids (agate, sapphire, turquoise, emerald, ruby, serpentine). I rowed quite a bit and was really getting the hang of running the smaller rapids. We intended to stop at Bass Camp, looking forward to its access to North Bass trail and a large camp with winter sun, perfect for our first layover. But it was not to be, since to our surprise and disappointment, there was already a large group camped there. I counted 9 rafts as we went by. They also had no fewer than 6 American flags erected on the beach and rafts, so we took to calling them “the Americans.” We floated on, waving to them dejectedly.

I really wanted to see Shinumo creek, which had been a show-stopper for many Hayduke hikers the spring before. When the park closed the North Kaibab trail for several months spring 2023, the North Bass trail became the only other viable trail to get back up to the north rim. We subsequently changed our permits, only to be warned by the rangers that Shinumo was likely not fordable given the heavy run-off. Tapeats creek was also in flood condition, so travel back down to the river via the official Hayduke route was definitely impossible. With so much of the route being closed or uncertain, I stopped at the south rim and came back in the fall, when conditions were perfect for completing the desired route. I’m so glad I did it that way, since I was one of only a few Haydukers able to experience all of Saddle Canyon and Tapeats narrows that year. Plus, I was finally able to prove to myself that I could handle the most difficult canyon of the entire Hayduke route. It was definitely the pinnacle experience of the hike.

Still, I was curious to finally see Shinumo creek and explore some of the trail I’d missed. It would have been feasible to cross at this time of year, since snow on the North Rim had been light and wasn’t melting very fast just yet. I could have probably made it at least halfway up during our day off, logging more miles on a new-for-me trail and in such a remote area. What a shame. We rounded the corner and hoped we’d find the next camp empty. Fortunately it was, since our notes said there weren’t any more camps for another 5 miles. We’d been spoiled in pretty much always getting to camp where we wanted and only having seen 2 other small groups prior to this. The camp was decent and Magnus and I found a nearby relic that appeared to be an ancient granary, though we couldn’t be certain. At the very least, it had a fabulous view of the sunset.

Monday, February 26th 2024
110 Mile Camp, 0 miles, elevation 2188′

There was a tiny amount of rain overnight but it dissipated as soon as it fell. Since we decided to take a layover day, I mustered up the courage to take a bath in the freezing cold river. I wish it had been sunnier but I was really due for a washing, especially my hair. I can’t say the cold water made me much cleaner but I did feel better. We watched the ‘Americans’ float by early in the morning, lamenting that they were once again ahead of us and would liekly grab a campsite we wanted down the line. I then helped with erecting a tripod of oars and some tarps to create a sweatlodge. We heated stones in a fire then placed them inside. With water poured on them, they sent up a plume of steam that filled the enclosed space with hot and humid air. I was surprised by how well it worked.

A view of our camp from the hike up above.

Later in the day, I went for a short hike up a steep gully. A few went even higher than I did, but I wasn’t feeling very energetic. Mostly I just wanted to take it easy this day. When I got back, Lucas reported that he’d found a scorpion under some clothes he’d left on the ground. This inspired me to go scorpion hunting with my UV light once it got dark. I searched all over but couldn’t find any. Finally I went next to Lucas’s tent and bingo, that’s where I found a very active one crawling all around the sand. I called the rest of the group to come see its glow. For some, it was their first scorpion. Having sought these creatures out so many times for entertainment, I was not afraid of it. They only are a problem when they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time…say your shoe when you go to put it on. Otherwise, they mainly stay hidden and don’t intend to sting anything but their prey. That was all the excitement for this day. Oh, we also had delicious kebobs over the grill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.