Fabulous! Magical! Poetic!
Great Blue Heron, Grand Canyon 2014
Great Blue Heron floats on the still warm air alongside our raft. We, on the still waters as we push away from Lee’s Ferry; heron, on the still air. A great adventure begins. Up a lazy river...
Great Blue Heron leads the way downriver, turns and checks our path, turns again downriver. We float on the green chill water, so clear the rocky bottom is close. We say hello to new friends, adjust our positions, all in anticipation of the adventure.
A beaver, only eyes visible, swims silently among the shoreline. Big horn sheep graze in peace, a few lambs bound among the rock on shore. Tamarisk salt-cedar dot the small beaches, not native but determined to root there. Pink touches show their bloom.
House Rock, Roaring 20’s, raids excite the blood, awaken joy and energy. We are alive, yes, so alive.
Great Blue Heron leads us past ever higher hills, river elevation lowering, of Marble Canyon sandstone and a verdant rock spring flowing down summer green Vasey’s Paradise to Redwall Cavern where we set foot on soft fine sand in the needed deep shade of plane curved stone. Quiet, we assemble then walk our own way in the silent huge space.
Split twig animals shapes from ancient people’s caves off are closed now. Native American Richard is the modern ‘respect’ for a rocky tower and the Bridge of Sighs reminds of other places and times. Tatahatso’s sand and rock beach comes soon and ends our first river adventure day.
But fun begins with introductions and Lucky remembers us all. Alex, Stephen, Parker. One plate, one fork, one spoon and one bag presages our evening meal, steak for hearty souls and bodies. Deep in the canyon, sun sets early. We find our places, settle into our cots and watch the stars brighten. ISS moves through Big Dipper, the earth revolves and the stars seems to move across the sky, brighter and brighter into the darkest of night, third layer revealing itself as we cannot sleep for all its beauty.
Day 2 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day’s adventure. Ringtails go home, the nocturne over, lizards, red ants, birds awaken. Sleeping bags slither with dressing bodies.
Great Blue Heron awakens hungry. River level is lower overnight; upstream Glen Canyon dam releases water, drive turbines, electricity for a different world than ours now. We quickly love our day-night rhythm, refreshed.
Great Blue Heron leads the way downriver, turns and checks our path, turns again downriver. We float on the green chill water, still clear though rocky bottom is farther below.
A cave beckons, abandoned from a bad scheme to dam the river. Blessedly the river flows on and on. Time, generations, almost eons, we climb to granaries from civilizations past that exist no longer yet preserved their precious seeds for later times. Over scrabble and scree, boulders and branches, roots and rocks, we climb, rewarded by history and view. Magnificent! Onward we go. Hiking along soft blue glacial milk, rock flour, silt flour or quartz and feldspar. Laughing we ride the soft blue warmer Little Colorado River, each on our back, over rocks and pools, feeling clean and free, refreshed.
The wind picks up and we camp among windy willows. Sand and silt blow, we seek shelter and wait until the earth begins its sundown cooling for relief. It comes. We sleep, awakening often to see the immense universe of stars which we touch by heart not by hand. Our view is different tonight, smaller with the canyon walls closer. What else is out there?
Day 3 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day’s adventure. Energy within moves us.
Great Blue Heron companion again leads the way downriver, turns and checks our path, turns again downriver. We float on the green chill water, less clear, colorful in its morning reflection of towering canyon walls.
Unkar Delta, once populous and busy, is silent now, holding its history. We pass through Conquistador Aisle, the long straight stretch. Fins of stone, fluted and worn by eons of river passing by hide walks and waterfalls but we find them. Rapids of joy and fun and cold water fill the afternoon, Nevills, Hance, Sockdolager, then a floating hot break along Phantom Ranch, then energy mounts for Granite, Hermit, Crystal, Tuna Creek and the gems. Three shoes are lost, three shoes returned. Alex writes acronym for Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Emerald, Ruby and, no one guesses, Serpentine.
Before each rapid the air seems to still and warm, the river seems to disappear and our excitement heightens. We approach in calm and drop over the edge, crashing down and flying high, wave after wave, into the V of the rapids. Water, cold water crashes over the pontoons, we laugh and hold tight. Then it stills again, we’ve made it, adrenalin rushing though us. Camp conversation on the beach recounts the day. Or canyon walls are even closer tonight and the river roars nearby. The Great Blue Heron slumbers as do we.
Day 4 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day’s adventure. Energy, excitement within awaken us to new adventures. We are comfortable now with our cots and sand.
We follow the Great Blue Heron until we tie up and hike to Elves Chasm. Shower waterfall is welcome. Are we kidding ourselves that the waterfall water has less sand and silt than the river – nevertheless we feel cleaner. We frolic and play, take many photos, enjoy welcome shade, rare on the river. We glide on and on, watch peregrine soar and dive. Watch sheep graze. Slot canyon walk at lunch, a few rapids, the day grows very very hot. We pull up on a beach and put chairs in the chill river water to cool us. Cocktails in the water, our only good choice. Black devil ravens hunt in our bags for shiny things. Huge boulders frame our beach room and retain heat well into the night. Heat-tired, we fall asleep slowly fascinated by stars and see the ISS again, moving with determination. Finally the evening cools and we slumber.
Day 5 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day’s adventure. We drag ourselves awake. Fun is ahead, again.
Where is the Great Blue Heron? He comes later, he comes. We float through Granite Narrows, The River Runs Through It, wash in windy waterfall at Deer Creek Falls, admire barefoot Inga’s dress and hat, wonder why the others never chat. From our private party the world has arrived so we leave a crowded raft parking dock – glad to be away and on our own again. Stories, history, geology – it is all here and alive. Vishnu Schist, Shorty Burton, Randy’s Rock. Granite Narrows, Granite Gorge, Granite rapid, Kanab Creek, we camp at Upper Ledges, hot rock shelf makes dormitory sleeping all in a row. Surprise, hot night with ice cream! Perfection in food.
Day 6 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day’s adventure. Appreciating the cool morning, comfortable in our sandy skins, we expect the day’s heat soon.
Havasu Falls, glacial milk, a rugged hike to the beautiful pools. We rest, swim, walk on, love the cool of water and air. We float on, walk the slot canyon of centuries to Fern Glen and welcome the shade. No, we don’t want to go back into the hot hot sun, the relentless hot sun - but we do. Lucky warns no boarding until you are all wet; we dutifully and happily dunk in the chill river. We cruise Vulcan’s Anvil basalt plug signaling the ancient lava flows and dams that blocked the river’s flow. On past black rocks and lava spaghetti forms, fanned as they cooled.
On to Lava Falls, the big daddy rapid, braced and ready, we approach. We approach in calm and drop over the edge, crashing down and flying high, into the V of the rapids. Water, cold water crashes over the pontoons, we laugh and hold tight. Then it stills again, we’ve made it, less drama than expected. Victory is ours again.
The Great Blue Heron glides by to bid farewell. The ringtails await their nocturnal ventures.
Our camp in the huge hot rocks, our final night, is special. We wash in the silty chill green river, slipping on the slick rocks at shore where we stay as the current is fast. We are not clean, but clean enough. Formal, trip leader and crew in black tie, Lucky, Alex, Stephen and Parker – and shorts, of course, – we, all smiling, in all manner of costume or not. Dinner’s delicious. Music, stories, laughter and a late night. We sleep but fight it wanting to remember the depth of the stars, the clear sky, the night quiet, the warm and fresh air. We do not want it to end.
Day 7 - By the dawn’s early light, grey light, 4:30, Lucky, Larry, Dave and groover. Cowboy coffee’s ready at 5AM. Conch shell horn announces the new day, sad day as the adventure is almost over. Larry’s frog hops away, we awaken and slither into sandy silty clothes. The final bucket brigade ‘fire line’ loads the rafts; we are good at it now, but it is over. Hugs and fond farewells and we begin the trek back to real life. Or was this real life and the other, our next week, just an illusion.
Good bye, Great Blue Heron. Until we meet again ...
Olivia - Warner Springs, CA
Arizona - Grand Canyon Rafting 6 & 7 Day