Tuesday: I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad about the third day, which would be our last day on the river. I was enjoying the rafting, but at the same time thought it would be interesting and fun to visit Phantom Ranch and hike up the Bright Angel Trail. I also had heard that Phantom Ranch had showers, which was appealing. I had sand in my hair from the sandy beaches/campsites, and the 45 degree Colorado River was not conducive to bathing. (Baby wipes are used by many campers to freshen up when there is no suitable body of water.)
8:06 a.m.: Back on the river, I was finally able to get a few good shots of white water rapids. This is Nevills Rapid, at mile 76:
8:19 a.m.: By mile 78, other geological layers had appeared, namely Shinumo quartzite and Hakatai shale.
8:25 a.m.: You’ll note that we are now seated inside the boat. In calm water we could even sit on the outrigger (perhaps it’s more proper to call them the pontoons). Generally, though, we found it more comfortable to sit on padded benches, and that was also our position for going through almost every rapid. For one or two of the largest rapids, though, we were instructed to sit on the floor of the boat, for safety. This is one such case, Hance Rapid, where numerous large rocks constrict the channel and form powerful hydraulics:
In this second photo going through Hance Rapid, you can see the yellow padded benches where passengers in the front of the boat (ahead of the articulated hinge) sat, as well as the white benches in the rear of the boat. (The white material was just a cover, under which were the sleeping pad mats that we used while camping.)
8:41 a.m.: After Hance Rapid, we quickly resumed our places on the more comfortable benches. Here we are going through Sockdolager Rapid, at mile 79. For the geologists, Vishnu schist, Zoroaster granite, and Hotauta conglomerate had appeared. In fact, other than lava flows downstream at mile 179, we had now seen all the formations int he Grand Canyon rock sequence at this point. The crew told us that this first part of the river was the most scenic (perhaps to cheer up those of us who were only riding with them for 2-1/4 days), though the lower canyon offered more rapids than we had seen in the upper half.
8:59 a.m.: Approaching Grapevine Rapid, mile 82:
9:18 a.m.: 83-Mile Rapid:
9:34 a.m.: This is the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, at mile 88, marking the end of our rafting adventure.
Upon beaching the boats, the nine of us who were leaving the party offloaded our dry bags and removed our duffel bags from them, offloaded our ammo cans and removed the personal items from them, and took whatever else we had aboard. We bid farewell to the Canyoneers crew. The nine of us were replaced with 12 passengers who had hiked down the Bright Angel trail that morning. (I don’t know what time they had to start the hike.)
One of the crew led us to Phantom Ranch, where we would spend the rest of the day and the night. The nine of us were put in a ten-person cabin, with bunk beds and air conditioning. The tenth bunk wasn’t wasted, as we were being joined by David, a guide that Canyoneers had hired to lead us out of the canyon the next day. (It would be hard to get lost on the trail, as there are only two or three trails that branch off of it, and they are hard to spot compared to the very well-traveled Bright Angel trail. Still, Canyoneers apparently thought it prudent to hire a guide.) Phantom Ranch was nice except that they’d had a water line break, so the promised showers were not available. They had a supply of potable water, and we filled up our Camelbaks for the next day’s hike. They also had non-potable water, which we used to fill buckets to pour into toilets so that they would flush. We heard that it wasn’t the first time that Phantom Ranch had experienced such a water supply disruption. The Bright Angel Creek ran right behind our cabin, and it was warm enough to tolerate sitting in it for a few minutes.
11:34 a.m.: While planning for the trip, I had spotted one or two hikes in the vicinity of Phantom Ranch that I was interested in, including one to one or two waterfalls. However, I foolishly forgot to bring a print-out of the hikes with me. Julie also didn’t want to go on a hike, as she was concerned about the next day’s 9.6 mile hike climbing 4400′, and none of the others in our party were interested. Therefore, I felt that I had little choice but to remain at Phantom Ranch. If I had brought the print-out with me, I might have been tempted to go on the hike on my own. In the evening, our guide David appeared, and we learned that after he had dropped off the 12 people replacing us at the boats, he had gone on a hike by himself to the waterfalls. I wish that I could have known that and gone with him. As it was, I did little that afternoon, other than take a nap.
Some of the scenery at Phantom Ranch:
Prickly pear cactus:
Mules travel up and down the Bright Angel trail and the Kaibab Trail. They carry passengers or supplies. Canyoneers had arranged for our duffel bags to be carried out by mules the next morning, so that we would only have to carry water and snacks on our hike out of the canyon.
A ranger presented a program in the afternoon and one in the evening. I missed about 90% of the afternoon program because of my nap, but the evening program was on condors. I don’t think I saw any condors at the Grand Canyon, and I was also disappointed that I didn’t see any sheep or other large animals. Other than a heron, smaller birds, lizards and squirrels, I didn’t see any animals at all.
After the talk, the ranger led us a short distance to some rocks and used an ultraviolet light to show us a scorpion, as they fluoresce under such light. We then returned to our cabin.
Next: Day Four below the Rim.