River Day 5


by Oarsman Robbins

The boys of Summer

An appropriate summary of the events of Day 5 must begin before the actual morning of Day 5. From the first moment we cracked the pages of our Guide Book, it was obvious that Day 5 was going to be the day on the river with the most intense rapids and this was confirmed mid-trip by Ed The Guide. 

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

EdThe Guide.jpg (93274 bytes)

  Ed the Guide

What that meant to most of us was that we had to find a way to be paddling on that day. Luckily for us, the hard-core paddlers on the trip consisted mainly of guys from our group; however, it was not possible to know that from the outset. Nonetheless, Carl and I paddled together on Day 1 since few others leapt at the opportunity and then paddled again on Day 2 with our whole group (minus Ed The Camper). 

lee_edday5oar.jpg (28595 bytes)

Ed the Camper

At that point, it was apparent to me that no matter the interest from the rest of the campers on the trip that Day 3 and Day 4 would be oar days for me so as not to risk a coveted spot in the paddle boat on Day 5. Without knowing how the numbers would play out yet, Ed The Guide implied that we would all get a shot at paddling on Day 5 regardless, but that he might have to split the boat into two shifts for that depending on the interest. That certainly would not have been the same.

As it turned out, Ed The Camper had no desire to paddle Day 5 and Lee paddled on Day 4 so he was likewise content not to paddle Day 5. Things were looking pretty good for the remaining five guys of our group, however, Ed The Camper put fear into us the night of Day 4 by saying that he thought people were already reserving spots on Day 5 with Ed The Guide as we were sitting idly by. That prompted a quick march over to Ed The Guide to let him know that Michael, Jeff, Marc, Carl and Phil 

FL Law.jpg (68647 bytes)

were all expecting spots on the paddle raft on Day 5. It turns out our fears were unfounded as Ed The Guide had yet to commit any of his spots, but it was certainly wise not to take any chances with it.

When we woke up Friday morning on Day 5, the air somehow smelled cleaner, the sun shone brighter, the sand was less obnoxious (well, let's not get carried away) and the birds sang a melody like none other. Ok, so this is an overstatement for sure, but I for one was looking forward to our day of taking on the mighty Colorado River. Breakfast could not be over fast enough. We packed up camp as usual and then the Day 5 Five descended upon Ed The Guide to reserve those coveted spots. We picked up Roger Jr. as number six and were ready to tackle the big morning ahead of us.

Day5Rapid.jpg (70569 bytes)

Out of the shoot Friday morning, we tackled the Unkar Rapid. This was as good as any other rapid we had done on the river during the trip up to that point. A couple of miles later, we went through the Nevills Rapid, which was also a fairly good ride. However, these were merely the appetizers. The excitement was for what was coming next  HANCE!!!!! We pulled over just before Hance so that Ed The Guide could scout it out. He told us that the right side was the way that we wanted to go because that was the more adventurous side. I guess he didn't see anything disturbing on that route because that was the way we ended up going. We took a few pictures overlooking the rapid, the only 10 rapid we would have the luxury to conquer on the half-trip, and then re-assembled in the raft to mount our challenge.

Scouting Son of Hans... Trivia - which 2 were swept away?

Ed The Guide gave more than the usual warnings before we tackled Hance. Although I don't think any of us seriously thought we would ever be falling out of the raft, we certainly knew we'd have to be attuned to the strokes that he was calling for and I think we all played pretty close attention. Hance did not look that imposing from a distance although it did appear to have the roughest water we had seen yet. Frankly, the experience passed by fairly quickly since we were working so hard to get through it, but it was absolutely exhilarating. All the required strokes were delivered perfectly, turning us left, right, back, whatever we needed at the appropriate time. We all were jubilant to kick Hance's ass as we did and did our typical pole-slapping congratulatory salute! However, we were not done yet.

The bottom portion of the Hance rapid was affectionately referred to by Ed The Guide as the Son of Hance since it lacked another given name. It did not look too bad as we approached it and it was quite a small stretch of the river, however, appearances can certainly be deceiving. As we had taken each other stretch of the river with Ed The Guide, we tackled Son of Hance head on. All of a sudden we were aiming straight for a sizable standing wave (in my oral stories, I like to say a 4 foot high wave of course, in that quick second, it was hard to gauge the exact height of the wave, but it makes a good story to say 4 feet and hereinafter it will be referred to only as The Wave). When we hit The Wave, the raft was at about a 45 degree angle, which was thrilling and otherwise did not seem to pose any concerns to me until the back end of the raft shot out of the water.

The back of the raft consisted of me, Jeff and Ed The Guide, however, after our forceful head-on encounter with The Wave the back of the raft was empty. The three of us were sucked out of the raft so fast I'm not sure any of us saw it coming or could have done much to prevent it. Luckily, we landed right at the back of the raft, a mere arms length away from the monkey's fists hanging down, which we quickly grabbed (this was Ed The Guide's terminology, not mine, but basically, they were three short ropes with knots at the end). The water did not feel nearly as cold as it did at other times, likely a result of the rush of adrenaline we were currently feeling. I can only imagine the looks on the faces of Marc, Carl and Phil

Sacks Boys.jpg (69689 bytes)

Can you give us a hand?

as they looked back to see an empty raft, but drawing on their years of rafting experience and the 2 minute tutorial previously given by Ed The Guide, they knew exactly what to do. After racing to the back half of the raft, they helped Jeff and I into the raft. I then helped Ed The Guide in.

It all happened so fast, but it helped add to the Hance experience. I still think we kicked Hance's ass that morning despite the swim, although I am glad that our spill happened at the end of the rapid and that we did not have to really swim through the rocks. That would probably not have been very enjoyable. I am also proud to say that I never let go of my paddle during the tumultuous ride/swam at the end of Son of Hance, so I do not know whose paddle Ed The Guide corralled but in the end it did not matter as no paddles were lost, no body parts were bruised and all swimmers were quickly re-admitted to the raft.

Day5High5.jpg (68247 bytes)

At this point, the Canyon had also begun to change as we entered a region known as the Vishnu Schist. While every view of the Canyon was different and breathtaking in its own right, I think I liked this rock the best. It was so incredibly different than the limestone and look of the rest of the Canyon. The rocks that formed the Schist were the oldest in the Canyon at 1.7 billion years old (versus the youngest at 220 million years and the existence of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago). The formation in the Schist was also metamorphic and I believe made up the hardest rocks in the Canyon as a result. Any more details will require consultation with either Marc or our handy River Guide.

We did three more rapids that day, two of which were fairly large in Sockdolager and Grapevine before we reached Clear Creek. At Clear Creek, we tied up the rafts and hiked up the Schist (specifically, we had to rock climb a small portion of it and then hike through and around a small stream). At the end of our brief hike, was a small, but powerful waterfall. Many of us took turns standing underneath the water flow and we could never pass an opportunity for a group picture of course. I recall Lee doing some kind of unusual contortions/dance moves/facial expressions during his time in the waterfall, but I cannot fathom how to describe that any more clearly. If only a camcorder had made the trip! We spent at least a couple of hours relaxing in the stream, talking, throwing rocks, etc. before it was time to head out.

From Clear Creek, our campsite for the night was merely minutes away. The campsite that night was configured a little differently than the others that we had previously inhabited. We had all become accustomed to cleaning up after a long day on the river, usually in a small private area that was more or less hidden from the rest of the campsite. This campsite, however, did not have such an area, at least not one that was readily visible. However, I was in the mood to wash up, so when Ed The Guide pointed to a small rock formation (the Wall) that only needed to be climbed to make use of a private beach, I was more than up to the challenge.

So, with towel, clean clothes and beer in hand, I made my way to the Wall. I quickly realized that the beer would have stay on the campsite side of the Wall, as I needed at least one free hand to find my way. The climb was somewhat arduous and when I reached the top I was pleased to find that my fellow campers were all enraptured with my efforts. In the end, I would not say that the climb was worth the secluded beach and privacy, but damn it, at least I was clean and waiting for me on my return was a nice cold beer and some great garlic bread.

Since I have now waited three months to finish this summary (talk about procrastination), I cannot say that I remember much more about the night of Day 5, other than we rushed to make our lunches in the rain for the hike the next day, we had a good pasta dinner and we stayed up playing Scrabble again. All in all, it was a good end to our best day on the river!


Day5Group.jpg (77634 bytes)


Back to the Top

The Hike Out