THE GRANDEST DAY
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)
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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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The Hike Out