Day 13 – Stone Creek

Day 12 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 14

120.9 Mile to Stone Creek(132.4)
River Miles: 11.5
Hiking Miles: 5
March 30, 2013

I wake in my tent to the echoing call of Steve Nelson, Mr. Steve Nelson, the patriarch of our party with a lifetime of experiences under his belt.

“Coffee! Come and get your Coffee! Coffee!”

I slip on my Tevas and groggily plod through the sand to the River’s edge, standing, gazing up along the Canyon walls that have replaced the typical shower curtain and bathroom mirror for these three glorious weeks. Turning away from the shore, I spy the daybreak’s activity around our kitchen area as the cook team pieces together a batch of scrambled omelettes with English muffins to serve 16. there’s the metallic echo of Bo Beck crushing last night’s empty beer cans with a hammer, like our Thor of the Gorge. Bo is a beast. He probably awoke abruptly at 4am with a burning, restless desire to get started on something. There’s almost always cans to be crushed, and he jumps on the activity as though it makes him happy and at peace.

This was an exciting day for me, like an especially blank page because I was now unfamiliar with this part of the Canyon. We ran rapids with exotic names like Forster(5), Fossil(5), and Specter(6). Doug Nering told me all about an adventurous off-trail hike that he once did. The route followed the rough River corridor downstream from Elves Chasm to Fossil Canyon, up the sublime Fossil Creek to a difficult and unlikely climber’s route that topped out on the Esplanade, and then finally followed the Esplanade all the way back to the South Bass Trail. Doug is a sort of scholar of the history of Grand Canyon’s trails, and it was a privilege to hear his anecdotes throughout the adventure.

After some time we came upon Bedrock Rapid, and pulled over to take a look at it. Rated as a seven, Bedrock is a serious obstacle that sneaks up on those of us that think we’re “out of the woods” for very long after Crystal. The rapid is aptly named, because there’s a HUGE island of rock in the middle of the River, splitting its course into a two-way fork. Running the rapid to the narrow left side of the rock is virtually guaranteed to flip to your raft. I repeat, running the left side of the rapid is virtually guaranteed to flip to your raft! The trouble is that all of current pulls you to the left! A run to the far-right is tricky because the water there is so shallow, so you’re forced to gamble with the strong left current before rowing hard to the right.

Bedrock Rapid – photo by Doug Nering

Another rafting party was right there ahead of us. Some of them had parked at the bottom of the “bedrock” and climbed up onto it to observe the rest of their group successfully run the rapid.

We were next. As always, Dave Nally’s boat with Dorothy and Mike went first and showed us how it’s done. Stephanie and Brooke Nally were after them in the lineup. Steph flirted dangerously with the rock, hitting it square on the front side. Anything could have happened there for a tense moment, and… oh no! They went left! They went left and disappeared out of sight!

Someone from the other party on the rock blew their whistle with a single blast. We didn’t know exactly what that was supposed to mean, but I didn’t like the sound of it. Doug and Jackie and I were next in the lineup and already underway, slowly putting into the rapid.

This was one of those moments on the trip that I’ll fondly remember forever. Jackie never scouted the rapids with us. Therefore, she had no idea that there was a monstrous boulder right in the middle of the River! Her reaction upon laying two huge eyes upon it with an untold number of expletives was priceless.

Just like the Nally girls, we floated straight into the rock. Again, Jackie didn’t see that a lot of successful runs end up hitting the rock first before bouncing to the right. It was a rock that caused our raft to flip in Kwagunt Rapid, so Jackie’s freak-out meter had now reached epic proportions.

There was a moment of still anticipation as we were against the rock. Despite the reality that it could have gone either way, I had a strange calm feeling about the way we first hit the rock, and had faith in Doug. That feeling was confirmed when we slipped safely to the right.

We came around the corner to see that the Nally girls were top-side up! Stephanie apparently dropped the oars as the two of them high-sided onto the outer, now top tube of the raft like nobody high-sided before, and successfully drove the boat back down into the water! Brooke later said that the rock was inches from her nose, and for a split second she considered leaping onto the dry land, to relative safety. Dorothy, Mike, and Dave expressed that it was quite an amazing episode to behold. The rest of our group all made the right side of the bedrock without incident.

After all the excitement of the rapid, it was a pleasant unfolding of events to call it a short day at Stone Creek for the night. Stone Creek features a scenic waterfall that’s a short walk from camp – it’s included as a stop for plenty of rafting parties.

the Stone Creek waterfall

Much more beauty is to be found up the creek, as it features innumerable smaller falls and cascades. With a lot of time in the day left to kill, Jackie, Chris Forsyth, Jeremy, Shannon, Doug, and I took off to explore a significant distance up the canyon.

I had a wonderful time on this hike, as it was simply gorgeous.

It was one my favorite hikes of the entire trip.

It was a surprise to me when the canyon formed a wonderful slot. This was a special place. I think we were all a little giddy with joy.

After all, it was almost April now!

As usual, the descent seemed to go much faster… we all wanted to make it back in time for dinner! The Nally girls with Bo and Steve served up some shrimp tacos with Spanish rice and refried beans. They always seem to wind up with the Mexican meals! It was a fun and animated evening after the day’s events through Bedrock.

It didn’t rain today.

Can’t get enough of rafting the Grand Canyon?
Check out this excellent collection of Boatman Stories!

Day 12 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 14

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