Day 17 – Tuckup, National Canyon, and Fern Glen

Day 16 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 18

Day 17 – 158.7 Mile to Fern Glen(168.6)
River Miles: 9.9
Hiking Miles 2
April 3, 2013

Well in case you didn’t notice, by now we’d been on the River for a 16 full days without a single drop of rain! A few days ago, the brilliant analytical minds of Chris Forsyth and Jeremy and Shannon McCumber had begun to calculate the mathematical probability of rain for the remainder of the trip. Their initial parameters were based on, for example, that it had now failed to rain for 16 out of 21 days… so the probability of rain for the remaining 5 days would be…

I followed the discussion for a short time, but lost them after they started bringing new parameters into the equation. They were, well, doing math for fun! It’s funny how this Canyon can get numbers running through one’s head.

Our cook team with Doug and Jackie prepared scrambled omelettes with English muffins beneath the clear morning skies. It wasn’t long before we put our rafts into the open waters of the Colorado River for yet another glorious day in the Grand Canyon. We were over 150 miles downstream of where we began all those days ago at Lee’s Ferry, and we just went on and on…

This would turn out to be one our best and most varied days of hiking adventures. The Canyon just kept serving up its amazing side canyons, one after another after another! We floated over some peacefully serene water before arriving at our first stop, Tuckup Canyon.

parked at Tuckup

The canyon was spectacular, even from its very first steps.

Mike and Chris

Here Jackie is working her way up a chockstone as Jeremy spots here from below. There were a couple of obstacles like this in the canyon, and most of us found them perfectly difficult enough to be fun.

Pretty, pretty stuff… gimme some more of that Grand Canyon!

The so-called “Tuckup Trail” (Truly a route) lies somewhere above here, far and away. I haven’t been there – it’s on that pesky “someday” to-do list.

Bo Beck in Tuckup


Dorothy, Steph, and Brooke



Doug Nering on the downclimb


I returned to the boats to see Bo picturesquely situated here on his cataraft. I also discovered… ravens! Ravens had ransacked my daypack, left sitting out in the open on my raft with some tasty, smelly snacks lying within it. I’d left the zippers closed, but those clever ravens know how to open them, especially the “raven-friendly zippers” (As Doug so wittingly phrased it) that come on my Osprey daypack.

Fortunately we caught the rascals in time, and nearly nothing was lost.

After Tuckup we headed straight for National Canyon, a couple miles downstream on river left. National Canyon is reputedly a classic stop for river trips, and nearly impossible to legally access from the rim because of Hualapai tribal laws. Dave Nally had heard through the grapevine that a recent flash flood had knocked out a previously significant chockstone barrier, so the canyon held an extra curiosity beyond the usual giddiness.

National Canyon

Shannon and Jackie

Doug and Chris


The canyon soon formed an exquisite narrows in the Muav Limestone, but we discovered that it remained virtually impassable after all… but it was still an amazing place to be!

One spot required a neat little stemming move, as Josh demonstrated here.

The stemming sure was a lot of fun! It made me feel like a little kid again, monkey-ing around on a jungle gym. Jackie was thrilled with the stemming part too, really proud and excited to have nailed the technique so easily.

team McCumber on the prowl

returning down the canyon

I put out lunch with Jackie and Doug when we returned to the River. Everyone was in great spirits after having so much fun in these canyons! The lunch was salmon lox sandwiches with bagels, cream cheese, beef jerky and cookies. The cookies were always delicious along the River and disappeared so fast! We had some leftovers available from previous days like peanut butter and jelly, too.

The fun for the day was far from over – we still had one more canyon to explore! Once we were on the River again, Josh was feeling frisky and initiated a squirt-gun and splashing battle. Good times, good times!

The allies break shore on Omaha… errr… Fern Glen Beach.

…and so we took a stroll up Fern Glen Canyon.

This pile of rubble was an interesting obstacle. The slanted, largest boulder toward the lower left seemed to be the simplest solution. It was possible to scramble directly up its surface, but the angle was steep and slick, and left a lot to be desired for hand and footholds. Dave Nally went up and a few others followed him.

A few of us had some doubts and hesitation about the scramble. We’d all overlooked an unlikely chimney to the left, but Jackie was feeling spunky and gave it a try. The chimney actually proved to go through quite easily! Some others followed her, and ultimately the whole group downclimbed the chimney on our return down the canyon. She had another reason to be proud, this time pioneering a route.

Jackie in the chimney

This was the second obstacle in Fern Glen, and it was easier than it looks.


Our hike up the canyon ended at this pouroff. The surrounding area here was a serene and idyllic scene. We all stopped for a few moments to enjoy it.

Bo burns off his inexhaustible energy.

Todd Martin has rappelled through this one too (Of course), as described in Grand Canyoneering.

returning to the rafts


at the mouth of Fern Glen

The icing on today’s cake three-tiered cake was that we called it an early camp right here at Fern Glen! It had been a hot day and there was still plenty of sun on the beach, so a lot of us took the opportunity to relax and bathe in the River.


Chris and the McCumbers whipped up some fish tacos with Spanish rice and refried beans, followed by an especially pleasant evening around the campfire. We had an amazing day and there was a lot of talk about tomorrow…

Lava Falls Rapid was waiting, eleven miles down the River.

It didn’t rain today.

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

Day 16 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 18


  1. Josh Case says:

    I remember having this deep, unnerving feeling in the bottom of my stomach as we discussed Lava. It may have been fear or nerves, or??? So did the crew stay upright in the V-Wave? Would we all be pulverized by the ‘Cheese-grater Rock’? Would those ‘meddling kids’ ever let the bad guy get away on Scooby Doo? Same Bat Time, Same Bat channel…

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