Day 19 – The Book of Worms

Day 18 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 20

Day 19 – 186.4 Mile to 202 Mile(202.3)
River Miles: 15.9
Hiking Miles: 1
April 5, 2013

Jackie had a couple of extra minutes this morning to grab some pictures of us rigging the boats. A river trip is a lot of work, day in, day out… but it’s good work. It’s real work.

Everything is always very real in the Grand Canyon.


Mike chose to join Nic in the ducky this morning.

Dave Nally recited another beautiful poem for us before takeoff. There were poems every day, lovely poems beside the River’s edge, among the Canyon walls and Canyon Wrens. This was Day 19, and we knew that there would only be a few more of these poetic moments before the end.
It made me sad.

The dawn, as in all the dry, pure desert country, is ineffably beautiful; and when the first level sunbeams sting the domes and spires, with what a burst of power the big, wild days begin … all the rocks, as if wild with life, throb and quiver and glow in the glorious sunburst, rejoicing. Every rock temple then becomes a temple of music; every spire and pinnacle an angel of light and song, shouting color halleluiahs.John Muir, Grand Canyon of the Colorado

It is impossible in a few pages to do justice, in the smallest degree, to the great gorge itself – “that sublimest thing on earth” – or to the perils and adventures of our journey through it. What then shall we write? –Robert Stanton

Within the first couple of miles we passed Whitmore Wash. A helicopter pad is there, where hundreds of people come to the end of their commercial river trips every year. Our trip was just barely squeezed in before the start of the motor tour season, so there fortunately wasn’t any activity here. It was a hot day.

We pulled over at Parashant Wash to have a look at a place called “The Book of Worms.” The Grand Canyon holds a treasure trove of fossils. Scattered footprints and outlines of ancient sea creatures embedded in the rocks tell the stories of the ages.

The Book of Worms is simply a big piece of rock that shows a number of fossilized wormholes.

They’re 550 million years old.

The whole canyon is a mine of fossils … forming a grand geological library – a collection of stone books covering thousands of miles of shelving tier on tier conveniently arranged for the student. And with what wonderful scriptures are their pages filled – myriad forms of successive floras and faunas, lavishly illustrated with colored drawings, carrying us back into the midst of the life of a past infinitely remote…

And as we go on and on, studying this old, old life in the light of the life beating warmly about us, we enrich and lengthen our own. –John Muir, Grand Canyon of the Colorado


the book of worms

I sat and rested on the rock platform, looking over and beyond the river at the strata on strata that mounted on one another to the North Rim. I could see them all, every layer. They were replicas of those I had just moved down through. And after I had sat and looked at them for a while I saw that now, from a distance, I could see with eye and intellect what I had all day been understanding through instinct. Now, as my eye traveled downward from the Rim, it watched the rocks grow older.

It watched them grow older in a way that would have been impossible when I was living, day after day, surrounded and cushioned and segregated by the accouterments of the man-ruled world – by chairs and electricity and money-thrust and the rest of the tinsel. I knew that when I returned to that world I would probably remember what I saw as a flight of fancy, as airy symbolism. But at the time, as I sat there on the rock platform above the sparkling river, the pageant I saw spread out before me shone with a reality as rich as any I have ever caught in the beam of logic. –Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time

The lover of nature whose perceptions have been trained elsewhere will enter this strange region with a shock, and dwell there for a time with a sense of oppression. The bold will seem grotesque, the colors too bizarre, the subtlety absent. But time will bring a gradual change, and the strength and majesty will come through. –Clarence Dutton

We only drifted three more miles downstream to call it a day at a big, sandy camp. It was still early in the afternoon, so everyone eventually drifted apart and went separate ways to explore. With so little in the way of landmarks to look forward to, I think I’m not the only one of the group whose thoughts had begun to turn toward home, and life after the trip.

The Canyon lost a lot of its edge today, and a deep relaxation had set in. Soon I caught up with the McCumbers and Chris Forsyth in the bed of a nearby canyon.

They were simply relaxing, dawdling, and enjoying themselves too.

The whole colossal scene was filled and studded and almost ignited by the witchery of desert sunlight, and the Gorge no longer looked at all a terrible place … it seemed broad and open and inviting. Now the Colorado no longer swirled brown and sullen; its bright blue surface shone and sparkled … Yet because of the size and the beauty and the brilliance of this magnificently unexpected view, I felt in that first moment on the lip of the terrace something of the shock that had overwhelmed me when I first stood, a year earlier, on the Rim of the Canyon. It even seemed that, once again, I was meeting the silence – the silence I thought I had grown accustomed to – as something solid, face to face. And just for a moment I felt once more the same understanding and acceptance of the vast, inevitable sweep of geologic time. –Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time

In trying to describe the great pines and sequoias of the Sierra, I have often thought that if one of those trees could be set by itself in some city park, its grandeur might there be impressively realized; while in its home forests, where all magnitudes are great, the weary, satiated traveler sees none of them truly. It is so with these majestic rock structures. –John Muir, Grand Canyon of the Colorado

The map-books described some “fine rock art” in the area. Our crew of wanderers was joined by Doug and a few others in search of the Indian markings, but we never found any art like the book describes. We wandered in all directions, but a roasting pit was the only clear discovery.


I did find this piece of piece of Tapeats Sandstone. It appears to have had some faint red markings that were washed away by the ages. Maybe.

Others have been here before.

On a mural wall I find petroglyphs – the images of bighorn sheep, snakes, mule deer, sun and raincloud symbols, men with lances. The old people, the Anasazi … What interests me is the quality of that pre-Columbian life, the feel of it, the atmosphere … what persistent and devilish enemies they must have had, or thought they had, when even here in the intricate heart of a desert labyrinth a hundred foot-miles from the nearest grassland, forest and mountains they felt constrained to make their homes, as swallows do, in niches high on the face of a cliff. — Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

As the day draws to a close, shadows, wondrous, black, and thick, like those of the morning, fill up the wall hollows, while the glowing rocks, their rough angles burned off, seem soft and hot to the heart as they stand submerged in purple haze, which now fills the canyon like a sea. Still deeper, richer, more divine grow the great walls and temples, until in the supreme flaming glory of sunset the whole canyon is transfigured, as if all the life and light of centuries of sunshine stored up and condensed in the rocks was now being poured forth as from one glorious fountain, flooding both earth and sky. — John Muir, Grand Canyon of the Colorado

“I’m sure you realize,” Harvey had said, “That it’s one thing to take on the Canyon the way I do, in a series of small bites from the Rim, but quite another to swallow it whole.” –Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time

No matter how many trips you have made, you always return knowing there is much you haven’t yet seen, even some places no one has ever been. Nobody knows all the Grand Canyon and probably no individual ever will. It is fantastically complicated. –Merrel Clubb

Tonight’s dinner was an encore of what had already become an instant classic. Josh’s team grilled up some ribeye steaks with potatoes, green beans, and Dutch-oven-apple-cobbler for dessert.

Thus endeth the Book of Worms.

It didn’t rain today.

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

Day 18 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 20

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