Day 2 – House Rock Rapid and North Canyon

Day 1 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 3

Day 2 – Hot Na Na (16.7) to Shinumo Wash (29.5)
River Miles: 12.8
Hiking Miles: 1
March 19, 2013

Jackie and I woke at 5am this morning to have breakfast started and ready to serve at six. Steve-O, the McCumbers, and Chris Atwood were already up and had the coffee going, making it clear who the early-riser coffee addicts would be! The coffee was done each morning cowboy style, and Steve-O ended up taking on the duty every day for himself. The group’s wake-up call would essentially become Steve’s voice calling out “Coffee!”

We prepared bacon and eggs and put out some granola for breakfast. It went pretty well, with the exception of dealing with the bacon grease in the clean-up process. Jackie was able to break down our camp and get a lot of stuff packed while I took care of most of the cooking with Doug. Despite the extra duties we managed to have our boat rigged just about in time with the rest of the group.

It was a chilly morning as the sun had not yet reached the bottom of the Canyon. A lot of folks grew quiet as they began to load the boats. House Rock Rapid was waiting just around the corner for us, first thing in the morning.

House Rock is the first serious, major rapid in the Canyon. It’s rated a 7, and plenty of people flip their rafts in it. All the preparations were nervously made as we struggled into our drysuits and fastened the PFD’s and helmets. Boats were rigged to flip, and we battened down the hatches as they say.

We went into an in-depth safety review once everyone was ready. Dave went over the details of what to do in the event that you should go for an unintentional swim in the river, and exactly what those of us still on board the raft should do to aid the swimmer. We also made sure that everyone was on the same page as far as our hand signals and what they mean. Next we established a running order – Dave would go first, followed by Stephanie, and then Doug (Jackie and I). Bo would be behind us, essentially in the middle to take advantage of his extra maneuverability. He’d be followed by Josh, the McCumbers, and finally Chris Forsyth to sweep, as he had the most experience after Dave.

Finally Dave went over the details of the rapid itself – how to maneuver through it and avoid the large holes. We chose not to scout House Rock, and ended up scouting relatively few rapids through the duration of the trip. Dave had been down the river enough times that he was extremely familiar with most of the runs, and overall felt that scouting just made him more nervous instead of confident. I think this attitude trickled down through most of the boatmen.

Well, we sure were nervous this morning, regardless of seeing the rapid beforehand or not. Not much was said as we approached House Rock, only about half a mile downstream of camp. It’s quite a feeling approaching a major rapid. Everything seems perfectly still and quiet except for the roar of the water – your senses are tense and alert, yet strangely calm. This is a bit of an unlikely comparison, but for those of you who play golf, it’s a little like that moment of clarity before you swing the club.

Dave’s boat and Stephanie’s went into the rapid before us and seemed to have a solid start. Jackie and I braced ourselves as the tongue dropped us into the waves. We came up on a big hole seemed to hit it hard, if indirectly. A wave slammed me in the face and took my breath away as it washed over the raft. Next thing I knew there was another hole and we touched that too, but not so hard, sideswiping it to the right. Then a third hole that we passed completely on the right and home free.

There were shouts of exhilaration, joy, and relief. What a feeling! The best way I can describing running the “big” rapids of Grand Canyon is to compare it to skydiving – the nervous anticipation and exhilaration after it’s over.

All the boats made it through topside-up, and this fresh group was suddenly rafting the Grand Canyon. House Rock did land a few punches – both Jeremy and Josh got momentarily knocked off their oars and into the water, but managed to climb back on their rafts almost immediately.

Jeremy’s GoPro video of House Rock – it’s a good one!

After the rapid we had a few miles of smooth water to relax and enjoy ourselves. House Rock Rapid lies at the foot of Rider Canyon, considered a nice hiking destination in the Marble Canyon area of Grand Canyon. Doug described to us an alternate route that he once took as a way to make a loop hike out of Rider, rather than the traditional down and back.

This “photography on board a moving raft” thing is going to take some getting used to…

Doug let me take the oars for a little while. Rowing these big old things is hard! Not only is the raft slow to respond and maneuver, but the currents of the river want to do crazy things and anything except take you downstream.

He took advantage of the opportunity to rest for few moments.

I was pleasantly surprised when it was announced that we pulling in for a hike up North Canyon. Hiking! The river had been so engrossing that I’d nearly forgotten the possibility of hiking today.

House Rock was stressful! Time for a beer before noon.

We’re on vacation.

North Canyon is one of those places that 99.9% of people will only see from the River. The standard hike is through the Supai rock layer and ends at a picturesque, reflective pool.

This was a nice short hike with a minimal amount of scrambling. The group dynamic may have taken some of the ambiance out of the place, as a half-mile jaunt with sixteen other people. I was simply excited to be back on my feet and in a sort of comfort zone. Everything still felt very fresh as we unpacked and used our designated hiking gear for the first time.

Chris Forsyth in green shorts.

Steve Nelson

the reflective pool – our destination

It seems pretty evident in this candid picture that we’re all still sort of getting to know each other… they’ll have to get used to me sticking my camera in their faces 🙂

Captain Josh, our fearless leader

Mike Burkley

Chris Forsyth and Bo Beck waded through the pool and slithered their way up the pouroff to explore up-canyon. The rest of us waited around for them for a few minutes, but grew impatient and returned to the boats for lunch.

Chris Atwood naturally strikes a heroic pose once again

Don’t miss Jackie blending in here on the left side of this image.

After the hike Doug Nering, Jackie, and I prepared the lunch as the final part of our cook duty. This consisted of setting up two tables with hummus, pita bread, and cheese, as well as slicing tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. In addition there was a hand-washing station to be set up and a few dishes to be done. The hummus was delicious and the meal went well, but there was still a little delay and confusion afterward as far as what items belonged to which boat. We’d have it all dialed in soon enough.

We splashed through the “Roaring Twenties” for the afternoon’s adventure. From river mile 20 to 30 there’s a series of nine rapids that are all rated from a 4 to a 6. Many of these are spaced only about a half mile apart, so the current is swift.

This stretch was so much fun! Like a roller coaster water park of most magnificence, the waves and excitement just kept coming! We were soaked, dried, and soaked again as the grit of the Canyon finally began to wash away our remaining reservations and inhibitions.

I looked up and downriver at our party of rafts between rapids, and the reality that we were rafting the Grand Canyon was more tangibly evident than ever before. Smiles, laughs, and exclamations ran rampant.

Doug Nering roars through the 20s.

This may have been in Georgie Rapid, named for Georgie White (Clark), the legendary early Colorado River runner and guide.

We fell in to a nice rhythm as Jackie and I dictated to Doug from Tom Martin’s Grand Canyon River Guide between rapids, accurately describing what lay ahead.

Bo Beck’s cataraft is seen as a speck here in one of the 20s as Josh approaches it.

The day grew old and we reached our destination for the evening at Shinumo Wash. This was a really nice camp with a flat beach tucked abruptly between cliffs of Redwall as they rose out of the River.

Jackie and I were off of cook duty, so it felt as though we finally had an opportunity to breath and relax for the first time since departing Lees Ferry.

First we had to attend to “groover duty” but this was a relatively simple chore. “Groover” is the universal rafting term used to refer to our toilet system, specifically a toilet seat designed to fit snugly on top of a 20mm ammo can. The ammo can simply gets filled with solid waste and stays with the rafts through the end of the trip.

We also have a designated “pee bucket” that stays with the groover and gets dumped into the river in the morning for convenience and safety – to avoid going to the waters’ edge at night. The Park Service asks that people within proximity of the river should urinate directly into the water as opposed to the shore. It sounds as though this would contaminate the river, but it gets lost in the large volume of water as opposed to the other option of contaminating the beaches.

Groover duty simply involves setting up all of this (And breaking it down in the morning) as well as a hand washing station in a carefully selected location, chosen for privacy and ideally with a scenic view for the user.

It was wonderful to enjoy an evening within the Canyon scene, more accustomed to each other and our floating party of rafts and equipment. Jeremy and Shannon McCumber with Chris Forysth cooked up an excellent dinner of shrimp scampi. Fortunately Bo Beck had a fire started early in the evening, because dessert was s’mores!

It didn’t rain today.

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

Day 1 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 3


  1. Excellent writing Jamie. Spectacular photos (as usual). Thanks for including us boots to dirt GC lovers in your River experience. WV.

  2. Doug Nering says:

    Houserock was the first real test. There are many flips in this and the current pushes left into the big hole really strong. I watched runs on YouTube over-and-over and I had a plan and it worked. This was the very-first seriously difficult rapid I ever rowed and it worked.

  3. Day 2 was a good day. After the morning run of House Rock (I did not get typewritered) the roaring 20’s were basically a blur. At some point I lost track of where we were, and just followed Dave and Steph’s lines. Believe it or not, I think this was my most stressful day on the water. Camp was a welcome relief! Little did I realize that after the 20’s, we didn’t really see a big rapid again for days…

Speak Your Mind