Day 20 – The Great Pumpkin Rises

Day 19 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 21

Day 20 – 202 Mile(202.3) to 220 Mile
River Miles: 18
Hiking Miles: 1
April 6, 2013

Shortly after our trip was over in April of 2013, I naturally posted some of what I thought were the best pictures of the trip on the internet, including this one of Amy near Deer Creek. The late, veteran river-runner Mary Phyl Simpson commented that it was a good “feel of the river” picture.


sunset on Day 20, our second-to-last day

What is the feel of the River? Well at least on these final, warmer days, the feel of the River was a lot like the feel of “the beach.” There was sun, wind, water, waves, and most of all, sand… sand in everything. We became one with the sand, like the surfer dudes, like the beach bums, like the smell of suntan lotion in the 1980’s when nobody cared about skin cancer.

When I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, we went to the Jersey shore every summer for family vacation – usually for a week or two. Among the seagulls and boardwalk arcades and boogie boards there were always those beach people, the ones that had been at the shore for weeks or months – they were pure beach creatures that seemed to have been born in the sand.

It was great to feel that way that now… sun on my face, wind in my gritty, sandy hair, the sound of the oars in the water, gazing up at the Canyon walls, yes, that’s the feel of the River – a cold, cheap can of beer out of the drag bag that’s been rubbed so raw that you can’t discern if it’s a Tecate or a Coke – the self-bailing holes in the floor of the raft, splashing steady bursts of water up onto my wet, sandal-clad feet. The wind and the wrens agree, this is where it’s at. Load the rafts, unload the rafts, stroll to a waterfall and frolic – run the rapids, laugh a hearty laugh around the riverside beach campfire in the depths of the grandest gorge on earth, under a clear starry sky.

The flotilla, the armada, the team the group the tribe the family is everything. We look out for each other – we are everything amid leagues upon leagues of hard rock, sharp desert, and crashing water. The River may be dammed but it sure feels wild. A river is an element like the wind, earth, and sky, and all rivers flow to the sea. Mary Phyl Simpson started her last river trip in September of 2013 and did not come back.


Indian Canyon

The agenda of our second-last day on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon was loose and free. After the morning’s poem we went just a few miles before stopping at Indian Canyon. Here we took a short walk to have a look at some old glass jars.


The story goes (As told by dNally) that years ago, the Bundy family (Prominent ranchers of the “Arizona Strip,” away to the north) had a son that disappeared into the Canyon and was never seen again. Apparently the family, in their desperation, placed a series of caches with survival provisions around the canyon country in hopes that the lost son would come upon them in need.


Dorothy and Steph in Indian Canyon


Bo Beck – these random photos of mine were taken after a realization on Day 20 that I didn’t have very many close-ups of our group members.

It wasn’t long after Indian Canyon that we ran the 209-Mile Rapid. Rated as a 5, it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, just a read-and-run rapid… except the McCumbers were in front of us, and we watched as they hit a huge hole! It literally stopped them in their tracks for a couple of nervous seconds before punching through.

Our own boat got a taste of the hole, too, just enough to be a little fun.

Afterward we simply continued down the ceaseless River. Without any more rapids or big hikes today, there was nothing but time on the water to think and daydream. After three weeks down here, so many thoughts turned toward the after-trip-life – plans and goals and what happens next. So much time and planning had been invested into the river trip for all the months prior to it – so much that the imminent afterlife Above The Rim was like a brave new world.

Though the feeling is often short-lived, a wilderness trip is always an exquisitely refreshing opportunity to recharge and restart. After this trip I will take better care of my body and eat right and work out every day and read more books and learn to play music and learn six languages and make more money and be better at staying in touch with my friends and family and change the world and achieve perfection. It’s New Year’s Day, it’s the first day of a new school year and this will be the year that I get straight A’s.

That’s how I always feel at the end of a trip, at least…


Pumpkin Spring… it’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! After a few more miles we stopped to check out Pumpkin Spring and play on the nearby Tapeats ledges. Pumpkin Spring is a hot spring, but it also happens to be full of arsenic.

Dave suggested that we walk to a nearby rock he called the “birthing stone,” birthing rock,” “birthing hole,” or something like that. You get the idea. Time to properly and symbolically get reborn after losing the snakeskin of real-life via the coarse, abrasive River.


Nic… he appeared to have had some wild experiences with the ducky today, now in the now otherwise docile waters.

Climb in and get reborn. Pure silliness!

It was a hot day – perfect for chillin’ on the cool rocks.

We once again stopped and made camp with plenty of daylight to spare.


Here there was a nice view to the distant, far and away South Rim. We were now so far toward the western edges of the Grand Canyon that I could hardly imagine what the scale and character of the view from the rim out here could be.

A few hours to kill in camp? No problem for Team McCumber.


Let’s go play! I think they were wearing helmets and harnesses before Jackie and I even had our tent set up.

Dave, Dorothy, and Mike cooked up an awesome dinner – cheese and crackers as an appetizer, charcoal-grilled halibut steaks, wild rice, green beans, and dutch-oven carrot cake for dessert! Tomorrow would be our last full day, but due to some epic plans for tomorrow evening, this would be our final campsite to relish and enjoy.


Oh how I would miss all the boats tied in a neat little row…

Despite being so close to the end, most of the night’s talk was centered around tomorrow’s plans. We still had well over 24 hours of seeing and doing and grand-river-ness before us.

It didn’t rain today.

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

Day 19 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 21

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