Day 11: Above Salt Creek Camp to Hotauta Camp site
March 15, 2014
[We have had problems with the batteries recharging so there has been a delay in getting these out. Days 12 through 16 were sent out with Pam and Kammy Wolfson who will post them as soon as they get them transcribed from my handwritten journals. We had a full day on the beach at Whitmore Wash on the day we exchanged people so my laptop is up and functioning and Leif’s laptop is up and functioning and the cell phone with the data program is up and functioning.]
We start out today knowing that we will be running three big rapids with scouting and filming and and still hoping to make decent times and get into camp early enough to make dinner before everyone crashes. We did it, but a strong afternoon wind that hit three miles from our camp site selection, in an area with no other camp sites available, made that part of the trip very hard.
First rapid we came to was Granite Rapid at the mouth of Monument Creek. Monument Creek Campsite is one of my favorite places and is accessible from the Tonto Trail on the Hermit Loop. It has a nice clear spring running through it and the scenery is dramatic. I have taken many photos of the monument itself and one of them won several awards in multiple contests, including the Arizona State Fair, and has been published several times in various calendars, books, and magazine articles. There is a revegitation project going on there where the National Park Service is getting ready to remove an invasive species, the tamarisk tree, or the remains of the tamarisk trees, after the tamarisk beetles get through killing them. They are planting several native species to provide shade and privacy screening for all the people on river trips who stop there, and all the people who hike down to Granite Rapid from the rim. So they have left buckets and a watering log to ask us who are coming through on river trips to water these 200 plants. There has been some mortality since they put the plants in last year, but a surprising number of them have survived and appear to be leaving out. To build up really good karma for our group, instead of scouting the rapid (since I am not rowing today), I take a bucket out of the Susie Too and haul about 25 buckets of water from the river to the plants on the north end, and about half of the plants on the south end before everyone comes back to run the rapid.
I am riding with Nate today, our official photographer and videographer, who always seems to have a camera in his hands. He was down here in a kayak two years ago and is very familiar with the river and we have a lot of fun today on the raft. CeCe and Stef are taking the Susie Too down, rotating our rowers through the wooden boats to get them familiar with them and give them a turn at the really active way they handle. And I get to get photos of what she looks like dancing through the waves.
Hermit Rapid is next and is a read-and-run, with us having a great time in all of the successive waves being more fun than the last. We all looked out for number 7 which was indeed the best (most challenging), depending on your point of view. Craig and the Flavell II obviously catching air on several of the waves. Then on to Crystal where we spend two hours scouting the rapid and discussing the lines. There were three that we ran. The left run that most people thought was un-runnable was run very well by Robb and Tony, who hardly got wet and made it look easy. The left hole that looks so hard did not even slow them down. Most of the others ran the classic right run, missing the center hole and not hitting any of the rocks on the right shore. Stef, running solo in the Susie Too ran a center run and hit the center hole straight on, was stopped momentarily, and popped right out and danced through the rest of the rapid and lower Crystal as well. Nate and I ran up and took the raft down and went right and had a great run. Son of Crystal is a little more technical and many of us spun once or more in getting through.
The gems were next and that was a rapid or riffle every quarter mile or so: Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby, Serpentine, and then two miles farther, Bass Canyon and Hotauta on the left, which was a great sand dune camp with some ledges. We have made up barely 22 miles at this point and many of us are hoping that the schedule can be adjusted so that we can have the layover day at Whitmore Wash in a week.