Day 3: North Canyon to Shinumo Wash Camp
March 7, 2014
Today is an 8-mile day, taking us through what is known as the roaring 20’s – a series of bouncy rapids, all about a class 4-5 and all about half a mile apart.
CeCe Mortenson rows Susie Too today and I play back seat passenger and sometimes back seat driver, as she sometimes takes a different line than I would have. Susie Too offers a short learning curve to an experienced paddler using her for the first time. CeCe reads water better than I do and her lines are better than the ones I would have taken, so I turn to taking photos and enjoying the scenery and bailing at the foot of each rapid from the passenger foot well. We have built the Susie Too with a sump pump under the rower’s seat and with drain holes from both the rower’s foot well to the front and the passenger foot well to the back, so I can bail from the back and the water will drain through the sump pump in the front and I can empty the boat from one spot. Only one of the rapids today puts enough water in her to trigger the pump. That splash guard keeps all water from the front except one wave, which totally covers CeCe in Georgie White Rapid out of the boat. Most of the water that hits us comes from the sides as we move though lateral waves coming from both sides, common after the holes and standing waves in a lot of rapids. Fun stuff. At the end of each, we find an eddy current out of the main current and watch everyone else make their runs and then go on.
A stop for lunch on a great little beach looking upstream to one rapid and right next to another rapid allows us to dry out and eat. Some fun showing quicksand off to the unwary by adding water to an already low area of wet sand has Natalie and others quickly sinking to their knees, with the rest of us ready to pull them out. We sit in the sand after lunch and make like lizards basking in the heat before dawning our wet gear and going out to face the water, which is always in the 40’s here. Those of us who run other rivers and are used to water in the 50’s and 60’s notice the difference. Some of us are dressed in fleece and rain gear over long underwear and with waterproof boots; some us are dressed in 2-piece waterproof clothing over long underwear and fleece; and some of us are wearing drysuits, which are one piece contraptions with tight gaskets at the neck and wrists, have waterproof feet socks built in that we put river boots over, and have a waterproof zipper across the chest, which makes it both hard to get into and out of and totally waterproof. It also makes it very hot, so most who are wearing those struggle to get out of the upper part when we land and then struggle to get into it before we leave. I am wearing a waterproof top with an inner liner that tucks into my waterproof pants, and then a heavy-duty top layer that tightens over the pants. I have a drysuit with me, but will probably wear it only on the days that the weather is bad, or that I feel I have a chance of swimming because of the rapids we are to run that day. I think I have 2 more days of what I am wearing and then will be in the drysuit for about 10 days – Unkar, Solkdologer, Hance, Horn, the Gems, Crystal, and Lava, to name just a few of what we have to come.
We arrive earlier at camp at Shinumo Wash, which has been much improved with more sand from the artificial flood the Bureau of Reclamation ran in November and December last year. The cook team makes dinner of tacos while I make brownies in my Dutch ovens for dessert. We have enough sun to set up all the Goal Zero batteries and solar chargers we are using to keep the cameras, laptops, notebooks and storage devices going for 16 people, most of whom have more than one camera to record this trip of a lifetime. These charge merrily along as long as there is sun, and then do a trickle charge as they get into shadow. One of my batteries that has a percent charge meter reads that it has charged 5% additional after then sun is off of it just by evening light.
Lots of stories are told around the campfire after dinner. Dave Mortenson talks about the early trips that he was on as a teenager. Stories of Martin Litton, the conservationist, who went on to use these 3 original boats to found Grand Canyon Dories. The Susie Too ran private trips in Grand Canyon with him from 1964 to 1974 as the Music Temple. His Portola was renamed the Diablo Canyon. He founded Grand Canyon Dories as a commercial company in 1969, specializing in rowing trips only using the dories, but soon moved to the 18-foot Briggs Dories that can take 4 passengers. The boatmen who worked for him were devoted to their dories. After rowing Susie Too I can certainly understand why.