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Day 13: Below Fossil to Football Field


March 17, 2014

This is another day with three big rapids and a number of smaller ones.  In some sections, they pile on top of one another and you have to be on your toes.

The first is Specter, where there is a right run next to a wall that misses a big hole.  Most of the rafts take that line, but Stef, who is back at the oars on Susie Too, sees a path on the left of that hole that will keep us off the wall and we dance down that line, catching some awe and having fun.  We arrive at the bottom with barely two inches of water in the boat and a lot of laughter.

Bedrock, my peronal nemesis, is next.  We land above and climb through the Doll House to scout and at low water and dropping, she looks nasty.  I flipped a raft here in 1969 by wrapping it on the Bedrock and then, when it came off upside-down, rode it in the left eddy while trying and trying to climb on it until it decided to do the left run.  This year, I elect to be picked up at the bottom and, given that Stef wants a lighter boat to do the run, both of us are happy.

Robb goes first and does a perfect run and he eddies out at the rock and sets up a safety with a throw bag.  CeCe is next and does a great job as well and eddies out on the beach I am on.  Tony comes next and is too far left entering the left side without touching the rock and we can see him upright and backwards through the notch.  The back side of the Bedrock catches him and puts one of the pontoons under water.  Robb, on top of the rock, shakes his head, but Tony high-sides and a surge washes him off upright – oars, gear, and boat all intact – and he eddies out on the left in sight on a small beach.  Izzy heads down and spins, almost wraps on the rock, but the pillow pushes her off.  We think it’s a certain flip, but she and John hold it, make it through the left side and also eddy out next to Tony.  Craig brings the Flavell II down and pulls and pulls and pulls and makes it around on the right with his steel prow almost touching the secondary rocks on the right side of Bedrock, with a huge grin and a wipe of the sweat of his brow gesture he has earned and to our applause.

Greg has been practicing putting his stern on rocks just for this rapid and we laugh about a small steeper rock that the water is just splashing over.  I tell him I want his picture with the Portola stern just over that rock and he laughs and says that he does too.  His run is perfect with his stern going on the left side of all the right side rocks and he ends up the farthest from Bedrock and with his stern only five or six feet from that sleeper rock to great cheers from all of us.  Stef brings Susie through a little closer to the rock, but safely and with a lot of fun.  He picks me up below Bedrock and it’s off to Deubendorf Rapid, which we do a read-and-run, then a half-hour stop at Stone Creek to top off our water supplies.  I set up the solar chargers to see if I can get any of the batteries up enough to use my laptop.

After we pump fresh water, we head on down the river with Doug Freeman at the oars of Susie Too.  Tapeats Creek has been one of my favorite camping spots on several trips down the Bill Hall trail past Thunder River, down Tapeats Creek, along the river high on the cliffs to Deer Creek, and then back out across the esplenade and back out.  Today, the whole river is pulling into the rock pour-over at the top.  Greg makes three big pulls and goes right of the rock.  Doug is pulling for all he is worth and goes up and over the rock, sliding off to the left as both of us high-side so we keep her upright.  He grabs the oar he has lost on the left and we make it through the rapid with no more than three inches in the bottom and we both bail to see if there is a hole or other damage.  We think we hit with the area under the forward compartment, but instead find we have cracked the wood in the rower’s footwell in two areas.  It does not appear to be leaking and we haave other swirly water to worry about, so we wait for camp.

Jeffe Aronson, a dory boatman for Grand Canyon Dories, who does a great blog called “Stories From the Big Ditch”, just did a blog about repairing wooden dories and used several photos of dories being pulled out of the water by rolling them on thwarts (the inflatible center tubes on paddle rafts, which are not used with a rowing frame).  We camp at “Football Field” below Deer Creek and roll the Susie Too out on two thwarts and all the wood boat builders look at the cracks, determine that the cracks aren’t through the fiberglass, are not leaking, and none of the ribs are damaged, and we just need to take care for the rest of the trip.  It only took four of us to move her out of the water and back in – much easier than lifting her.  Thank you Jeffe and Craig Wolfson, who had the thwarts and brought them in; a few pumps of one of our air pumps and they were ready to go.

~Helen Howard


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