The Grand Canyon/Colorado River Oar Trip: Day 4

July 17, 2016

20160717_063040

Packing up for the day

20160717_063047

Sunrise at Lower Saddle Campsite

20160717_063053

Daylight at Lower Saddle

Julia Rose and I had originally scheduled with Greg Reiff to passenger on the Sandra, today, the short, wooden cataract boat built by Greg’s grandfather, Norman Nevills, one of the first commercial boaters in the canyon. It only takes two passengers, and Greg likes to get as many people on the boat as possible on a trip so that they can have a real historical perspective on boating in wooden boats. However, the day before, Ethan had warned us that Day 4 was much like Day 3 in terms of lack of big water and excitement. One of the reasons to ride on the Sandra is the excitement afforded by lying face down on the front deck, face just above the water level, holding on with two hand straps, and crashing through the rapids–Nevilles and Greg call it “fish-eyeing.” So the night before, I asked Greg if it would be okay to delay our time on the Sandra a day, since Day 5 promised lots of big rapids. Greg accommodated and let a more timid couple ride that day, and we teamed up with Terry and Amy and Don on Ethan’s raft.

20160717_063713

River guides’ solution to the wear and tear of the desert on sandaled feet

Terry and Amy are Arizona natives making their third trip down the canyon, and they will be celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary on the river (by design, actually riding the Sandra). Terry is a retired engineer for the state and Amy a second or third grade school teacher. They’ve left Arizona and moved to Oregon, near Bend, and they’re a very cool couple. Terry likes to hike and we chatted a good bit on various hikes. Amy is gregarious and funny, easy to tease and teases back. It was a relaxing day on the boat because there was time to talk and observe the canyon while Ethan rowed. They will celebrate their anniversary on Day 6, the day we climb out of the canyon, and that is the day they’ve reserved for the Sandra. Terry and I had hiked together for a while going up Saddle canyon the day before.

We’re surprised to learn that Ethan is younger than he looks, though he looks fairly young. I would have put him in his late 20s, but turns out he’s still in his early 20s and has been working the river since he was 17. The guides on the equipment boats are apprentice boaters, working for tips and experience. Ethan worked his way up pretty quickly, due to his skill with the boat, which is obvious, and his easy-going personality. He’s a good leader. He tells us that when gets off a long river trip he always takes in an afternoon movie to soak up the air conditioning and the dark of the theatre.

The morning broke clearer than day 3, with little trace of smoke. We weren’t sure if the fire had burned itself out or if the wind had shifted or if we had just paddled out of the downwind stream. It turned out to be the latter of the two, since the fire was still burning weeks after the trip ended. Not long after we got on the river we passed Nankoweap Canyon and one of the bigger rapids of the day, Nankoweap Rapid which drops 25 feet through a long, sweeping left hand curve–lots of splash and quite long, but not very technical. High above the river under an overhang of the cliff the ancients built pueblo style granaries that dates back to 1100. The overhang had been walled off with tightly fitted adobe bricks, which formed rooms that held grain and seeds and protected them from rodents and decay. From the river four rectangular windows are clearly visible.

As we floated Terry and Amy told stories about their kids and each other. A motorized oar rig passed us and Amy knew someone on the other raft, someone she had taught with before, so it prompted a shouted exchange and kept Amy telling stories about her friend for a few miles.

20160717_105057

lunch stop

The highlight of the day was an afternoon stop at the confluence of the Little Colorado River. Because of the high alkaline content and other minerals the water is eye-hurting turquoise blue. We hiked up the upstream bank of the Little about a quarter mile where a nice fast chute of water poured through a narrows. We took turns floating the chute in our life jackets, and in between swimming we rested under the shade of an overhang. Some of the rafters hung out beside some big boulders and made handprint designs by dipping their hands in the mud and laying them on the rock.

20160717_121632

Confluence of Little Colorado River and the Colorado

 

20160717_121931We camp at Upper Tanner, which is a wide delta where the cliffs draw back from the river and we get the sense of wide desert, the feel of being hemmed in by the canyon forgotten for the evening. Julia Rose and I pick out a campsite below a short cliff  near the boat landing, but decide to move further away from the rocks  after watching a long thin snake cross our campsite and disappear into some brush on the other side. Clearly his territory, and while non-poisonous, unsettling enough to encourage us to move.

20160717_172204

Looking across the valley from Tanner

Greg Reiff leads a group on a half mile hike to get a close up look at “Newspaper Rock,” a cluster of rocks on a hill that have dozens of petroglyphs carved into them. The site suggests that the area was heavily visited, most likely farmed hundreds of years ago, and important for whatever ceremonial, spiritual, or communal reasons that can be inferred. A teacher by trade, Greg establishes rules about not touching anything, but then leads the group in thinking about the importance of respect for cultural artifacts, comparing the site to the churches, temples, and synagogues of the Western and near-Eastern worlds. Sitting on the rocks near “Newspaper Rock,” we have a nice view of the river and a wide valley within the canyon.

20160717_172829

20160717_172757_001

 

20160717_172957

20160717_173142

20160717_174116

Ed Zifkin, Greg Reiff (Sandra cataract boat), Erin Brugler (hike guide)

20160717_174122

Don Schumm, Ira Wagner, Amy Burks, Terry Burks

Don

20160717_174126

Terry Burks, Glenn Sherratt, Sue Feldman, Elena Zifkin

20160717_175232

Ed Zifkin, Chris Adakai, Erin Brugler

20160717_175427_000

The evening is windy, blowing sand, and after a supper of spaghetti and meatballs, Omar and Greg stop by our campsite for a little while. For some reason we end up talking about Racism and the deep South, which Omar can appreciate since he grew up in Virginia with a Nicaraguan mother. Greg was flabbergasted by the stories Julia Rose and I told about the pickup truck parades flying Confederate battle flags in reaction to the black church shooting in South Carolina and talks about taking the rebel flags off of Southern capitols and state flags. That such a thing is still an issue is a concept that Greg, a true Westerner, can’t seem to wrap his head around. Chris, a friend of Leo’s  sets up a dome tent, fearing rain, and while we talk, the canyon walls in the distance color and darken with the setting sun. Sure enough, during the night we get a heavy sprinkle and a few people break out the rafting company’s dome tents and set them up by headlamp. Julia Rose and I debate setting one up, but decide it’s too much trouble and the rain blows over before we could have gotten it set up anyway.

20160717_193054

Omar Martinez, Julia Rose, Greg Reiff

20160717_193156

Evening at Tanner

 

Cadillac Ranch, Blue Hole, Roadrunners, and Petroglyphs National Monument–Day 2 of My Grand Canyon Adventure

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cross

Keeping on with the theme that getting there is half the fun, we pushed on from Oklahoma through Texas, continuing to break up the trip with short stops. For years, the trip across the Texas Panhandle east of Amarillo has always been marked by the 190 foot tall cross, visible from 20 miles, outside of Groom, Texas. Now it’s much harder to pick out the cross from any distance because of the abundance of giant windmills generating energy across the panhandle.

10web-WINDENERGY.source.prod_affiliate.91

On the west side of Amarillo, we stopped for a few minutes at Cadillac Ranch, created by a “group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.” (Roadside America.com)

20160712_154354

Cadillac Ranch

20160712_154329

The ranch is set in the middle of corn fields, a couple of hundred yards off of the interstate. It was a scorching hot day and the abundance of spray paint fumes made it possible to get a good contact high for the next hundred miles of the trip.

We stopped for the evening in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, checked into our motel, then grabbed our swim suits and headed for the Blue Hole, a bell shaped artesian well, 81 feet deep, 80 feet in diameter at the surface and flaring out to 130 feet in diameter at the bottom, with a constant temperature of 64 degrees and flow of 3,000 gallons per minute. It was a popular afternoon spot given the 100 degree weather.

20160712_174454

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM

On our second day we stopped at Petroglyphs National Monument on the west side of Albequerque. Just a few miles off the interstate, the monument, according to the NPS website, “protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.”

We scrambled up the Mesa Point trail in Boca Negra Canyon, pausing to look at many of the over 100 petroglyphs. As we hiked up the mesa, we were accompanied by a friendly and curious roadrunner, my spirit animal, signaling good fortune for that day and for the rest of the trip. My interpretations are strictly interpretations.

IMG_3965

Mesa Point Trail

IMG_3956

Handprint

IMG_3958

Man/lizard

IMG_3959

Antelope

According to the website Native American Roadrunner Mythology, “The Hopi and other Pueblo tribes believed that roadrunners were medicine birds and could protect against evil spirits. Their unusual X-shaped footprints are used as sacred symbols to ward off evil in many Pueblo tribes– partially because they invoke the protective power of the roadrunners themselves, and partially because the X shape of the tracks conceals which direction the bird is headed (thus throwing malignant spirits off-track.) Stylized roadrunner tracks have been found in the rock art of ancestral Southwestern tribes like the Anasazi and Mogollon cultures, as well. Roadrunner feathers were traditionally used to decorate Pueblo cradleboards as spiritual protection for the baby.”

IMG_3977

IMG_3981

 

roadrunner 2

For me, the roadrunner has a special significance. I see them regularly near my home, and on several occasions, roadrunners have acted in such an unexpected manner that I can’t help but attach spritual significance to the animal. Following the death of more than one beloved pet dog, roadrunners have been seen on the same day. Roadruners have lingered around the house following death of a pet by illness and euthenasia, perching on my garage roof, pecking at the glass of the storm door on my front porch, and even responding with a perked head and lingering look when I’ve called them by the names of my dogs. Believe what you will, but who is to say how God chooses to manifest Himself in our lives?

roadrunner 3

IMG_3990

IMG_3992

IMG_3995IMG_3998

IMG_4007

Roadrunner

IMG_4003

lizard

IMG_4009

dragonfly

IMG_4018

Dragonflies

 

IMG_4019

20160713_121857

Anthropomorphic Figure–Perhaps a masked dancer

20160713_122051