Everyday something different.
Day 8. The highlight of this day was doing an up and over hike from Tapeats Creek to Deer Creek, which was only possible because a few of our team hauled our boats a couple miles downstream for us. This hike takes you up to Thunder River which is a creek tumbling out of the side of a massive ridge fed by an underground aquifer. We climbed up past Thunder river and across Surprise Valley to Deer Creek which is one of the more famous side canyon hikes. There were spectacular wide long vistas and an intimate carved micro canyon which falls over a 100 foot waterfall into the Colorado river below.
Day 9. Day nine had a complete up and down feeling to it. We stopped off for a classic hike at Matkatamiba. The hike was super stylie climbing through the smoothly carved hall way that the creek had formed and it was warm up on the rocks when the sun hit us at the top of the gorge, but when we returned to our boats we realized that we were one boat short. "Boat missing!" A big group took off immediately to try to catch up with the kayak that must have slipped into the river on a surge or rise in the water level. The rest of the group held back to keep track of the boatless paddler. It took us over 2 miles but we caught up with the boat. All the gear staid in the cockpit and only a few things got wet that shouldn't have. John rode on the back of Woody's boat until they caught up with us. That was a hilarious sight. Woody told me that while John was perched on the back of his boat he had said, "the next 60 miles is going to suck if we don't find my boat", and Woody's reply while trying to keep the his boat above water was, "you're telling me!"
Then late in the day we caught up with another trip that had a unique set up. They had a cataraft with two kegs strapped on the front and with true river man class they invited us in to fill our water bottles with a fine local brew from Flagstaff. Thats a nice way to cap off a slightly stressful afternoon.
Day 10. Lava day. It fills paddlers minds from the moment they get on the river sometimes. When it gets quiet people start talking about what they think the water level will be at Lava or how it went for them last time they were at Lava. Its the perfect whitewater climax to this trip with only a couple days left. We spent the morning running good smooth lines with only one swim and a flip or two out of 16 boats. We had big smiles through 20 more miles of the the lower canyons that day.
Day 11. Miles and miles. These last few days we covered about 25 miles a day. My arms were tired but it was a good tired. The shadows continued to morph and change on the canyon walls. The moon followed Orion over the horizon. The end of the trip felt close. I tried to keep myself focused on the present but little bits of home started to seep into my thoughts. The lower canyons are beautiful.
Day 12. We had just a short paddle to the take out so it was more of a silly float. I think we all felt pretty happy with ourselves accomplishing a great trip, with a great crew. Paddling fairly remotely for that long, with a lot of people, in the winter, is a fairly serious endeavor. It came off perfectly. Its not very often that you travel with 15 other people with, no drama, no real problems, and lots of memories from a trip of a lifetime.