Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day Fifteen: Lava Falls

Devil's Anvil

Thursday, April 20, 2000 - Today was a beautiful day with lots of sun, by far the hottest day of the trip so far. I wondered what it was like on the outside of the canyon walls in that "other world" I once knew. Despite the long hike to Mooney Falls yesterday, I woke up early even by my standards and couldn't fall back asleep. I "inch wormed" my way over to a nearby rock in my sleeping bag and watched the sky transform itself into all shades of red, pink and yellow. I would have taken a picture if I could have reached my camera from the comfort of my sleeping bag but I couldn't and so I didn't. Eventually the cooks awoke and began rustling down in the kitchen area so I packed up my gear and moseyed on down to talk with them as a breakfast of cherry French toast with strawberry yogurt was prepared.

Perhaps it was the campsite, the air, or the knowledge of what was in store for the day but everyone seemed to get an early start today, even the wandering couple we picked up at Phantom Ranch and we were on the water in record time. For twenty-one miles, we mostly floated on the calm water with the occasional small riffle broken only by a lunch stop at National Canyon. We ate some pasta salad and other munchies and also did a short hike. Too quickly we passed the Devil's Anvil, a chunk of black lava rock notorious for what it represents and heard an almost white noise in the distance that too quickly turned into a pulsing roar. We eddied out on river left and hiked downstream to finally behold the monstrosity blocking our downstream progress.

Every single one of my internal organs ran down into the vicinity of my small toe, including my stomach which was the size and consistency of a peach pit. Twenty-foot waves churned, crashed, sucked, boiled and ground past me from one drop to another as I stood on shore watching. The roar was deafening. This was the biggest rapid on the Colorado River. This was the famous Lava Falls, site of this video where a raft twice the size of my boat is tossed around like a child's toy.

My oars person for the day was Ote, the very petite wife of the company owner in her 60's, and the muscle of the sixteen-foot fragile wooden dory that myself and three others were about to cast off into Lava's fury. She was probably one hundred pounds fully dressed and dripping wet and try as I might, I couldn't imagine her maneuvering a half-ton of boat, passengers and gear through that maelstrom of water. There just wasn't any way. So here I was looking at the white froth they were calling a rapid, thinking it looked more like a killer, and silently contemplating how quick death would come to me and whether it would come by drowning or being smashed into the rocks. The only thing that I was certain about was that my death was imminent.

When I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to walk back to where the boats were tied up river where I wouldn't have to contemplate my death. On the way I met trip leader Bronco heading back the way I had come and he asked if I was ready to go down. I put on a big smile and lied, "I can't wait!" Bronco replied, "Great, because your boat is going down first." I think my stomach squirted out from my toenail at that point.

Lava Falls


PhilippinesPhil said...

A good day to die. Gotta go sometime, right?

The Real Mother Hen said...

Man, that sounds like a good spot to set up a will-writing law office.

Sage said...

I think that's the rapids you look down on from Toroweap--the most remote areas along the rim that you can drive to (but only with a high clearance vehicle and with extra tires as the 60 mile road is a killer).

R. Sherman said...

Re: The Video

Why did they take the raft directly into the huge reversal as opposed to left?

I enjoyed this sentence: "I wondered what it was like on the outside of the canyon walls in that "other world" I once knew."

It would seem that a month in the canyon would have a "time machine" quality to it. You know things are happening somewhere but they have absolutely no effect on you whatsoever. I can imagine that such might be disconcerting.


TC said...

Every single one of my internal organs ran down into the vicinity of my small toe, including my stomach which was the size and consistency of a peach pit.

Wow. That um, that was really descriptive, Ed. LOL

And hello! Thanks for leaving us hanging at the end!!!!!!!!!! (I mean, obviously we know you're alive, but still.)

Ed Abbey said...

Phil - I've found that to be easier said than when staring down the barrel so to speak.

Mother Hen - It would be a long commute to work!

Sage - I don't have any idea but I believe you if you say it is true. One thing I know is that it would look nothing like what it does up close in personal from the rim!

R. Sherman - I think the simple answer was that they were idiots. The common run I believe it to the river right of that huge hole in high water and river left of the hole in lower water. We went river left of that hole.

TC - It was getting to be a long post so I broke it up into two pieces. The conclusion will be on Friday with a few more pictures.

Beau said...

Good cliff hangar... hopefully not literally.