Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Day Three

Buck Farm Canyon
The sky began to soften up the starlit night and soon, the canyon wrens were serenading me with their songs. Life just couldn't get any better. I took my gear down to the beach and enjoyed the morning. After a while Jim, a retired mechanical engineer for Lockheed, came down and as the only other mechanical (or otherwise) engineer on the trip, I guess I could appreciate the many stories Jim told. I would have listened all day but pancakes, sausage and fresh fruit for breakfast seemed to interrupt us.

We set off down the river at an easy pace but didn't go far before stopping at Buck Farm Canyon. There we hiked up to the Hermit layer, a harder layer less prone to erosion forces, and where people like myself hiking in the side canyons always seem to get rim rocked. There in a shady bowl of rock, we lounged around before heading back to the river for a lunch of sandwiches and last night's leftovers. On the way back I saw scat from either a bobcat or a coyote but didn't know which. I'm not sure which species or both live in the canyon bottom and will have to research that later.

The Dark Canyon powered by Ote, was my ride for the day and I enjoyed talking with her. As we passed mile 40 and the site of a proposed dam that never got built, our talk shifted to decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam. The scars from several exploratory shafts at the Mile 40 site show how close we came to losing even more.

There weren't any big rapids today and we stopped at around mile 45 for an early afternoon. After unpacking the boats, a half dozen of us, namely me and some of the crew members, hiked up to the Eminence Break trail to above the hermit rock layer via a fault line. It was a real huff and a puff climbing up out of the canyon but the view was a feast for the eyes. We sat around for a while enjoying the afternoon until Heidi the cook needed to start back to begin supper and requested an escort. With lots of good bathing spots back around camp requesting my presence, I volunteered and we set off.

View from Eminence Break trail
On the way down, a private party of six that we had passed yesterday pulled in at the far end of the sandbar, the very spot that I had picked out as my potential bathtub. Quick flashes of anger swam through my head that off all places to camp in this huge isolated canyon that we had to share our sandbar with others. But also as quick, I realized how much the isolation that we have enjoyed over the past few days had already begun to take hold of me and put down roots. I quickly suppressed my anger searched downstream among the multitudes of house sized rocks for a bathing spot and was rewarded with a small sand beach at the foot of a nice flat rock to set everything on.

Bathing in the canyon is an experience to say the least. First, privacy is hard to come by with an occasional boat drifting by (more so during the regular season and not the two week dory/private party season I was in) and the forced close proximity to camp. Several times during the trip we would surprise people on private trips, especially when we started out in the morning, doing various personal hygiene activities. The unwritten rule of the water was to politely look away if you were in the boat and if you were the one being seen, to realize that they didn't know you from Adam and hopefully thus minimize the embarrassment. Though I certainly didn't set out too, by the time the trip had ended, I had seen most people without their clothes on and most had seen me. It just couldn't be avoided.

But this afternoon, I had a secluded spot to myself for my bath and it went uninterrupted. Because the canyon is an arid climate that receives very little rain, it is recommended that you bathe directly in the river and allow your biodegradable soaps and shampoos to flush downstream. Because of limited spots and little rain to cleanse things, residues like shampoos can quickly accumulate on shore and provide an odorous and unsanitary condition. Generally, I would wade in to my knees, splash water to wet down my skin, quickly soap and shampoo, and then by quickly rinse by submersion. All told, this took about one minute, perhaps two at the tops but by then, my legs and most of my exposed skin would be thoroughly numb in the 46-degree water. That is why the sun kissed flat rock to rest upon while toweling dry was such a nice surprise and I was quickly warmed back up.

Back in camp, I went down to the kitchen area and watched the sunlight chase itself up the cliffs of the next bend down river. I reflected on one of the stories Ote had told me today was of Bert Loper, who in his time was known as the King of the River. In July of 1849 while celebrating his 80th birthday and running 24-1/2 mile Rapid, he had a heart attach, flipped his boat and drowned. Later they would find his boat washed up near Spook's Canyon downstream and to the right of Buck Farm Canyon. Many years after that in the 1975, his bones were found downstream and were removed for reburial with his wife who had died two months earlier. Though most of the boat had been destroyed, the remains were still chained to a tree there and offered up a chilling reminder that the river never sleeps.

Supper consisted of steak, spinach and mushroom salad, mashed potatoes, green beans and from what I saw coming off the stove, fried potatoes. As usual, I let all the other clients rush through the line first and by the time I went through ahead of the crew at their insistence, the latter item was all gone. Afterwards, we burnt some mesquite that we found on one of our hikes in the barbecue grill and sat around swapping stories until late in the night.


sage said...

Good times and you sure did eat well on that trip!

Kelly said...

Even 50 years later, I can remember hating having to bathe in the river on our houseboat excursions!

Don't know if I've ever seen bobcat scat, but I can tell the difference between coyote and dog. I see both on my morning walks.

That second view is beautiful!

Ed said...

Sage - The meals were outstanding and one of the perks of going on a chartered trip versus going alone.

Kelly - I don't recall ever figuring out which it belonged too because both inhabit the canyon. I'm sure it would be obvious to me now if I were to see it again but I don't remember after all these years.

Ed said...

Kelly - I'm not sure what happened to the second picture. It got this real odd hue to it from aging I guess. But yes, the view was outstanding, as were many along the trip. I didn't expect to see so far down in the inner gorge but with this trip, we often hiked up out of it in the afternoons and on day's off.