ID MyHorse

Upset Rapids and Havasu Creek, Day Five

By the morning of Day Five, the 34 passengers on this trip were not moving very fast! The feature photo shows our guides patiently waiting for us to get with the program. I took that photo at 6:45 AM. When I said something to Stephen about us being late to leave that morning, he said it was normal. Fortunately, we had an easy agenda, with Upset Rapids being our main challenge of the day.

Although we had few ‘high number” rapids to encounter, the peaceful passage through the canyon was breathtaking. The scenery was incredible and some of my best photos came from this day.

A large part of the video features our guide, Dustin, telling us the story of Amil Quayle and his 1966 Western River Expedition adventure that went sour. Amil was a boat captain taking a family of four down the Grand Canyon. There were two parents and two young sons. While you listen to Dustin tell the story, you can enjoy the incredible scenery we experienced on a daily basis.

upset rapid
havasu creek

Amil’s boat capsized at Upset Rapids. It was the woman who swam out to the capsized raft with Amil and assisted him in turning the craft back over. Let’s hear it for the ladies! Dustin tells the story of their struggle to continue their journey, and how they split two cans of tuna for several meals! Amil wrote a book that gives you specific and accurate details about their “adventure.”

How did Upset Rapids get its name?

In 1923, members of the Birdseye Expedition endeavored to map the Grand Canyon. Emery Kolb was part of that group. His wooden boat capsized at Upset Rapids, thus giving the problematic area its name. Emery Kolb and his brother Ellsworth were photographers. In a book written about the two brothers, the author states:

“The Kolbs dangled from ropes, clung to sheer cliff walls by their fingertips, climbed virtually inaccessible summits, ran seemingly impassable white-water rapids, braved the elements, and ventured into unknown wilderness—all for the sake of a photo. Well, a photo and a thrill. Sometimes it was hard to tell which was more important.”

– Roger Naylor, author
Havasu Creek

Havasu Creek was another incredibly fun natural water park. Like the Little Colorado River, the minerals present in the water make it appear a brilliant blue. However, in order to see that brilliant blue, you had to take a rather technical hike first. Our two boats pulled into the mouth of Havasu Creek and tied off long enough for us to disembark. (Our boatmen had to reposition the boats after we left on our hike.)

We climbed up on ledges of rock. Some of the “step-ups” were rather high for those of us that are vertically challenged. However, similar to previous hiking adventures, our awesome boat crew positioned themselves at the difficult places and assisted us through the tough stuff. It was one of our “longer” hikes but it wasn’t that far, just technical.

Once we arrived at our destination, we enjoyed a little snack before we played in the beautiful blue water. Again, similar to the Little Colorado River, there was a “rapid” we could ride a short distance. However, the force of the water pushed you right into a rock. I had to have someone help me get out of the current so I could continue down the creek. Alan lost his hat and banged his forehead. He went home with a scab as a souvenir. Watch my very ungraceful ride on the video!

A Toga Party

The evening of Day Five was our last night of camping. Although all of our meals were incredible, dinner on our last night was a feast. Our crew dressed up in their finest river duds and started our dinner by presenting us with a shrimp cocktail. Our appetizer was followed by steak and baked potatoes. The pièce de résistance was two kinds of warm, freshly baked cake.

Part of the “ambiance” of our last night’s dinner was a Toga Party. We had all been given sheets and lightweight blankets as well as sleeping bags. Some of us had read the “suggested clothing” list and brought sarongs. Almost all of the women wore some article of clothing under their “toga” (i.e. bed sheet) or sarong. There was, however, one notable exception…

In the first blog of this series I wrote about that “one special person.” As the week wore on, she and her male companion became more and more isolated from the group, while the rest of us bonded together. When we’d arrive at camp, they would place their cots as close to the common area of camp as they could.

On that last evening, we were all sitting in a semi-circle, dressed in our finest bed sheets. Alan decided he needed to return to our tent for some item. His sister Terry immediately stopped him from getting up and turning around. Alan was on my left, and Terry to his left. I had my back to the two estranged group members who were sitting on their cots.

Apparently, she had decided she wanted to more fully participate in the night’s festivities. To that end, she was donning her “toga.” I have mentioned previously that privacy was hard to come by on this trip. Still, there were ways of maintaining one’s modesty.

However, this gal was sitting on her cot, a mere 10-15 feet away from our entire group, putting on her “toga” with nothing else covering her entire upper body! While she was somewhat positioned for “modesty”, it wasn’t working… The gals sitting to Terry’s left had a birdseye view of what was unfolding, and they were struggling to retain their composure! Terry appropriately decided that Alan didn’t need to turn around and walk right into that scene.

Eventually, she got herself dressed. The rest of us breathed a collective sigh of relief.

A sinister sandstorm

The camp site I snagged for Terry, Alan, and me that last night was right next to the river. Terry and I set up the cots and organized our belongings while Alan set up our tent. Somehow I managed to find yet another campsite that already had ant inhabitants. We set out another ant trap. After our “chores” were done, I headed to the river for my very chilly bath.

I had just emerged from the river, as clean as I was going to get, when suddenly a fierce wind gust erupted. Stinging sand pelted every exposed part of my body. I turned my back to the wind and made myself as small as possible. It was over as quickly as it started. I turned around and waded right back into the river to repeat my bath! That entire week we ate sand, drank sand, felt sand in our teeth and slept with sand.

When I walked the 15 feet back to our tent after my second dip in the river, I learned how the sandstorm had affected Terry and Alan. Terry is tiny, and she nearly became airborne when the tent lifted into the air! The two of them battled the brief wind gust. Eventually, they won. Subsequently, they loaded as many large rocks in to the tent as they could.

One more night under the stars

In my first post about this amazing trip, I shared our boat captain Daniel’s words of wisdom:

By the 4th night, the 5-night people are saying, “I can do this one more night.” The 6-night folks are saying, “I CAN’T do this for two more nights!”

Daniel’s words were spot-on. We had an amazing time on this trip, but by the 5th night, I was ready for a real bed. The weather that evening was beautiful (after the sandstorm) so we decided to sleep outside the tent. The stars were gorgeous. I tried to take some photos of the stars but they didn’t come out.

The video for this week starts with our leisurely departure. The scenery is breathtaking, as it had been all week. Dustin does a great job of telling us the story of Amil Quayle. There are no rapids in this week’s video, only the story about rapids. Alan captured great footage of our hike to Havasu Creek before the GoPro died. I shot video of our water fun using my phone. I also got some awesome photos of the guys fixing dinner, dressing up for us, and serving us our amazing meal. Enjoy the video!

I have one more day to tell you about before this series ends. Day Six was a short day on the river, but the helicopter ride out of the canyon was incredible! See you next week!

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