Grand Canyon Rafting Part II

Day 4 – The Confluence

It’s a beautiful morning as we start down the river again. After the lower Nankoweap rapid, the river is peaceful. Red cliffs reflected in clear, green water under blue skies – I feel grateful to be alive. The river continues to cut downward. The vertical red cliffs are receding above us, replaced from below by Bright Angel shale. These dark gray and greenish bands crumble and form slopes beneath the red wall limestone. Bright Angel Shale is from the Cambrian age, about 500 million years ago. Because it forms slopes, the canyon is wider near the river than it was yesterday.

Bright Angel Shale

Untitled photo

“Kwagunt Rapid coming up,” says Kyle. “It’s rated about 5 to 6. It is named for a Paiute chief who told Powell that this is his land and Powell had to get his permission to pass.”

The rapid is uneventful but I read that a motorized rig flipped here last year causing one fatality and two other injuries. It’s very unusual for a motorized boat to flip, especially in a mid level rapid.

Before long we see Tapeats Sandstone. It’s appears as thin layers of buff colored sandstone beneath the Bright Angel Shale. Tapeats erodes to reveal a series of foot thick shelves, stair stepping up the canyon wall. It formed near the seashore 515 million years ago, during the Cambrian era. It is a coarse grained sandstone, it’s lowest layer includes pebbles of ground up Vishnu Schist and Zoraster granite.

Tapeats Sandstone

Untitled photo

“We are approaching the 1956 crash site of a DC-7 and a Lockheed Super Constellation,” says Kyle. “The wreckage was found on top of that mesa on the right, just above where we are going to camp. It was the highest fatality crash up to that time in the United States. 128 people were killed. The public outcry was so great that it led to the formation of the FAA.”

“How did it happen?” someone asks.

“They think the pilots were avoiding a thunderhead and didn’t see each other until it was too late. It was up to the pilots to look around – visual flight rules. Air traffic control only controlled the space around the airports. It was also hard to find where they went down and what happened. There was no radar coverage of the canyon, no homing beacons or black boxes. All that stuff came later. Smoke was spotted by a small plane and that led investigators to the crash site. Swiss mountain climbers went in to recover bodies. It was a huge deal. People were just getting comfortable with air travel so it was a big blow to confidence. The public and the airline industry wanted more assurance of safety, so the congress created the Federal Aviation Administration.”

We soon pull over on river right, just before the confluence of the Colorado with the Little Colorado rivers. Even though the confluence is around the bend, I recognize the cliffs and open space where the two canyons meet.

“Okay everybody,” says Kyle, “This is Science Camp – named because it is often used as a location for geologists to do research. We will be setting up camp here today so we will have plenty of time to explore the confluence. Find yourself a campsite and come back for the bag line.”

Wonderful! I am so happy that Adam has structured the trip this way. The last time I came down the river, we only had a couple of hours to explore the Little Colorado. At that time, I loved walking along the shelves of Tapeats sandstone next to the beautiful pale blue water. It was magical. The color of the river and the fact that you could walk on flat stone next to it was amazing. There is no camping allowed by the Confluence so we could only be here for the middle of the day, when the light is harsh. By staying at this camp, we will be able to see the river as the light gets low and the colors reflect off the rock. I am excited!

J-Rig Approaching Camp

Untitled photo

After setting up camp, eating lunch and hanging out talking for a few hours, we get back on the boats to cross the river about a quarter mile downstream. As we are crossing, Kyle says, “The Confluence is a holy site to three tribes, Hopi, Navajo and Zuni. There is a spring upriver where these tribes believe that our ancestors emerged and became human in this age of the world. Before that, the ancestors were insect like creatures that lived underground in the mud.

“Despite that,” Adam chimed in, “The Navajo almost approved a development project here that would include a big hotel and casino complex on the rim and a gondola ride down to a restaurant at the Confluence. They would have brought 10,000 people a day down to the river. A big developer from Phoenix promised a lot of jobs but the clans got together and with help from the Grand Canyon Trust, held an election to stop the project. The tribes are trying now to designate the area as a culturally protected resource so that this can’t happen again.”

I had read previously about that place of emergence into this world. It is called a Sipapu. Puebloans throughout the Southwest include a hole in the center of their Kiva, symbolizing the place that humans emerged into the world. It is akin to our navel, a hole representing our origin. My wife and I saw that in the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. I got to thinking that the indigenous people probably saw fossils of trilobites, prehistoric lizards and other primitive life preserved in the red wall sandstone and rightfully concluded that our ancestors were insect like creatures that lived long ago in the mud.

As soon as we tie up on the East shore, we get off and unload all our camera bags. “Anything you aren’t carrying with you must be clipped together and then clipped to a tree or a group of other bags,” says Bugs. “We don’t want anything blowing away. Take your Personal Floatation Device with you as you may want to ride down the river further upstream.”

It is about 2:00 in the afternoon and very hot with the sun beating down on us. There is still another group tied up at the Confluence, two Western River rafts that have beached a little ways up the Little Colorado. As we round the corner to see the Little Colorado from where we parked, we can see people playing in the water about a quarter mile upstream.

We can also see the meeting of the pale turquoise water of the Little Colorado where it flows into the main channel. There is a lot of calcium in the water of the Little Colorado which makes the water look milky and coats the bottom of the river, making the light reflect differently. The Colorado on the other hand has a lot more red mud in it. An early settler remarked of the river, "It's too thick to drink and too thin to plow."

The Confluence

Untitled photo

Bugs says, “The Confluence is holy to the tribes. We won’t be going into the water until we get about a mile upstream.”

I think to myself the tribes must think of it like swimming in a fountain at the Sistine Chapel. I am glad our group is respectful.

I am so happy to be walking along this river again. It is so beautiful.

Turquoise Water with Red Rock

Untitled photo

I also see a number of lizards. Knowing that Kyle is a herpatologist, I take the images to him.

“Spiny backs,” he says. “There’s a lot of them here.”

“When I was here before,”I tell him, “I photographed a chuckwalla.

He says, “Yeah, they like to puff up in the cracks of the Tapeats so that predators can’t pull them out.”

Spiny Back Lizard

Untitled photo

Like A Swimming Pool

Untitled photo

I am hot by the time we stop upstream. We all put our gear in the shade of overlying layers of Tapeats sandstone. I am wearing swim trunks, a tank top, life vest, hat and sandals. One of our group is getting ready to go into the water.

Bugs says, “Here, unclip your life vest, turn it upside down and step into it so you are wearing it upside down. That way the part that normally protects your head will instead cushion your butt as you go over the rocks.”

Adams then says, “That’s the best way to do it but for some reason, wearing it that way tipped me so that my head was under water and my legs were in the air. Everyone thought it was pretty funny.”

I decide to go in too. I am roasting and the light is too harsh for the best photography. Bugs helps me to clip my vest on upside down and I wade out into the turquoise blue water. The mud on the shoreline sucks at my sandals. I can see from my footprints that under the thick layer of white clay, the mud beneath is light brown. I try to walk out where there is nothing particularly photogenic, but it is hard as everything is so lovely. I do avoid the beautiful scallop shaped bowls in the water that are formed by the current. They look like bathtubs in the river.

“Over between those two rocks,” Bugs is pointing for me. “Sit down and float this way so that you slide just to the right of that rock there. That’s the safest way down those rapids. When you get past that big rock further downstream, there is an eddy that will help you get to shore.”

I ease myself into the cold water and lay back, keeping my head up just enough to see where I am going. My sandals are buoyant, so my feet are sticking up as well. Using my arms to paddle, I direct myself as instructed. Just before going over the short falls, I lift my butt and lie my head back. What a rush! The current sucks me downstream, churning and pushing me side to side. My head is underwater for a few moments. As I surface, I see I need to start paddling for the shore as I am passing the big rock. The current is sucking at my sandals but I manage to keep them on as I get into the lee of the rock. Wow! I feel fabulous! I immediately want to do it again. This time, I will record it with the GoPro...

Getting Into the Little Colorado

As the sun gets lower towards the horizon, I start photographing the river, the grasses, the layers of rock all around and an old cabin on the far shore.

Shadow Falling On the River

Untitled photo

Reflections Are Starting

Untitled photo

Cabin Across the River

Untitled photo

Cabin Zoomed Closer

Untitled photo

Shadows Getting Deeper

Untitled photo

After the sun set on the river, it was still lighting up the surrounding cliffs, making beautiful reflections on the turquoise water. This is the magic hour we were waiting for. I am grateful for Adams planning and the boatmen’s cooperation with the short days so far on the river. Even though we will have to make up those river miles in the days to come, this is great.

The Magic Hour Has Arrived!

Untitled photo


Untitled photo

Day 5Inner Gorge

“We are now leaving Marble Canyon and entering the Grand Canyon proper,” says Adam as we finish the rapid below the confluence. “Though John Wesley Powell named the section of canyon we have been in the last couple days, Marble Canyon, he knew the limestone wasn’t marble. He said the way the river polished the rocks, it looked like marble so that’s why he named it marble canyon. After the confluence, the canyon gets wider for awhile but then the canyon walls rise faster. Before long, the river will start moving faster too.”

“See those white marks dripping down the Tapeats?,” says Kyle. “Because these layers were formed in oceans, there is a lot of salt that can weep out of the rock. Ahead on the left are some salt caves that are closed to us but they are open to Hopi for ritual purposes. We can't stop anywhere on the left side for the next 5 miles. Up ahead on the left side is a cave that contains salt.

A rite of passage for the Hopi young men was to travel from their home village, which could be over a hundred miles away, and find that cave. The purpose was to get salt to bring home for their family and their "possible bag", but it was also a rite of passage. To prove they came all the way to the salt cave in the Grand Canyon, they would bring an eagle feather to leave in the cave and return with a salt encrusted eagle feather.”

One of the guests is an amateur geologist. He points to the canyon wall and says, “That’s the Angular Unconformity.”

I look to see what he is talking about. Sure enough, there are slanted layers of rock that are sheared off and topped with overlying flat sedimentary rock. I can understand now how Powell recognized that. The slanted layers aren’t rounded, they are ground flat. Apparently, erosion stripped off the rest and replaced the missing rock with more deposits.

We start hitting one rapid after another, Tanner, rated 4, Unkar and Nevill’s, both rated 6 to 7. The river is moving faster here. The section of river near the Unkar delta is really wide. The canyon opens up a lot here.

Angular Unconformity

Near Tanner Rapid

Untitled photo

“Up on the left, you can see the Desert View Watchtower. It was designed by Mary Jane Colter and built in 1932. Mary Jane was a very successful architect in a man’s world. She was the chief architect for the Fred Harvey company. She designed most of the buildings in the park and created a style that has been copied throughout the Southwest and by the National Park System. They call it “parkitecture.”

Next time you are on the South Rim, check out the history room in the Bright Angel Lodge. The fireplace is made with all the rock strata of the park in their right order. There’s also a little platform below the North Rim Lodge that Mary had built so she could smoke in peace. Women weren’t supposed to smoke in those days.”

I can see the Desert View Watchtower but even with a long lens, it doesn’t look like much.

“There’s probably people up there putting quarters in telescopes to see us here. You know the Grand Canyon gets 5 to 6 million visitors a year. Well, less during covid but that’s a typical year. Almost all of them visit a 32 mile stretch of the South Rim. About 10 percent of them get out to the North Rim and only 20,000 or so get to ride the river. You are the lucky ones. In our 10 days on the river, we are only going to be passing by the South Rim vista points during this morning’s run.”

Desert View Watchtwower

Untitled photo

"Look Left," says Kyle. "There's a kid and a nanny by the river."

As we slow down and circle back, the sheep start up the cliffside. I am frantically getting out my long lens and attaching it to my camera. I have seen a fair number of these animals in Anzo Borrego and Zion National Parks, but I have not seen kids before coming to the Grand Canyon.

Kid By the River

Untitled photo

Then the canyon narrows down a lot. The rock walls on either side here are dark Vishnu Schist, streaked with big veins of pink Zoraster Granite. I can only imagine how foreboding this must have looked to Powell and his crew.

“We are entering the inner gorge,” says Kyle.

The Inner Gorge

Untitled photo

“Next rapid up is named after Captain John Hance, the first white settler on the South Rim. He came down by the river looking for gold and found asbestos instead.

He came down here by the river and set up a little tourist camp. He would tell tall tales. He would say he could ride his mule from rim to rim on the clouds if they were thick enough or that he had dug the canyon himself.

He was such a great storyteller. After he got bought out and became older, the Park Service and Fred Harvey Company put him in a little cabin on the rim and hired him to just sit up by the visitors center and tell stories."

Adam adds, "One of my favorite stories is he took two sisters from Santa Fe on a trip along the rim for a couple days. He took them out to an unofficial viewpoint and they "discovered"," says Adam making air quotes, "an old pueblo. Now chances are that he knew about that site but he named the point after the sisters, so we have Hollenbeck Point. I've always wondered how two sisters got Hance to name a point after them."

"See that dark hole in the red rock slope," says Kyle. "That was John Hance's asbestos mine. He would cross the river, mine some asbestos and haul it to the rim. Everybody had to do a lot of things to make a living on those days."

Adam says, "There's still a lot of private mining holdings in the Grand Canyon."

A few miles later Kyle says, "Okay, now we’re coming up on Hance rapid. It’s rated 8 to 9 and at this water level, it’s going to be a little boney.”

By “boney” I know he means there will be a lot of rocks just under the surface.

“We are going down first in case the J-rig runs into trouble. I need you all down in the front so I can see. Everybody hang on.”

I crouch down and grab straps with both hands. We start down over the green tongue and start hitting the waves. Wow, this is a long one. (I later read that this has a drop of 30 feet). Kyle pulls into an eddy at a flat section halfway down the rapid and turns back upstream to watch. I see the smaller J-rig hit the top of the rapid okay but then it seems to drift sideways.

I say, “They’ve lost control. Somethings wrong.” We all watch as the J-rig drifts towards the most dangerous part of the rapid and then goes sideways over the steepest drop. We are all staring and willing the rig to stay upright. The boat tips almost all the way over and then rights itself, turning and drifting in the current. The J-rig drifts towards the right and hits a rocky section of rapids backwards.

Bugs is making a hand signal to Kyle who says, “He’s lost power.”

Kyle throttles up our engine and heads directly towards the J-rig as it spins out of the bottom of the rapids. He gently rams the J-rig and begins pushing it towards the right bank.

I ask, "Can I grab hold?" when our boats have made contact.

"No, No, No," says Bugs, apparently concerned I will get hurt.

One of the passengers says, "Holy Cow!"

"How was the ride?" I ask.

The first guy shakes his head and says, "Nothing like it."

"Awesome!" says the second guy.

“We thought for sure we were going in the water!” says the first guy.

“That was the best moment of the trip!" said the second guy. " What a rush.”

They look wide eyed and excited.

Turner and Jacob jump off and grab lines from the J-rig to tie off to some rocks and tamarisk trees. Kyle keeps pushing the J-rig with our boat to keep it in place until the lines are secure.

Meanwhile, Turner looks a grim and business like. Apparently, he had been at the tiller when the accident occurred. He is also an engineer and knows a lot about mechanical repair. I imagine  he feels doubly responsible. He and the rest of the crew unhook the motor and look at the propeller. A blade is gone and the housing is cracked. All four crew members work quickly to lift the damaged motor out of it’s frame and get another motor out of storage from the back of the boat. Within 20 minutes, they have replaced the damaged motor and we are able to get back on our way.

“Next one up is Sockdolager,” says Kyle.

I remember that one from when I came down with Western River Expeditions. A heavyset woman sitting on the front tube went flying and landed on my foot. I grabbed her life vest and kept her on board. I had thought she broke my toe but it turned out to just be a sprain.

True to form, Sockdolager slams us with a wall of water part way through. The river soon settles down again.

This part of the canyon has some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. The Vishnu Schist was the base of a mountain range higher than the Himalayas. According to Bugs, these rocks were formed about 15 miles underground. The rock of that mountain range completely eroded away. Earth is estimated to be a little over 4.5 billion years old. These rocks date from 1.7 billion years ago, more than a third the age of the Earth itself. This is as far back in time as the Grand Canyon can take us.

Sockdolager Rapid

After passing through Grapevine and Zoroaster rapids without incident, we round a corner to see a suspension bridge over the water. It seems so strange and frankly intrusive to see evidence of human habitation in our private paradise. I can’t wait to get away.

“Phantom Ranch coming up,” says Kyle. “People coming down Bright Angel Trail cross over the Bright Angel suspension Bridge to get to Phantom Ranch.

Mary Jane Colter designed the buildings of Phantom Ranch and gave it the name. It used to be called Roosevelt Camp because that’s where Teddy Roosevelt camped, hunted and decided to make the canyon a national game preserve in 1903.”

Bridge To Phantom Ranch

Untitled photo

A few minutes later, we have the canyon to ourselves once again.

“Last big one of the day,” says Kyle. “Horn Creek rapid is rated an 8 to 9. Everybody get down and hang on.”

Shortly after that, we pull in on river left to camp just above Granite Falls.

Beach Above Granite Falls

Untitled photo

“Okay everybody. You know the drill. Get yourself a spot and come back for the bag line. After that we’ll have lunch.”

While we are all gathered for lunch, bugs says, “Accidents can happen to anyone. It’s what you do when trouble happens that makes the difference. I want you all to give a round of applause to Turner for completing Hance Rapid and getting us on our way safely again.”

Turner looks down a little but smiles gratefully as we all applaud him. It occurs to me that Bugs has unfailingly praised all of us for doing our best, no matter what. I am learning more than photography on this trip. Later, I say to Bugs, “You are a really great leader. Everyone has been cheerful and cooperative because of your example.”

“I have to give credit to my mom,” he says. “She taught me well and I still have the scars to prove it.”

After lunch Adam says, “For anyone who wants to, we’re going to hike up Monument Creek in about an hour. Theres a couple little waterfalls up there. Bring a wide angle.”

I take the opportunity to bathe again in the river. It is so cold but so refreshing. The sun is still overhead and the air is still but my cot is surrounded by tamarisk. At least that is in shade.

Monument Creek leads up to the left from Granite Falls. The debris flow that created Granite must have come down that drainage. Five of us photographers plus Bugs, Kyle and Adam are hiking up a narrow canyon of gray schist and pink granite. One of the guys says something about going up “schist creek”.

Trail Up Monument Creek

Untitled photo

Partway up the canyon Kyle says, "This one's called Anderson's Wolfberry," pointing to little red berries on a light green shrub..

"Can you eat them?" asks one of the guys.

"I don't think so," Kyle replies. 

"This one's called "Pore Leaf,"" says Kyle. "Natives used to use it for stomach ailments."

Pointing to a low growing yellow flowering bush he says, "This is called Trixus."

Pointing to a lower yellow daisy-like plant he says, "This is fetid marigold."

I bend down to get a sniff. It doesn't smell bad.

“This one is called “Cat’s Claw Acacia””, he says. “Regular Acacia’s have thorns but these have curved thorns that can hook on you. It’s also called “Wait a Minute” acacia.”

I can see why.

Eventually, we get to a small waterfall. A couple of the guys have gone ahead but it looks too slippery for the rest of us. Following Adam’s lead, I crouch down in the stream and focus on the little waterfall. I am cramped over, getting my eye to the eyepiece so I can focus the camera. After a few uncomfortable minutes, I painfully unkink myself and show the image to Adam.

“It’s a little soft in the lower left corner,” he says. “Try focus stacking it.”

I think to myself. I still feel sore from crouching in the stream and I don’t want to crouch down again but I say, “That’s something I wanted to learn on this trip. When I have tried focus stacking before, some areas of foreground often look blurry and obscure parts of the background.”

“Try it this way,” Adam says. “Use the wheel to move the focal point around the image and take several shots at the different depths of field. Use manual focus, not auto.”

Oh, I think. The lens aperture must have been expanding and contracting slightly when I used autofocus. Using the little wheel on the back to select areas to focus and then manually focussing means I don’t have to crouch down to use the eyepiece.  Yes!

With the 20 mm manual focus lens on my camera, all I have to do is touch the focus ring and the image zooms in so I can precisely adjust the focus. Because of that zoom, I can use the LCD screen instead. This is a game changer. No more cramped neck positions. I set up my tripod again in front of the waterfall and make a focus stack. Nice.

Monument Creek

Untitled photo

“Adam, why is is called Monument Creek?”

“See that stack of Tapeats up there? Thats the monument.”


Untitled photo

Day 6 – Elves Chasm

The next morning, we are all up at 5:00. Adam and some of the others are down at Granite Falls. I take a shot of the morning light coming through the canyon. I let the highlights blow out. I think it gives a mysterious, almost mystical look.

Granite Gorge in the Morning

Untitled photo

Then I go down to the rapids and take advantage of the low light to make slow exposures of the water and the mossy rocks.

Untitled photo
Untitled photo

Over breakfast Bugs says, “You have all been really great about getting packed up and ready to go in the mornings. From here on out, you will have to be especially good as we have a lot of river miles to catch up on. Today, we will be stopping at Elves Chasm but that’s probably it. It’s going to me more rapids and less photography for the rest of the trip. We’re gonna run a lot of rapids today, starting with Granite. Hermit is an 8 to 9, Crystal is a 10. After that is the Gems. Plan on getting wet. Like usual, pack yourself a lunch when you finish breakfast and we’ll get on the river.”

As I pack up a 3 slice, whole grain bread sandwich with more than half an avocado, a three quarters of an inch of sliced turkey, plus lettuce, onion and tomato, I marvel at how much I have been eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are huge. Plus, we get snacks mid mornings and appetizers before dinner. Oh, let’s not forget dessert. I never eat this much at home yet I’m having to cinch up my belt. Of course, I’m not rafting, hiking, lifting and so on for 14 hours a day at home either. I’ll probably sleep for at least a week when I get back.

I’m finally organized enough to have my bags all packed while the crew is still packing up the kitchen. I help them load the boat and then take some shots of kayakers and oar boats heading over Granite. Those people are nuts.

Kayakers Approaching Granite Falls

Untitled photo

We have to delay our launch from Granite because the water level is low and our rafts are stuck on the beach. The water level drops every night and rises in the day as Glen Canyon Dam releases more water to make electricity. Adam says the delay is not a problem because we wanted to get to Elves Chasm later in the day anyway, after all the other boats have gone and it is completely in shadow.

Once we get going, Granite is a long, wet, bouncy ride. I am soaked. The wind comes up after that. Brrr. I am almost dry and thoroughly chilled when we hit Hermit. Soaked again. This section of the canyon is in shade and is windy. I practice breathing and relaxing to raise my metabolism, rather than shivering but I feel very cold for hours.

Someone points out a lone mountain sheep on the right wall of the canyon. I pull out my camera and extend the lens to 240 mm. For some reason, it starts running in parallel with us down the canyon. Lucky for me. What amazingly nimble animals.

Kyle says, "They have no natural predators, or at least not so many since Roosevelt and others shot all the cougars they could find."

Ram On the Run

Untitled photo

Big Drop

Untitled photo

“Okay everybody,” says Kyle. Crystal rapid is coming up next. This used to be nothing but in 1966, 14 inches of rain fell on the North Rim in a three day period and washed huge boulders into the channel here.”

As he talks, I recall that Crystal is the scene of the only fatality to happen on a Tour West boat. It happened during the 1983 high water described in The Emerald Mile. There was a 25 foot standing wave in the middle of the channel that folded and chewed up a boat like this one, killing one man, injuring others and dumping everyone in the river. I imagine it’s a sensitive subject for the Tour West crew.

“Here we go. Everybody down and in.” As I crouch, I press the record button on my head mounted GoPro. The battery goes dead. Oh well, can’t change the battery now. I have to hang on.

Kyle avoids all the big holes and standing waves. We buck up and down and get rocked from the side by a big wave but other than getting wet, it’s a good ride and over in less than a minute. I stand up as we reach the bottom and turn to see the J-rig. They are coming out the bottom as well. Kyle pulls the boat over to s small beach on river right. Jacob jumps off with the rope to tie down. Bugs, Turner and the J-rig passengers soon join us on the beach. Adam pulls out a bottle and starts passing around small glasses for everyone who wants one.

“ABC – Alive Below Crystal,” says Adam as he hoists his glass.

On his first trip down the river, Adam’s boat flipped at the start of Crystal and he was stuck underneath, feet caught in the rigging. I’m sure Crystal has special meaning to him, but I also see big smiles on the faces of the other guides. Everyone is relieved to make it down safely. I recall that Adam has a sticker on his water bottle that says, “Grand Canyon Swim Club.” He earned that.

Once back on board, we almost immediately are in Tuna Rapid and Willie’s Necktie. Then we start down the Gems – Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby and Serpentine. After Crystal, they feel like a walk in the park. I am soaked and chilled, so it’s a relief when we pull over on the right to a small beach near the mouth of a canyon.

“This is Shinumo,” says Adam. The guides agreed to let us stop here for some photos. There is a little creek over beyond those rocks. We’re going to unload our photo bags here so form a line."

 We all get off the boats and line up spaced and facing each other. We are pros at this. In a few minutes, our bags are unpacked and we start picking our way over the rocks to the little canyon. There is a lovely stream, just ankle deep and warmer than the river. It gets deeper and narrower as we head upstream. In less than a hundred yards, we position ourselves in the creek to get shots of a little waterfall ahead.

Entrance To Shinumo Creek

Untitled photo

Shinumo Falls

Untitled photo

Shinumo Creek Falls

Untitled photo

Back on the river, we pass though several small rapids and pull over in the afternoon on river left. “This is Elves Chasm,” says Adam. “It was named by the Kolb Brothers. It is a magical place. The hike up is short but steep and has some exposure. Everyone please be careful.”

After helping one of the other guests get past a tricky spot, I arrive at Elves Chasm. It is just as beautiful as I remembered it. I have a print of it in our dining room already. I am thinking about what else I might do with this. I line up with Adam and start a panorama. Compared to last time, I have more resolution in my camera. Just the same, I start focus stacking and taking panoramas so I have have even more detail in my images. The light is better than last time. It is later in the day and everything is evenly in shadow. I miss the flowers that were growing next to the waterfall and out the sides of the cliffs but the structure of the rocks, pool and waterfall is gorgeous just the same.

Elves Chasm

Untitled photo

Elves Chasm

Untitled photo

After the others have taken their shots and left, I put the GoPro on my head and start recording as I walk into the pool. The water is cold but I am cold already from being soaked all day. Soon I am swimming the short distance to the base of the waterfall. I can see a little chamber in the back. Breathtaking! I feel so glad to be alive.

On the way down, I take some other shots.

Swimming in Elves Chasm


Untitled photo

Back on the boat, I see clouds start filling the sky. I look over at Adam. He’s seeing the same thing. Could be a good sunset tonight.

Before long, we pull over on river right. Instead of finding a campsite, Adam and a couple of the other guys sprint up the sandy hill on a high trail on toward the West. I know they are going for the sunset, so I take off running as well. As I am running uphill in sand carrying photo gear and then climbing over granite boulders I think to myself, “If this were a program in a gym, no one would do it.” On the other side of the hill, I find a little cactus flower on the edge of a cliff over the river. By crouching low and using a wide lens, I am able to include the sunset and the flower. The small aperture I need to get everything in focus (f11 on a 14 mm lens), also works well for creating a sunstar.

Cactus and Sun Rays

Untitled photo

After that, I climb up further to see what I can do with yucca in bloom.

Yucca Flowers

Untitled photo

Yucca and Red Rock

Untitled photo

In the dead of night, I see a million stars overhead. I get out my Sony A7s3 and lie on my back taking hand-held video of the stars. Beautiful! - and what an amazing camera. I set up the A7r4 for a time lapse of the Milky Way.

Hand Held Star Video

Groover In the Morning

Untitled photo

Kyle says in 20 minutes here he caught 5 species of fish; Rainbow Trout, Blue Head Sucker, Flannelmouth Sucker, Carp and Humpback Chub.

"They're biting on Pepperoni," he says with a smile.

Kyle With Trout

Untitled photo

Click On the Image Below To Finish

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In