Monday, September 30, 2013

Pictures and Stories From My 2013 10-Day Grand Canyon River Trip - Into the Green

Northern Arizona has experienced a very strong flow of monsoon moisture this summer and my Grand Canyon river trip benefited greatly from the multiple rain events. Canyon hill- slopes were exceedingly green from the recent moisture, known to be the second wettest monsoon since records have been kept.

This years trip was run under the auspices of the Grand Canyon Field Institute (GCFI), their first ever offering of a motorized rafting trip. It will now be an annual trip (sorry - the 2014 departure is already oversubscribed, but the 2015 trip will soon be taking reservations - book with GCFI). The trip this year was an unqualified success - great education from three interpreters, fantastic hikes (including two new ones for me), and absolutely perfect weather. The outfitter was Arizona Raft Adventures (AzRA), one of the most experienced outfitters on the river in Grand Canyon. Here are the pictures and stories.

Just two days before the start of our trip, Cathedral Wash near Lees Ferry flashed with a vengeance and sent these six-foot wide boulders down toward the Colorado River.

The Paria River went to 6,500 cfs but had dropped back to 100 cfs by the start of the trip.

The S-rig running House Rock Rapid. Flows ran between 7,000 and 13,000 cfs on the Colorado River.

The rains made the canyon come alive with greenery. I cannot recall the last time I saw the canyon this lush. I schedule the late sumer time to take advantage of the "second wilflower" season.

Resurrection moss is full glory.

A side hike up into Nautiloid Canyon is always a treat to observe these fossils found in the Mississippian Redwall Limestone.

Fresh rains made the datura metaloides flourish.

We only experienced about 100 drops of rain  on the very first day. These thunderheads were the last ones seen for the 2013 monsoon, a season to remember.

At Eminence Camp, Nikki Cooley shares stories about her Navajo culture. The setting was unrivaled.

Meanwhile the boatmen were baking our after dinner dessert.

In the mornings we always have a geology talk to explain what we are going to see during the day. There is no place beeter to learn geology than on the river for 225 miles.

Colorado four o'clock growing along the trail to Saddle Canyon.

Into the green in Saddle Canyon. The fragrance of the plants was like being in a perfume factory!

Saddle Canyon waterfall.

Marble Canyon tranquility.

Learning about the ancient landscapes of the Grand Canyon.

A loop hike into Carbon Creek Canyon is always fun.

The boulders are large and interesting.

Group photo at the Butte Fault.

The Precambrian Galeros Formation (bottom 3/4's of photo) can only bee seen in the Chuar basin in Grand Canyon and represents deposition in a shallow sea about 800 million years ago.

Looking south to the Tanner Trail where the grass overwhelmed the hillside.

Boatman Jerry Cox pointing out the Butte Fault where it crosses the Colorado River.

More green as we make the turn at the "big bend" of the Colorado River beneath Desert View.

Another quite moment on the rafts with a shadowed Comanche Point in the upper right.

Setting up camp on beautiful white sand beaches, this one located near the end of the North Bass Trail at River Mile 107.

Our wonderful boatmen, Ed, Katie, and Jerry.

Elves Chasm enchantment.

Nikki made Navajo fry bread one night - the first time I have ever enjoyed this local food on the river.

One of the new hikes I got to experience was the overland route from the Middle Granite Narrows to Deer Creek. Here is the view across to the south side of the river with the desert in full summer bloom.

The brittle bush (Encelia farinosa) was so full and green.

This was a great hike with lots of well-watered barrel cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus).

Hiking in the green. The temperatures were often 90 during the day and mid-60's at night.

Deer Creek is a lush drainage that is tributary to the Ciolorado River.

The Deer Crek waterfall where it enters the river.

Horn coral fossils seen along the river in a boulders that rolled down from the cliffs above.

The occotillo (Foquieria splendens) was fully leafed out everywhere.

Crossing Havasu Creek for a swim in the warm water.

Big horn ram seen at River Mile 158 below Havasu Canyon.

Running Lava Falls.

And the joy afterwards.

Group shot at 212 Camp, September 23, 2013. Thanks to our wonderful crew and AzRA. And for all of the excellent hikes, camps, swims, conversations and explorations in Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ron Blakey's Paleogeographic Maps Featured in the Atlantic Magazine

Ron Blakey's portrayal of western North America at 215 million years ago, during deposition of the Chinle Formation.
Ron Blakey's groundbreaking work in the construction of paleogeographic maps is featured in The Atlantic Magazine. You can read the lengthy and very informative article here. If you've ever wondered how Ron made these maps, your answers are in here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Rafting Trip Added For 2014 in Grand Canyon

For those of you who have been waiting - I have just added another departure on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon for 2014! This is considered the ultimate scenic trip in the American Southwest. The trip will cover 187 miles through Grand Canyon National Park in seven days.

The dates are May 17 to 23 and will take advantage of the warm days and cool nights at this time of year. There will be many springtime wildflowers and clear starry nights.

We do numerous side hikes to see features off of the river. Most of these hikes are less than 2 miles round trip but we can also do longer hikes if the group is ammeniable.

Camping along the river in Grand Canyon is easy and fun on large sandy beaches.

Wildlife along the river is plentiful and easy to see. This is a photographers delight.

And of course, the emphasis will be on learning about the geology of the Grand Canyon, which takes center stage on a river trip that traverses the canyon. Above: The Butte Fault.

Details: The group will meet in Flagstaff (May 15) and all of the following is included: overnight at Little America Hotel, van transportation and interpretive drive to Lees Ferry with another night's hotel accommodations near Lees Ferry (May 16), 7-days on the river (May 17 to 23), helicopter flight and fixed-wing aircraft return over the canyon back to Flagstaff (no long drives), with a final nights accommodation at Little America (and depart Flagstaff on May 24). Three nights hotel, food, helicopter, and aircraft flight over the canyon, and seven days on the river for $3185.

Contact Colorado River and Trail Expeditions (CRATE) for reservations. Tell them you are booking with Wayne Ranney in May.