In our journey down the Colorado River today, we visit an ancient Native American granary that is located high up on the cliffs above the water, and stop off to play in the Little Colorado River.
Steve Van Dore and Jamie Wilson serve as our boatmen for the two days we are on the river travelling from our camp at Redbud Alcove (mile 39) to our camp at Upper Rattlesnake (mile 74). Jamie is a delight. First of all, he is funny and positive. Second, whenever a chore needs to be done, he is first in line. Finally, he is incredibly strong, which is a valuable asset when you get in a tight spot on the river. Jamie has his own business as a contractor in the Woodland/Davis area of California.
Steve, I’ve already introduced. Like Tom, he is an experienced Colorado River boatman and loves the Canyon. He is also a specialist. His catamaran is outfitted with groovers: large ammo cans that have been modified to serve as portable potties. Before toilet seats were added as a convenience, you sat on the rim of the can. It left grooves in your behind— hence the name.
We are all given training in setting up, taking down, and using the groovers. One of the first chores in arriving camp is to find the perfect place for the port-a-pot: a secluded location with a view. One time I found myself sitting on the pot and waving at rafters as they went by. The site received an A for the view and a C for the seclusion.
Steve is very knowledgeable about the Grand Canyon and readily shares his knowledge. Almost immediately he points out a site that was once proposed for a dam that would have covered much of the upper Canyon’s beautiful scenery, geological wonders and archeological treasures with water.
A similar effort was planned for downstream. Fortunately, the Sierra Club was able to stop the dam from being built. Otherwise, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders would have been lost.
When we arrived at Nankoweap (mile 53), Steve pointed out the granaries used by the Anasazi Indians somewhere between 1000 and 1150 CE (Common Era) or AD, if you prefer. The granaries are located high up on the cliff for protection from animals and insects. Tom had scheduled a hike up and I willingly went along. I was curious about the granaries and thought that there would be spectacular views from the cliff.
The climb was definitely worth it. Unfortunately, I sprained my knee on the way back down.
Jamie Wilson was our boatman on the fifth day. When we arrived at the Little Colorado River, it was time to play. The Little Colorado has two colors. First is a muddy reddish-brown. The River drains over 25,000 square miles. When it rains upriver, it carries tons of red topsoil. The second color is a beautiful turquoise blue. When it doesn’t rain, much of the water comes from springs and is loaded with minerals that provide the color and very interesting deposits. We were fortunate to experience it without rain.
When we reached our destination, we donned our life vests upside down over our legs. It looked like we had put on huge diapers. We were to float down the river feet first. After carrying out my photographer responsibilities, I too donned my diaper and jumped in. Just as I went over a small waterfall my life vest slipped down to my feet. My feet floated fine but my head bobbed along under the water. Breathing was not an option!
According to their mythology, the Hopi Indians came into this world through a cave, which is located just up the Little Colorado from where we were playing in the water. The legend states that this is the fourth world they have occupied. People had become bad in the previous three by doing things like being disobedient and having too much sex. The good were saved and moved up to the next world while the bad were left behind, or destroyed. Maybe their diapers slipped and they drowned.
Also TODAY: The photographic essay trip up the Alaska Highway continues.
FRIDAY’S POST: A chapter from book on my Peace Corps experience, The Bush Devil Ate Sam. How Rasputin the Cat beat out his sisters to become our cat.