Continued from Part Three
Days 8-10: Deer Creek and Madkat
The river had finally turned the color we had been expecting the entire trip — an opaque, muddy brown that would stay with us all the way to the take-out. We had breakfast and packed up at an unhurried pace — might as well wait out the rain so we could dry out some gear. We floated 16 somewhat uneventful miles until right before Deer Creek, one of the better-known scenic highlights of the Canyon. Once again, another Thunderstorm forced us into the big group tent, thankfully after the Pork Loin was sufficiently slow-cooked on some coals on the fire pan. We all ate together in the floorless tent, and some debauchery led to a relatively late bedtime for the group. It was interesting to see the group settle into a predictable schedule of early rising and sleeping, following the daylight hours as much as possible.
In the morning we were interrupted by another group wanting to stay at our site — who gets to their day’s destination at 10 am? (Certainly not us!) We shipped off shortly thereafter and rowed across the river to Deer Creek, a spectacular waterfall shooting out of a narrow slot in the canyon wall three hundred feet up. A hiking trail switchbacked up the cliffside a few hundred yards up from the falls, until it reached the rim and traversed above the raging creek. The knowledge that a slip into the water-filled slot canyon would be certain death made the hike a bit more exciting. We considered doing a longer hike and I enjoyed a bit of rare solitude hiking around the open country upstream.
Later in the day we pulled into a flooded slot canyon on river left. Soon the canyon dried up and we tied off the boats to explore. While not a well-known destination, Madkat canyon was probably my favorite hike of the entire trip. It started out in a tight slot canyon with swirling waterslides and polished sandstone, and soon opened up into a stunning amphitheatre. The open area had a distinctly spiritual feeling to it, and it seemed like a perfect natural setting for a musical performance or religious ceremony. Jon and I wandered further upstream in the spectactular canyon, whose walls extended upwards for a thousand feet, until we decided it prudent to head back down to the rest of the group.
Day 11: Havasupai
We set up camp last night in a tight constriction in the Canyon (mile 160.5), with some higher sandy areas and some excellent traversing boulder problems above. Havasupai canyon was coming up the next day, and we were excited to do another longer hike, so we rose fairly early and knocked off the quick float pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the creek had been blown out recently, and rather than the famous turquoise blue hue we were greeted by a dull grey color, the result of the mineral-blue combining with red-brown sediment washed into the water.
Nonetheless we headed up the creek, and underestimated the length of the hike. It was about three miles to a few waterfalls, and we lost the trail to where there was rumored to be excellent swimming higher up. After some deliberation, and a lack of interest in swimming due to the clouds above, we elected to head back down before it got too late. As it was, we almost ran out of daylight as some arguments about chosen camps broke out. We settled on a barely-adequate shelf of terraces and quickly ate and passed out. Tomorrow was going to bring the biggest rapid of the trip, Lava Falls, so we solemnly headed to bed in anticipation of the whitewater downstream.