Beautiful Havasu Creek and the Infamous Lava Rapids… The Grand Canyon Series: Part 10

Havasu Creek with its travertine colored water.

I had been on Havasu Creek before. Our son, Tony, who was on a break between flying helicopters for the Marines and flying helicopters for the Coast Guard, was flying helicopters for a private company that offered tours over the Grand Canyon and into the small Indian village of Supai. The town, which is located inside the Canyon, sits next to Havasu Creek.

Tony had flown his wife Cammie, Peggy and me into Supai as a treat. He was playing the theme from Star Wars full blast as we dropped over the steep edge of the Canyon and begin our rapid descent! We were greeted by the beautiful blue-green water of Havasu Creek and its interesting travertine structures when we landed  A high concentration of calcium-carbonate is responsible for both the water’s color and the formations. The process of coating objects with lime is fast. Today’s downed limb in the creek may become next month’s travertine sculpture. Peggy and I were eager to see if the creek maintained its unusual color and interesting formations at its mouth where it flowed into the Colorado. As the following photos suggest, we were not disappointed.

The mouth of Havasu Creek is a common stop for rafters in the Grand Canyon. Our rafts look small beside the large commercial tour boat.

We hiked over this from the mouth of the creek.

And were treated to views like these.

 

Don caught this lovely view. (Photo by Don Green.)

And Peggy took this one.

One of the things rafters do for entertainment on Havasu Creek is to damn it up using their rears…

And then, people scramble out of the way, creating a mini-flood! Beth was having a bit of trouble with the scramble part. She was holding onto Bone and didn’t have her hands free.

A pictograph, left behind by ancient Americans, caught the group’s attention. Maybe they used to grow people taller. (grin)

Lava Falls is labeled a 10 in the Grand Canyon’s system of scary, the highest rating given to any rapids along the Colorado. The river drops 37 feet over a few hundred yards and guarantees a quick, gut wrenching ride that seems to last forever and might very well throw you out of the raft. We had been worrying about it even before the trip. It is considered one of the top ten challenging rapids in the world by river runners. Our boatmen parked their rafts above the rapids and carefully scouted a route. We could see a huge, raft-sucking hole in the middle. It seemed that slipping by on the right  seemed the wisest choice. But what did we know. The river was going to do what the river was going to do. Steve agreed to carry us and away we went on our bucking raft… Ride ’em cowboy!

Back on the Colorado River, we headed for our appointment with Lava Falls. Eggin would be attempting the rapids in her kayak.

It was hard to imagine that Lava Falls was just around the bend. But we could hear its roar.

Everyone wanted a good view of the rapids.

They promised a quick but rough ride! Would that hole suck us in and tip over our raft?

With Steve at the oars, Peggy and I enter the infamous Lava Falls on the Colorado River, a perfect ten… that’s 10 as in rapids don’t get any more serious. Shortly after this we disappeared under the water! (Photo by Don Green)

Peggy and I are between the camera and the oars! Luckily we came out with our messy side up. (Photo by Don Green.)

Everybody made it through with the exception of Eggin, who managed to run the rapids upside down in her kayak. One of the boatman shot out to collect her and the kayak. Other than being a bit wet, she was fine. Meanwhile, her uncle, David Stalheim, had pulled over at Tequila Beach and was demonstrating why it was so named. If you manage to survive the rapids, you are expected to celebrate with a shot of tequila. Dave apparently wanted the whole bottle! The party continued after we reached camp…

Don demonstrates how he was feeling after running Lava. It’s possible that the lid was on, but just  maybe. 

Peggy and I just looked happy. We needed a T-shirt that said we survived Lava Falls.

Jonas had decided to celebrate with a little quiet reading in the river…

Bone declared that the trip had scared the pee out of him…

While Beth and Susan decided it was time to Party.

While Tom was just, um, Tom.

I will note that the party continued into the night and the natives were apparently having a heck of a good time!

WEDNESDAY’S Photo Essay POST: Flying over Kodiak Island. It was green enough to be Ireland before the glaciers started.

FRIDAY’S Blog a Book POST: Another in the MisAdventure series. Bob Bray and I are chased by a hobo and my mother chases fire trucks.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Mekemson Kids Did It— Railroaded: Part 3… The MisAdventure Series

A logging truck dumps logs into Caldor’s pond. Marshall considered hiking out on these logs as high adventure. My opinion was that they were an accident waiting to happen

We weren’t really bad kids, just adventuresome with our adventures occasionally bordering on juvenile delinquency. Caldor Lumber Company was a favorite target of ours since it provided a myriad of opportunities for weekend and after-school exploration. Twenty-foot high stacks of drying lumber were made for climbing and the truly bold might leap from one to another. The appropriately named Big Shed was filled with these stacks but I was much more fascinated by the number of owls that lived there and provided scat for my natural history collection. The millpond featured floating logs which Marshall ventured out on lumberjack like but I avoided. Not even a triple dare, or worse, older brother scorn, could temp me into a possible dunking in the pond’s dark, murky waters.

I am petting a friendly donkey here. My real reason for including this fading photo, however, is it shows the stacks of lumber at Caldor that we would climb up onto and leap between if they were close enough.

All of these activities paled in comparison to joy riding on rail pushcarts. Caldor had narrow gauge rail lines snaking through its drying yards and used pushcarts for transporting heavy items. We quickly discovered that three or four of us could get a cart rolling. We would then jump on for a free ride. Small down hills added a thrill factor. Fortunately, hand brakes on the carts enabled us to stop the carts before running into the stacked railroad ties that marked the end of the line. Except once.

Our nemesis at Caldor was an old fellow who had been in some type of mill related accident and left with a limp. Caldor made him the night and weekend watchman so he could continue to make a living. We provided him with something to do in an otherwise uneventful job. Sneaking up on us seemed to be a true passion of his so we kept a wary eye out. It was inevitable that he would catch us on a pushcart ride and he caught us at the most exciting point, just as it was gaining speed going downhill.

“Hey you kids, get off of that pushcart!” he yelled as he hurried after us at a slow limp.

What were we to do? We jumped off of the pushcart and high tailed it for the Woods, which were right next door. The pushcart, meanwhile, continued to gather speed, slammed into the ties and did a spectacular flip before sliding off down a small hill. We were duly impressed and so, apparently, was the watchman who let out a string of obscenities peppered with the F-word as we disappeared into the pines. Pop mentioned the next day that the watchman had reported to him that he thought we were  involved. We carefully explained that some kids from Placerville had been in town and were undoubtedly responsible.

A more serious threat of railroad justice arrived on our doorstep in the form of a Southern Pacific Railroad detective who claimed Marshall had been pulling spikes out of the railroad trestle over Webber Creek and throwing them into the stream. Marshall put on his ‘I’m outraged act.’  Yes, he had been throwing rocks off of the trestle into the creek below. What kid wouldn’t?  But he would never dream of doing anything that would cause physical harm to anyone. Had the detective bothered to check to see if any spikes were missing from the trestle? No. Had he contemplated the possibility of a skinny 90-pound 12-year-old kid being able to physically pull out the spikes? No. The case was closed.

While Marshall’s innocence was sustained for once, the experience had the unfortunate consequence of eliminating the trestle as a place to play. Walking across and staring down between the railroad ties at the 100-foot drop to Weber Creek was a sure cure for summer boredom, as was contemplating the arrival of a train when we were in the middle of the trestle. If that wasn’t exciting enough, we could always walk across on the narrow plank that ran under the tracks. There were no railings or safety net.

MONDAY’S POST: Our journey down the Colorado River takes us to the magical Havasu Creek and then on to the dangerous Lava Falls.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: It’s off to the Alaska island of Kodiak where our son works as a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. We cross the island for a day of hanging out with large brown bears as they fish and feed their cubs.

From the Canadian Border to Anchorage… Alaska Highways

Matanuska Glacier is one of the sights along the road from the Canadian/Alaskan Border to Anchorage.

I lived in Alaska for three years between 1983-86. While the organization I was executive director of was in Anchorage, I wandered over much of the state, backpacking in numerous areas including Gates Of the Arctic National Park, kayaking in places like Prince William Sound and cross-country skiing, which included a trek into Denali National Park where we camped out in 30 (34 C) degrees below zero weather. You go to bed with your shoes and a hot water bottle! The beauty and wildness of the state is legendary. Yes, there are insects galore, big bears with sharp teeth, moose, and wolves. But they come with the territory.

Our drive from the Canadian Border to Anchorage was much tamer, but the beauty was there, as you can see from the following photos.

Speaking of wildlife, we spotted this beauty at the King Mountain Lodge. Can wildlife get much wilder?

Bright fields of fireweed contrasted with the darkness of black spruce along the road.

The road continued to wind among almost mystical mountains.

This mountain is part of Wrangle St. Elias National Park, one of the most remote and untamed national parks in the world.

This cache is a bit on the fancy side, more for tourists than keeping out the bears that want to raid your food supplies. But you get the idea.

More mountains…

Glacial rivers are gray from the rock ground off of mountains.

Another view of Matanuska Glacier.

I really liked this view of mountains along the highway.

More mountains. These with a different look.

An appropriately painted house along the route.

The bar at King Mountain Lodge. Road houses were once common along the highway, and necessary to accommodate travelers who couldn’t travel long distances over the rough highways on a given day. Most were quite colorful, and often filled by interesting characters. King Mountain continues to provide an interesting place to stop.

Peggy found this motorcycle inside. The owner, seeing her interest, took her out for a spin.

A photo of Libby Riddles was on the wall. Libby was the first woman to win the Iditarod, the world-famous sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. And she did it while I was in Anchorage. I called her and asked if she would be spokesperson for my organization. She agreed. I picked her up at the airport where she had just returned from a photo-shoot with Vogue Magazine and we spent a couple of days together as we ran around to all of the local media.

A shot of Libby and me sharing a laugh in the mid-80s.

I found this lovely pond on the edge of the highway.

These are the mountains that backed up to my home in Anchorage. I could be up in them in 30 minutes and would often go on hikes after work. One of my trips was a 25-mile day hike where I came out in this canyon. It included crossing a fairly substantial glacial river where I had to save my hiking companion from being swept away.

I’ll conclude with this sunset. In next Monday’s post I will take you off to the island of Kodiak for  a visit with brown bears!

FRIDAY’S POST: The Mekemson kids are at it again and a railroad detective shows up at out house to accuse my brother of dark deeds, which fortunately, he didn’t do.

MONDAY’S POST: We continue our 18 day trip by raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

A Strange Cave Creature… Rafting through the Grand Canyon: Part 10

Peggy Mekemson at Deer Creek Falls in Grand Canyon

Peggy standing next to Deer Creek Falls in the Grand Canyon.

 

“It is especially cold in the rain tonight. The little canvas we have is rotten and useless; the rubber ponchos have all been lost; we have not a blanket apiece. We build a fire; but the rain, coming down in torrents, extinguishes it, and we sit up all night on the rocks, shivering…” From the diary of the one-armed John Wesley Powell on the night of August 17, 1869 during his epic exploration of the Grand Canyon.

 

Well, there are ADVENTURES and there are adventures. Today I will focus on our 8th, 9th and 10th days on the Colorado River. There are rapids, but nothing to write home about. In camp, the fabled heat of the Grand Canyon makes an appearance, so we put up a sun shelter and snooze. It’s a bit of a climb up to Christmas Tree Cave, maybe 10 minutes. We do, however find a very strange creature there, something that might give you nightmares. We stop to admire Deer Creek Falls and then climb up the Deer Creek Canyon, which is much more of a climb than it was to the cave, but a natural Jacuzzi greets us at the top. The water is cold. Things are tough, right? As I said, there are ADVENTURES and then there are adventures. (Grin.) I let photos tell today’s story.

We do run into rapids every few miles, but mainly the water is calm and beautiful. (Photo by Don Green.)

Rowing is a given, lots of it, but unless we are rowing against the wind or maneuvering through rapids, the river does much of the work.

Don caught this interesting face along the way. (Photo by Don Green.)

Take a cold beer or two, add in a warm sun, comfy chairs, and shade, it’s time for a snooze.

With the trip half over, it’s time to check in on how we are faring. This is me…

And this is Peggy. I can only wonder how she does it.

Our camp that evening…

And in the early morning light.

Looking up at the entrance to Christmas Tree cave. The name derives from a crystalline structure that looks something like a Christmas tree.

Okay, imagine you are alone and making your way through a large, semi-dark cave when you suddenly come face to face with this cave troll. The Christmas Tree, BTW, is to the right of Tom.

I really like the perspective on the size of the cave in this photo that Peggy took.

Deer Creek Falls was a treat. Hiking up the Deer Creek trail provided more delights.

Like the natural Jacuzzi.

It was a tad cold.

Bone was probably the least bothered by the cold of any of us. Maybe it was his warm vest. Tom and Don make a hand off. Bone wanted to leap off on his own but we were afraid that the creek might carry him away!

Deer Creek had cut its way into the soft sandstone, creating a min-Grand Canyon of its own.

Which led Peggy and me to take numerous photos.

Waterfalls along Deer Creek.

And another opportunity to rest. Check out the shade on the left.

Our final photo of the day. Looking down on the Colorado River from the Deer Creek trail.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We arrive in Alaska on the Alaska Highway. Now we will be making our way from the Canadian Border to Anchorage. Be prepared for glaciers!

FRIDAY’S POST: The MisAdventure series. The railroad detective comes to visit. Were the Mekemson kids guilty of tearing apart a railroad trestle? Tune in on Friday.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Mekemson Kids Did It: Who Shot Pavy’s Pig?… The MisAdventure Series

Who Shot the Pig?

Like the gunslingers of the Old West, our reputations far exceeded the reality of our actions. Take Tony Pavy’s pig for example. Tony had a large pond with bullfrogs, a hundred or so acres of scrubland, and a wooded hillside that housed a number of gray squirrels. He also had an attitude similar to Jimmy Pagonni’s: children were not to be heard or seen, particularly on his property. As with Pagonni, we didn’t allow Pavy to keep us from our appointed rounds. We would slip in at night to harvest his bullfrogs and during the day to bring down a squirrel. Tony had a very effective way of getting rid of us. In a very loud voice he would yell, “Mama, get my gun!” and we would streak out of there.

A couple of friends and I were hunting for the squirrels on his hillside when the unfortunate incident with the pig took place. But before I tell the story, I need to digress and provide some background information.

Growing up in Diamond in the 50s meant having a gun and shooting things. At least it did if you were a boy. We graduated from BB guns and 22s to deer rifles and shotguns. Obtaining your first rifle was an experience similar in importance to obtaining your driver’s license, except you could get one a lot earlier. Before we were allowed to hunt, however, certain rules were pounded into our heads. First, it was important to know exactly what you were shooting.

This might seem obvious but flatlanders out of Sacramento often had trouble making the distinction between a cow and a deer. Of a much more serious nature, at least to me, Allen shot my dog. Tickle had been clearing out an old abandoned mine shack of pack rats and Allen shot through the wall thinking he was a rat. Tickle survived; Allen almost didn’t. There were other things we weren’t supposed to shoot as well. Robins were high on the list. They ate their weight daily in bugs. It was okay to shoot ‘vermin’ such as ground squirrels, jackrabbits and coyotes.

My usual preference was for watching wildlife, not killing it. I made an exception for gray squirrels. The thrill of the hunt combined with my appetite for a delicious squirrel and dumpling stew my mother whipped up overcame any reservations I had. All of which brings me back to the pig. Gray squirrels have about the same appreciation for being shot that you or I might. To avoid this unhappy circumstance, they take off leaping through the trees. The one we had marked for dinner was jumping from limb to limb in a live oak tree on the hill above Pavy’s with all three of us shooting at it when we heard a bellow from the barnyard.

“Mama, get my gun! They shot my pig! They shot my pig! Hurry Mama!”

 

I don’t know how fast Mama moved but we flew. By the time Ernie Carlson, the County Sheriff, caught up with us we were far away from Pavy’s and about as innocent as newborn piglets.

“Excuse me boys,” the Sheriff remarked when he pulled over in his car and rolled down his window, “I don’t suppose you know anything about Tony Pavy’s pig being shot.”

“No, sir,” we replied respectfully in unison. We had rehearsed.  Besides, we were technically correct. We hadn’t shot Pavy’s pig; we hadn’t even shot the squirrel. It was a ricocheting bullet that did in the pig.

Ernie looked at us dubiously.

“Pavy described three kids that fit your description,” the Sheriff said as he continued to build pressure, hoping that one of us would break. The fact that there were no other kids in town that looked like us was a rather significant clue.

“We’ve been out in back of Ot Jones pond,” I argued indignantly. And we had been; so what if we had arrived there out of breath.

“Well, you kids behave yourselves,” the Sheriff said with an ominous I know you’re lying tone. We breathed a joint sigh of relief as he rolled up his window and drove off. Once more we had avoided a fate we probably deserved. I suspect now that Ernie was not one hundred percent dedicated to finding the alleged pig murderers. Tony was not universally loved in the community for several reasons, of which regularly threatening to shoot little kids was only one.

For example, my father did some electrical work for him once for free. As he was leaving, Tony asked, “Would you like one of my geese for dinner?”

“Sure,” Pop had replied assuming Pavy was offering it as thanks for his four hours of work.

“Good,” Tony had replied, “that will be five dollars.” Pop was more than a little irritated. He had a hearty laugh years later when I told him about our adventure with the pig. I wisely avoided telling him at the time, however. His perspective on our miscreant behavior softened substantially with distance and age.

The end. It was a twisted tale.

Don’t Feed the Bears in the Yukon, or Anywhere… The Alaska Highway Series

 

Yukon mountain and trees

Ho-hum, another day along the Alaska Highway— except there was nothing ho-hum about it. Our journey through Canada’s Yukon Territory took us past one breath-taking view after another.

 

We left Teslin with our fingers crossed that our spare tire would make it the hundred miles to White Horse. It was an okay tire, but it had seen 40 thousand miles! Lower 48 roads, no worry; Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory, well maybe. Turns out, we made it fine. A Ford Dealer provided Quivera the Van with a new shoe and she was raring to go! The spare happily returned to being a spare.

Off we went, motoring across the Yukon Territory. Haines Junction, Kluane Lake, and White River came and went. In two days we were at the Alaska Border. Today’s photo essay will provide views of some of the sights we saw along the way.

Whitehorse, YT Mural

Getting our tire replaced in Whitehorse allowed us to wander around town and appreciate sights like this First Nation mural.

Dall sheep sculpture, White Horse

This handsome sculpture was outside the Visitor Information Center.

Stained glass, Whitehorse, YT

Inside, a stained glass window gave a fine representation of the country we were traveling through.

clouds and mountains along alaska highway

Back on the road, we were reminded that it seemed to go on forever…

Yukon Territory, Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway, Yukon Territory

Fireweed along Alaska Highway

Fireweed added bright splashes of color along the highway’s edge.

Do not feed bears, YT

A campground at Kluane Lake reminded us not to feed the bears. I am pretty sure the occupant of the bird house agreed. The bordering Kluane National Park was grizzly bear country and they often wandered in looking for food.

Grizzly Bear, Alaska

Why anyone would feel tempted to feed anything like this, I haven’t a clue! (I took this photo in Alaska but it fits here.)

Bear patrol

An ATV at the campground had this bear patrol sign on it, along with a pair of fearsome huskies.

Yukon scene

We searched the mountains behind the campground for grizzlies. We didn’t see any but we did see Dall Sheep.

Moose antlers, Yukon Territory

White River, where we stopped on our way back south, had an extensive collection of antlers to remind us of other occupants of the far north, such as moose.

Antlers on roof, White River, Yukon

One rooftop was covered in antlers.

Peggy with moose antlers at White River, YT

Peggy provides some perspective. How would you like to wear these on your head? This set weighed close to 50 pounds.

Yukon lake

A small wayside on a lake before we reached the Alaska Border gave us this view.

Reflection shot Yukon Territory

And a reflection shot.

Moth

A moth was in the pebbles next to the lake.

Duck family in Yukon Territory

And a family of ducks worked the edge.

Skinny Coyote

A very skinny coyote put in an appearance as we left.

Bob Bray, Linda Hart on Alaska-Yukon border

And finally, we reached Alaska, where Bob, Linda and Sister posed for us.

Alaska-Yukon Border

This sign showed the Alaska-Yukon Border. It’s my idea of the type of fence that should exist between nations.

Yukon Border

Looking back, we were reminded of our journey. Larger than life, indeed! Next Wednesday we head into the wilds of Alaska.

FRIDAY’S POST: It’s back to MisAdventures and who shot Pavy’s pig. It couldn’t have possibly have been the Mekemson kids, could it?

MONDAY’S POST: We continue our journey by raft through the Grand Canyon.

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

We Visit Phantom Ranch, I jump Off a Cliff, and Tom Wears Bone… Rafting through the Grand Canyon

Sunset at Zoroaster Campsite on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (Photo by Don Green.)

 

Having left Tanner Rapids and my encounter with Mousy at mile 69, we continued on down the Colorado River to Zoroaster Camp at Mile 84.5. The dark inner walls of the Canyon signified we had traveled back a billion years in geological time, back to the very beginnings of life on earth. A rousing game of Bocce Ball served as entertainment in camp that evening.

Whose ball is closest? A game of Bocce Ball entertained our rafters…

And I took care of my groover duty, which is far from being groovy and gives a whole new meaning to port-a-pot. (Photo by Don Green.)

Tom’s objective in camping at Zoroaster had been to put us close to Phantom Ranch, which was located at Mile 88 on our 18-day, 280-mile trip down the Colorado. Built in the 1920s, the facility provides the only lodging beneath the rim in the Grand Canyon. There are three ways to get there: on foot, by mule or by raft. I’d backpacked down twice, once from the North Rim of the Canyon and once from the South. Now I would visit by raft. The Ranch also provides one of the few opportunities along the river for rafters to leave and join trips. Nancy Pape would be leaving and Jonas Minton joining us. I’d known both since the 70s.

A mule welcomed us to Phantom Ranch…

And gave me the eye. I know folks who would kill for those eyelashes.

Don welcomed us well…

As did this bright flower with its bee on a beaver tail cactus.

I took this photo looking up from the ranch.

Nancy Pape, who pretty much spends her life hopping in and out of places, hiked out to the South Rim. I’ve known Nancy since the 70s when she first went with me on one of my hundred mile backpacking trips.

Jonas was supposed to be there early, according to Tom’s plan. We had miles to go before we were to sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost. But another poet interfered. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray,” Robert Burns had declared. That had certainly been the case for Mousy who had had no intention of ending up as dinner on the edge of my sleeping pad at Tanner Rapids. And so it was for us.

Jonas had hiked down from the South Rim that morning, traveling some 9 miles and dropping 4600 feet. It was early afternoon when he arrived, exhausted. Like me, he is no youngster. He needed a nap. Tom insisted we make up for lost time, however, and away we went. Peggy and I agreed to ride with Jonas. We immediately found ourselves between a large rock and the shore with no room to maneuver— a situation we barely escaped only to careen across the river and bounce up against the wall. The raft climbed up to its tipping point, like it was eager to escape the river and us. I knew we were going over and could feel the icy waters sucking me under. But we didn’t. Jonas had both experience and adrenaline to counter his exhaustion. The raft kept its messy side up and we avoided a dunking.

Jonas and I had worked on environmental issues in Sacramento during the 70s.

Afterwards, Jonas and the raft agreed to cooperate with each other and we made it into camp without any more challenges. That was the night that Tom decided to wear Bone in his hair. I am not sure whether he was trying to appease or irritate the Canyon gods. Bone, who is quite used to strange encounters, told me later that they don’t get any stranger!

Susan Gishi gives Tom a ‘do.’

And Bone is added as an accessory. “At least,” Bone was heard to say,” Tom didn’t try to turn me into a nose decoration!.

Dinner was good that night…

And the sunset was fabulous. Or maybe the Canyon gods were commenting on Tom’s hairdo.

The next couple of days found us hiking through fast-moving water over slick rocks, maneuvering through one of the Canyon’s most challenging water falls, and jumping off a 20-foot cliff.

Shinumo Creek often provides a lovely wade up to a beautiful falls, hiding on the left.

This time the creek was flowing so fast, we had to help each other to avoid being washed off our feet.

Steve is scouting what I think was Crystal Rapids. He seems to be suggesting we go back the way we came!

Later, we watched one of the commercial raft trips make its way through the rapids. We were on two very different types of trips.

“You have to hike up to these beautiful falls,” Tom urged and off we went on another adventure through a huge boulder field. I’d say we were rock hopping but the rocks were a little big to hop.

The waterfalls were indeed worth it, but I didn’t realize we were expected to jump off!

Jame Wilson provided one approach… (Photo by Don Green.)

And Theresa another…

Let me report that the water was cold. That’s it for the day. I will continue our trip down the Colorado next Monday.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Traveling through the Yukon Territory on the Alaska Highway.

FRIDAY’S POST: Another in the MisAdventure Series: Who shot Tony Pavy’s Pig?

 

The Mekemson Kids Did It: Part 1… The MisAdventure Series

There were two Gold Rush era buildings from the 1800s near our house. One was the old jail across the road where Jimmy Pagonni stored his wine. Unfortunately, it was knocked down for a fast-food joint. The other was one house away from ours and is the one shown above.

Sweet Cherries

Up until around eight or nine I spent most of my wandering time with Marshall and our friends Allen and Lee. What I remember about these adventures in Diamond Springs  was that we were skating on the thin edge of trouble. Gradually, we developed a reputation. I am convinced that a whole generation of little kids in Diamond blamed their misbehavior on us. “I didn’t do it Mama, the Mekemson kids did.” And Mama probably believed them. My friend Bob Bray’s mother refused to let him play with me. I was a bad influence, guaranteed to lead her son straight into the arms of the law.

Most of our mischief was relatively innocent. For example, Jimmy Pagonni lived across the street and had a zero-tolerance policy for us.  We lusted after his cherries. He transformed them into wine and every drop was precious. He turned his dogs loose on us if we came anywhere near his orchard. Naturally his insistence on keeping us out only guaranteed our presence.  Raids were carefully planned. Few adventures come with such sweet rewards.

We would invite two or three little friends over and make a party out of it. The cover was sleeping out in the back yard, but sleep was secondary. Somewhere around one o’clock in the morning we would slip out of our yard, cross a very lonely Highway 49, climb over Jimmy’s rickety gate, and disappear up into the trees. It was all very hush-hush and cherries have never tasted more delicious. We would stuff our stomachs and then fill up bags for take-out. It was pure greed.

Jimmy’s dogs never caught us before we were able to scramble over the fence but they did catch my cocker spaniel once and almost killed him. Tickle had been out on the town visiting a lady friend and was returning home. We were infuriated. Marshall retaliated by shooting Jimmy’s bull in the balls with a BB gun. (If not fair to the bull, it was at least alliteration.) Jimmy never knew Marshall committed the heinous act but I am sure he had his suspicions.

Red, Red Wine, Makes You Feel Fine— or Not

Another Marshall story is appropriate to tell here because it reflects the theme. In this incident, Marshall’s skinniness got him into hot water, or at least wine. Jimmy Pagonni stored his fermented cherry juice in an old Gold Rush era building that may have served as a jail in its youth. It was located right in the middle of his well-guarded cherry orchard and featured a very stout locked door and one barred window. I am sure Jimmy considered it impregnable but he failed to consider just how skinny my brother was. With help from an accomplice, Marshall managed to slip through the bars and pinch a gallon of Italian Red.

He and his friend Art then headed for our treehouse in the Graveyard to do some serious imbibing. Considering that a gallon of Jimmy’s Italian Red would have knocked out two grown men, it almost killed Marshall. He told me how he and Art were lying in the dirt and peddling their bikes upside down above them when one of our teachers walked by. I remember him slipping in the back door and trying to get to our bedroom before Mother and Pop noticed. It didn’t work. In addition to stumbling and mumbling and heaving, he smelled like a three-week gutter drunk. He was one sick kid. Both parents hurried to the bedroom out of concern and I moved back outside to sleep in the cool, but fresh fall air. It was one of those crimes that incorporates its own punishment.

MONDAY’S POST: In the next section of our trip down the Colorado River, I jump off a cliff and Tom wears Bone.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We finish our journey through the Yukon Territory.

FRIDAY’S POST: The next chapter in the Mekemson Kids Did It. Who shot Tony Pavy’s pig?

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Yukon Territory: Canada’s Far North… The Alaska Highway Series— Part 4

A series of totem poles represented the different Tlingit First Nation clans at the Tlingit Heritage Center on Teslin Lake. This is beaver. I thought he would be a good kick-off to my posts on the Yukon Territory.

Peggy and I, along with our friends Bob Bray and Linda Hart continue to make our way north on the Alaska Highway in my Wednesday photo essay. Today we enter the Yukon Territory, a name that is almost synonymous with the Far North, at least in my mind. Sargent Preston and his dog King were big in my childhood! We didn’t enter with a bang, fortunately. We could have; a tire on our van had developed a large bubble. It was ready to pop! Fortunately, we were able to limp into the small town of Teslin and get it fixed at the local junk yard. The junk yard owner even turned out to be a shovel artist!

This bridge is a beauty backed up by some very impressive scenery. The beauty and the scenery aren’t why I was glad to see it, however. I was hoping the tire on our van that was threatening to blow at any minute would wait.

The tire with its tennis ball sized bubble. The steel belted bottoms of our tires handled the numerous pot holes of the Alaska Highway well. Not so much the side walls. We stopped at a small restaurant in Teslin and asked where we might go to replace the tire.  “Whitehorse” was the reply— 110 miles (177 Kilometers) up the road. “Not likely,” was my reply. “Well, you might try the local junk yard.” It came out more a question than an answer.

We were greeted by this. “Mmm, maybe not good,” Peggy mumbled. A small semi-derelict trailer was apparently the office. I knocked on the door. No one home. I went wandering out among the junked vehicles…

And found John, which is the name I sort of remember. He turned out to be a nice guy. “Well obviously the tire is dead,” he told us, “and I don’t have a replacement. But, I can put on your spare, and maybe you can make it to Whitehorse.”

In talking with John, we discovered he was something of an artist, painting both canvasses and shovels. He quickly agreed to break out his paintings for a photo.

One of his oil paintings of an old cabin.

On our way back south, Peggy and I spent more time at Teslin Lake, first camping there and then visiting the Tlingit First Nation Heritage Center. I decided that our two visits called for a post! Next Wednesday we will continue our journey up the Alaska Highway through the Yukon Territory.

We camped next to Teslin Lake and were treated to this view.

The clouds insisted on showing off. Distant shores suggested the size of the lake. And this was just looking across. The lake was much longer than it was wide.

I was surprised to find the Tlingit First Nation people with their Heritage Center on Teslin Lake since I normally think of the Tlingits and their fabulous totem poles as inhabitants of the coast from the American-Canadian border north. We were greeted with a line of totem poles at the Center that represented the different Tlingit clans. This is Raven.

Meet Frog.

I couldn’t help but think, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down,” when we checked out Wolf.

Eagle with its hooked beak.

The Center was quite attractive and included both cloth and wood art representing the Tlingit people. This is Beaver with an extra tail and pair of rear legs.

And here we have Wolf with his tongue hanging out.

A number of carved masks were on display. I think that this is Eagle.

I’ll conclude with this carving and what appears to be a female representation. The Tlingit are a matrilineal society with property held and passed down by the women of the tribe.

FRIDAY’S MisAdventures POST: When mischief took place in the town of my youth, there was a mantra: The Mekemson kids did it.

MONDAY’S Travel Blog POST: We continue our journey down the Colorado River, stopping off at the Phantom Ranch. Tom wears Bone and I jump off a cliff.

WEDNESDAY’S Photo Essay POST: We continue on our journey through the Yukon Territory and arrive at the Alaska border.

SaveSave

SaveSave

There Is More than One Way to Skin a Mouse… Rafting through the Grand Canyon: Part 8

I took this photo just below the Tanner Rapids, which are seven miles below where we played in the Little Colorado River. While it looks similar to many other Grand Canyon photos included in this series, I was eager to get it. I had camped here once after backpacking down the Tanner Trail. My campsite was to the right of the small tree. Mousy had a nest under the tree…

 

I’ve just returned from playing for a week while celebrating my 75th birthday. So, I am a bit behind on writing posts and keeping up with comments and fellow bloggers. My apologies. It isn’t going to get much better. (grin) On Wednesday, Peggy and I fly back east to visit with our son and his family in Connecticut. We return from there just in time to fly to North Carolina and see our daughter and her family. After that, we will spend a month exploring several national parks in the southwest on foot.

Then it will be time for another Grand Adventure. I intend to walk out my backdoor in Southern Oregon and backpack 1000 miles to Mt. Whitney in California following the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails. It’s a journey not many people make— especially 75-year-olds. “And what did you do this summer, Grandpa?” Going, of course, will depend on my doctor saying “Why not?” I hope to gain a book contract to write about the trip. Wish me luck on that one. I will be blogging much more about the trek in posts leading up to the adventure.

Since I played last week, I pulled up a previous post that is definitely relevant to the raft trip Peggy and I made down the Colorado with Tom and several other friends. When I left Alaska in 1986 and returned to California, I spent several months backpacking in the west. My first trip was into the Grand Canyon, a decision my body was not happy with! I had just spent the winter holed up in the Far North happily stuffing myself and drinking more beer than I should have…

 

Looking down from Lipan Point at the start of the Tanner Trail. Then sharp bend in the Colorado River... far away, is where I am heading. (The photos of the trail down I actually took several years later when I backpacked down with Peggy.)

Looking down into the Grand Canyon at the start of the Tanner Trail.  The curve you can see in the Colorado River is the Tanner Rapids, which is where we will be on our next section of our raft trip down the Colorado. Years before I rafted the Canyon I backpacked into it several times. Two of my trips were by the Tanner Trail, once by myself and once with Peggy.

“It’s not too late to make another decision,” my body told my mind as I hoisted my 60-pound pack and eyed the distant Colorado River. “There is a fine lodge with great food and even better beer 30 minutes away. It provides a fantastic view of the Grand Canyon. Much better than anything you will see on the insane hike.” “Shut up and walk,” my mind replied.

Tanner Trail dropped away under my feet as I made my first steps down the steep, poorly maintained path and descended through millions of years of earth history. About a half of a mile down, the trail disappeared, having been washed away by winter rains. “I told you so,” my body whispered loudly as I mentally and physically hugged the side of the Canyon and tentatively made my way around the washout with its thousand foot drop.

Although this photo is a little blurry and from another Grand Canyon trail, I included it because it provides a perspective on the trails into the Canyon that receive minimal attention from the Park service. Main tourist trails are like freeways in comparison.

Although this photo is a little blurry and from another non-maintained Grand Canyon trail, I included it because it provides a perspective on the trails into the Canyon that receive minimal attention from the Park Service. Main tourist trails are like freeways in comparison.

Steep drop offs are a common factor in all trails leading into the Grand Canyon. The first trails were created by Native Americans. Later miners, rustlers, and companies interested in promoting tourism would enhance the original trails and create new ones.

Steep drop offs are a common factor with all trails leading into the Grand Canyon. The first trails were created by Native Americans. Later miners, rustlers, and companies interested in promoting tourism would enhance the original trails and create new ones.

I am not sure when my legs started shaking. Given the stair-step nature of the trail and the weight on my back, not to mention an extra 20 pounds of winter fat, my downhill muscles were not having a lot of fun. Fortunately, Mother Nature provided a reprieve. The erosive forces of wind and water that have sculpted the mesas and canyon lands of the Southwest are less challenged by some types of rocks than others.

Somewhere between two and three miles down I came upon the gentle lower slopes of the Escalante and Cardenas Buttes, which allowed me to lollygag along and enjoy the scenery. I escaped from the sun beneath the shadow of a large rock, drank some of my precious water, nibbled on trail food, and took a brief nap. It would have made a good place to camp. Others had obviously taken advantage of the shade and flat surface, but the Colorado River was calling.

Ignoring the screams of my disgruntled body parts, I headed on. At mile five or so my idyllic stroll came to a dramatic halt as the trail dropped out of sight down what is known as the Red Wall. (It received this imaginative name because it is red and looks like a wall.) Some fifty million years, or 625,000 Curtis life spans, of shallow seas had patiently worked to deposit the lime that makes up its 500-foot sheer cliff. It is one of the most distinctive features of the Grand Canyon.

My trail guide recommended I store water before heading down so I could retrieve it when I was dying of thirst on the way out. I could see where people had scratched out exposed campsites here as an excuse to stop for the night. The accommodations weren’t much but the view was spectacular.

The rest of the five-mile/five month journey was something of a blur. (It was closer to five hours but time was moving very slowly.) I do remember a blooming prickly pear cactus. I grumbled at it for looking so cheerful. I also remember a long, gravelly slope toward the bottom. My downhill muscles had totally given out and the only way I could get down was to sidestep. I cackled insanely when I finally reached the bottom.

As tired as I was, I enjoyed the beauty of the inner Canyon.

I was so tired, I could hardly enjoy the beauty of the inner Canyon. (These photos are from a later trip I took down with Peggy. I waited until after she said “I do” before introducing her to the Tanner Trail. Otherwise she might have said “I don’t.”)

I smiled at the Prickly Pear Flowers on my way out of the Canyon that I had growled at coming in.

I growled at a prickly pear for looking so cheerful.

Looking back up the trail provided a perspective on how far I had come. The small, needle-like structure is Desert View Tower.

Looking back up the trail provided a perspective on how far I had come. The small, needle-like structure is Desert View Tower, about a mile away from the Tanner trailhead. You can see the trail on the right.

Setting up camp that night was simple. I threw out my ground cloth, Thermarest mattress, and sleeping bag on a sandy beach. Then I stumbled down to the river’s edge and retrieved a bucket of brown Colorado River water that appeared to be two parts liquid and one part mud. I could have waited for the mud to settle but used up a year of my water filter’s life to provide an instant two quarts of potable water.

My old yellow bucket, a veteran of dozens of backpacking adventures, holding Colorado River water. It retired after my second trip

My old yellow bucket, a veteran of dozens of backpacking adventures, holding Colorado River water. It retired after my second trip down the Tanner Trail.

All I had left to do was take care of my food. Since people camped here frequently, four-legged critters looked on backpackers as a major source of meals. I could almost here them yelling, “Dinnertime!” when I stumbled into sight. Not seeing a convenient limb to hang my food from, i.e. something I wouldn’t have to move more than 10 feet to find, I buried my food bag in the sand next to me. Theoretically, anything digging it up would wake me. Just the top was peeking out so I could find it in the morning.

As the sun went down, so did I. Faster than I could fall asleep, I heard myself snoring. I was brought back to full consciousness by the pitter-patter of tiny feet crossing over the top of me. A mouse was worrying the top of my food bag and going for the peanuts I had placed there to cover my more serious food.

“Hey Mousy,” I yelled, “Get away from my food!” My small companion of the night dashed back over me as if I were no more than a noisy obstacle between dinner and home. I was drifting off again when I once more felt the little feet. “The hell with it,” I thought in my semi-comatose state. How many peanuts could the mouse eat anyway?

The river water I had consumed the night before pulled me from my sleep. Predawn light bathed the Canyon in a gentle glow. I lay in my sleeping bag for several minutes and admired the vastness and beauty of my temporary home. The Canyon rim, my truck and the hoards of tourists were far away, existing in another world. My thoughts turned to my visitor of the previous evening.

I finished my last blog with a picture of the view across the Colorado River from my camp near Tanner Rapids. This and the photo below demonstrate how much colors change depending on the time of day.

The early morning view from my camp site near Tanner Rapids on the Colorado River.

Out of curiosity, I reached over for my food and extracted the bag of peanuts. A neat little hole had been chewed through the plastic but it appeared that most of my peanuts were present and accounted for. My small contribution had been well worth my solid sleep. I then looked over to the right to see if I could spot where the mouse had carried its treasure. Something on the edge of my ground cloth caught my eye. It was three inches long, grey, round and fuzzy.

It was Mousy’s tail!

Something had sat on the edge of my sleeping bag during the night and dined on peanut stuffed mouse. Thoughts of a coyote, or worse, using my ground cloth as a dinner table sent a shiver down my spine. I ate a peanut in honor of Mousy’s memory and threw a few over near his house in case he had left behind a family to feed. I also figured that the peanuts would serve as an offering to whatever Canyon spirits had sent the night predator on its way.

Then it was time to find a bush, cook up my morning gruel, and plan my day’s backpack trip up to the Little Colorado River. But my legs had another idea. They refused to move. I backpacked for about a hundred feet, set up camp in a small cave, and spent my day recovering while watching rafters yell their way through Tanner Rapids. I wondered what it might be like to raft down the Canyon…

Next Monday’s Post: I return to our raft trip down the Colorado.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Driving on the Alaska Highway through the Yukon!

FRIDAY’S POST: It’s back to MisAdventures. It was almost a mantra in Diamond Springs where I grew up: If there was mischief in the town, the Mekemson Kids Did It.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave