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Part 1: Lee's Ferry

Back story: In 2009, Dad met Tom Martin, long-time river runner, hiker, boat builder, and author.  This meeting led to Dad running shuttle for Martin's February 2011 Grand Canyon river trip, which led to Dad joining the trip at Diamond Creek.  During this short river run, Dad rowed wood boats on the Colorado for the first time in his 20+ year river running history.  Impressed with his skills, trip participant Dave Mortenson invited Dad to be a boatman on his upcoming Spring 2012 Grand Canyon river trip.  This 2012 adventure would be a celebratory 50th anniversary of the historic 1962 Colorado River run, on which Dave and his father were members of (as were Martin Litton and P.T. Reilly).  There would be five replica wood boats: Three dories (GEM, Susie Too, and Portola), and two cataract-style (Flavell and Susie R).  Sadly, missing from this trip was a replica of Dave Mortenson's father's cataract boat, Flavell II.  Dad had such a wonderful time, when he expressed interest in building a wood boat himself, Dave mentioned that the only boat not replicated from the era was his father's.  Up for a challenge, and long story short, Dad built a replica of V.R. Mortenson's Flavell II, completed just in time to launch at Lee's Ferry the first week of March, 2014.

I wanted to be at the launch, so I packed the van up and headed north, spending the night at Lee's Ferry in the premier camp spot, overlooking the Paria riffle.  The next morning, after breakfast, I hiked down to the river, enjoying nature for a bit, then walked down the River Drive to the Paria River bridge, encountering a little waterfall along the way.


A few hours passed and Mom finally called to say that were at Marble Canyon.  I captured Flavell II's arrival on camera, then drove down to the launch ramp to see the beauty in person, where Mom finished up the last component, the tonneau cover.

After a group dinner at Marble Canyon Lodge, I went back to the campground.  After checking on the boats, Mom and Dad came back to camp out with me.  The next morning, after a hearty cereal breakfast, it was off to the launch area for the put-in talk, ranger talk, last-minute packing, and pulling straws to see who rides where.  Waved "goodbye" and said "sayonara" to everyone, then headed down to the bridge for photo ops and final farewells.

I regaled Mom, and long-time friend of Dad who had come from California, with my plan to go to the South Rim for the night.  Not having plans themselves, they opted to follow along.  Arriving at dusk, we easily found a sizeable camp spot (campground was nearly empty) for all three vehicles.  After enjoying a campfire for a bit, we had dinner and hit the hay.  The next morning I awoke to the Dometic reading 31°F inside! Before heading home, we took the shuttle bus out to Hermit's Rest.  It was a great time to see this portion of the South Rim since the tourist population at this time of year was much lower than in the summer months.  After taking in the grand views, we parted ways, each heading back to our respective homes… for a short while.

Part 2: Whitmore  Layover

About two weeks later, the river trip had a 2-day layover at Whitmore Wash.  Since it was accessible by 4WD, and a good friend of Dave's was doing a passenger (and ice cream) shuttle, Mom and I tagged along.  Sadly, because of the drive, it had to be done in the parents' Jeep Wrangler instead of Old Blue, which meant <gasp> sleeping on the ground.

We started in Meadview, AZ, drove through Las Vegas (bleh), up through the Virgin River Gorge, stopped for fuel and snacks in St. George, then began the long, long trek down the Mt. Trumbull dirt road. Beautiful country back there!  The road is a nicely maintained one, but the last 10 miles or so, which requires crossing private property, takes you over lava beds.  Make sure you have beefy tires!

We had a delicious dinner and warm fire thanks to Arnie Richards.  The next morning it was time to get some exercise!  We all hiked down the well-established trail (Arnie carrying ice cream), meeting a few river rats near the bottom, including Dad, who was surprised to see me!  We spent the afternoon hearing river stories and went to bed somewhat early (long day, and even longer day lay ahead).  I initially hopped on a raft to set up my bed, but after staring at stars for two hours, hearing metal frames creaking, and the river current slamming rafts into each other (so much for being rocked to sleep!), I said, "To hell with it," jumped ship and slept on the sand under the group's shade canopy.

After a somewhat sleepless night, it was up early to eat an awful package of freeze-dried eggs, say "Adios" to Dad and the gang, and hit the trail.  Since Mom and I weren't in the best of shape, we figured it would take us quite awhile to reach the Jeep.  However, much to our equal amazement, taking frequent stops to rest, eat a small snack, and drink water/Gatorade, we actually made back to the top of the rim in good time.  And we weren't nearly as wiped out as we thought we'd be, so we decided to start the long drive back after leaving a note for Arnie, informing him of our plans.  After traversing the lava beds, but before reaching the air strip, an elderly gentleman going the opposite direction stopped us to chat.  Turned out, he was one of the original Bundy homesteaders of the area (while related, I'm sure, he's not the one who did battle with the Feds).  As a child, he helped build the very road we were traveling on!  He was happy to give us a history lesson of the region, which was neat.  Once in St. George, we ate lunch and had the poor filthy Jeep cleaned.  We then drove onward to Henderson for a stopover at Grandma's where we unloaded and continued cleaning… the interior was just as dirt-filled as the exterior had been!

En route back to Meadview, we indulged at Rosie's restaurant.


Part 3: Diamond Creek & Take-out

A few days later, the crew landed at Diamond Creek.  Mom and I took the Jeep down, delivering Dad his river staple of M&M's and chocolate chip cookies (good thing we did because he was down to the last bits).

Several days after the Diamond visit, the trip had come to an end at Pearce Ferry.   See you in 2016 for an even more epic Flavell II trip!

Total miles: 1,187

Adventure 18: Lee's Ferry, Wood Boat Trip Launch                                                                March, 2014