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Part 1: The Launch

Arrived at Lee's Ferry at dusk following an uneventful drive from Phoenix to find the campground rather busy!  I wasn't able to camp out in my favorite spot, but found a good one nonetheless.  Had a campfire for a little while, but it was windy and chilly, so I turned in early.

The next day, I drove down to the river to play in the water for a bit.  When I arrived back at the van, there was a Subaru-converted Bay Window parked next to it!  I drove down to the launch ramp to get a parking spot while the getting was good, and noticed a group already there loading their rafts.  While waiting for the crew to arrive, I set up the solar panel and began cleaning bugs off of Old Blue's nose.  A BMW driver walked by asking the unoriginal question, "When you're done, can you do mine?" (Seriously, people, this line isn't even remotely amusing any more.)  I made a typical-of-me sarcastic reply, guy snickered, and we both moved on with our days.  Turned out, this BMW guy was a member of that other river trip.

Anyway, the wood boat participants reached the ramp, launched their boats, and began the arduous task of cramming a bunch of stuff into little space.  Amazingly, all but few snack items fit!

At dusk, the boats were all moved down to what's called Boat Beach, a camp area specifically for river trips to overnight at before officially setting off down into Grand Canyon.  After double-checking boat lines, we all drove up to Marble Canyon Lodge's rebuilt restaurant for dinner and a brief film presentation.  As we were ordering and eating, the other trip's 6 (IIRC) participants entered two at a time, about 10 minutes apart.  The BMW guy kept eyeing me… kind of weird, but just shrugged it off.  In the middle of the film presentation, someone wandered in from the store and spoke to Dave, a trip leader.  Dave announced, "I need all of the boatmen pronto… one of our boats got loose".  All of the boat owners and rowers immediately fled to the river.  We then got word… it was Dad's boat. Mom and I drove down to the river to help if we could.

The boat sat on a rock bar between Boat Beach and the Paria Riffle while two of the crew, Tony and CeCe, went into the water in an effort to reach it.  When they were within just a couple of feet, the boat broke loose.  Everyone tried in vain to find the Flavell II in the dark waters, but it was nowhere to be found.  Long story short, while standing on Navajo Bridge, I thought I saw a white speck floating towards us.  I whipped out my "Atomic Beam"-like flashlight that Dad gave to me, shined it down to the water, and there it was.  Once it reached the bridge, the boat got stuck in an eddy current, aided by strong upriver wind.  We watched the boat for about 45 minutes, trying to come up with a rescue plan.  Then, once again, she broke loose and drifted into the dark abyss and out of sight.


Left: Where boat was spotted; Right: Where boat hung out for 45 minutes

Between the howling wind and the boat situation, it was a rather sleepless night.  Arnie, Dave's good friend, was camped out above Badger Rapid, the first major rapid on a Grand Canyon river trip.  At dawn, he checked the river… no boat.  Awhile later he checked again… there it was, Flavell II creeping around the bend.  This was good news; we knew where the boat was.  It was also bad news; if the boat goes through Badger Rapid, there was a possibility of never seeing it again… along with all of the gear inside.  While trying to come up with Plan B, Arnie reported that the boat stuck itself on a boulder just above the rapid.  Praying that it stayed, the ranger allowed Dad and Dave to jump in another boat for a rescue attempt.  After quick goodbyes, they were off, Dad rowing like he'd never rowed before.  In the meantime, Mom and I were implementing Plan B, which was driving to Page for provisions.

About half way there, plan aborted: Boat retrieved! (Dad made it to Badger in record time.) After a huge collective sigh of relief, we hung a U and headed back to the beach to see everyone else off, watching as they went through the Paria Riffle and passing under the bridge.  Mom and I followed Arnie (and Dave's wife, Pam) out to his viewing spot above Badger Rapid so that we could see, first hand, Dad reunited with his boat.  What a glorious sight!  The group ran Badger Rapid without issue, pulled off to the beach to camp for the night, we waved adios, and headed back to Lee's Ferry for a hearty taco dinner courtesy of Old Blue.  Because Mom and I were drained, I suggested staying another day, as opposed to immediately driving home, to recharge our human batteries.  She thought that was a grand idea, so we spent much of what turned out to be a beautiful Spring day relaxing at the river, heading home the following day.

So, what happened to the boat?  Good question.  I hate to think sinister thoughts about other river runners, but a) these are modern, narcissistic times were living in, b) this group was rather unfriendly and remained at Boat Beach for a time after we had left (there were about 8 of them and only 6 went into the restaurant); thus, they top my personal short list of theories.  The boat was cinched tight and double-knotted; in 20+ years of river running, this has never happened to Dad before.  Another detail: The rope had been untied from the stern and was dangling in the water… not cut, not untied from the mooring tree.  The only other possibility is Mother Nature working her magic tricks.  We'll never know what actually took place that night.

Total miles: 553

Avg. MPG: 17.45

Adventure 24: Lee's Ferry, Wood Boat Trip Launch                                                                 March, 2016