Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 10 - Thunder River

Day 10 – Thunder River

I really thought that after we finished day eight that it would be mostly quiet, but then the next day I kept hearing about bedrock and Dubendorf. I vaguely remembered reading about Dubendorf, but I did not have any recollection of Bedrock.

Bedrock was the second of the main rapids that we went through on day 10. On most rapids there is usually some kind of comparison, but of the rapids I have rowed I think that Bedrock is unique. At the start the river it is going strait. As you enter the main rapid the river makes an abrupt right hand turn. In the middle of the river is a giant rock. Most of the water is flowing around the left of the rock. That is where the current is trying to take you, but it is not where you want to go. At the top of the left run there is a strong recirculating eddy with a narrow chute to try and make it through at the bottom. The right is an easier run, but there are a lot of boulders close to shore. For a good run you wait until you are past the rocks and then pull hard to the right.

Scouting Bedrock

The run went how I hoped, but it sure did not feel like it was going to. I waited until I was past the last boulder on the right and then started rowing for all I was worth. It felt like nothing was happening, and that I was destined to make a left hand run. Then almost as if by magic I was free of the main current and heading down the right run with a lot of room to spare. We did have a little drama on the river. One of the boats went too far right and got caught on the rocks. It was a little scary because they were pinned for a few minutes in an area that would have been difficult to help with.

Through Bedrock

The next rapid was Dubendorf. To be honest I am not sure exactly what happened there. It was kind of a crazy rapid. There were waves all over the place. I’m not sure that I went where I was supposed to go, but wherever I went it was a fun ride. We made it to Racetrack Camp shortly after, which was good because we had a long hike after lunch.

The Thunder River hike is quite amazing, but it really took it out of me. It was actually one of Adrienne’s favorite hikes when she went down in 2001. It was a hot day and one of the hardest parts of the hike was at the first. We hiked along the side of the canyon from our camp to Tapeats Creek. From there we started the trail. The first part of the trail is a series of switchbacks that go ever upward on a south facing wall. With the sun beating down it was a difficult climb. It is on climbs like that, when I start to feel jealous of mountain goats. Once to the top of the canyon we walked along the side of a cliff until it met up again with Tapeats Creek.

Looking Down on the First Section of Trail

View From the Top

Hiking Along the Cliff

We hiked along the side of the creek, and across it several times, for what seemed like miles and miles. By that time the heat had given me a throbbing headache. At last we came to a spot where we could see Thunder River. Thunder River looks like it is flowing right out of a cliff. It is an amazing scene. Our vantage point was also beautiful with the creek on one side and some beautiful cottonwoods on the other.

Thunder River From a Distance

A Closer View

The next thing I know the people who have been on the hike before start talking about the final push. At that point I was done. I had a terrific headache, and despite my best efforts at hydration, I felt like I had a belly full of warm water and a dehydrated body. I decided I would press on though. How bad could it be?

It seemed like the farther we walked the farther away our goal was. The trail went up the side of a mountain and every time I looked up the people ahead of me were higher up the switch backs. Not seeing the end I actually called it good and laid down to rest about 15 yard before the end of the trail. Luckily the group sent someone to get me. I had no idea how close I was to an oasis. The trip was hard, but the payoff was big. It was nice to have a refreshing spot before making the trip down. We filtered some water, rested a while and then made our way back.

Resting at the Waterfall

Looking Up at the Waterfall

On that trail even the walk back down seemed tough. When I made it to within a half mile of camp I met up with Mark, who had been my passenger for the last three days. He had hiked back from camp because he had heard I was struggling. He brought a flash light and some water. It was twilight as we made the final push down. He even offered to take my place on clean up crew that night.

When we got back to camp I got some food and water in me. I also took a bath in the cold river, and then sat in my chair with my feet in the water. It was amazing. I have never in my life had a headache disappear so quickly. I guess the grueling parts of the hike lasted a few hours, but the good parts of the memories will last a lifetime.