THROUGH THE GRAND CANYON FROM WYOMING TO MEXICO
By E.L. Kolb
With a Foreword by Owen Wister
New Edition With Additional Illustrations (72 Plates) From Photographs by the Author and His Brother
TO THE MANY FRIENDS WHO "PULLED" FOR US, IF NOT WITH US DURING THE ONE HUNDRED ONE DAYS OF OUR RIVER TRIP, THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
It is a dogged courage of which the author of this book is the serene possessor—shared equally by his daring brother; and evidence of this bravery is made plain throughout the following pages. Every youth who has in him a spark of adventure will kindle with desire to battle his way also from Green River to the foot of Bright Angel Trail; while every man whose bones have been stiffened and his breath made short by the years, will remember wistfully such wild tastes of risk and conquest that he, too, rejoiced in when he was young.
Whether it deal with the climbing of dangerous peaks, or the descent (as here) of some fourteen hundred miles of water both mysterious and ferocious, the well-told tale of a perilous journey, planned with head and carried through with dauntless persistence, always holds the attention of its readers and gives them many a thrill. This tale is very well told. Though it is the third of its kind, it differs from its predecessors more than enough to hold its own: no previous explorers have attempted to take moving pictures of the Colorado River with themselves weltering in its foam. More than this: while the human race lasts it will be true, that any man who is lucky enough to fix upon a hard goal and win it, and can in direct and simple words tell us how he won it, will write a good book.
Perhaps this planet does somewhere else contain a thing like the Colorado River—but that is no matter; we at any rate in our continent possess one of nature's very vastest works. After The River and its tributaries have done with all sight of the upper world, have left behind the bordering plains and streamed through the various gashes which their floods have sliced in the mountains that once stopped their way, then the culminating wonder begins. The River has been flowing through the loneliest part which remains to us of that large space once denominated "The Great American Desert" by the vague maps in our old geographies. It has passed through regions of emptiness still as wild as they were before Columbus came; where not only no man lives now nor any mark is found of those forgotten men of the cliffs, but the very surface of the earth itself looks monstrous and extinct. Upon one such region in particular the author of these pages dwells, when he climbs up out of the gulf in whose bottom he has left his boat by the River, to look out upon a world of round gray humps and hollows which seem as if it were made of the backs of huge elephants. Through such a country as this, scarcely belonging to our era any more than the mammoth or the pterodactyl, scarcely belonging to time at all, does the Colorado approach and enter its culminating marvel. Then, for 283 miles it inhabits a nether world of its own. The few that have ventured through these places and lived are a handful to those who went in and were never seen again. The white bones of some have been found on the shores; but most were drowned; and in this water no bodies ever rise, because the thick sand that its torrent churns along clogs and sinks them.
This place exerts a magnetic spell. The sky is there above it, but not of it. Its being is apart; its climate; its light; its own. The beams of the sun come into it like visitors. Its own winds blow through it, not those of outside, where we live. The River streams down its mysterious reaches, hurrying ceaselessly; sometimes a smooth sliding lap, sometimes a falling, broken wilderness of billows and whirlpools. Above stand its walls, rising through space upon space of silence. They glow, they gloom, they shine. Bend after bend they reveal themselves, endlessly new in endlessly changing veils of colour. A swimming and jewelled blue predominates, as of sapphires being melted and spun into skeins of shifting cobweb. Bend after bend this trance of beauty and awe goes on, terrible as the Day of Judgment, sublime as the Psalms of David. Five thousand feet below the opens and barrens of Arizona, this canyon seems like an avenue conducting to the secret of the universe and the presence of the gods.
Is much wonder to be felt that its beckoning enchantment should have drawn two young men to dwell beside it for many years; to give themselves wholly to it; to descend and ascend among its buttressed pinnacles; to discover caves and waterfalls hidden in its labyrinths; to climb, to creep, to hang in mid-air, in order to learn more and more of it, and at last to gratify wholly their passion in the great adventure of this journey through it from end to end? No siren song could have lured travellers more than the siren silence of the Grand Canyon: but these young men did not leave their bones to whiten upon its shores. The courage that brought them out whole is plain throughout this narrative, in spite of its modesty.—OWEN WISTER.
This is a simple narrative of our recent photographic trip down the Green and Colorado rivers in rowboats—our observations and impressions. It is not intended to replace in any way the books published by others covering a similar journey. Major J.W. Powell's report of the original exploration, for instance, is a classic, literary and geological; and searchers after excellence may well be recommended to his admirable work.
Neither is this chronicle intended as a handbook of the territory traversed—such as Mr. F.S. Dellenbaugh's two volumes: "The Romance of the Grand Canyon," and "A Canyon Voyage." We could hardly hope to add anything of value to his wealth of detail. In fact, much of the data given here—such as distances, elevations, and records of other expeditions—is borrowed from the latter volume. And I take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation to Mr. Dellenbaugh for his most excellent and entertaining books.
We are indebted to Mr. Julius F. Stone, of Columbus, Ohio, for much valuable information and assistance. Mr. Stone organized a party and made the complete trip down the Green and Colorado rivers in the fall and winter of 1909, arriving at Needles, California, on November 27, 1909. He freely gave us the benefit of his experience and presented us with the complete plans of the boats he used.
One member of this party was Nathan Galloway, of Richfield, Utah. To him we owe much of the success of our journey. Mr. Galloway hunts and traps through the wilds of Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, and has a fame for skill and nerve throughout this entire region. He makes a yearly trip through the upper canyons, usually in a boat of his own construction; and in addition has the record of being the only person who has made two complete trips through the entire series of canyons, clear to Needles. He it is who has worked out the type of boats we used, and their management in the dangerous waters of the Colorado.
We have tried to make this narrative not only simple, as we say, but truthful. However, no two people can see things in exactly the same light. To some, nothing looks big; to others, every little danger is unconsciously magnified out of all proportion. For instance, we can recall rapids which appeared rather insignificant at first, but which seemed decidedly otherwise after we had been overturned in them and had felt their power—especially at the moment when we were sure we had swallowed a large part of the water that composed them.
The reader will kindly excuse the use of the first person, both singular and plural. It is our own story, after all, and there seems to be no other way than to tell it as you find it here.
I. PREPARATIONS AT GREEN RIVER CITY, WYOMING 1
II. INTERESTING SIGHTS OF SOUTHERN WYOMING 12
III. THE GATEWAY OF ALL THE CANYONS 22
IV. SUSPICIOUS HOSTS 36
V. THE BATTLE WITH LODORE 50
VI. HELL'S HALF MILE 64
VII. JIMMY GOES OVER THE MOUNTAIN 71
VIII. AN INLAND EXCURSION 83
IX. CANYON OF DESOLATION 93
X. HOSPITABLE RANCHMEN 102
XI. WONDERS OF EROSION 111
XII. COULD WE SUCCEED? 121
XIII. A COMPANION VOYAGER 129
XIV. A PATIENT AMID THE CATARACTS 142
XV. PLACER GOLD 156
XVI. A WARNING 169
XVII. A NIGHT OF THRILLS 178
XVIII. MARBLE HALLS AND MARBLE WALLS 190
XIX. SIGNALLING OUR CANYON HOME 203
XX. ONE MONTH LATER 219
XXI. WHAT CHRISTMAS EVE BROUGHT 235
XXII. SHORT OF PROVISIONS IN A SUNLESS GORGE 249
XXIII. THE LAST PORTAGE AND THE LAST RAPIDS 267
XXIV. ON THE CREST OF A FLOOD 280
XXV. FOUR DAYS TO YUMA 290
XXVI. ACROSS THE MEXICO BORDER 303
XXVII. THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA 321
The Grand Canyon near the mouth of Ha Va Su Creek Frontispiece
After a difficult picture. E. C. Kolb on rope................... 2
In the Grand Canyon near the Little Colorado.................... 6
The start at Green River, Wyoming............................... 10
Fire Hole Chimneys.............................................. 10
A typical butte formation....................................... 14
Boats and crew. Photo taken in the Grand Canyon................. 18
Skeleton found in the Grand Canyon.............................. 22
Inside of the first canyons..................................... 26
Tilted rocks at Kingfisher Canyon............................... 26
"Immense rocks had fallen from the cliff"....................... 36
Ashley Falls, looking down-stream............................... 40
The rocks were dark red; occasional pines grew on the ledges, making a charming combination of colour....................... 44
"We stopped at one hay ranch close to the Utah-Colorado line"... 48
Remarkable entrance to Lodore Canyon............................ 52
"The river cut a channel under the walls" at Lower Disaster Falls......................................................... 56
"Everything was wet"............................................ 56
A Colorado River salmon......................................... 60
Lodore Canyon as seen from Brown's Park......................... 60
"The Canyon was gloomy and darkened with shreds of clouds"...... 64
"It took nine loads to empty one boat".......................... 68
"An upright log was found wedged between the boulders".......... 68
Echo Cliffs. "This was the end of Lodore"....................... 72
End of Echo Cliffs. The mouth of the Yampa River is on the right.......................................................... 72
Marvels of erosion.............................................. 76
"Here was one end of the rainbow of rock that began on the other side of the mountains".................................. 80
Pat Lynch: the canyon hermit.................................... 84
Each bed was placed in a rubber and a canvas sack............... 90
"Now for a fish story" ......................................... 100
The centre of three symmetrical formations in the Double Bow Knot.......................................................... 114
The Buttes of the Cross......................................... 118
"The Land of Standing Rocks was like a maze".................... 122
Rocks overhanging the Colorado's Gorge.......................... 122
Thirteen hundred feet above the Green River..................... 124
The junction of the Green and the Grand Rivers.................. 128
Looking west into Cataract Canyon............................... 132
Charles Smith and his boat...................................... 132
A narrow channel at Rapid No. 22................................ 136
Developing tests................................................ 136
Rapid No. 22 in Cataract Canyon................................. 140
The Edith in a cataract....................................... 144
A seventy-five-foot drop in three-fourths of a mile............. 144
Camp in the heart of Cataract Canyon............................ 148
Lower Cataract Canyon. Boats tandem............................. 152
Beginning of a natural bridge. Glen Canyon...................... 152
Pictographs in Glen Canyon...................................... 158
Cliff ruins near San Juan River................................. 162
Rainbow Natural Bridge, looking south........................... 162
Rainbow Natural Bridge, looking north........................... 166
Glen Canyon near Navajo Mountain................................ 170
Upper Marble Canyon............................................. 170
Placer dredge at Lee's Ferry.................................... 174
Badger Creek Rapid.............................................. 180
Bands of marble in Marble Canyon................................ 180
A peaceful camp in Marble Canyon................................ 184
The Soap Creek Rapid; a little above lowest stage. Photo published by permission of Julius F. Stone.................... 188
"It was too good a camp to miss"................................ 192
Arch in Marble Canyon........................................... 192
Walls of Marble Canyon.......................................... 196
Approaching the Grand Canyon.................................... 200
End of Marble Canyon, from the mouth of the Little Colorado..... 204
Cataracts of the Little Colorado River.......................... 204
End of Hance Trail. Small white line is an intrusion of quartz in the algonkian.............................................. 208
Below the Sockdologer........................................... 210
The Rust Tramway. Span four hundred and fifty feet.............. 214
Bright Angel Creek and Canyon................................... 218
Leaving home, Dec. 19, 1911..................................... 222
A composite picture of Marble Canyon walls and a Grand Canyon rapid......................................................... 222
The Edith (on left of central rock) in Granite Falls.......... 226
Rough water in Hermit Creek Rapid............................... 230
Type of rapid in the granite near Bass Trail.................... 234
The inner plateau, thirteen hundred feet above the river........ 238
Bert Lauzon, above Separation Rapid............................. 238
The break in the Edith........................................ 242
Merry Christmas. The repair was made with bilge boards, canvas, paint, and tin................................................ 242
Pulling clear of a rock......................................... 246
A shower bath................................................... 246
Grand Canyon at the mouth of Ha Va Su Canyon. Medium high water. Frontispiece shows same place in low water............. 250
"Morning revealed a little snow," on the top.................... 252
New Year's Eve was spent in this section between the highest sheer walls in the lower gorge................................ 252
Lava Falls. Lava on left, hot springs on right.................. 254
Swift water in Tapeets Creek Rapid.............................. 260
Lauzon, equipped with a life preserver on a rope, on guard below a rapid................................................. 260
In the last granite gorge....................................... 260
Capt. Burro: a Ha Va Supai...................................... 266
The Last Portage. The rocks were ice-filmed. Note potholes...... 270
Mooney Falls: Ha Va Su Canyon................................... 274
Watching for the signal fire. Mrs. Emery and Edith Kolb......... 278
The granite gorge near Bright Angel Trail....................... 282
The Grand Canyon from the head of Bright Angel Trail............ 286
The Cork Screw: lower end of Bright Angel Trail................. 290
Zoroaster Temple from the end of Bright Angel Trail............. 298
Winter in the Grand Canyon from the Rim......................... 308
Winter in the Grand Canyon at the River......................... 308
A vaquero in the making......................................... 318
Cliff swallows' nests. Found from Wyoming to Mexico............. 318
Steam vents beside Volcanic Lake................................ 326
Cocopah Mountain, Mexico........................................ 326
Ten miles from the Gulf of California. Coming up on a twenty-foot tide.............................................. 332
Sunset on the lower Colorado River.............................. 332
THROUGH THE GRAND CANYON FROM WYOMING TO MEXICO
PREPARATIONS AT GREEN RIVER CITY, WYOMING
Early in September of 1911 my brother Emery and I landed in Green River City, Wyoming, ready for the launching of our boats on our long-planned trip down the Green and Colorado rivers.
For ten years previous to this time we had lived at the Grand Canyon of Arizona, following the work of scenic photography. In a general way we had covered much of the country adjacent to our home, following our pack animals over ancient and little-used trails, climbing the walls of tributary canyons, dropping over the ledges with ropes when necessary, always in search of the interesting and unusual.
After ten years of such work many of our plans in connection with a pictorial exploration of the Grand Canyon were crowned with success. Yet all the while our real ambition remained unsatisfied.
We wanted to make the "Big Trip"—as we called it; in other words, we wanted a pictorial record of the entire series of canyons on the Green and Colorado rivers.
The time had come at last, after years of hoping, after long months of active preparation.
We stood at the freight window of the station at Green River City asking for news of our boats. They had arrived and could be seen in their crates shoved away in a corner. It was too late to do anything with them that day; so we let them remain where they were, and went out to look over the town.
Green River City proved to be a busy little place noisy with switch engines, crowded with cattle-men and cowboys, and with hunting parties outfitting for the Jackson Hole country. A thoroughly Western town of the better sort, with all the picturesqueness of people and surroundings that the name implies.
It was busier than usual, even, that evening; for a noisy but good-natured crowd had gathered around the telegraph office, eager for news of a wrestling match then taking place in an Eastern city. As we came up they broke into a cheer at the news that the American wrestler had defeated his foreign opponent. There was a discussion as to what constituted the "toe-hold," three boys ran an impromptu foot-race, there was some talk on the poor condition of the range, and the party began to break up.
The little excitement over, we returned to the hotel; feeling, in spite of our enthusiasm, somewhat lonesome and very much out of place. Our sleep that night was fitful and broken by dreams wherein the places we had known were strangely interwoven with these new scenes and events. Through it all we seemed to hear the roar of the Rio Colorado.
We looked out of the window the next morning, on a landscape that was novel, yet somehow familiar. The river, a quarter of a mile away, very clear and unruffled under its groves of cottonwood, wound through low barren hills, as unlike as could be to the cliffs and chasms we knew so well. But the colours—gray, red, and umber, just as Moran has painted them—reassured us. We seemed not so far from home, after all.
It was Wyoming weather, though; clear and cold, after a windy night. When, after breakfast, we went down to the river, we found that a little ice had formed along the margin.
The days of final preparation passed quickly—with unpacking of innumerable boxes and bundles, checking off each article against our lists; and with a long and careful overhauling of our photographic outfit.
This last was a most important task, for the success of our expedition depended on our success as photographers. We could not hope to add anything of importance to the scientific and topographic knowledge of the canyons already existing: and merely to come out alive at the other end did not make a strong appeal to our vanity. We were there as scenic photographers in love with their work, and determined to reproduce the marvels of the Colorado's canyons, as far as we could do it.
In addition to three film cameras we had 8 x 10 and 5 x 7 plate cameras; a plentiful supply of plates and films; a large cloth dark-room; and whatever chemicals we should need for tests. Most important of all, we had brought a motion-picture camera. We had no real assurance that so delicate an apparatus, always difficult to use and regulate, could even survive the journey—much less, in such inexperienced hands as ours, reproduce its wonders. But this, nevertheless, was our secret hope, hardly admitted to our most intimate friends—that we could bring out a record of the Colorado as it is, a live thing, armed as it were with teeth, ready to crush and devour.
There was shopping to do; for the purchases of provisions, with a few exceptions, had been left to the last. There were callers, too—an embarrassing number of them. We had camped on a small island near the town, not knowing when we did so that it had recently been put aside for a public park. The whole of Green River City, it seemed, had learned of our project, and came to inspect, or advise, or jeer at us. The kindest of them wished us well; the other sort told us "it would serve us right"; but not one of our callers had any encouragement to offer. Many were the stories of disaster and death with which they entertained us. One story in particular, as it seems never to have reached print—though unquestionably true—ought to be set down here.
Three years before two young men from St. Louis had embarked here, intending to follow the river throughout its whole course. They were expert canoeists, powerful swimmers, and equipped with a steel boat, we were told, built somewhat after the style of a canoe. They chose the time of high water—not knowing, probably, that while high water decreases the labour of the passage, it greatly increases the danger of it. They came to the first difficult rapid in Red Canyon, seventy odd miles below Green River City. It looked bad to them. They landed above it and stripped to their underclothing and socks. Then they pushed out into the stream.
Almost at once they lost control of the boat. It overturned; it rolled over and over; it flung them off and left them swimming for their lives. In some way, possibly the currents favouring, they reached the shore. The boat, with all its contents, was gone. There they were, almost naked, without food, without weapons, without the means of building a fire; and in an uninhabited and utterly inhospitable country.
For four days they wandered, blistered by the sun by day; nearly frozen at night, bruised by the rocks, and torn by the brambles. Finally they reached the ranch at the head of the canyons and were found by a half-breed Indian, who cared for them. Their underwear had been made into bindings for their lacerated feet; they were nearly starved, and on the verge of mental collapse. After two weeks' treatment in the hospital at Green River City they were partially restored to health. Quite likely they spent many of the long hours of their convalescence on the river bank, or on the little island, watching the unruffled stream glide underneath the cottonwoods.
Such tales as this added nothing to our fears, of course—for the whole history of the Colorado is one long story of hardship and disaster, and we knew, even better than our advisors, what risks lay before us. We told our newfound friends, in fact, that we had lived for years on the brink of the Grand Canyon itself, a gorge deeper and more awful, even, than Lodore; with a volume of water ten times greater. We knew, of course, of the river's vast length, of the terrible gorges that confined it, of the hundreds of rapids through which a boat would have to pass.
We knew, too, how Major Powell, undismayed by legends of underground channels, impassable cataracts, and whirlpools; of bloodthirsty tribes haunting its recesses,—had passed through the canyons in safety, measuring and surveying as he went. We also knew of the many other attempts that had been made—most of them ending in disaster or death, a very few being successful.
Well, it had been done; it could be done again—this was our answer to their premonitions.
We had present worries enough to keep us from dwelling too much on the future. It had been our intention to start two weeks earlier, but there had been numerous unavoidable delays. The river was low; "the lowest they had seen it in years" they told us, and falling lower every day. There were the usual difficulties of arranging a lot of new material, and putting it in working order.
At last we were ready for the boats, and you may be sure we lost no time in having them hauled to the river, and launching them.
They were beauties—these two boats of ours—graceful, yet strong in line, floating easily, well up in the water, in spite of their five hundred pounds' weight. They were flat-bottomed, with a ten-inch rake or raise at either end; built of white cedar, with unusually high sides; with arched decks in bow and stern, for the safe storing of supplies. Sealed air chambers were placed in each end, large enough to keep the boats afloat even if filled with water. The compartment at the bow was lined with tin, carefully soldered, so that even a leak in the bottom would not admit water to our precious cargoes. We had placed no limit on their cost, only insisting that they should be of materials and workmanship of the very best, and strictly in accordance with our specifications. In every respect but one they pleased us. Imagine our consternation when we discovered that the hatch covers were anything but water-tight, though we had insisted more upon this, perhaps, than upon any other detail. Loose boards, with cross-pieces, fastened with little thumbscrews—there they were, ready to admit the water at the very first upset.
There was nothing to be done. It was too late to rebuild the hatches even if we had had the proper material. Owing to the stage of water it was imperative that we should start at once. Bad as it would be to have water in our cargo, it would be worse to have too little water in the rock-obstructed channels of Red Canyon, or in the "flats" at Brown's Park for instance.
Certainly the boats acted so beautifully in the water that we could almost overlook the defective hatches. Emery rowed upstream for a hundred yards, against a stiff current, and came back jubilant.
"They're great—simply great!" he exclaimed.
We had one real cause for worry, for actual anxiety, though; and as each hour brought us nearer to the time of departure, we grew more and more desperate. What about our third man?
We were convinced that a third man was needed; if not for the duties of camp making, helping with the cooking and portaging; at least, for turning the crank of the motion-picture camera. Emery and I could not very well be running rapids, and photographing ourselves in the rapids at the same time. Without a capable assistant, therefore, much of the real purpose would be defeated.
Our first move, accordingly, had been to secure the services of a strong, level-headed, and competent man. Friends strongly advised us to engage a Canadian canoe-man, or at least some one familiar with the management of boats in rough water. It was suggested, also, that we might secure the help of some one of the voyagers who had been members of one of the previous expeditions.
But—we may as well be frank about it—we did not wish to be piloted through the Colorado by a guide. We wanted to make our own trip in our own way. If we failed, we would have no one but ourselves to blame; if we succeeded, we would have all the satisfaction that comes from original, personal exploration. In other words, we wanted a man to execute orders, not to give them. But that man was hard to find!
There had been many applicants; some of them from distant parts of the country. One by one they were sifted out. At length we decided on one man; but later he withdrew. We turned elsewhere, but these applications were withdrawn, until there remained but a single letter, from a young man in San Francisco. He seemed in every way qualified. We wrote accepting his application, but while waiting to hear from us a civil service position had been offered and accepted. "He was sorry"; and so were we, for his references proved that he was a capable man. Later he wrote that he had secured a substitute. We replied on the instant, by wiring money for transportation, with instructions for the new man to report at once at Green River. We took very much for granted, having confidence in our friends' sincerity and knowledge of just what was required.
The time had passed, two days before; but—no sign of our man! We wrote, we telegraphed, we walked back and forth to every train; but still he did not come. Had this man, too, failed us?
Then "Jimmy" came—just the night before we were to leave. And never was a man more heartily welcome!
With James Fagen of San Francisco our party was complete. He was an Irish-American, aged 22 years, a strong, active, and willing chap. To be sure, he was younger, and not so experienced at "roughing it" as we had hoped. But his good qualities, we were sure, would make up for what was lacking.
Evening found us encamped a half mile below the town, the county bridge. Our preparations were finished—even to the final purchase of odds and ends; with ammunition for shot-gun and rifle. We threw our sleeping-bags on the dry ground close to the river's edge, and, all our anxieties gone, we turned our faces to the stars and slept.
At daybreak we were aroused by the thunder of hoofs on the bridge above us, and the shouts of cowboys driving a large herd of half-broken horses. We tumbled into our clothes, splashed our faces with ice-cold water from the river, and hurried over to the hotel for a last breakfast.
Then we sat down—in the little hotel at Green River City—as others had done before, to write last messages to those who were nearest and dearest to us. A telegram to our parents in an Eastern city; and another to Emery's wife and little girl, at Bright Angel, more than eight hundred miles down this self-same river—these, somehow, took longer to write than the letters themselves. But whatever we may have felt, we finished this final correspondence in silence, and hurried back to the river.
Something of a crowd had gathered on the bridge to wish us bon voyage. Shouting up to them our thanks for their hospitality, and telling them to "look pleasant," we focussed the motion-picture camera on them, Emery turning the crank, as the boat swung out into the current.
So began our journey, on Friday, September the 8th, 1911, at 9.30 A.M., as entered in my journal.
INTERESTING SIGHTS OF SOUTHERN WYOMING
All this preparation—and still more, the vexatious delays—had been a heavy tax upon us. We needed a vacation. We took it—six pleasant care-free days—hunting and fishing as we drifted through the sixty miles of southern Wyoming. There were ducks and geese on the river to test our skill with the shot-gun. Only two miles below Green River City Emery secured our first duck, a promise of good sport to follow. An occasional cottontail rabbit was seen, scurrying to cover through the sage-brush, when we made a detour from the boats. We saw many jack-rabbits too—with their long legs, and exaggerated ears—creatures swifter, even, than the coyotes themselves.
We saw few people, though an occasional rancher hailed us from the shore. Men of the open themselves, the character of our expedition appealed to them. Their invitations to "come up to the ranch, and spend the evening" were always hearty, and could seldom be refused if the day was nearly gone.
The Logan boys' ranch, for instance, was our first camp; but will be one of the last to be forgotten. The two Logan boys were sturdy, companionable young men, full of pranks, and of that bubbling, generous humour that flourishes in this Western air. We were amused by their kindly offer to allow Jimmy to ride "the little bay"—a beautiful animal, with the shifty eye of a criminal. But Jimmy, though city-bred, was not to be trapped, and declined; very wisely, as we thought. We photographed their favourite horses, and the cabin; also helped them with their own camera, and developed some plates in the underground storm-cellar,—a perfect dark-room, as it happened.
We took advantage of this pleasant camp to make a few alterations about our boats. Certain mechanical details had been neglected in our desire to be off, our intention being to look after them as occasion demanded. Our short run had already shown us where we were weak or unprepared. The rowlocks needed strengthening. One had come apart in our first brush with a little riffle. The rowlocks were of a little-used type, but very serviceable in dangerous waters. Inside the usual rowlock a heavy ring was hung, kept in place by strong set-screws, but allowing full play in every direction. These rings were slipped over the oars; then the usual leather collar was nailed on the oar, making it impossible for the rings to become separated from the oars. The holes for the set-screws were too shallow, so we went over the entire lot to deepen them. We foresaw where a break might occur, and hung another lock of the open type on a cord, beside each oar, ready for instant use in case of emergency.
The Logan boys, seeing our difficulties in making some of these changes, came to our relief. "Help yourselves to the blacksmith shop," they said heartily. Here was an opportunity. Much time was consumed in providing a device to hold our extra oars—out of the way on top of the deck, but available at a moment's notice. Thanks to the Logan boys and their blacksmith shop, these and many other little details were corrected once for all; and we launched our boats in confidence on the morning of September 10.
A few miles below we came to the locally famous Fire Hole Chimneys, interesting examples of the butte formation, so typical of the West. There were several of these buttes, about 800 feet high, composed of stratified rock; in colour quite similar to the rocks at Green River City, but capped with rock of a peculiar burnt appearance, though not of volcanic origin. Some of the buttes sloped up from the very edge of the river; others were separated from the river by low flats, covered with sage-brush and bunch-grass,—that nutritious food of the range stock. At the water's edge was the usual fringe of willows, cottonwoods, and shrubs innumerable,—all mirrored in the limpid surface of Green River.
At the foot of the cliffs were a number of wild burros, old and young—fuzzy little baby-burros, looking ridiculously like jack-rabbits—snorting their indignation at our invasion of their privacy. Strange, by the way, how quickly these wild asses lose their wildness of carriage when broken, and lapse into the utmost docility!
Just below the Chimneys Emery caught sight of fish gathered in a deep pool, under the foliage of a cottonwood tree which had fallen into the river. Our most tempting bait failed to interest them; so Emery, ever clever with hook and line, "snagged" one just to teach them better manners. It was a Colorado River salmon or whitefish. That evening I "snagged" a catfish and used this for salmon bait, a fourteen-pound specimen rewarding the attempt.
These salmon were old friends of ours, being found from one end to the other of the Colorado, and on all its tributaries. They sometimes weigh twenty-five or thirty pounds, and are common at twenty pounds; being stockily built fish, with large, flat heads. They are not gamey, but afford a lot of meat with a very satisfying flavour.
On September 11, about forty miles below Green River, we passed Black's Fork, a tributary entering from the west. It is a stream of considerable length, but was of little volume at that time. The banks were cliffs about 300 feet high, rugged, dark, and overhanging. Here were a half dozen eagles and many old nests—proof enough, if proof were needed, that we were in a little visited country. What strong, splendid birds they were; how powerful and graceful their flight as they circled up, and up, into the clear blue sky!
Our next camp was at the Holmes' ranch, a few miles below Black's Fork. We tried to buy some eggs of Walter Holmes, and were told that we could have them on one condition—that we visit him that evening. This was a price we were only too glad to pay, and the evening will linger long in our memories.
Mr. Holmes entertained us with stories of hunting trips—after big game in the wilds of Colorado; and among the lakes of the Wind River Mountains, the distant source of the Green River. Mrs. Holmes and two young ladies entertained us with music; and Jimmy, much to our surprise, joined in with a full, rich baritone. It was late that night when we rolled ourselves in our blankets, on the banks twenty feet above the river.
Next morning we were shown a group of Mrs. Holmes' pets—several young rabbits and a kitten, romping together in the utmost good fellowship. The rabbits had been rescued from a watery grave in an irrigation ditch and carefully nursed back to life. We helped her search for a lame wild duck that had spurned the offer of a good home with civilized ducklings, and had taken to the sage-brush. Mrs. Holmes' love of wild animals, however, failed to include the bald-headed eagle that had shown such an appetite for her spring chickens.
A few miles below this ranch we passed Bridger Crossing, a ford on an old trail through southern Wyoming. In pioneer days Jim Bridger's home was on this very spot. But those romantic days are long since past; and where this world-famous scout once watched through the loopholes of his barricade, was an amazed youngster ten or eleven years old who gazed on us, then ran to the cabin and emerged with a rifle in his hands. We thought little of this incident at the time, but later we met the father of the boy and were told that the children had been left alone with the small boy as their only protector, and that he stood ready to defend the home against any possible marauders. No doubt we looked bad enough to him.
Just below the ford the channel widened, and the river became very shallow, the low rolling hills falling away into a wide green prairie. We camped that night on a small island, low and treeless, but covered with deep, rank grass. Next morning our sleeping-bags were wet with frost and dew. A hard pull against a heavy wind between gradually deepening rocky banks made us more than glad to pitch camp at noon a short distance above the mouth of Henry's Fork, a considerable stream flowing from the west. In the afternoon Emery and I decided to walk to Linwood, lying just across the Utah line, four miles up Henry's Fork. Jimmy preferred to remain with the boats.
Between the river and a low mesa lay a large ranch of a different appearance from those others which we had passed. Those past were cattle ranches, with stock on the open range, and with little ground fit for cultivation, owing to the elevation. Here we found great, broad acres, fenced and cultivated, with thoroughbred stock—horses and cattle—contentedly grazing.
This pastoral scene, with a background of rugged mountains, appealed strongly to our photographic instincts. After three or four exposures, we climbed the farthest fence and passing from alfalfa to sage-brush in one step, were at the foot of the mesa.
Climbing to the summit, we beheld the village in the distance, in a beautiful green valley—a splendid example of Mormon irrigation and farming methods. Linwood proved to be the market-place for all the ranchers of this region. Dotting the foot-hills where water was less plentiful were occasional cabins, set down in the middle of hay ranches. All this husbandry only emphasized the surrounding desolation. Just beyond, dark in the southern sky, rose the great peaks of the Uintah range, the mountains we were so soon to enter.
Storm-clouds had been gathering about one great snow-covered peak, far in the distance. These clouds spread and darkened, moving rapidly forward. We had taken the hint and were already making all possible haste toward the town, hoping to reach it before the storm broke. But it was useless. Long before we had gained the edge of the valley the rain had commenced in the mountains,—small local storms, resembling delicate violet-coloured veils, hung in the dense pall of the clouds. There were far flashes of lightning, and the subdued roar of distant thunder, rapidly growing louder as the storm approached. Unable to escape a drenching, we paused a moment to wonder at the sight; to marvel—and shrink a little too—at the wild, incessant lightning. The peaks themselves seemed to be tumbling together, such was the continuous roar of thunder, punctuated by frequent deafening crashes.
Then the storm came down upon us. Such torrents of rain we have seldom witnessed: such gusts of driving wind! At times we could scarcely make headway against it, but after most strenuous effort we neared the village. We hoped to find shelter under a bridge, but found innumerable muddy streams running through the planks. So we resumed our plodding, slipping and sliding in the black, bottomless mud.
The storm by this time had passed as quickly as it came. Wet to our skins, we crawled into the little store and post-office combined, and found it filled with ranch hands, waiting for the weekly mail. We made a few purchases, wrote some letters, then went to a large boarding-house near by and fortified ourselves with a generous, hot supper.
There were comments by some of the men on our venture, but they lacked the true Green River tang. Here, close to the upper canyons, the unreasonable fear of the rapids gave way to a reasonable respect for them. Here we heard again of the two young men from St. Louis, and the mishaps that had befallen them. Here too we were to hear for the first time of the two Snyders, father and son, and the misfortunes that had overtaken them in Lodore Canyon, twenty years before. We were to hear more of these men later.
We made what haste we could back to our boats, soon being overtaken by a horseman, a big-hearted Swede who insisted on carrying our load as long as we were going in his direction. How many just such instances of kindliness we were to experience on our journey down the river! How the West abounds with such men! It was dark when he left us a mile from the river. Here there was no road to follow, and we found that what had been numerous dry gullies before were now streams of muddy water. Two or three of these streams had to be crossed, and we had a disagreeable half hour in a marsh. Finally we reached the river, but not at the point where we had left our boats. We were uncertain whether the camp was above or below us, and called loudly for Jimmy, but received no answer.
Emery felt sure that camp was upstream. So upstream we went, keeping back of the bushes that fringed the banks, carefully searching for a sign. After a few minutes' hunt we heard a sound: a subdued rumble, not unlike the distant thunder heard that afternoon, or of boats being dragged over the pebbles. What could it be? We listened again, carefully this time, and discovered that it came from a point about thirty feet away, on the opposite side of the bushes. It could be only one thing. Jimmy's snore had brought us home!
Hurriedly securing some dry clothes from the rubber sacks, which contained our sleeping-bags as well, we made a quick change, and slid into the beds, inflating the air mattresses with our lungs after we were inside. Then we lay down contentedly to rest.
THE GATEWAY OF ALL THE CANYONS
We awoke the next morning full of anticipation. Something new lay ahead of us, a promise of variety. In plain sight of our camp lay the entrance to Flaming Gorge, the gateway to the entire series of canyons. Hurriedly finishing our camp duties, we loaded the boats, fastened down the hatches, and shoved off into the current, eager to be on our way.
It was cloudy overhead and looked as if we were to have more rain. Even then it must have been raining away to the north, for a dirty, clay-colored torrent rushed through the dry arroyo of the night before, a stream large enough to discolour the water of the Green itself. But we thought little of this. We were used to seeing muddy water in the Colorado's gorges; in fact we were surprised to find clear water at all, even in the Green River. Rowing downstream we found that the country sloped gently towards the mountains. The river skirted the edge of these foot-hills as if looking for a possible escape, then turned and entered the mountain at a sharp angle. The walls sloped back considerably at first, and there was a little shore on either side.
Somewhere near this point runs the dividing line of Wyoming and Utah.
We considered the gateway a subject worthy of a motion picture, if taken from the deck of the boat; but doubted if it would be a success owing to the condition of the light and the motion of the boat. Still it was considered worthy of a trial, and the film was run through.
The colour of the rocks at the entrance was a light red, but not out of the ordinary in brilliancy. The rock formation was stratified, but displaced; standing at an angle and flexed over on top with a ragged break here and there, showing plainly the great pressure to which the rocks had been subjected. The upheaval was not violent, the scientists tell us, but slow and even, allowing the river to maintain its old channel, sawing its way through the sandstone. The broken canyon walls, when well inside the gorge, were about 600 to 700 feet high. The mountains beyond and on either side were much higher. The growth on the mountain sides was principally evergreen; Douglas fir, the bull-pine and yellow pine. There was a species of juniper, somewhat different from the Utah juniper, with which we were familiar at the Grand Canyon. Bushes and undergrowth were dense above the steep canyon walls, which were bare. Willows, alder-thickets, and a few cottonwood trees lined the shores.
Meanwhile the current had quickened, almost imperceptibly at first, but enough to put us on our guard. While there were no rapids, use was made of what swift water we found by practising on the method we would use in making a passage through the bad rapids. As to this method, unused as yet by either of us, we had received careful verbal instruction from Mr. Stone, who had made the trip two years before our own venture; and from other friends of Nathan Galloway, the trapper, the man who first introduced the method on the Green and Colorado rivers.
Our experience on water of any kind was rather limited. Emery could row a boat, and row it well, before we left Green River, but had never gone over any large rapids. While he was not nearly so large or heavy as I,—weighing no more than 130 pounds, while I weighed 170 pounds,—he made up for his lighter weight by a quickness and strength that often surprised me. He was always neat and clever in his method of handling his boat, taking a great deal of pride in keeping it free from marks, and avoiding rocks when making a landing. I had done very little rowing before leaving Green River, so little that I had difficulty in getting both oars in the water at the same time. Of course it did not take me long to learn that; but I did not have the knack of making clean landings, and bumped many rocks that my brother missed. Still I was improving all the time and was anxious to get into the rough water, feeling sure I would get through somehow, but doing my best in the meantime to get the knack of handling the boat properly before the rough water was reached.
An occasional rock would stick up above the surface; the swift water would rush up on it, or drive past on either side. Instead of pulling downstream with might and main, and depending on a steersman with a sweep-oar to keep us clear of obstructions—the method usually adopted on large rivers, and by the earlier parties on the Colorado—by our method the single oarsman reversed his boat so that it was turned with the stern downstream, giving the oarsman a view of what was ahead; then by pulling upstream the boat was held in check. We allowed ourselves to be carried in a direct line with the rocks ahead, approaching them as closely as we dared; then, with a pull on one oar, the boat was turned slightly at an angle to the current, and swung to one side or the other; just as a ferry is headed into the current, the water itself helping to force it across. The ferry is held by a cable; the boat, by the oarsman; the results are quite similar.
The boats, too, were somewhat unusual in design, having been carefully worked out by Galloway after much experience with the problem, and after building many boats. He finally settled on the design furnished us by Mr. Stone. The flat bottom, sloping up from the centre to either end, placed the boats on a pivot one might say, so that they could be turned very quickly, much more quickly than if they had had a keel. There was a four foot skag or keel under the stern end of the boat, but this was only used when in quiet water; and as it was never replaced after being once removed we seldom refer to it. Being flat-bottomed, they drew comparatively little water, a matter quite important on low water such as we found in the Green River. While each boat carried a weight of seven hundred pounds in addition to its own five hundred pounds, they often passed over rocks less than ten inches below the surface, and did so without touching. While the boats were quite large, the arched decks made them look even larger. A considerable amount of material could be stored under these decks. The only part of the boat that was entirely open or unprotected from the waves was the cockpit, or mid-section occupied by the oarsman. This was only large enough for one man. A second man had to sit on the deck behind the oarsman, with his feet hanging into the cockpit. Jimmy occupied this place of honour as we drifted through the placid water; first on one boat, then on the other, entertaining us meanwhile with his songs.
We encountered two splashy little rapids this day, but with no rocks, or any dangerous feature whatever. Any method, or none at all, was safe enough in these rapids.
The colouring of the rocks changed as we proceeded, and at the lower end of the short canyon we saw the flaming patch of colour that had suggested its name to Major Powell, forty-two years before. Intensified on that occasion by the reflected light of a gorgeous sunset, it must have been a most brilliant spectacle.
Two beavers slid into the water when we were close beside them, then rose to the surface to stare curiously when we had passed. We left them undisturbed. Some geese decoyed us into an attempt to ambush them, but they kept always just out of reach of our guns. Wise fellows, those geese!
A geological fault accompanied by the breaking down of the walls marks the division between Flaming Gorge and Horseshoe Canyon, which immediately follows. We nooned here, opposite a deserted cabin. A trail dropped by easy stages over the slope on the east side; and fresh tracks showed that sheep had recently been driven down to the water's edge.
Passing through Horseshoe,—another very short canyon,—we found deep, placid pools, and sheer, light red walls rising about four hundred feet on either side, then sloping back steeply to the tree-covered mountains. In the middle of this canyon Emery was startled out of a day-dream by a rock falling into the water close beside him, with never a sound of warning. Years spent in the canyons had accustomed Emery and me to such occurrences; but Jimmy, unused to great gorges and towering cliffs, was much impressed by this incident. After all, it is only the unusual that is terrible. Jimmy was ready enough to take his chances at dodging bricks hurled by a San Francisco earthquake, but never got quite used to rocks descending from a source altogether out of sight. Small wonder, after all! Later we were to experience more of this thing, and on a scale to startle a stoic!
We halted at the end of Horseshoe, early in the afternoon of September 14, 1911, one week out from Green River City. Camp No. 6 was pitched on a gravelly shore beside Sheep Creek, a clear sparkling stream, coming in from the slopes of the Uintah range. Just above us, on the west, rose three jagged cliffs, about five hundred feet high, reminding one by their shape of the Three Brothers of Yosemite Valley. Here, again, we were treated to another wonderful example of geologic displacement, the rocks of Horseshoe Canyon lying in level strata; while those of Kingfisher, which followed, were standing on end. Sheep Creek, flowing from the west, finds an easy course through the fault, at the division of the canyons. The balance of this day was spent in carefully packing our material and rearranging it in our boats, for we expected hard work to follow.
Tempted by the rippling song of the brook, and by tales of fish to be found therein, we spent two hours fishing from its banks on the morning of the 15th. But the foliage of overhanging trees and shrubs was dense, making it difficult to cast our lines, or even to climb along its shores, and our small catch of two trout, which were fried with a strip of bacon to add flavour, only whetted our appetites for more.
It was a little late in the season for many birds. Here in Kingfisher Canyon were a few of the fish-catching birds from which the canyon took its name. There were many of the tireless cliff-swallows scattered all through these canyons, wheeling and darting, ever on the wing. These, with the noisy crested jays, an occasional "camp-robber," the little nuthatches, the cheerful canyon wren with his rollicking song, the happy water-ousel, "kill-deer," and road-runners and the water birds,—ducks, geese, and mud-hens, with an occasional crane,—made up the bird life seen in the open country and in these upper canyons. Earlier in the season it must be a bird's paradise, for berries and seeds would then be plentiful.
We resumed our journey at 10 A.M., a very short run bringing us to the end of Kingfisher Canyon. The three canyons passed through approximate hardly more than ten miles in length, different names being given for geological reasons, as they really form only one canyon. The walls at the end were broken down, and brilliantly tinted talus of many hues covered the slopes, the different colours intermingling near the bottom. The canyon-walled river turned southeast here, and continued in this general direction for many miles, but with many twists and turns.
We had previously been informed that Red Canyon, the next to follow, while not considered bad when compared to others, gave one the experience most necessary to combat the rapids farther down. It was not without danger, however, as a review of previous expeditions showed: some had lost their lives, still others, their boats; and one of Major Powell's parties had upset a boat in a Red Canyon rapid. The stage of water was so different on these previous attempts that their experiences were of little value to us one way or the other. A reference to pictures taken by two of these parties showed us there was considerable more water when they went through—six, and even eight feet higher in places. Possibly this would be the best stage on which to make the voyage in heavy boats. The unfortunate ones had taken the spring rise, or flood water, with disastrous results to themselves or their boats.
We soon found that our passage was to be hard on account of having too little water. In the quiet water above we had been seldom bothered with shoals; but now that we were in swifter water, there was scarcely any depth to it at all, except in the quiet pools between the rapids.
For a description of our passage through this upper end of Red Canyon we refer to our journal: sketchy notes jotted down, usually in the evening just before retiring, by the light of a camp-fire, or the flickering flame of a candle. Under the date of Friday, September the 15th, we find the following:
"End of Kingfisher: long, quiet pools and shoals where we grounded a few times; several small, splashy rapids; then a larger one near an old boat landing. Looked the rapid over from the shore. Jim remained at the lower end with a life-preserver on a rope, while we ran the rapid. Struck one or two rocks, lightly; but made the run in safety."
"At the third rapid we saw some geese—but they got away. At noon we ate a cold lunch and because of the low water removed the skags, carrying them in the cockpit. The scenery in upper Red Canyon is impressive: pines and fir come down on the sloping sides to the river's edge; the rocks are reddish brown in colour, often broken in squares, and looking like great building blocks piled one upon another. The canyon is about fifteen hundred feet deep; the river is clear again, and averages about two hundred feet in width. We have seen a few deer tracks, but have not seen any deer. We also saw some jumping trout in a splashy little rapid. Doubtless they came from a little creek, close by, for we never heard of trout being found in the Green River."
"We made a motion picture, while dropping our boats down with lines, over the first rapid we considered bad. Emery remained in the boats, keeping clear of the rocks with a pole. Powell's second party records an upset here. We passed Kettle Creek about 5 P.M. In the fifth rapids below Kettle Creek I got on the wrong side of the river and was carried into a very rocky rapid—the worst so far encountered. I touched a rock or two at the start, but made the run in safety; while Emery ran the opposite side without trouble. We camped beside a small stream on the south, where there were signs of an old camp."
"Saturday, September 16. Clear and cold in the early morning. Started about 9 A.M. Lined our boats past a difficult rapid. Too many rocks, not enough water. Two or three miles below this I had some difficulty in a rapid, as the pin of a rowlock lifted out of the socket when in the middle of rough water. Emery snapped a picture just as it happened. A little later E.C. ran a rocky rapid, but had so much trouble that we concluded to line my boat. Noon. Just a cold lunch, but with hot coffee from the vacuum bottles. Then at it again."
"The scenery is wonderful; the canyon is deeper than above; the river is swift and has a decided drop. We proceed cautiously, and make slow progress. We camp for the day on the north side close to a little, dry gully, on a level sage and bunch-grass covered bottom back from the river's edge. An abruptly descending canyon banked with small cottonwood trees coming in from the opposite side contains a small stream. Put up our tent for the second time since leaving Green River, Wyoming. We are all weary, and glad to-morrow is Sunday—a day of rest."
"Sunday, September 17. E.C. and I follow a fresh deer track up a game trail and get—a rabbit. Climb out about 1300 feet above the river to the top of the narrow canyon. Here is a sloping plateau, dotted with bunch-grass and grease-wood, a fourth of a mile wide. Then rounded mountains rise beyond the plateau, some of the peaks reaching a height of 4000 feet above the river. The opposite side is much the same, but with a wider plateau. We had no idea before what a wonderful country this is. It is a picture to tempt an artist. High on the mountain tops is the dark blue-green of pines and firs, reds and yellows are mixed in the quaking aspen,—for the frost comes early enough to catch the sap in the leaves; little openings, or parks with no trees, are tinted a beautiful soft gray; 'brownstone fronts' are found in the canyon walls; and a very light green in the willow-leafed cottonwoods at the river's edge, and in all side canyons where there is a running stream. The river glistens in the sunlight, as it winds around the base of the wall on which we stand, and then disappears around a bend in the canyon. Turn where we will, we see no sign of an opening, nothing but the rounded tops of wooded mountains, red and green, far as the eye can reach, until they disappear in the hazy blue. Finally Emery's keen eyes, aided by the binoculars, discover a log cabin at the foot of a mountain, on the plateau opposite us about three miles away."
"We hurry back to camp and write some letters; then Jim and I cross the river and climb out over the rocky walls to the plateau above. In two hours we reach the cabin. It is new—not yet finished. A woman and four children are looking over a garden when we arrive. They are a little frightened at first, but soon recover. The woman gladly promises to take out our mail when they go to the nearest town, which happens to be Vernal, Utah, forty-five miles away. Three other families live near by, all recently moved in from Vernal. The woman tells us that Galloway hunts bear in these timbered mountains, and has killed some with a price on their heads—bear with a perverted taste for fresh beef."
"Thanking the woman, we make our way back to the river. We see some dried-out elk horns along our trail; though it is doubtful if elk get this far south at present. A deer trail, leading down a ravine, makes our homeward journey much easier. It has turned quite cold this evening, after sunset. We finish our notes and prepare to roll into our beds a little earlier than usual."
We awoke bright and early the next morning, much refreshed by our day of rest and variety. With an early start we were soon pulling down the river, and noon found us several miles below the camp, having run eleven rapids with no particular difficulty. A reference in my notes reads: "Last one has a thousand rocks, and we could not miss them all. My rowing is improving, and we both got through fairly well." In the afternoon they continued to come—an endless succession of small rapids, with here and there a larger one. The canyon was similar to that at our camp above, dark red walls with occasional pines on the ledges,—a most charming combination of colour. At 2.30 P.M. we reached Ashley Falls, a rapid we had been expecting to see for some time. It was a place of singular beauty. A dozen immense rocks had fallen from the cliff on the left, almost completely blocking the channel—or so it seemed from one point of view. But there was a crooked channel, not more than twelve wide in places, through which the water shot like a stream from a nozzle.
We wanted a motion picture of our dash through the chute. But the location for the camera was hard to secure, for a sheer bank of rock or low wall prevented us from climbing out on the right side. We overcame this by landing on a little bank at the base of the wall and by dropping a boat down with a line to the head of the rapid where a break occurred in the wall. Jimmy was left with the camera, the boat was pulled back, and we prepared to run the rapid.
We first had to pass between two square rocks rising eight feet above the water so close together that we could not use the oars; then, when past these, pull ten feet to the right in order to clear the large rock at the end of the main dam, or barrier, not more than twenty feet below. To pull down bow first and try to make the turn, would mean to smash broadside against this rock. It could only be done by dropping stern first, and pulling to the right under the protection of the first rocks; though it was doubtful if even this could be accomplished, the current was so swift. The Defiance was ready first, the Edith was to follow as closely as safety allowed.
Almost before I knew it I was in the narrow channel, so close to the right rock that I had to ship that oar, and pull altogether on the left one. As soon as I was through I made a few quick strokes, but the current was too strong for me; and a corner of the stern struck a bang when I was almost clear. She paused as a wave rolled over the decks, then rose quickly; a side current caught the boat, whirling it around, and the bow struck. I was still pulling with all my might, but everything happened so quickly,—with the boat whirling first this way, then that,—that my efforts were almost useless. But after that second strike I did get in a few strokes, and pulled into the quiet pool below the line of boulders.
Emery held his boat in better position than I had done, and it looked for a while as if he would make it. But the Edith struck on the stern, much as mine had done. Then he pulled clear and joined me in the shelter of the large rock, as cool and smiling as if he had been rowing on a mill-pond. We were delighted to find that our boats had suffered no damage from the blows they had received. Striking on the ends as they did, the shock was distributed throughout the whole boat.
This completed our run for that day, and we went into camp just below the "Falls." Emery painted the name Edith on the bow of his boat, at this camp. The name was given in honour of his four-year-old daughter, waiting for us at the Grand Canyon. I remarked that as no one loved me, I would name my boat the Defiance. But I hesitated about putting this name on the bow. I would look rather foolish, I thought, if the Defiance should be wrecked in the first bad rapid. So the christening of my boat was left until such time as should have earned the title, although she was constantly referred to as the Defiance.
We remained until noon of the following day at Ashley Falls, exploring, repairing, and photographing this picturesque spot. The canyon walls here dropped down to beautiful, rolling foot-hills eight or nine hundred feet high tree covered as before but more open. The diversity of rocks and hills was alluring. There was work to be done and no pleasanter spot could be found in which to do it. Among other things that had to be looked after were some adjustments to the motion-picture camera—usually referred to by us as the M.P.C.—this delicate work always falling to Emery, for he alone could do it.
There was much to interest us here. Major Powell reported finding the name "Ashley" painted under an overhanging rock on the left side of the river. Underneath was a date, rather indistinct, but found to have been 1825, by Dellenbaugh, after carefully tracing the career of Colonel Ashley who was responsible for the record. Accompanied by a number of trappers, he made the passage through this canyon at that early day. We found a trace of the record. There were three letters—A-s-h—the first two quite distinct, and underneath were black spots. It must have been pretty good paint to leave a trace after eighty-six years!
Resuming our journey we passed into deep canyon again,—the deepest we had found up to this time,—with steeply sloping, verdure-covered walls about 2700 feet high. The rapids still continued. At one rapid the remark was made that "Two feet of water would cover two hundred rocks so that our boats would pass over them." But we did not have the two feet needed.
We had previously been informed that some of these mountains were the hiding-places of men who were "wanted" in the three states which bordered near here. Some escaping prisoners had also been traced to the mountains in this direction; then all tracks had ceased. The few peaceable ranchers who lived in these mountains were much alarmed over these reports. We found one such rancher on the plateau above the canyon, whom we will call Johnson for convenience,—living in one of the upper canyons. He sold us some provisions. In return he asked us to help him swim some of his horses across the river. He said the high water had taken out his own boat. The horses were rounded up in a mountain-hidden valley and driven into the water ahead of the boat. After securing the horses, Johnson's welcome seemed to turn to suspicion and he questioned our reasons for being there, wanting to know what we could find in that wild country to interest us. Johnson's sons, of whom there were several, seemed to put in most of their time at hunting and trapping, never leaving the house without a gun. The cabin home looked like an arsenal, revolvers and guns hanging on all the walls—even his daughters being familiar with their use. Although we had been very well treated after all, Mrs. Johnson especially having been very kind to us, we felt just a little relieved when the Johnson ranch was left behind. We use, in fact, a fictious name, not caring to visit on them the suspicions we ourselves felt in return.
Another morning passed in repairing the M.P. camera, and another afternoon's work was necessary to get us out of the walls and the rapids of Red Canyon. But on the evening of the 20th, we did get out, and pulled into an open country known as Brown's Park, one week after entering Flaming Gorge. It had not been very fast travelling; but we were through, and with no mishap more serious than a split board on the side of my boat. Under favourable conditions, and in experienced hands, this distance might have been covered in three days. But meanwhile, we were gaining a lot of experience.
About the lower end of Red Canyon the river turned directly east, paralleling the northern boundary of Utah, and continued to flow in this general direction until it crossed into Colorado.
On emerging from Red Canyon we spied a ranch house or log cabin close to the river. The doors were open and there were many tracks in the sand, so we thought some one must be about. On approaching the house, however, we found the place was deserted, but with furniture, books, and pictures piled on the floor in the utmost confusion, as if the occupants had left in a great hurry. This surmise afterward proved to be correct; for we learned that the rancher had been murdered for his money, his body having been found in a boat farther down the river. Suspicion pointed to an old employee who had been seen lurking near the place. He was traced to the railroad, over a hundred miles to the north; but made his escape and was never caught.
We found Brown's Park, once known as Brown's Hole, to be a beautiful valley several miles in width, and thirty-five or forty miles in length. The upper end of the valley was rugged in places, with rocky hills two or three hundred feet high. To the south, a few miles away, were the mountains, a continuation of those we had come through. We saw many cattle scattered over some of these rocky hills, grazing on the bunch-grass. At one place our course led us through a little canyon about two miles long, and scarcely more than two hundred feet deep. This was Swallow Canyon—a name suggested by the many birds of that species which had covered the canyon's walls with their little clay nests. The openings of some of these nests were so small that it scarcely seemed possible for a bird to enter.
The water was deep and quiet in this short canyon, and a hard wind blowing up the stream made it difficult for us to gain any headway. In this case, too, the forms of the boat were against us. With the keel removed and with their high sides catching the wind, they were carried back and forth like small balloons. Well, we could put up with it for a while, for those very features would prove most valuable in the rough-water canyons which were to follow!
Emerging from the canyon at last, we saw a ferry loaded with sheep crossing the stream. On the left shore was a large corral, also filled with sheep which a half dozen men were driving back and forth into different compartments. Later these men told us there were 2400 sheep in the flock. We took their word for it, making no attempt to count them. The foreman of the ranch agreed to sell us some sugar and honey,—these two articles being a welcome addition to our list of supplies, which were beginning to show the effects of our voracious appetites.
We found many other log cabins and ranches as we proceeded. Some of them were deserted; at others men were busily engaged in cutting hay or the wild grass that grew in the bottoms. The fragrance of new-mown hay was in the air. Young boys and women were among these busy workers, some of the women being seated on large harvesters, handling the horses with as much dexterity as any of the men.
The entire trip through this pretty valley was full of interest. We were hailed from the shore by some of the hay ranchers, it being a novel sight to them to see a river expedition. At one or two of these places we asked the reason for the deserted ranches above, and were given evasive answers. Finally we were told that cattle rustlers from the mountains made it so hard for the ranchers in the valleys that there was nothing for them to do but get out. They told us, also, that we were fortunate to get away from Johnson's ranch with our valuables! Our former host, we were told, had committed many depredations and had served one term for cattle stealing. Officers, disguised as prospectors, had taken employment with him and helped him kill and skin some cattle; the skins, with their telltale brands, having been partially burned and buried. On this evidence he was afterwards convicted.
Our cool welcome by the Johnsons, their suspicions of us, the sinister arsenal of guns and pistols, all was explained! Quite likely some of these weapons had been trained against us by the trappers on the chance that we were either officers of the law, or competitors in the horse-stealing industry. For that matter we were actually guilty of the latter count, for come to think of it, we ourselves had helped them steal eight horses and a colt!
The entire trip through this pretty valley was full of interest. It was all so different from anything seen above. There were great bottoms that gave evidence of having recently been overflooded, though now covered with cottonwood trees, gorgeous in their autumn foliage. We had often wondered where all the driftwood that floated down the Colorado came from; but after seeing those unnumbered acres of cottonwoods we ceased to wonder.
There were many beaver slides on the banks; and in places, numberless trees had been felled by these industrious animals. On one or two occasions we narrowly escaped splitting the sides of our boats on snags of trees which the beavers had buried in the bottom of the stream. We saw no beaver dams on the river; they were not necessary, for deep, quiet pools existed everywhere in Brown's Park. We saw two beavers in this section. One of these rose, porpoise-like, to the top of the water, stared at us a moment, then brought his tail down with a resounding smack on the top of the water, and disappeared, to enter his home by the subterranean route, no doubt. The river was gradually losing its clear colour, for the sand-bars were beginning to "work out," or break, making the water quite roily. In some sections of Brown's Park we grounded on these sand-bars, making it necessary for us to get out into the water, pushing and pulling on the boats until deeper water was reached. Sometimes the deep water came when least expected, the sand-bars having a disconcerting way of dropping off abruptly on the downstream side. Jimmy stepped off the edge of one of these hidden ledges while working with a boat and was for some time in no condition to appreciate our ill-concealed mirth.
Often we would be passing along on perfectly smooth water, when suddenly a turmoil would rise all about us as though a geyser had broken out below the surface. If we happened to be directly over it, the boat would be rocked back and forth for a while; then all would be peaceful again. This was most often caused by the ledges of sand, anywhere from three to ten feet high breaking down or falling forward as their bases were undermined. In a single night a bar of this kind will work upstream for a distance of several feet; then the sand will be carried down with the current to lodge again in some quiet pool, and again be carried on as before. This action gives rise to long lines of regular waves or swells extending for some distance down the stream. These are usually referred to as sand-waves. These waves increase in size in high water; and the monotonous thump, thump of the boat's bottom upon them is anything but pleasant, especially if one is trying to make fast time.
So, with something new at every turn, we pulled lazily through Brown's Park, shooting at ducks and geese when we came near them, snapping our cameras when a picture presented itself, and observing the animal life along the stream.
We stopped at one hay-ranch close to the Utah-Colorado line and chatted awhile with the workers. A pleasant-faced woman named Mrs. Chew asked us to deliver a message at a ranch a mile or two below. Here also was the post-office of Lodore, Colorado, located a short distance above the canyon of the same name. Mrs. Chew informed us that they had another ranch at the lower end of Lodore Canyon and asked us to look them up when we got through, remarking: "You may have trouble, you know. Two of my sons once tried it. They lost their boat, had to climb out, and nearly starved before they reached home."
The post-office at the ranch, found as described, without another home in sight, was a welcome sight to us for several reasons. One reason was that it afforded shelter from a heavy downpour of rain that greeted us as we neared it, and a better reason still was, that it gave us a chance to write and mail some letters to those who would be most anxious to hear from us.
Among the messages we mailed was a picture post-card of Coney Island at night. In some way this card had slipped between the leaves of a book that I had brought from the East. I sent it out, addressed to a friend who would understand the joke; writing underneath the picture, "We have an abundance of such scenery here." The young woman who had charge of the office looked at the card in amazement. It was evidently something new to her. She told us she had never been to the railroad, and that her brother took the mail out on horse-back to Steamboat, Colorado, 140 miles distant.
The rain having ceased, we returned to our boats pausing to admire a rainbow that arched above the canyon in the mountains, toward which we were headed. We remarked, jokingly, to Jimmy that this was a good sign. He replied without smiling that he "hoped so." Jimmy's songs had long since ceased, and we suspected him of homesickness. With the exception of a short visit to some friends on a large ranch, Jimmy had never been away from his home in San Francisco. This present experience was quite a contrast, to be sure! We did what we could to keep him cheered up, but with little success. Jimmy had intimated that he would prefer to leave at the first opportunity to reach a railroad, and we willingly agreed to help him in every possible way. Emery and I also agreed between ourselves that we would not take any unnecessary risks with him; but would leave him out of the boats at all rapids, if there was any passage around them.
The river had taken a sharp turn to the south soon after passing the post-office, heading directly towards the mountains. Camp was pitched just above the mouth of Lodore. This twenty-mile canyon bears a very unsavory reputation, having a descent of 425 feet in that short distance, the greater part of the fall occurring in a space of twelve miles. This would mean wild water somewhere!
We were camped on a spot recently occupied by some engineers of the United States Conservation Department, who had been trying to determine if it was feasible to dam the river at this place. The plan was to flood the hole of Brown's Park and divert the water through the mountains by a tunnel to land suitable for cultivation and in addition, allow the muddy water to settle and so prevent the vast amount of silt from being washed on down, eventually to the mouth of the Colorado. The location seemed admirably suited for this stupendous project. But holes drilled beside the river failed to find bottom, as nothing but quicksand existed even at a depth of nearly three hundred feet; and without a strong foundation, such a dam would be utterly useless.
THE BATTLE WITH LODORE
Camp routine was hurriedly disposed of the next morning, Saturday, September the 23d. Everything was made snug beneath the hatches, except the two guns, which were too long to go under the decks, and had to be carried in the open cockpits. "Camp No. 13, at the head of Lodore," as it is entered in my journal, was soon hidden by a bend in the river. The open, sun-lit country, with its pleasant ranches and its grazing cattle, its rolling, gray, sage-covered hills and its wild grass and cottonwood-covered bottoms, was left behind, and we were back in the realm of the rock-walled canyon, and beetle-browed, frowning cliffs with pines and cedars clutching at the scanty ledges.
We paused long enough to make a picture or two, with the hope that the photographic record would give to others some idea of the geological and scenic wonder—said to be the greatest known example of its kind—which lay before us. Here is an obstructing mountain raised directly in the river's path. Yet with no deviation whatever the stream has cut through the very centre of the peak! The walls are almost sheer, especially at the the bottom, and are quite close together at the top. A mile inside the mountain on the left or east side of the gorge is 2700 feet high. Geologists say that the river was here first and that the mountain was slowly raised in its pathway—so slowly that the river could saw away and maintain its old channel. The quicksand found below the present level would seem to indicate that the walls were once even higher than at present, and that a subsidence had taken place after the cutting.
The river at the entrance of this rock-walled canyon was nothing alarming, four small rapids being passed without event. Then a fifth was reached that looked worse. The Edith was lined down. This was hard work, and dangerous too, owing to the strength of the current and the many rocks; so I concluded that my own boat, the Defiance, must run the rapid. Jimmy went below, with a life-preserver on a rope. Emery stood beside the rapid with a camera and made a picture as I shot past him. Fortunately I got through without mishap. I refused to upset even to please my brother.
We were beginning to think that Lodore was not so bad after all. Rapid followed rapid in quick succession, and all were run without trouble; then we came to a large one. It was Upper Disaster Falls; so named by Major Powell, for it was here that one of his boats was wrecked on his first voyage of exploration. This boat failed to make the landing above the rapid and was carried over. She struck a rock broadside, turned around and struck again, breaking the boat completely in two. This boat was built of 3/4-inch oak reenforced with bulkheads. When this fact is taken into consideration, some idea may be had of the great power of these rapids. The three men who occupied the boat saved themselves by reaching an island a short distance below.
This all happened on a stage of water much higher than the present one, so we did not let the occurrence influence us one way or the other, except to make us careful to land above the rapid. We found a very narrow channel between two submerged boulders, the water plunging and foaming for a short distance below, over many hidden rocks. Still, there was only one large rock near the lower end that we greatly feared, and by careful work that might be avoided.
The Edith went first and grazed the boulder slightly, but no harm was done as E.C. held his boat well in hand. I followed, and struck rocks at the same instant on both sides of the narrow channel with my oars. It will be remembered that we ran all these dangerous rapids facing downstream. The effect of this was to shoot the ends of both oars up past my face. The operator said that I made a grimace just as he took a picture of the scrimmage.
We landed on the island below and talked of camping for the night, as it was getting late; but the island so rocky and inhospitable that we concluded to try the lower part of the rapid. This had no descent like the upper end; but it was very shallow, and we soon found ourselves on rocks, unable to proceed any farther. It took an hour of hard labour to work our heavy boats safely to the shore.
We had been hoping for a rest the next day—Sunday—but the island was such a disagreeable place to camp that it seemed necessary to cross to the mainland at least. A coil of strong, pliable wire had been included in our material. Here was a chance to use it to advantage. The stream on the left side of the island could be waded, although it was very swift; and we managed to get the wire across and well fastened at both ends. Elevating the wire above the water with cross-sticks, our tent and camp material were run across on a pulley, and camp was pitched a hundred yards below, on the left shore of the river.
There were fitful showers in the afternoon, and we rested from our labour, obtaining a great deal of comfort from our tent, which was put up here for the third time since leaving Green River City. Always, when the weather was clear, we slept in the open.
Monday, the 25th, found us at the same camp. Having concluded that Disaster Falls was an ideal place for a moving picture, we sent the balance of the material across on the pulley and wire, making a picture of the operation; stopping often because it continued to shower. Between showers we resumed our work and picture making.
The picture was to have been concluded with the operation of lining the boat across. E.C. stood on the shore about sixty feet away, working with the camera; Jimmy was on the island, paying out the rope; while I waded in the water, holding the bow of the boat as I worked her between the rocks. Having reached the end of the rope, I coiled it up, advising Jimmy to go up to a safe crossing and join my brother while I proceeded with the boat. All was going well, and I was nearing the shore, when I found myself suddenly carried off my feet into water beyond my depth, and drifting for the lower end of the rapid. Meanwhile I was holding to the bow of the boat, and calling lustily to my brother to save me. At first he did not notice that anything was wrong, as he was looking intently through the finder. Then he suddenly awoke to the fact that something was amiss, and came running down the boulder-strewn shore, but he could not help me, as we had neglected to leave a rope with him. Things were beginning to look pretty serious, when the boat stopped against a rock and I found myself once more with solid footing under me. It was too good a picture to miss; and I found the operator at the machine, turning the crank as I climbed out.
We developed some films and plates that evening, securing some satisfactory results from these tests. It continued to rain all that night, with intermittent showers next morning. The rain made little difference to us, for we were in the water much of the following day as he boats were taken along the edge of another unrunnable rapid, a good companion rapid for the one just passed.
This was Lower Disaster Falls, the first of many similar rapids we were to see, but this was one of the worst of its kind. The swift-rushing river found its channel blocked by the canyon wall on the right side, the cliff running at right angles to the course of the stream. The river, attacking the limestones, had cut a channel under the wall, then turned and ran with the wall, emerging about two hundred feet below. Standing on a rock and holding one end of a twenty-five foot string we threw a stone attached to the other end across to the opposite wall. The overhanging wall was within two feet of the rushing river; a higher stage of water would hide the cut completely from view. Think what would happen if a boat were carried against or under that wall! We thought of it many times as we carefully worked our boats along the shore.
Between the delays of rain, with stops for picture making, portaging our material, and "lining" our boats, we spent almost three days in getting past the rapids called Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, with their combined fall of 50 feet in little more than half a mile. On the evening of September the 26th we camped almost within sight of this same place, at the base of a 3000-foot sugar-loaf mountain on the right, tree-covered from top to bottom.
Things were going too easily for us, it seemed; but we were in for a few reverses. It stormed much of the night and still drizzled when we embarked on the following morning. The narrow canyon was gloomy and darkened with shreds of clouds drifting far below the rim. The first rapid was narrow, and contained some large boulders. The Edith was caught on one of these and turned on her side, so that the water flowed in, filling the cockpit. The boat was taken off without difficulty, and bailed out. We found that the bulkheads failed to keep the water out of the hatches. Some material from the Edith was transferred to the Defiance. A bed, in a protecting sack of rubber and canvas, was shoved under the seat and we proceeded.
Less than an hour later I repeated my brother's performance, but I was not so fortunate as he. The Defiance was carried against one rock as I tried to pull clear of another, and in an instant she was on her side, held by the rush of water. I caught the gunwale, and, climbing on to the rock that caused the disaster, I managed to catch the rope and held the boat. In the meantime Emery was in a whirlpool below, trying to land on the right side; but was having a difficult time of it. Jimmy stood on the shore unable to help. The bed was washed out of the boat and went bobbing over the waves, then before I knew what had happened, the rope was jerked from my hands and I was left stranded on my rock. Seeing this, Jimmy ran with all his might for a pool at the end of the rapid, bravely rescuing the boat and the bed as well, just as the Edith was landed. A rope was soon thrown to me, after the inevitable picture was made. Then I jumped and was pulled to shore.
On making an inventory we found that our guns were lost from the boat. Being too long to go under the hatches, they had been left in the cockpit. The Defiance had an ugly rap on the bottom, where she struck a rock, the wood being smashed or jammed, but not broken out. Nearly all material in the two boats was wet, so we took everything out and piled it on a piece of canvas, spread out on the sand. We worked rapidly, for another storm had been threatening all the morning.
We were engaged in putting up our little tent when a violent wind which swept up the canyon, followed by a downpour of rain interrupted our work; and if anything missed a soaking before, it certainly received it then. The sand was beaten into our cameras and everything was scattered helter-skelter over the shore. We were fortunate in only one respect. The wind was away from the river instead of toward it. We finally got the tent up, then threw everything into it in an indiscriminate pile, and waited for the storm to pass. Emery proposed that we do a song and dance just to show how good we felt; but any appearance of merriment was rather forced.
Had the builders of the boats been there, we fear they would have had an uncomfortable half-hour; for nearly all this loss could have been avoided had our instructions regarding the hatch covers been followed. And for the sake of their saving a few dollars we had to suffer!
The rain soon passed and we went to work, first starting a fire and getting a hurried lunch, for we had not eaten our noon meal, and it was then 4 P.M. We put up our dark-room tent, then went to work to find what was saved, and what was lost. We were surprised to find that all our small films and plates had escaped a soaking. Protected in tin and cardboard boxes, wrapped with adhesive tape, and covered with a coating of paraffine melted and poured over them, they had turned the water in nearly every instance. The motion-picture film was not so fortunate. The paraffine had worn off the tin boxes in spots, the water soaked through the tape in some instances, and entered to the film. One roll, tightly wrapped, became wet on the edges; the gelatine swelled and stuck to the other film, thus sealing the inner portion or picture part of the film, so that roll was saved.
The motion-picture camera was filled with water, mud and sand; and the other cameras fared likewise. We cleaned them out as best we could, drying them over small alcohol lamp which we had included in our duffle. Our job seemed endless. Jimmy had retired early, for he could help us but little in this work. It rained again in torrents, and the wind howled about the tent. After midnight, as we still toiled, a land-slide, loosened by the soaking rains, thundered down the mountain side about a fourth of a mile below our camp. We hoped Jimmy would not hear it. We retired soon after this. Smaller slides followed at intervals, descending over the 3000-foot precipices. Thunder reverberated through the canyon, and altogether it was a night long to be remembered. These slides made one feel a little uncomfortable. "It would be most inconvenient," as we have heard some one say, "to wake in the morning and find ourselves wrapped up in a few tons of earth and rock."