CHAPTER V. 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.