CHAPTER XI. WONDERS OF EROSION
Thursday, October the 19th. We embarked again with two of our new-found friends on board as passengers for a short ride, their intention being to hunt as they walked back. They left us at a ranch beside the San Rafael River, a small stream entering from the west. They left some mail with us to be delivered to Mr. Wolverton, whose son we had met above. About 20 miles below Green River we reached his home. Judging by a number of boats - both motor and row boats - tied to his landing, Mr. Wolverton was an enthusiastic river-man. After glancing over his mail, he asked how we had come and was interested when he learned that we were making a boating trip. He was decidedly interested when he saw the boats and learned that we were going to our home in the Grand Canyon. His first impression was that we were merely making a little pleasure trip on the quiet water.
Going carefully over the boats, he remarked that they met with his approval with one exception. They seemed to be a little bit short for the heavy rapids of the Colorado, he thought. He agreed that our experience in the upper rapids had been good training, but said there was no comparison in the rapids. We would have a river ten times as great as in Lodore to contend with; and in numerous places, for short distances, the descent was as abrupt as anything we had seen on the Green. Wolverton was personally acquainted with a number of the men who had made the river trip, and, with the one exception of Major Powell's expeditions, had met all the parties who had successfully navigated its waters. This not only included Galloway's and Stone's respective expeditions, which had made the entire trip, but included two other expeditions which began at Green River, Utah, and had gone through the canyons of the Colorado. These were the Brown-Stanton expedition, which made a railroad survey through the canyons of the Colorado; and another commonly known as the Russell-Monnette expedition, two of the party making the complete trip, arriving at Needles after a voyage filled with adventure and many narrow escapes. Mr. Wolverton remarked that every one knew of those who had navigated the entire series of canyons, but that few people knew of those who had been unsuccessful. He knew of seven parties that had failed to get through Cataract Canyon's forty-one miles of rapids, with their boats, most of them never being heard of again.
These unsuccessful parties were often miners or prospectors who wished to get into the comparatively flat country which began about fifty miles below the Junction of the Green and the Grand rivers. Here lay Glen Canyon, with 150 miles of quiet water. Nothing need be feared in this, or in the 120 miles of good boating from Green River, Utah, to the junction. Between these two points, however, lay Cataract Canyon, beginning at the junction of the two rivers. Judging by its unsavory record, Cataract Canyon was something to be feared.
Among these parties who had made short trips on the river was one composed of two men. Phil Foote was a gambler, stage robber, and bad man in general. He had broken out of jail in Salt Lake City and, accompanied by another of similar character, stole a boat at Green River, Utah, and proceeded down the river. Soon after entering Cataract Canyon, they lost their boat and provisions. Finding a tent which had been washed down the river, they tore it into strips and constructed a raft out driftwood, tying the logs together with the strips of canvas. Days of hardship followed, and starvation stared them in the face; until finally Foote's partner gave up, said he would drown himself. With an oath Foote drew his revolver, saying he had enough of such cowardice and would save him the trouble. His companion then begged for his life, saying he would stick to the end, and they finally got through to the Hite ranch, which lay a short distance below. They were taken care of here, and terminated their voyage a short distance beyond, going out over land. Foote was afterwards shot and killed while holding up a stage in Nevada.
The Hite ranch also proved to be a place of refuge for others, the sole survivors of two other parties who were wrecked, one person escaping on each occasion. Hite's ranch, and Lee's Ferry, 140 miles below Hite, had mail service. We had left instructions at the post-office to forward our mail to one or the other of these points. These were also the only places on our 425-mile run to Bright Angel Trail where we could expect to see any people, so we were informed. We were about to descend into what is, possibly, the least inhabited portion of the United States of America.
A party of civil engineers working here, joined us that evening at Wolverton's home. A young man in the party asked us if we would consent to carry a letter through with us and mail it at our destination. He thought it would be an interesting souvenir for the person to whom it was addressed. We agreed to do our best, but would not guarantee delivery. The next morning two letters were given us to mail, and were accepted with this one reservation. Before leaving Mr. Wolverton showed us his motor boat with much pardonable pride. On this boat he sometimes took small parties down to the beginning of the Colorado River, and up the Grand, a round trip of three hundred miles or more. The boat had never been taken down the Colorado for the simple reason that the rapids began almost immediately below the junction.
Wolverton, while he had never been through the rapids in a boat, had followed the river on foot for several miles and was thoroughly familiar with their nature. On parting he remarked,
"Well, boys, you are going to tackle a mighty hard proposition, but I'm sure you can make it if you are only careful. But look out and go easy."
Wolverton was no novice, speaking from much experience in bad water, and we were greatly impressed by what he had to say.