CHAPTER XVIII. MARBLE HALLS AND MARBLE WALLS
There was little of the spectacular in our work the next day as we slowly and laboriously dragged an empty boat upstream against the swift-running current, taking advantage of many little eddies, but finding much of the shore swept clean. I had ample opportunity to ponder on the wisdom of my attempt to save time by running the Soap Creek Rapid instead of making a portage, while we carried our loads over the immense boulders that banked the stream, down to a swift piece of water, past which we could not well bring the boats or while we developed the wet plates from the ruined plate-holders. It was with no little surprise that we found all the plates, except a few which were not uniformly wet and developed unevenly, could be saved. It took a day and a half to complete all this work.
Marble Canyon was now beginning to narrow up with a steep, boulder-covered slope on either side, three or four hundred feet high; with a sheer wall of dark red limestone of equal height directly above that. There was also a plateau of red sandstone and distant walls topped with light-coloured rock, the same formations with which we were familiar in the Grand Canyon. The inner gorge had narrowed from a thousand feet or more down to four hundred feet, the slope at the river was growing steeper and gradually disappearing, and each mile of travel had added a hundred feet or more to the height of the walls. Soon after resuming our journey that afternoon, the slope disappeared altogether, and the sheer walls came down close to the water. There were few places where one could climb out, had we desired to do so. This hard limestone wall, which Major Powell had named the marble wall, had a disconcerting way of weathering very smooth and sheer, with a few ledges and fewer breaks.
We made a short run that day, going over a few rapids, stopping an hour to make some pictures where an immense rock had fallen from the cliff above into the middle of the river bed, leaving a forty-foot channel on one side, and scarcely any on the other. Below this we found a rapid so much like the Soap Creek Rapid in appearance that a portage seemed advisable. It was evening when we got the Edith to the lower end of this rapid after almost losing her, as we lined her down, and she was wedged under a sloping rock that overhung the rapid. We had two ropes, one at either end, attached to the boat in this case. Emery stood below the rock ready to pull her in when once past the rock. There was a sickening crackling of wood as the deck of the boat wedged under and down to the level of the water, and at Emery's call I released the boat, throwing the rope into the river, and hurried to help him. He was almost dragged into the water as the boat swung around fortunately striking against a sand-bank, instead of the many rocks that lined the shore. We were working with a stream different from the Green River, we found, and the Defiance was taken from the water the next day and slowly worked, one end at a time, over the rocks, up to a level sand-bank, twenty-five or thirty feet above the river. Then we put rollers under her, and worked her down past the rapid. This work was little to our liking, for the boats, now pretty well water-soaked, weighed considerably more than their original five hundred pounds' weight.
A few successful plunges soon brought back our former confidence, and we continued to run all other rapids that presented themselves. This afternoon we passed the first rapid we remembered having seen, where we could not land at its head before running it. A slightly higher stage of water, however, would have made many such rapids. Just below this point we found the body of a bighorn mountain-sheep floating in an eddy. It was impossible to tell just how he came to his death. There was no sign of any great fall that we could see. He had a splendid pair of horns, which we would have liked to have had at home, but which we did not care to amputate and carry with us.
On this day's travel, we passed a number of places where the marble - which had suggested this canyon's name to Major Powell - appeared. The exposed parts were checked, or seamed, and apparently would have little commercial value. We passed a shallow cave or two this day, then found another cave or hole, running back about fifteen feet in the wall, so suitable for a camp that we could not refuse the temptation to stop, although we had made but a very short run this day. The high water had entered it, depositing successive layers of sand on the bottom, rising in steps, one above the other, making convenient shelves for maps and journals, pots and pans; while little shovelling was necessary to make the lower level of sand fit our sleeping bags. A number of small springs, bubbling from the walls near by, gave us the first clear water that we had found for some time, and a pile of driftwood caught in the rocks, directly in front of our cave, added to its desirability for a camp. Firewood was beginning to be the first consideration in choosing a camp, for in many places the high water had swept the shores clean, and spots which might otherwise have made splendid camps were rendered most undesirable for this reason.