CHAPTER XXIII. THE LAST PORTAGE AND THE LAST RAPIDS
The first section of Separation Rapid was run the first thing in the morning, a manoeuvre that was accomplished by starting on the left shore and crossing the swift centre clear to the other shore. This allowed us to reach some quiet water near a small deposit of rock and earth at the base of the sheer wall. Two feet of water would have covered this deposit; likewise two feet of water would have given us a clear channel over this second section. As it was, the rapid was rough, with many rocks very near the surface. Directly across from us, close to the left shore, was what looked like a ten-foot geyser, or fountain of water. This was caused by a rock in the path of a strong current rebounding from the shore. The water ran up on the side near the wall, then fell on all sides. It was seldom the water had force enough to carry to the top of a rock as large as that. This portage of the second section was one of the easiest we had made. By rolling a few large rocks around we could get a stream water across our small shore large enough to float an empty boat with a little help, so we lightened them of the cargo and floated them through our canal. While running the third section the Edith was carried up on the sloping rock in the middle of the stream; she paused a moment, then came down like a shot and whirled around to the side without mishap. This made the thirteenth rapid in which both boats were lined or portaged. In three other rapids one boat was run through and one was portaged. Half of all these rapids were located in the Grand Canyon.
All this time we were anxiously looking forward to a rapid which Mr. Stone had described as being the worst in the entire series, also the last rapid we would be likely to portage and had informed us that below this particular rapid everything could be run with little or no inspection. Naturally we were anxious to get that rapid behind us. It was described as being located below a small stream flowing from the south. The same rapid was described by Major Powell as having a bold, lava-capped escarpment at the head of the rapid, on the right. We had not seen any lava since leaving Diamond Creek, and an entry in my notes reads, "we have gone over Stone's 'big rapid' three times and it is still ahead of us." The knowledge that there was a big rapid in the indefinite somewhere that was likely to cause us trouble seemed to give us more anxious moments than the many unmentioned rapids we were finding all this time. We wondered how high the escarpment was, and if we could take our boats over its top. We tried to convince ourselves that it was behind us, although sure that it could not be. But the absence of lava puzzled us. After one "bad" rapid and several "good" rapids we came to a sharp turn in the canyon. Emery was ahead and called back, "I see a little stream"; Bert joined with "I see the lava"; and the "Bold Escarpment Rapid," as we had been calling it for some time, was before us. It was more than a nasty rapid, it was a cataract!
What a din that water sent up! We had to yell to make ourselves heard. The air vibrated with the impact of water against rock. The rapid was nearly half a mile long. There were two sections near its head staggered with great rocks, forty of them, just above or slightly submerged under the surface of the water. Our low stage of water helped us, so that we did not have to line the boats from the ledge, eighty feet above the water, as others had done. The rapid broke just below the lower end of the sheer rock, which extended twenty feet beyond the irregular shore. The Edith went first, headed upstream, at a slight angle nearly touching the wall, dropping a few inches between each restraining stroke of the oars. Bert crouched on the bow, ready to spring with the rope, as soon as Emery passed the wall and headed her in below the wall. Jumping to the shore, he took a snub around a boulder and kept her from being dragged into the rapid. Then they both caught the Defiance as she swung in below the rock, and half the battle was won before we tackled the rapid.
Our days were short, and we did not take the boats down until the next day; but we did carry much of the camp material and cargo halfway down over ledges a hundred feet above the river. For a bad rapid we were very fortunate in getting past it as easily as we did. Logs were laid over rocks, the boats were skidded over them about their own length and dropped in again. Logs and boats were lined down in the swift, but less riotous water, to the next barrier, which was more difficult. A ten-foot rounded boulder lay close to the shore, with smaller rocks, smooth and ice-filmed, scattered between. Powerful currents swirled between these rocks and disappeared under two others, wedged closely together on top. Three times the logs were snatched from our grasp as we tried to bridge them across this current, and they vanished in the foam, to shoot out end first, twenty feet below and race away on the leaping water. A boat would be smashed to kindling-wood if once carried under there. At last we got our logs wedged, and an hour of tugging, in which only two men could take part at the same time, landed both boats in safety below this barrier. We shot the remainder of the rapid on water so swift that the oars were snatched from our hands if we tried to do more than keep the boats straight with the current. That rapid was no longer the "Bold Escarpment," but the "Last Portage" instead, and it was behind us.