Black Canyon, NV
March 12th, 2017
Jack and I decided it was time to plan a river expedition. We had visited Arizona Hot Springs last spring, and had learned it was possible to float the Colorado River down from Hoover Dam. This way, we could access an additional 4-5 slot canyons filled with pools of steamy goodness. We rented 4 boats and a trailer through UNLV, and found a company to assist in our put-in (Authorized vehicles only to the Hoover boat launch). Miraculously, a total of 11 of our close friends were able to join.
Friday, March 10th
Jack, Leah and I made our respective 9 hour drives to arrive at UNLV and pick up our boats. Thankfully, an unexpected time change meant we managed to be on time. Upon arrival, we realized that the only car with a hitch was the Subaru, which had no tail light hookup. We had to commit to driving through Las Vegas at night with no tail lights. All in good fun, right? We decided to eat some 5 dollar pizza on our way to ease the nerves. Once at the Hoover Dam Lodge, surrounded by 18-wheelers in the overflow lot, Jack and I enjoyed a pretty incredible sour beer. Needless to say, lip smacking, puckering and jovial laugher ensued.
Saturday, March 11th
Saturday morning, we drove to our half way point, Willow Beach, and paddled around while waiting to meet with Fitz and Rydell. Once they arrived, we took the Subaru and trailer to the take out and drove back to Hoover Dam Lodge. We spent our second night in the overflow lot, this time joined by the whole river gang. At this point we were introduced to Pegasus, the giant inflatable that Alex had bought to pull behind the canoes. Good thinking, Snail.
Sunday, March 12th
Our put-in day started early with a consolidation of beer, food and gear. This was followed by a portage, canoes resting on our shoulders, across the highway to our meet up spot with Desert Adventures. Not once, but twice, the 100 liter pack filled to the brim with beer tipped over and beer sprayed in all directions. Looks like we'll have to shot-gun them, eh? This wasn't the first time this group had had morning beers as part of the get-up-and-go routine. Our put-in went smoothly and soon the Hoover Dam was towering over us. We all marveled at the engineering feats that helped create this massive blockade as it loomed hundreds of feet above. At first, we passed by the Sauna Cave, hidden about a hundred feet up from the waters edge. We arrived at Gold Strike Hot Springs, where throngs of people lounged while a drone buzzed overhead. No drones in the park, Bro! This slot canyon, being one of the top hikes in Nevada, was not our idea of the ultimate get-away. We eventually made our way down to Boy Scout Canyon, where we stayed the night with another canoe bound group that we had put-in with. Our first wake-up call in regards to evening water level rise came as my stove was almost swept away mid-boil by the quickly approaching waterline. On top of that, a rank smell coming from a relatively unclaimed box turned out to be 4 pounds of chicken that never made it to a cooler. Whoops.
Monday, March 13th
I started my morning with a solo hike up Boy Scout Canyon. After scaling 5 or 6 rope-assisted waterfalls, I found a rock to sit and take it all in. I've never experienced a hike up a stream that involved both towering granite walls and bathtub-temp water, dream come true. On the way down, I expected to run into another early-riser or two from our group and crossed paths with Jack and Leah just as we both reached the largest pool. After our morning hikes, we packed the canoes and headed towards our next destination, Arizona Hot Springs. It was nice to head back to our stomping grounds from the previous year. We met up with Connor and Katelyn at the springs, then paddled back upstream and settled for a campsite about a half mile up. A couple worrisome moments followed. First, our first boat flip occurred during a cliff jumping session. By then I was passed out from exhaustion in the middle of the campsite, still fully clothed. Upon my reawakening, I was handed a bottle of whiskey and had to refuse. Instead, I enjoyed some curry and plotted to join Jack, Fitz and Leah in a full moon paddle down to the hot springs. For the second night in a row, we grossly underestimated the water flow and as we sped downriver towards our destination, it become increasingly clear that getting back to camp was going to be a chore. After a restless soak we made multiple attempts upstream before finally finding the right eddy line.
Tuesday, March 14th
We decided to backtrack upstream during the calm morning current and spent a full day at Boy Scout. It was a favorite amongst the group because there was hardly anyone there, the walk up was technical, and the water was an ideal temperature. We constructed multiple blockades for water to pool up, including one dubbed The Rydell Ruff Riders Club. All the while, we munched down chips and salsa or granola. As evening approached, our group split and half of us headed up to find Sauna Cave while the other half went back to Arizona Hot Springs to stake out a campsite. The paddle up to Sauna Cave highlighted the boat skills of Leah, Jack, Brian, Morgan and Kurt. They all have years of experience under their belt, and were able to find the most efficient paths upstream. We watched as Hoover Dam burned red in the evening light, and crept deep into the mountainside through Sauna Cave. The humidity and temperature steadily increased as we walked one-by-one in complete darkness into the depths. It was mystical, eerie, isolating. We blasted through our downriver paddle to meet the rest of the group, enjoyed a delicious couscous dinner by Brian and Morgan, and headed up for a nighttime soak. I sheepishly entered the springs with my boxers on, and after a call for universal nudity from Fitz, I stripped to join the rest of my exposed compadres.
Wednesday, March 15th
We made our way to our half way point, Willow Beach, and said our farewells to Connor, Katelyn, Fitz and Rydell. While there, Leah made a run for more beer and backup gas for the Subaru waiting at the takeout, a real lifesaver. We had seen a cove close to Willow that had palm trees, and decided to call their shade home for the rest of the day. That night we were kept awake by a group of hooligans passing nearby that were gloating about their newly bought machetes, sketch! I had my tripod in hand as self defense, better than nothing, I guess.
Thursday, March 16th
Our standout breakfast was definitely Thursday morning. We used dough to wrap up a wide assortment of poppers, stuffed either sweet or savory with ingredients like Nutella, cheese curds and sausage. To top it off, we used a pot still covered in brownie mix from the night before to make quasi mocha cowboy coffee. The second leg of our journey didn't have any hot springs, but it made up for that with expansive landscapes and longer floats. Our smaller group got in a rhythm and paddled until lunch, where we found a notch in the cliffs to sit in the shade and jump off when necessary. Our final night on the river was spent close to Chalk Canyon, and our evening scramble up shale left me practically petrified with minimal good images to show for it. Still, it was really nice to be on a less trafficked section of the river.
Friday, March 17th
Our last morning on the river began with oats and Cream O' Wheat and a little longer paddle than expected. It was a relief to find the cove that the Subaru was parked at, and see that the trailer was still attached and ready to roll. We portaged our gear and boats, then ended our time on the river with a skinny dip. This time I was not so hesitant to strip down. Packed with 7 people, 4 boats, 3 coolers, 2 extra gallons of gas and a whole lot of drowsy enthusiasm, we drove the Subaru up and over the mighty canyon walls. I found it fitting to blare For What Its Worth by Buffalo Springfield through the speakers and keep the sunroof all the way open for one last blast of desert sun. After dropping off the rentals, we decided to do one final lunch together in Vegas. Leah and Morgan chose a little Vietnamese place down the street. We dug in, and towards the end of the meal Leah asked me what I was thankful for, as she often does. I could have said just about everything, that my friends were willing to trust Jack and my crazy river scheme, or something heartfelt like being thankful for the amazing inspiration all of them have brought me. Instead, I said that the choice of Vietnamese food was on point. I figured, at least I hoped, they all already knew the rest.