Sunday, June 17, 2012

Leave No Trace: Day 3

On the river, waking up was achieved one of two ways. Either you were slowly awakened by the gentle rush of water and the light of day slowly creeping in, or if you played to hard the day before your are awkened to a yell at 4:45 am. "COFFFFFFFEEEEEE!" Both equally satistying by the end of the trip. You stumble out of your sleeping bag grab your mug (make sure nothing has crawled into it), shake the sand out of your hair and make your way to the "kitchen" near the water. Kitchen is always close to the water. Any liquid waste here is placed in the river. The solution to pollution in dilution. So when your fellow female companion is in the water up to her waste only you know exactly what is going on and you just look the other way. Any solid waste has to be packed out. Use your imagination. It is amazing that a river corridor that is used by 30,000 to 40,000 people per year looks almost untouched. Thank goodness for 'Leave No Trace'ethics. Aboard the S-Rig today I place myself in a small section in the rear known as the Tea Room. Not as much splashing back here but you find a sense of freedom in the amout of space you have to move around and when the water is calm some enjoyed sitting on the edge rodeo style on the pontoons. This was a big day for many. The anticipation to see Elves Chasm and Deer Creek had been building. The easiest access to these points is via the river. To hike from the rim they are backpacking trips and in some places ropes are required to drop down in. Even though these are highly sought after places only a small percentage of canyon visitors see them due to location. It had been 2 river days for us and a 9 mile hike to get to the boat...and that is the easiest way. Countless times I have been shown pictures of these places by tourists and asked, "How do I visit?" And I have to say, "Ain't going to happen today, and definetly not in those shoes." Elves Chasm is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in Grand Canyon. The charming grotto is less than a quarter mile from the river. A delicate waterfall trickles around huge boulders into a pool in this shady canyon of ferns and mosses. It is possible to swim across the pool and pop into the cave behind the falls. And if you are cautious and careful you can climb to the top and jump off. Checking to pool depth first of course. Deer Creek is a spring-fed stream that flows through the western Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. The series of springs provide a continuous base flow to Deer Creek, making it a vital water source for wildlife. During periods of intense rainfall, Deer Creek can experience severe flash flooding. In the final half mile above the Colorado River, Deer Creek flows through a narrow slot canyon before plunging over a 150 feet into the Colorado River. The waterfall is named Deer Creek Falls. Its is visible from your boat and an easy stopping point for commercial trips. The challenge, it seems, is to expose people to this astonishing beauty before we destroy it, but not let the crowds and the commercial exploitation of tourists destroy it in the very process of showing people what we have to lose. Places like Elves Chasm and Deer Creek Falls are frequently visited and are in danger of becoming places that have visible scars. Our trip leader Dave took us up to an overlook above Deer Creek Falls to witness a number of social trails that have been created by thousands of commercial river trips over the years. Can we ever really leave no trace?