It didn’t take us long to realize that we were pretty much guaranteed to run into another group sometime in the next day or so. Since the park service issues one permit per day of the year, we were going to catch up to another group soon since we were on a 16 day pace as opposed to an 18 or 21 day pace, which is much more normal.
So 45 mins into our soul searching without a map we spotted some bright colors amongst the canyon’s red walls and felt that nice warm fuzzy feeling of security, it was another group. They we’re pretty far ahead of us, so there was just one 7 rapid that we’d hit before bumping into them. Without the info we just kinda went for it since the priority was to catch these people and get ahold their map. Well, in hindsight it was probably the most technical rapid of them all. The river turned a sharp right and the water split around a huge rock formation to create a small fork. We saw the other group’s boats go right so I figured I’d do the same. That is until I made an attempt to row right and it made zero difference, we were going left whether we wanted to or not. The next 30 seconds was made up of our boat pin balling around the corner, bouncing off the rocks five or six times until we exited the rapid backwards, and since Ben saw us go left, he decided to do the same and took twice as long because he ended up stuck in a whirlpool mid rapid. From where we were down below it looked really strange. We saw Heath standing up in the boat while it spun, but didn’t know Ben was yelling at him to get down in the front, “but I don’t want to get wet!”
We must have looked like absolute idiots. Two boats run the rapid as bad as you possibly can, then immediately ask if anyone has a map. They must have been wondering how we even got this far. One guy offered his map right up, and just like 007 I whipped out my phone and took a picture of every single page like it was the master plan for a nuclear bomb. A huge thank you and we were on our way.
After you run into other rafters, that beautiful feeling of total isolation kind of fades away. Once you spot one group, you become aware that there are obviously others and if you go too fast or too slow, you’ll overlap. I can’t say that I was a huge fan. I mean, thank god we saw them, but I had zero interest in seeing any more people until we saw Thor again at the takeout.
The middle section of the river is littered with really fun rapids, all kinds of 8′s, 7′s, and smaller fun ones on a daily basis. Sometimes you run them like an easy roller coaster of waves and sometimes they hit you from the side like Warren Sapp t-boning you in the backfield, but either way everyone is always laughing.