Crystal Creek to Garnet Camp

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The boring blue skies we had for several days earlier in the trip were starting to fill with interesting clouds. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is not an ideal spot to photograph sunrises and sunsets — from most spots there is little sky visible — but Day 10 featured brief but nice ones 11 hours apart. Clearly the long days of summer had passed. Here is the early sun lighting up the clouds from Crystal Camp. Near the bottom of this page you can see the sunset from Garnet.

The toilet was set up in a nice spot — private and a rock to hold my coffee mug.

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The 9-shot panorama below was taken from the mouth of Crystal Creek just a bit downstream of our camp. We hiked up Crystal Creek this morning and then ran the rapids that begin here.

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The hike up Crystal Creek was short but enjoyable. We saw tracks in the wet sand and scaled rocks to get above a waterfall.

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Finally it came time to run Crystal Rapid with a few hairy turns to avoid rocks. This would be the first of a day filled with challenging rapids. Here are the boats piled up at the start of the serious part of the rapids, one of the more formidable on the trip. Note the helmets on everyone for this one.

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Below is a slide show of Duffy and Nick running Crystal with Stefanie bringing up the rear. The photos are in the order shot. Both dories ran the exciting parts close together so it was challenging trying to figure out who to focus on.

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We were less than a mile from our camp at Crystal Creek when we stopped to dry off and have lunch. Then it was time to get wet again — in Tuna Rapid and Lower Tuna Rapid, also know as Willie’s Necktie. The lunch stop gave me a change to photograph the reflections in the approach to these rapids as well as amazing clouds overhead. Weatherman Roger commented that the clouds indicated we could get some rain in a day or two.

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This was the day to run “The Gems” — a series of rapids that got us quite wet — Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, and Ruby. Between the rapids I was able to get my camera out and photograph the river and the clouds.

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We approached a nice camp site, seen below, and checked it out. It was beautiful and had plenty of places to camp on soft sand. But it was not nearly challenging enough for this group. We (Nick) decided to move on down the river to a site that would provide fewer and more difficult spots to put our boats, kitchen, and beds. Plus it was a bit early in the day. We still needed to stop and scout Waltenberg Rapid, and then run it.

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We finally pulled into Garnet Camp at around 5 PM with less than an hour before “sunset”. Of course the whole camp was in shade and had been for quite a while because we were in a big canyon, the Grand Canyon. I tossed a few things down to mark where I thought I might set my pad and bag for the night and started taking photos. For a very brief time shortly after we arrived, the sun lit up this cliff across the river. The shadow on the cliff miraculously mirrored the cliff itself.

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The camp at Garnet, actually Lower Garnet, was very small. The beach was squeezed between huge rocks and was so small we couldn’t beach all the boats. So two dories were tied outboard of the rafts. Lew parked his somewhat upstream.

The camp was divided by a gully that led to the beach. Some of our dry bags and sleeping pads are in this gully in the photo to the right which was taken 10 minutes after the photo above.

The walk up to the kitchen and camp spots was a short but steep sandy slog. There were very few spots to place a pad and sleeping bag. We spread out on both sides of the gully.

The photo below, taken the next morning, shows the rafts and dories on the beach and the gully between the two sides of the camp. The kitchen is behind me. You can see that some of the campers have set up across the gully.

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In spite of its drawbacks, or maybe because of them, Garnet was one of my very favorite campsites. It was very visually exciting as you can see if you explore the 11-shot panorama below of our camp at Garnet. You can click this image to zoom way in then pan around. Please wait for the resolution to download. You can also use the + and – keys to zoom and the arrow keys to scroll. Or use the scroll wheel to zoom and the left mouse to drag.

The three sunset photos in the slide show below were taken 3 to 7 minutes before the panorama above.

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I foolishly chose to sleep very close to the circle of chairs. Actually the crew set up the chair circle right next to the spot I chose, and I decided not to move. Frank and Sarge had claimed the spot where the chairs were placed, so they were forced to move, complaining loudly but good-naturally as they did so. This would be twice in a row for them. They wound up across the gully, as did Stephen and Pat. I went to bed before everyone was through talking. So getting to sleep was a bit of a challenge. But I did it to myself, and got to sleep OK.

Below is a photo taken the next morning with a partial overview of our camp. You can perhaps make out the dories parked on the river outboard of the rafts. The camp circle is in the center of the photo, and my sleeping area is immediately to its right. That’s my blue tarp on the rocks. I’m attempting to dry off the morning moisture so I can shake off the sand.

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In the photo above Tony and Shawn are at the coffee table. To the left of the camp circle behind the bushes is the main cooking area, the kitchen. From that spot it is a steep drop down to the river.

Above the circle of chairs is the red and green hand washing station for the toilet. The green tarp and blue pad above the hand washing pails belong to Jill. She camped in that small nook there. The toilet was located down a path to the right of the green tarp. One climbed over the rocks and scrambled down the slope to a nice spot overlooking the river as seen in the photos below.

In the photo on the left, the toilet is below and to the left of the red reflector. In the photo on the right, you might be able to just make out the tip of a dory above the toilet area.

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Please enjoy the slide show that follows with more photos from a fantastic Day 10 along the Colorado River.

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