Day #12: Thursday, September 18-Granite Narrows

We left camp earlier than usual for a long day. The team immediately ran Tapeats Rapid. Shortly down stream, we entered the narrowest part of the canyon, Granite Narrows at only about 75 feet wide. It is amazing to consider the volume of water that passes under us continually. At the flows we are running, it is about 12,000 cubic feet per second, enough to fill a swimming pool in seconds.  Just above this tight narrow section, is a cut out in the rock on the left bank that is a violently recirculating eddy, affectionately knows as the “Helicopter Eddy.” Not a great place to get stuck, especially upside down.

The long stretches of flatwater below reveal some of the most spectacular depth and scale of the canyon.  The sound ricochets off the steep walls, occasionally turning me around to what is upstream and what is down.

Late in the afternoon we climbed up into Matkatamiba Canyon. It is probably the coolest side canyon hike that we’ve done.  A short walk up from the river, the canyon tightens and is carved into a smooth groove, barely a shoe width wide by the continual flow of Matkatamiba Creek. We tromped up the creek, stemming our hands and feet on either wall up to a massive amphitheater with a flat patio and practiced our Tarzan yells, listening for the echo.

Lonnie – Blind Freestyle Kayaking

At times, I’ve come to like paddling out front, away from my guides, chasing the sound, listening for an upcoming rapid. The ripples slap the front of my boat, and then become larger waves.  I try to get into a rhythm and my mind goes to what the guys see, crashing waves and the colors of the canyon walls.

When I dropped into Helicopter Eddy, I had no idea, but I threw a heck of a good brace down and a busted over the eddy fence and was surfing for a bit. I could feel I was up against the wall and even touched it. I heard everybody hollering at me. I hollered back that I was okay and just tried to feel where I was at and a good time to punch out and go on down the river. When I get into something like that I just try and relax and experience it, especially if I’m not getting worked.  You know, I lost so much independence and freedom when I lost my eyesight, 17 years ago but it sure is a heck of a feeling to navigate on my own. Kayaking is the most independent thing I’ve done since I was blinded; it is just me the kayak and the paddle, going not against the river, but with it.  ~ Lonnie

Lonnie chasing the sound, blind freestyle kayaking.

Lonnie chasing the sound, blind freestyle kayaking.

Ascending Matkatamiba Canyon

Ascending Matkatamiba Canyon