Day #19: Thursday, September 25-Lava Falls Reflection. Mile 237

Today, we want to share with you a video about Erik’s last training trip before he left. Erik spent his last training session kayaking with his twelve-year-old son, Arjun (who’s also been learning how to kayak the past few years) on the Upper Colorado River.


Day #19: Thursday, September 25-Lava Falls Reflection. Mile 237

The Colorado River becomes flat for long stretches, with small riffles that pick up the current and cause small boils. The huge volume of water folds on itself, as the canyon constricts and expands. This somewhat placid section is interrupted by Lava Falls, signaled by a feature called Vulcan’s Anvil, a massive plug of volcanic rock stuck right in the middle of the river.

We made a symbolic circling pass and ran our hands along the sheer face.  Lava has churned in my mind since our Grand Canyon scout trip, and has special significance for Lonnie as well since he swam there on his run last year.  It had been a day of anticipation, with the hurry up and wait of a river trip consuming the day. We ran Lava late in the afternoon, the sound of its chaos and massive waves pounding off the well-remarked upon features: the Ledge Hole, Corner Pocket, and the infamous Cheese Grater Rock.  Lonnie ran mostly clean, only flipping near the end; but despite my best visualization, my run was unexpected.

As the tongue of the current poured into the big waves, the water boiled and caught me off guard. I was upside down at the top of Lava Falls! I rolled quick, but the river showed no mercy, and we slammed into the “V” wave flipping me again. There is time to roll before the “Big Kahuna” and reorient, but it is not long, Harlan and I both crashed through sideways, flipping again, getting pummeled by the crashing wave. My mind was racing. Scrambled by the chaos, I pulled my skirt and I swam. I didn’t know until after the fact, but Harlan’s paddle had broken in half by the Big Kahuna. Upside down and getting churned by the rapid he was able to compose himself, hold the pieces of the paddle together and get just enough purchase to roll himself upright as I clung to his boat.

For so long I have contemplated Lava, wanting to finish upright and in my boat. That night, I tossed and turned, listening to the trailing off sound of the rapid.  I wondered if I should try to do it again. With the encouragement of my team, we rallied, hiked back up the beach, ferried across the river and then hacked our way through the bushes to emerge again at the top of Lava Falls. My 2nd round was not without excitement: crashing waves, flips and a few rolls, but I ended up upright and in my boat. I am so appreciative of my team supporting me on that second try; it feels like a storybook ending.