We woke in good spirits in preparation of our night on the Colorado. After a ridiculously massive breakfast of eggs and jalapeno sope (yummy, extra thick Mexican tortilla) from the gruff Arizonian chef at the lodge, we picked up the rental canoe and strapped it to the roof of our car (again, don’t tell the rental company). The chef told us about the condor release project and that you can sometimes see these incredible birds circling the Vermillion Cliffs.
Our plan was a two-day canoing trip from the Glen Canyon dam down the Colorado River through the canyon that eventually becomes the Grand Canyon, with a night camping on the banks. As the flow from the dam is fairly strong, we booked a backhaul boat to take us up river rather than try to paddle against the flow. As we had time before the boat, we drove (slowly) to nearby Marble Canyon to look at the view and spot condors. Amazingly, we saw one. They are huge birds, ugly as sin (like massive, freakish vultures) with 10 foot wingspans. The bird circled the cliffs and was attacked by a couple of foolhardly crows. Crows are epic – they don’t give a damn about anything.
We went to the launch site and got our backhaul up to the canyon. There was a group of people planning to raft down the Grand Canyon (it takes 22 days and seems to require more planning and equipment than Hannibal crossing the Alps) – compared to them, we looked both proper and unprepared. We had heard a rumour that Americans are so aware of terrorism since 9/11 that snipers line up along the Glen Canyon dam to prevent anyone trying to paddle right up to the valuable structure. We asked our backhaul captain about this and he laughed, but did not deny such rumours.
Deposited downriver of the dam, we started our journey by canoe. The water was clear and beautifully green. We saw two other boats on the river – both fishermen – but no one else. We saw diving hawks scoop fish from the water and chattering crows followed our progress from the cliffs. Murders of crows, in fact, as promised. Far quicker than we expected, we reached our campsite three miles downriver and hauled up. No one else was camping and we didn’t see a soul as we put up our tent and set a fire to cook chilli and more s’mores. A more beautiful spot to sleep has yet been found. I anticipated a night of tranquillity in the heart of nature, far away from the intrusion and frustrations of human noise and misery.
Instead, I was terrorised all night by chipmunks. The little f***ers climbed under our tent, over our tent, chewed at the fastenings and generally made a nuisance until dawn. Now, chipmunks are small and cute but when you are lying at a supposedly isolated campsite with only a thin sheet of nylon between your physical being and your recollections of a thousand horror films (Wolf Creek? Eden Lake? I Spit on Your Grave? Blair Witch Project? Evil Dead? Shall I go on?), even the tiny scamperings of a rodent can be terrifying. We also heard larger, more determined animals pushing through the trees – we had read warnings of mountain lions that prowl the banks of the Colorado. And after waking to try and catch the rodents in the act, I found instead a MASSIVE spider on my pillow. Yep, no sleep for Amy.