The slowly brightening sky casts an orange-pink glow on our campsite. After Brad, I’m the next to get up. Suddenly, the car horn wakes up the entire campsite. Max, who slept in the car, had set off the alarm; Brad, who held the keys, was off hiking by the lake. It finally goes off, and now, everyone is awake.
I make coffee, have cold cereal, and our whole group gets ready for the trip. There’s my resident, Ben, and his wife, Sarah; my resident, Mark; my students, Brent, Scott, and their wives Samantha and Becky; Caleb and Devon; and my friend, Brad, with his kids, Grant and Max.
We wait at the Hacienda Hotel and get checked in by the park ranger. The outfitter is delayed, because the group in front of us was late and took too long loading up their gear. Finally, we wind down the road next to Hoover Dam and approach the launch site. There’s too much gear, but we manage to fit it all in.
The first stop is the sauna cave. This time, the dam had been replaced, and there’s an actual pool to sit in. From there, we paddle to the next sandbar and have lunch at the mouth of Goldstrike Canyon. The hot springs here crystal clear with pools of varying temperatures. As always, the highlight is the hot waterfall under which is the perfect shower.
At Arizona Hot Springs, we find a large exposed site and have a soak in the slot canyon.
Mark and I get dinner ready. We cut up the vegetables, soak noodles, and make Tom Ka soup. Several of us took turns making the Pad Thai. Then, we sit around the campfire while Brent teaches us to fashion bread-on-a-stick. Ben and Sarah provides us will s’mores.
Even though the bright moonlight shown directly into our eyes as we slept under the stars, I awake Sunday morning having slept the nine hours straight. The river is calm and like a mirror.
I make coffee, and Mark teaches the kids how to make a fire. Brad makes the eggs for the breakfast burritos.
Before we leave, we gather around the campsite. Mark announces Grant’s recital, and he wonderfully performs three pieces on the recorder.
As we launch, gale-force winds pick up. The gusts pockmarks the river with whitecaps. We fight the wind on our paddle, and with every break, we get blown back some. Mark rearranges the paddlecrafts to even out manpower, putting the men in canoes and the women in kayaks. With that, we made some headway. Then, for the final two miles, the river again becomes serene, calm, and so tranquil it is as if paddling on the surface of a mirror. What a contrast from earlier. We are thankful for the breather.
We pull into Willow Beach about ten minutes after the appointment time. The outfitters are fine with it, and we load up, head back to the Hacienda Hotel, and pack up our cars.
What an epic trip!