Southwest tubing report:
As a baggage boatman on the Grand Canyon and avid tuber it's hard not to think about what it would be like to have a tube down there. The waves would seem huge but almost less threatening without the burden of a commercially loaded gear boat. Some of the side canyons would be great to float through the pools and over skinny little chutes and waterfalls. On a commercial trip however, this cannot be a reality with the responsibilities of the staff and comfort of the guests coming first.
This March I was able to get on a 23 day private trip and made sure to bring along my Rocktagon. To be honest, most of the tubing done was around big camp eddies with beers in hand, but we got a fair amount of rapid tubing in too.
The first half of the trip was a bit cool, and we spent a good deal more time getting on some of the longer, drier hikes than playing in the water. By the time we hit Phantom Ranch, the temperatures were creeping up into the nineties and the biggest rapids were yet to come. We camped that night right above Granite rapid excited that one of the biggest whitewater days of the trip was coming up.
The next morning we ran Granite rapid and were floating towards Hermit at what promised to be a great, bouncy flow. I knew I would have to pilot my boat through, but it has always been a dream of mine to tube Hermit. Unfortunately, that was not to be this trip. To my surprise however, Alison, who had never tubed in her life, asked calmly if she could borrow the tube for Hermit. I didn't see a reason why not, so putting all jealousy aside I told her we would set great safety.
Amazingly, she made it through upright and had a great time. We strapped the tube in for Crystal but various people took it through the rest of the gems. There were a few spills but everyone always came up smiling. I even got to take it through the meat of Ruby and Serpentine. Running eight foot tall Grand Canyon waves in a tube is a truly unique and wonderful experience.
Somewhere around mile 135 is the single best reason to bring a tube on the Grand Canyon; Tapeats Creek. A spring fed stream that has enough water to float year round, it drops 400 feet in the last mile before it joins the Colorado. Despite the insane gradient, it never gets more difficult than class IV as it drops over may 4-8 foot ledges and twisty slides in an absolutey unreal vertical walled slot canyon. To quote Matt Kelly "This is the best thing that has ever happened to tubing!" (screamed at the top of his lungs in the deepest and flattest part of the slot canyon). Over two days we were able to get quite a few laps in between all of us, even with the mile plus walk up a steep trail to the put in. Unfortunately the only photos we got were of a drop in an open section above the canyon proper; it's hard to stop once you're in there.
Overall having the Rocktagon on the trip improved the fun factor for everyone. It added excitement, relaxation, and even more character to an already amazing trip.
~Write up by Jeff Compton