They say "you only see what you know". Grand Canyon boatmen see things differently. Amanda had never run the left side of Lava and the line she now saw was to just miss the left end of the Ledge Hole and mostly straight down from there, hanging on through a couple of big hits. Over-analysis of the left side would be our entertainment the rest of the night and into the morning.
After an hour we were back at the boats. I set up my cot in the middle of the scout trail and joined Amanda and Scott on Amanda’s boat for cocktails and dinner of deli sandwiches. It was actually a very fun and obviously memorable evening, but a not-so-great night’s sleep. After morning coffee, we re-scouted from the right side and then returned to the boats, dressed for battle, and rigged to flip. After seeing John’s empty 'dry boxes', I’ll tell you I have never rigged a boat so tight! We then rowed to the far side and scouted the various left-side features up close.
As expected, the left side was no big deal, but the rush was awesome when I looked back to see that we had all three made it safely through. We pulled into Tequila Beach, got out of our dry suits, and toasted our success with swigs of Hussong’s chased with margaritas. The realization that I was finally 'below Lava' washed over me along with the Tequila. It was all pretty sweet. We soon shoved off, anxious to reunite with the rest of our tribe. We found them at Upper Chevron camp a couple miles downstream. After hugs all around and more toasts, we got to hear their side of the story. Scotty was OK, but had a gash on his leg where he'd contacted the bottom of the river. He'd become pretty concerned as gear began to appear in the current. Scotty chased down all that he could, including John’s Watershed bag and sleeping bag. The later was now drying in the sun, hung over a vertical oar and looking much like a giant corn dog. Before we reached them, we'd found John’s sleeping pad, shredded and wrapped around a rock in midstream. While John’s losses were material, Martin and Scotty had the worst of it psychologically as they had to wait it out, not knowing what had transpired at the foot of Lava Falls until Mike and John reached them in the evening.
In the end, much of John’s gear was gone. But his cockpit box full of valuables and his yellow Watershed bag were intact. The bag got loose despite our securing it above the slot. When recovered, we found that every strap had been pulled completely off, ripped from the fabric, leaving a rather bald-looking bag. But its contents were dry – an awesome testimony to Watershed products. As a group, we lost our toilet seat and riser, but Mike cut up the broken Cataract shaft to make 2 very workable “rails” that fit along the edges of a rocket box. That arrangement served us well for the rest of the trip. Way to go Mike!
The remainder of our Grand Canyon adventure was uneventful by comparison, but provided me with wonderful memories: awesome hikes, great camaraderie around the fire, and the the night float out to Pierce Ferry with Amanda and Martin dancing and doing the moon-walk on the deck of Scotty’s cat. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip... and I certainly satisfied my curiosity about Lava Falls!
(Below is a full-resolution zoom-able photo of Lava Falls taken that evening.)