Two acres of paved boat ramp greet us when we arrive at Lee’s Fairy. The transport van disgorges us as the gear truck makes a quick turn and backs down the ramp. Another private party is busy rigging boats.
From off to the right a long-haired 50-something man emerges. I think 60’s hippie or possibly the model for a Harlequin Romance cover. The pirate flag on his boat suggests otherwise. A ‘roll your own’ cigarette dangles from his lips. It’s Steve Van Dore, the last member of our group and a boatman out of Colorado. No one in our group has met him but he comes highly recommended.
“Please let this be the truck driver,” Steve later admits is his first thought when he meets our green and purple haired trip leader, Tom Lovering.
He also confides that Tom hadn’t told him we were a smoke-free group. “On the other hand,” Steve confesses, “I didn’t tell him I am on probation.” Somehow this balances out in Steve’s mind. There is no time to become acquainted; we have work to do.
The truck we just loaded demands unloading. Everybody does everything. There are no assignments. Peggy and I become stevedores, dock workers. Piles of beer and soda and wine and food and personal gear and ammo cans and hefty ice chests quickly accumulate around the truck.
There is no shade and the desert sun beats down ferociously. It is sucked up by the black asphalt and thrown back at us. We slather on sun block and gulp down water.
The rafts are unloaded last. Pro gives a quick lesson on rigging and then escapes. We have bought their minimum support package to keep costs down and Tom has done a good job. Our outlay for the 18 day adventure is approximately $1,000 per person. The cost for a similar commercial outing can edge up to $7,000 and beyond!
Rigging our five rafts is technical but relatively easy, assuming of course one is mechanically oriented. I make no such claims. Steve’s Cat (catamaran) is already set up and in the water, its pirate flag flapping in the breeze. Our other four boats are self-bailing Sotar Rafts with aluminum frames. Tom owns his own, a blue 14 footer named Peanut. The three we have rented from Pro are yellow, 16 feet long and nameless.
Tom is the last to rig his boat and it is approaching dusk. I hike down the river to find a campsite for our group while the rest boat down. Peggy and I are totally exhausted. We struggle to set up our new tent in 30 MPH winds. A van is coming to pick us up for dinner and we are late, again. The walls of the restaurant are covered with photos of rafts and rafters being trashed by rapids.
The wind storm has changed to a dust storm as we crawl into out tents. It covers everything and gets into my eyes, ears, nose and mouth. I pull out a handkerchief to cover my face. I am far too tired to make notes for Bone’s blog. I finally fall asleep with the wind ripping at our tent.