Today I begin my series on rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Since it happened a couple of years ago, I am traveling back in time. In fact I kicked off this blog with the trip, some 181 posts ago.
I never finished the series. Other things happened: like having grandbabies born, going to Burning Man, looking for long dead people (otherwise known as ancestors), etc. So I will start with reposting my early stories so everyone can begin, so to speak, on the same page. (Grin)
This series will encompass more than my trip down the river, however. It is meant to be a celebration of the Grand Canyon, possibly the greatest natural wonder in the world. I have been back to the Canyon repeatedly in a time span that dates back over forty years.
I have wandered the South and North Rim, camped in all of the Rim campgrounds, and stayed at the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. Once I spent Christmas week at Bright Angel Lodge with a view overlooking the Canyon. I’ve been into the Canyon by mule, on foot and helicopter… as well as raft.
Several times I have explored the inner Canyon on weeklong backpack trips. I will feature one in this series.
Our Grand Canyon river adventure started with a phone call. Tom Lovering left an urgent message. I had to immediately stop whatever I was doing (Peggy and my three-year road trip around North America) and climb on-line to sign up for the Grand Canyon Colorado River permit lottery.
Apparently the permits are hard to obtain, somewhat harder than walking out of a casino with a million dollars.
I am immune to Tom’s last minute schemes but the charming Peggy who loves water, loves rivers, and loves sunshine immediately jumped on-line and did the necessary clicking. Early the next morning we received an Email from the National Park Service saying we had won. It took me a lot longer to persuade Tom than it did for the NPS people to inform us.
I am not, by nature, a white water man. I put running rapids right up there with dangling on rock cliffs, playing Kamikaze on ski slopes, and riding the latest death-defying roller coaster at Four Flags. My approach to outdoor adventure is more in the nature of planned risk taking than thrill seeking. Consequently, I had only been on two real white water rafting trips.
The first was with Tom on the Mokelumne River in California in the 70s. Within five minutes he had dumped us into something known as Dead Man’s Hole. “Paddle!” he screamed. River rats love to give their favorite rapids scary names such as Satan’s Pool and Suicide Bend. They can wax eloquently for hours over the qualities of these death-dealing anomalies. Our detour “was a learning experience,” Tom explained as we emptied the water out of the raft and lungs. “Next time you’ll paddle harder.” Yeah, yeah.
Mark, sometimes known as the Gentle Giant, once chained himself to a rock in the bottom of the Stanislaus River to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from flooding the canyon with water. He also co-founded Friends of the River, an organization dedicated to saving the wild rivers of the west.
Our trip was rather mellow up until we came to a large rapid. Mark was having us do such things as close our eyes and lean backwards out of the raft with our hair touching the water so we could ‘listen’ to the river. He’s a spiritual type guy, one with nature. Apparently Nature had rejected me.
“Now, Curt,” he directed as we approached the rapid known as Guaranteed to Drown or some other similar name, “I want you to climb out of the raft and float down it.”
“I know, I know,” I groused as I rolled out of the raft into the icy waters. “It’s a learning experience.”
And that’s how I classify our trip down the Colorado, a learning experience. But I know it will be more. Every time I have visited the Grand Canyon over the years, I have come away with a feeling of awe and reverence. How could a trip through the Canyon’s inner core be any different?
So please join my friends and me over the next few weeks. I think you’ll enjoy the ride.