Having reported on being in Flagstaff for the beginning of our raft trip down the Colorado River on last Monday’s travel blog, I thought I should back up a step and tell you how we got there.
It started with a strange phone call.
Peggy and I were in the middle of a three-year trip around North American in our small RV when the phone rang late one night. It was 10:00 p.m., far past the time I normally accept calls. They make me grumpy. Usually they are from a Nigerian Prince who wants to make me incredibly wealthy. All I have to do is send him a thousand bucks. But this was from my old friend Tom Lovering. I’m used to him calling at weird hours. He has zero sense of what constitutes a normal day and fervently believes that no one else should either.
He wanted me to immediately stop whatever I was doing (sleeping), jump on-line, and apply for a private permit to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Permits are scarce and the number of people who apply could fill a rock concert. So the Park Service does an open lottery for interested folks. Odds of getting a permit are small— teeny tiny— and Tom wanted to increase his. He’d been scrolling through his list of friends and had already talked a number of people into applying. The clock was ticking; the lottery closed at midnight. Given the late hour, I must have been near the end of Tom’s likely candidates, which isn’t surprising. I know zilch about running rapids.
Thrill sports aren’t my thing. I have always figured that the type of outdoor things I do (like bicycling 10,000 miles around North America by myself, or disappearing into grizzly bear country alone) have enough inherent danger without my challenging raft-eating, people swallowing rapids, or climbing up the sheer face of a thousand-foot rock. Not that I have any problem with the sports. In fact, I have nothing but admiration for people who have the skill and temerity to pursue them and make a career out of flipping off the old guy in a hoodie who carries a big scythe.
My normal response would have been, “Sure, Tom, I’ll get right on it,” followed by promptly rolling over and going back to sleep. But this wasn’t accounting for the love of my life, Peggy, who actually likes water sports and enjoys jumping off cliffs. During college, she had actually attended a session of the Nantahala White Water School in North Carolina where you learn to maneuver rafts through raging rapids. She followed up on Tom’s request immediately: jumping on-line and putting in for a permit— in my name.
I was checking my E-mail the next morning when I came across the note from the National Park Service: “Congratulations you have won a permit for you and 15 other people to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon! We will be sending you a 5000-page document (slight exaggeration) that outlines your responsibilities.” Oh joy. I called Tom immediately. He was the experienced river runner. He had promised the night before that if, by some miracle I did win, he would take full responsibility for organizing and leading the event. It’s a huge job that takes considerable knowledge about white water rafting.
At first, Tom didn’t believe me. He thought I was joking. Neither he nor any of his rafting buddies had won a Canyon permit in several years. And then he was ecstatic. Yes, he would recruit experienced boat people and their boats for the trip! Yes, he would make all necessary arrangements. Yes, he would plan the menus and organize the food! Yes, he would lead the adventure!
Then the other shoe dropped. Doesn’t it always? I was, after all, “the permit holder.” It was my job to turn in paperwork. But I also had serious responsibilities. If anything went wrong; it was on my shoulders. This ranged from people pooping in the wrong places, to how we washed our dishes, to more serious things. The Park Service had a long list of safety and environmental concerns. I’d be signing on the dotted line. There would be an inspection before we left!
I admit I had concerns. But these were countered by the fact that I love the Grand Canyon. I have returned to it numerous times over the years. I have both hiked and backpacked into it. One time I rode mules into the Canyon. Another time I flew in by helicopter. And I am perfectly happy just sitting on the edge and staring out into the vast space at the incredible rock formations. I did that for Christmas one year (and many other times). Floating down the Colorado would give me a totally new perspective. I was almost as excited as Tom and Peggy. Almost.
WEDNESDAY’S POST: We travel to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.
FRIDAY’S POST: I learn that there is more to life than dead people.
MONDAY’S POST: And why is Homeland Security checking out our food containers for a bomb on the our Grand Canyon rafting adventure?
34 thoughts on “Peggy Wins the Lottery… Rafting through the Grand Canyon: Part 2”
What a great opportunity you had. I’m green.
As an aside, have you read Levison Wood’s “Walking the Himalayas”? I’m on the last few pages and have enjoyed it.
A life time of them, Ray. But the Canyon was up toward the top. I’ve made a note of the book. Thanks. _Curt
These rocks are so amazing! There’s no end to the beauty. I love the 60s picture and description too, how vividly you write, the reader feels being right there.
Thanks! Glad to have you along on the journey. –Curt
Sounds like Peggy got you into a whole lot of ‘trouble’ but you seem to thrive on it!
She usually does. 🙂
Lucky you… as well as you must be very fit to do all those activities….
I wasn’t as fit as I should have been, Nina. 🙂 –Curt
You never know when Lady Luck will strike!
You certainly don’t, Andrew. And the key is to take advantage of it when it does! –Curt
Great photos and we did this with our kids and it is a remarkable experience.
Did you do a private tour or travel with one of the tour companies, Cindy? Unlike few other trips, that’s for sure! Thanks. –Curt
Do we get to hear how the voyage went, Curt?
Patience, Grasshopper. All will be revealed… 🙂 Do your remember the TV series Kung Fu, Dave?
Remember it being on but never watched it, Curt. Looking forward to Part 2, though …
The quote is from the series, Dave, which I really liked back then.
Now I’m really jealous. Fantastic photos.
Trying to get this to you before others are made aware of your social blunder. A faux paw of faux paws! Everyone knows that when approaching a village in a fast moving “Chopper”, regardless of which tribe, the only correct theme music is “Ride of the Valkyries”. You being a world traveler and all, I thought you would have known that. Shakes my confidence in you.
Grinning and hoping you have a NICE DAY…
Ah, Bradley, you would have to take that one up with our son, Tony. 🙂 Thanks… –Curt
What an adventure! And fabulous pictures
Thanks, MB! –Curt
Way to go, Peggy! Can’t have any moss on that rolling stone, eh?
Peggy’s laughing, Gunta. She says to tell you that she might not do that now at 67. But, I’m betting she would. 🙂 –Curt
Great shot of the falls! I’ve hiked to Havasupai four times over the years. Such a magnificent journey and place to experience. Your post brings back so many great memories. Thanks, Curt!
The falls are spectacular, Kelly! I’ve hiked/backpacked into the Canyon on most of the National Park trails but not into Havasupai. Having the opportunity to join our son on a helicopter flight was really special, however. Glad to bring back good memories. Four times, wow. That speaks to liking it. –Curt
Closest I’ve come to a rafting lottery was joining some friends who won a tag for rafting the Snake River down Hells Canyon. They had all their own gear and experience, all I had to do was show up. Fun times.
I’m sure that there would have been lots of similarities in the experience, Dave. –Curt
Still one of our best trips ever was rafting the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. Of course it was fully guided and all we had to do was hang on like we were riding a bucking bronco. I’d recall havin to sign my life away and am thankful I was not responsible for everyone else! Amazing that you got a spot.
It would definitely be a different kind of trip, Sue. But the rapids and the beauty and the awe would be the same! –Curt
Looking at that photo of Peggy heading up what appears to be a sheer, vertical rock face, I have to admit it: I have no desire to do that. Even if I were in shape to do it, I wouldn’t want to. But goodness, me. For someone who loves that sort of thing — what luck, and what adventure, even if it did come with those 5,000 pages of paperwork. I can’t wait to read more about this one.
Peggy is an adventuresome soul, Linda, always willing to try new things. As I said, she likes to jump off things. 🙂 Lots of adventure ahead. Always. –Curt
You really are a lottery winner! Good for you — and for Peggy. “What an adventure for you two,” spoken by a person who did well to stand on the rim and look out only!
That standing on the edge with nothing but a thousand or so feet between you and a crash landing can be a little intimidating, Rusha! I always stand a bit back from the edge and actually prefer to sit. 🙂 It was an adventure… –Curt