Burying Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey died thirty years ago today.

Although I did not know it at the time, I first met Edward Abbey through a book about the Great Smokey Mountains. He was the book’s author. Being a Pennsylvania boy like me, Abbey appreciated the soft round fullness of the Appalachian Mountains. So he spoke well of the place—in his own prickly style. And why not? With Clingmans Dome poking into the clouds at 6600’; with the historic hollow of Cade’s Cove deep in one of its valleys, with hillsides seeped in the eternal mist of untold exhaling trees; with the half-buried secrets of the Cherokee and Scotch-Irish settlers, you won’t find a finer example of the Appalachians than the Great Smokies.

Like me, Abbey also suffered from wanderlust, that itch you scratch with new place names on new maps, the next river bend, the next flank on the next trail. Before I was born he had wandered west. When I couldn’t hike or paddle, I had armchair adventures back in our little house in Grindstone, Pennsylvania. At one point I picked up another book called Cactus Country. There was that cantankerous voice again, ringing this time like a clapper in a bell—the clarion call of twisted spiny plants, broken down porphyritic rocks, gaudy sunsets, and a sere, always thirsty land. If I had slipped the previous book back on its shelf, this time I did not. This was new. And it was fascinating.

I was lured west. Or I should say ‘we‘ since I had a family by then. Admittedly, Cactus Country had an impact on where we pushed our pin into the map. And it was here in Tucson at the Haunted Bookshop—now a ghost itself—that I discovered Desert Solitaire. This time it took only Abbey’s name on the cover to make me read it. By the time I closed the book, it had transformed how I looked at wilderness; how I looked at writing; and how I looked at authors.

Abbey’s simple wilderness ethics and spare writing style followed a single guidon: his fierce independence. Well, maybe two, since he was a hopeless romantic as well. His approach to wilderness was  pedestrian, clear-eyed and uncluttered, save the necessary allowances for laziness and economy. His writing, too, was stripped to the essence. He had little tolerance for adjectives, placing them as carefully as an artist fitting tiles to a mosaic. He simply wrote down what he saw. If he described a landscape too fantastic to be true, it was because it was too fantastic to be true. He became the first author who made me want to read everything he wrote.

So I started in on his fiction. By the time I’d read most of it, he’d finished his “fat, American novel,” The Fool’s Progress. It was printed the same year as the 20th anniversary edition of Desert Solitaire. As a concession to being a Tucson resident, Professor Abbey stepped off his dais at the university and wandered into The Haunted Bookshop to sign copies. I handed over my fresh hardback copy of Desert Solitaire and, while he scribbled in it, explained that he had been sort of responsible for my kids, then aged 6, 4 and 2, being dragged all over the state of Arizona. We switched books, and when he handed back A Fool’s Progress he had written, “to Gerald & Kelly and three great kids! from Ol’ Uncle Ed Abbey, Tucson 1988.”

And then just like that he was gone.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then, traveling in ever widening circles, chasing his ghost. Or maybe using it as an excuse to simply wander in ever widening circles. The circles grew, in time, to include rivers and canyons in Utah. Then, just a few years ago, Arches National Park itself. And finally, just this past year, a river journey through Grand Canyon. It’s been an amazing journey. My plan, before the 50th anniversary of his passing, is to romp through it all again, with some well-worn copies of his books along for the ride. I suspect, at the end of it all, his ideas will still be valid. Which brings me to one other thing I want to say.

Abbey needs no apologists. I doubt he cottoned to that sort of thing. But I’d like to clear up one little misunderstanding about where he stands among today’s philosophers. Quite a few believe, maybe because of his unflinching advocacy of wilderness preservation, that he was a bit of a socialist. He might admit to that on an off night. But that’s far from the truth. He was a salt-of-the-earth hillbilly and a rock-ribbed conservative. I’m not calling him a right-winger. I can already imagine him bristling at being lumped with those pustular, rabid dogs, eager to fatten themselves selling our planet off to the highest bidder. Nope, Abbey pointed out often enough how to keep that fat mixed into the stew. I say conservative in that he actually believed in conserving things. The more irreplaceable it was, the more loudly he spoke out for it. And, he is also differentiated from the piss-ants of current conservatism by a sense of humor. In other words, he knew what should be shared; what should be kept; and he faced the psychotic babble of the world outside of those safe mountain valleys with a bit of sardonic wit. In short, he reminds me of home, of the people I grew up around.

Do I have a point? Probably not. I just wanted to say that I miss Cactus Ed, that my life has been a bit better because of him. When I sometimes forget that it’s good to be out there, out in the empty spaces, trudging along—cold, wet, tired, thirsty, hungry, lost—there is that voice again reminding me why it’s all worthwhile. And since there’s no sense in me offering a second-hand reminder, I’ll let Ed finish this:

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
—Edward Abbey, Missoula, Montana, 1976

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Waterlines

In years that I cannot run rivers, I write about rivers or read about rivers. This year I am re-reading Waterlines. Waterlines: Journeys on a Desert River is out of print. Maybe it never made it out of its first printing 22 years ago. Red Lake Books in Flagstaff, Arizona was small even for a regional press. It lacked the reach to push books out to a broad audience. The tiny publisher is gone now, and I might not know of Waterlines at all had Lisa Kearsley not quoted it in her excellent San Juan River Guide. She did though. The quotes contained sentences honed without appearing to have had a tool put to them, thoughts gathered from everywhere and coalesced into an essence like pollen become honey. These were the words of a woman who clearly had been there. And I had to have a copy of Waterlines.

But new copies of the book, ones that might send a nickel the writer’s way, were gone. Even the sturdily reliable Vishnu Temple Press no longer offered it. But someone must. So I found a used copy offered by The Old Sage Bookshop in Prescott, Arizona. The proprietor, Susan, sent it along well wrapped.

There were four layers of protection: a padded envelope; a sleeve cut from a leftover political placard. (George Seaman had been running for …dent …ict 1.); a page from the September 2014 issue of The Noise: Arts & News; and finally, Saran Wrap. Susan either knew the book well and wanted my little gem to arrive safely. Or she was a bit obsessive. She was also kind enough to personally sign the invoice, beginning her name with a large, flowing S that looked like a swan, then tapering off to an n that looked like it didn’t want to be seen. A graphologist could tell right off that there was more to Susan than met the eye.

Lovingly swaddled, the book arrived in exactly the condition Susan described. The previous owner had written his name in pencil on the title page. There was a slight crease in the cover where Vaughn had folded it back. The cover was also slightly buffed. It came, then, pre-loaded with memories—much like the path of the river it was about: the warm, muddy San Juan in southern Utah. But the book had certainly also been well cared for. I ventured that it had never been on a trip down the river it described.

And now I am, after a number years, reading Waterlines again. I don’t know why, but I am happy that the book came to me from a little bookstore not far from where its original publishing house was. And I’m more than a little happy that it came through a circle of women: the quote from Lisa Kearsley, the writing by Ann Weiler Walka, and Susan McElheran’s bookshop. It seems appropriate for the San Juan. The San Juan, like many rivers, has some decidedly female qualities. But it alone has this one: it has no use for you if you do not belong there. It may tolerate you for a time. Eventually, though, it will leave you no choice but to continue on your way.

I’ll let Ann Weiler Walka close out this post:

“…Welcome to sand in your bed and silt in your bath. Sleep under a shard of sky breathing the night flower’s perfume, learning from the stars. When morning arrives on the nape of the river, keep silence while the color rises. One day all too soon, you’ll take out at the appointed time and place. Until then, anything can happen.”

A Syncope Event In Grand Canyon

Hermit Trail sign
Galen pausing beside the sign that says it all.

“Getting to the bottom: optional. Getting to the top: mandatory.” The sign with those words is near the beginning of Grand Canyon’s Hermit Trail—a long, steep, stoney route from the South Rim to the Colorado River.

In the vast sweep of Grand Canyon only the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails are somewhat friendly to casual hikers. But even these are tough. South Kaibab plunges down a hot, exposed ridge, sloughing off nearly a mile of elevation before intersecting the Colorado River 6.5 miles from the trailhead.

If you are seduced by averages, Bright Angel looks better. It starts 400 feet lower in elevation than South Kaibab. And it goes almost another full mile before it intersects the river. But that apparently shallower gradient is only because it takes a slightly longer line across the Tonto Bench and through the schist layer. Its—somewhat—shadier plunge down a side canyon through the Kaibab and Redwall limestone and Coconino Sandstone nearly equals South Kaibab in steepness.

It does, though, have water. In neatly spaced intervals 1.5 miles, 3 miles, and 4.5 miles from the trailhead are rest places which, most of the year, have running water. And the trailhead is right at the most concentrated mass of humanity that Grand Canyon sees. On top of that, Bright Angel is regularly traveled by mule trains. The mule skinners leading those trains know as much about the impact of that terrain and that climate on mammal physiology as anyone.

So if you are going to be ill-prepared or ill-equipped to hike Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Trail should be your first choice of places to die. You might be able to get water. Someone may be able to help you—or get help to you. South Kaibab would be your second choice. (Although, it should really be your first if you want to die in full view of some of the planet’s most spectacular scenery.)

Despite all of the potential help on those two trails, the National Park Service conducts nearly 400 rescues in Grand Canyon every year. Some are minor, maybe nothing more than a ranger hauling water down the trail to a distressed hiker who will, eventually, walk out. Some, maybe involving folks suffering from the extremes of dehydration or heat exhaustion, and the attendant physiological and neurological effects, require teams of rescuers, Stokes litters, or maybe even pack animals. And in some cases the medical emergency is so extreme that emergency services must dispatch a helicopter.

So more than once a day, a traveler below the rim in Grand Canyon requires assistance to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation. For some, help comes slowly. For others, help simply comes too late. For all, though, the Park Service would like you to avoid resources that may be stretched thin, or rescue scenarios that may take time to stage and dispatch. They recommend “aggressive self-rescue.”

There are reasons to request immediate evacuation from Grand Canyon. Medical emergencies like a heart attack or stroke are examples. Heat stroke is a definite mandatory evacuation. So is any animal bite; anaphylactic shock; or vomiting and diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours. C-spine injuries also lead this parade. But lots of other things—sprains and fractures that can be immobilized enough to let you walk, dehydration that can be alleviated with increased fluid intake; heat exhaustion that can be alleviated with shade and cooling; fatigue; or other conditions that leave you mobile but that are manageable with effective intervention—fall under the category of “aggressive self-rescue.” And while it sounds extreme, it simply means to handle your situation and walk out.

This brings us to the Hermit Trail.

Hermit Trail is at the western terminus of a nearly 40-mile road that parallels Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Ten miles of that road—west of Grand Canyon Village—is now closed to private vehicles. The only way to get there is on a shuttle bus, or by using the gate pass that comes with a backpacking permit. In other words, there are very few day hikers, no nearby rangers, no mule wranglers plying the trail. If you are going to be ill-prepared or ill-equipped to hike Grand Canyon, Hermit Trail should be one of your last choices of places to die. Or at least one of the last places on trails that radiate from the South Rim.

I say all of this by way of telling you that I passed out on the Hermit Trail. I had, as my hiking partner worded it, “a syncope event.” Syncope is a very specific word. It describes a lack of consciousness not caused by head trauma. Syncope is the result of a momentary loss of blood to the brain. This might be due to hypoglycemia, exposure to heat, lack of oxygen. Or it could be an indicator of an underlying heart condition. There is also vasovagal syncope: typically fainting as a result of seeing blood or standing quickly after lying down.

My fainting came pretty much without warning. I was climbing a small rise on an otherwise downhill trail. I felt a little dizzy. I was looking for a place to sit down when I suddenly found myself in a very warm fuzzy dream. Part of my dream involved an insistent, lilting voice saying, “Gerry! Wake up.” My brain must have snapped back online at these words because my first thought was, “Oh, f–k!” What I said instead (I hope) was, “What happened?” My hiking partner is a well-buffered, well tempered person. So, she simply replied, “You passed out.”

Indeed I had. If I woke up confused, that stemmed from the fact that nothing hurt. Falling in Grand Canyon is no casual thing. What is not rock is air. Huge amounts of air. Falls of hundreds of feet are not uncommon. I had managed to drop right onto the trail. I snapped back into wakefulness not feeling any contusions, lacerations, sprains, or fractures. And this with a 45-pound pack on my back. So the world I woke up to, for a moment at least, didn’t seem real.

It got real much faster as my partner talked me through unbuckling my pack and walked me to some close-by shade. By the time I sat down, the situation we were in started tugging at my brain. We were five miles from the trailhead. As Galen checked my pupils, I puzzled out that we were well situated to spend the night here; that’s what we’d planned anyway. But where? Water was the key. Two or three miles back, we’d passed a hut and a spring. If we weren’t getting out today, that would be the place to stop. Otherwise, we had ten gallons stashed in the car.

Of course, there was a pretty good chance we would make it out. After a syncope event, the next thing Galen was looking for was a “postictal condition.” If the feinting was caused by a stroke, seizure or heart condition it might leave traces of confusion, weakness, arrhythmia, paleness or elevated skin temperature. I was awake, aware and alert. Galen’s check of my pupils showed them to be equally round and reactive. While my heart rate was elevated—I was, after all, hiking in Grand Canyon—my body temperature fit the category of “warm, pink and dry.”

Galen knew to check all of these things because she had spent the previous two days re-certifying as a Wilderness First Responder. I knew she was right about these things because I had taken a Wilderness First Aid course before my river trip.

This brings me to “aggressive self-rescue.” We could have called in the choppers. I had a PLB—a personal locator beacon. Both of us had handheld ham radios. Both radios were already programmed for the transmit and receive frequencies on the repeater at Hopi Point. If we had sporadic radio contact from behind the ridge we’d been descending, Galen could have easily hiked down to the Tonto Rim and into line-of-sight of that antenna. With her experience as a SAR volunteer, she already knew how to make a condition report. But if there was rotor clearance anywhere along that ridge, I certainly could not see it. A Stokes litter would be hours getting to us. That meant it would not be there today. Getting out that way would involve a team of rescuers taking turns moving the litter up rough, steep terrain. These were not good options. Given that I woke up immediately with no symptoms pointing to an underlying medical problem, our best choice seemed to be to walk out.

So we began the slow trek back uphill.

Along the way, we met the usual variety of folks making the descent: A pair of septuagenarians—old ladies, in the parlance of our times—looking as fresh as daisies came down the trail. They were planning four nights in the Big Ditch. A pair of twenty-something’s came bounding down the trail as casual as mountain goats. They had no plan. They had gotten off the bus with a gallon jug of water each and decided to “see what was down there.” When we encountered them, they were seeing a pink Grand Canyon rattlesnake. That’s a rare sighting. And it was the first rattlesnake either of them had ever seen. (I’m glad they scared it up. Galen and I had never seen a Grand Canyon rattlesnake before either.)

Eventually we arrived at the spring. Galen busied herself out in the blearing sunlight refilling our water bags. Dehydration is a possible cause of feinting. So, I’d sucked through all four liters of my water. Overheating is another possible cause. So, we’d used some of Galen’s water to keep my hat and bandanna wet. Feeling more than a little useless, I sat in the shady hut drinking even more water. Despite my snail’s pace, it had become clear that we could probably get out before dark. And the afternoon heat was dissipating. So Galen patiently squeezed another four liters of water through her filter.

With that she made some entries into the hut’s log book. We transferred about ten pounds from my pack to hers. Then we set off for the final corkscrew ascent to the rim.

Near the intersection of the Waldor Trail, I think I finally convinced Galen that I was in no real danger. She agreed to take her—now very heavy —pack to the car and come back down. I promised to sit down and lean on my pack if I felt even slightly dizzy.

This we did. Galen soon disappeared into the switchbacks above me. I plodded along like a desert tortoise, sitting down occasionally to keep my promise.

It might be more fun if this story took a dramatic turn. But it ends just like you’d imagine. While I had clearly gone into Grand Canyon lacking the proper physical conditioning, both of us were prepared for the emergency that arose. In the end, we addressed the three most likely causes of my syncope event—low blood sugar, dehydration and overheating—and then simply walked out. Handling the emergency was well within the resources that we had. In fact, we could have handled much worse.

So our mission was a failure. We did not get to fall asleep to the roar of Hermit Rapid. We did not get away from the night lights and traffic noise. But those things were optional. We self-rescued, making our mandatory trek back to the rim: me, with a hard lesson learned; Galen, with a little more SAR experience under her belt. Neither of us, I think, any worse for the wear.

Hopi Point
The view from Hopi Point looking west. A ham radio repeater is behind us across the West Rim Drive. The Hermit Trail and Hermit Rapid are hidden behind the ridges.

Epilogue: Galen generously booked us into a hotel in Tusayan for the night. Between that and a full steak dinner at the Yippe-Ie-O! Steakhouse I felt fully re-engaged. My distal pulse, which had been faint all day from dehydration, got stronger. My urinary output increased. The following day we did a hike to Horseshoe Mesa and back. My pulse rate remained elevated. But I showed no other signs of the previous day’s problems.

On the pink Grand Canyon rattlesnake: the rarity of the sighting was the pink coloration. The Grand Canyon rattlesnake itself is not particularly rare. It comes in a variety of colors depending on its specific habitat.

Grand Canyon in 400,00 words

I’ve been kind of distracted when it comes to writing about our boat trip trough Grand Canyon. But, if a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a link to a video I made that should be worth about 400,000 words. Enjoy!

 

Shipmates

I still remember the first time I fell out of a raft. Ejected, really. It was my first trip, my first time down the Youghiogheny. In front of me in the 4-person raft was the woman who would become, and still is, my sister-in-law. Debbie was wearing blue shorts. Not the cutoff blue jeans that were so popular at the time. No. These shorts were neatly hemmed because, well, that was Debbie. And they were freshly creased from the iron that morning because that too was Debbie.

Anyway, we’d dropped into Double Hydraulic Rapid and just hit the second hole. My entire world, which had been a rush of motion and noise and flashing paddles, suddenly froze. Sound stopped. Motion stopped. Except me. I dutifully obeyed Newton’s First Law. Since the world had stopped, I had time to think. I thought how strange it was that on my exact same trajectory out of the boat was that pair of blue shorts. I followed the blue shorts into the water. The world turned green. And cold. My motion became smooth and liquid. Then, almost instantly, I popped up into the air and into the rush of motion and noise that preceded my ejection. Beside me was Debbie, whose eyes said she was very unsure of her new status. And then there were hands helping us back into the raft.

I’ve been really lucky in the number of times I’ve been able to play about on rivers. I remember that moment and a thousand more like it. I remember being launched onto the crest of waves so big you’d swear that you could see out of the canyon from the top. That always seemed to be followed by the giddy rush of sliding down the backside, combined with the cold terror of wondering what the next wave would do. There were days when your paddle could do no wrong. You could dig it into the backwater behind a rock and turn the raft like the partial pirouette of a bullfighter’s veronica. You could start down a rapid with the ideal line mapped into your brain: every wave, rock, hole, and fleck of foam aligning like a run ordained. Other days, your paddle seemed to scrape every rock or catch every wayward flow, sending you bouncing down the river like a drunken pinball.

I remember springtime hillsides snowy with trillium and dogwood; summertime runs through fog and forests so green as to have been painted with acrylics; autumn days with the canyons looking like they were being sanctified by fire. Oh, yes, and that crazy time on the San Juan. We were in the undulating 180 degree turns of the Goosenecks. We seemed to be floating on copper. And it felt like we weren’t propelling ourselves. It felt like the canyon was being pulled past us by melange-baked Guild navigators. The walls turned. The sun rolled unpredictably left and right. Now forward. Now behind us. All without a single drop of psilocybin. Crazy.

But in all of that, my real river memories are memories of the people who went along. Some nights, like last night, it feels like I can remember each and every one. Their faces flash in my mind like a slide show. Some smiling. Some relieved. Some apprehensive. Some went once. Both my brother and Debbie retired their river shorts after our virgin run on the Yough. Others went again and again, even as we sought out bigger, tougher, bolder water.

Sometimes the slideshow is a soundtrack. On our second trip–this time without commercial guides–we were not quite sure about keeping lunches dry. Maryann (one of my all-time favorite hippie chicks) suggested Tupperware. So we sealed our sandwiches in plastic and tossed the containers on the floor of the raft. Mistake. At lunch, bald, bearded, barrel-chested David pulled out his now soaked sandwich, wrung it out and took a big bite. I can’t stand soggy bread so he might as well have eaten a handful of maggots. While I gagged, he broke into a huge smile, turned to his wife and boomed, “You pack a great lunch, Maryann!”

Sometimes the slideshow is a film clip on an endless loop. At Bottle of Wine Rapid one day I told the other paddle captains, “Go right or left. Just stay off the rock in the middle.” I eddied out at the bottom and turned just in time to see Gary start down. From 80 yards away, I could see Gary’s eyes grow round. His lips formed the words Oh Shit as he realized just what rock I was talking about, the raft and crew plunging over the boulder, out of sight, into the hole below. Rewind. Replay. Maybe I should have mentioned that, at that water level, the rock in the middle was submerged.

Gary. Jim. Gawain. Kelly. Maryann. Darrell. Dave. Boof. Mark. Dean. Carlitta. Matt. Heather. The names and faces rattle around in my head. 

So the river is the milieu. The rapids are talking points. What matters are the people who go with us.

Grand Canyon was no different.

The rapids were amazing. Crystal and Lava had bigger waves and holes than any I have ever seen. And I’ve seen 16’ rafts swallowed whole. Crystal threatened to kick our ass and make no apologies. We scouted Lava a long time. But at the end, there was nothing to do but put your boat on the bubble line and pray to the river gods.

Even some of the smaller ones were eye-openers. Hitting the lateral at House Rock was like taking a punch from a prizefighter. Hance rolled one of our 18’ rafts like a cat in a catnip patch. Sapphire broke Barry’s oarlock and whacked Rick’s knee with his own oar. The twisting opening of Serpentine’s right run sent us backwards through the big bottom waves. And I think I might have nightmares of scouting Upset. Was it my imagination, or did we stand in a cold gray rain watching every molecule of water in the river being eaten by that churning hydraulic wave?

The scenery is stupefying. I’m not sure I can say what I saw. I saw us squeeze through Marble Gorge with the walls at first at some sort of human scale. But those rose each day until they were impossibly high, reflecting every angle and color of light. At the Unkar Delta, the canyon suddenly opened into vistas; the actual rim appeared; and the scale overwhelmed. Presto! The view collapsed again in the Inner Gorge, the schist pressing in like a dark, obsidian dream. Then after squeezing through the Granite Narrows, slowly, slowly, the walls fell again and the canyon opened back up. Through it all, the rain, the clouds, the bright blue sky, our passage down the river, and the orbiting sun, changed the light constantly. No two moments were the same. Before we launched, I was sure I would be bored at times. But the ever-changing cosmic scale of the light show left me twisting to see in every direction at once.

And the side hikes and stops. . . At Carbon Creek, our walk through the schist into Painted Desert colors under the brow of the North Rim was amazing. At the enormous Redwall Cavern, in its full glowing light, aerial acrobats had set up silks. It is that inspiring a place. At Nautiloid Canyon, ancient sea creatures left signatures from a past out of mind. Elves Chasm? The name says it all. At Deer Creek, a waterfall plunging nearly 200 feet almost directly into the river thrilled boaters. But for the hiker, a short ascent from there offered one of the biggest vistas in the canyon; then views into a slot canyon; then a smaller playful waterfall decked by cottonwood trees–The Patio. Weird salt crystals, cool shady creeks, granaries, pictographs, expansive views–every stop and side hike offered something new.

But it will be the people I remember. In 18 days I felt like I was getting to know Grand Canyon a little. If not on a first name basis, certainly more than a casual acquaintance. But with my traveling companions, every moment revealed more depth. Each action, every sentence spoken, one more mile traveled, revealed another level of patience, playfulness, skill, wisdom, or exuberance. At some point, I realized that what could be known was outstripping the time I had to know it. Some of these shipmates I’d known for years. Some I met putting the trip together. Some were perfect strangers to me. I met them while I was thigh-deep in the icy Colorado helping rig our boat. But by the end, I would not have traded a minute with any of them for anyone else.

And so, thank you–Barry & Beverly, Scott & Linda, Rick & Jenny, Pat & Merry, Sarah, Melanie, Lance, Steve, Jenni, and Mark. This little journey down Grand Canyon was the trip of a lifetime for me. In turns, your kindness, patience, wisdom, experience, skill, and enthusiasm made it more enjoyable, and more memorable, than I could have ever hoped.

I hope we meet again soon.

Joy, shipmates, joy!