” Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it”
This Fall I was asked to row a baggage boat through the Grand Canyon with OARS. I’ve managed to keep a foot in the door here and try not to turn down opportunities for multiple reasons. Working full time with the Colorado Outward Bound School, as an administrator,it can be difficult to sneak away for two weeks to go and “work” on the river.
The head boatmen had given me a call on Friday and was able to pull it off to be there Tuesday night, rig and drive to lee’s Ferry on Wednesday. When he mentioned the trip, he talked about it being a dory trip. Having seen dories on the river and reading about them through out the years, especially Kevin Fedarko’s book The Emerald Mile., I’ve already been intrigued by them. Ultimately I’d love to build one, and be rowing it down the Grand. That was before even being on a trip with them and the guides that row them. Easy to say that now I want to do so even more.
I met the other crew members the morning that we rigged. At that point I knew I was going to leaner a lot. if you’ve read anything about the history of the grand Canyon you’ve probably heard the Dale name come up at some point. If there was ever a river family this was it. Regan had been rowing on the grand for 45 years and quit keeping track after 250 times down. His son Duffy, was the trip leader,and according to Regan, had gone down the Lee’s ferry when he was one years old and sit in the dory in his lap and row around. You could say somehow the Colorado river got into their blood veins and circulate throughout. Nick was about as good of a mash up of a mad scientist and librarian and river guide you could imagine. He also knew when to pull out the bottle of pendleton at just the right time as conversations got lost into the night. Rio. He was always game. Whether to go on a hike, to teach, to learn, to play, to grill the pork, to sew someones shoe back together..he was game. Combined amongst them, they had nearly 100 years of experience in the grandest of canyons. There were three more to round out the crew. Jimbo and Josh. They could’ve been brothers from another mother. They each brought their own piece of flare to trip. And Bob. Bob was a marine that had entered into a contest for a dream job. He had won through votes of family and friends and showed up at the boat house to jump on this trip. It was pretty great to see someone who fights for the country get to experience this place so intimately. Thanks Swamper Bob.
Now, the trip, I’d love to tell you every detail about this trip. But I can’t. I’m not going to tell you about the diversity of people that show up. The ones who showed up and couldn’t swim, or the one who survived the bypass surgery or cancer and wasn’t going to let a hike stop them to see the view from Nankoweep, or that Canadian guy that threw some good horse shoes and was so grateful everyday, or the fathers and sons that bonded, or the couples that found romance again, or that guy who fished everyday and caught one fish, finally, or that boater who was more lucky than good,the friends that chose to reunite down there, the stories on the dories at night as the bourbon was passed around, or the times of solitude, or as a group laughing and reminiscing, or the beads,or when the passengers gave gifts to the crew for appreciation, or the ones that came back later somehow frustrated, or that sunrise, or that bighorn or…..
There’s too much to share. So how do you? Through some pictures, or by going down there yourself. Go experience it.
PSA. For those of you who see this, and are interested in more photos for purchase or an album, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org