Monday, October 20, 2008

Day Two In Camp

Ote In North Canyon

We paddled through a few more rapids before pulling in for the day at Fahrenheit 451 Camp situated on a narrow strip of sand and rocks at the base of a shear wall on the outside of a bend in the river. It is so named for the temperatures it feels like to those who camp there later in the summer. As it was, it still felt like an oven until well after the sun went down. A supper of grilled salmon steaks, rice and a spinach mushroom salad was quickly dispatched. There was a quick discussion of the next day's plans before the clients

Not wanting to bake myself, I stayed up with the crew, all other passengers including the Germans were in bed, talking and writing in my journal. Ote was the only crew person joining the clients to bed at an early hour. Ote, short for Coyote, which I later learned was her name, is the wife of the owner of Grand Canyon Dories. She is a real character and is extremely knowledgeable on all things canyon related with lots of stories to tell. Having left my watch at home for the duration of the trip, I had no idea what time it was when we finally left for our beds. The crew always sleeps on their boats or on the two baggage rafts which float on the river. A couple times when rain was likely, the dories even had tents to cover their occupants at night.

My bed for the nights was a roughly seven foot long by three foot wide patch of powdery white sand between some rocks some ways off from the others. Kind of like a coffin with a view for above me the stars were shining bright. Upstream between the canyon walls I can see the Big Dipper and downstream Orion. Tonight only a sliver of moon is shining, framed by the downstream canyon walls, but it still feels like a bright flashlight right in my eyes. As I sat on my bed, I wrote down the wildlife tally for today which included four mountain sheep, lots of lizards over lunch, squirrels and a lot of 8" rainbow trout. Bronco had tried fishing for them earlier before supper with a fly rod but nothing was biting. I have always envisioned the Colorado River as it was in the past, big and muddy but the waters fed from the base of the dams is an emerald green that reminds me a lot of the Buffalo River in Arkansas.
Red Monkey Flower

During supper, I had spent some time talking with one of the baggage raft paddlers named Nick who was about my age. Like most of the crew, he was a ski instructor during the winter in Colorado and bounced around between there, the Grand Canyon in spring and fall and the Salmon River in Idaho during the summer. Right after this trip, he had part of the day off and then he was doing another dory trip for three weeks. This was his fifth year of living this lifestyle and though he was as poor as they come off the river or ski slopes, he was wealthy in my eyes. Later during the trip, I was even offered a job of rowing a baggage raft on the next trip and working my way to being a dory oarsperson after putting in my time. Never in my life has it ever been so hard to say no.

I had a life that I had left behind with a stable job that made decent money. It was waiting for me when I got off the river but wouldn't be waiting for me if I delayed my arrival for another month. It was challenging and rewarding but just didn't have the curb appeal as paddling the Colorado and Salmon rivers for a living. Besides, I wasn't nearly a good enough skier to teach so not having a winter income would really put a crimp in my income. Later during the trip, Nick would lose his grandmother's old point and shoot camera to the river. It was old and could easily be replaced at a cost of $50 or so but to Nick, it was a monumental blow to his finances. I just couldn't bring myself to get into such a position. Still to this day, I occasionally think of what might have been but a loving wife and beautiful daughter who wouldn't exist had I taken the job, always quickly snap me back to the path I chose and now wouldn't give up.
Fahrenheit 451 Camp


R. Sherman said...

I've been away and am catching up.

Marvelous stuff. I'm too jealous.


Beau said...

I can picture myself looking up at the stars in that canyon. I have a few of those "what ifs" and "might have beens" and understand your satisfaction when I see the joy on my son's face. The twists and turns of our lives are quite amazing.

Murf said...

What a trooper Ote is. Looks like she has a knee brace on and is still doing this.

Ed Abbey said...

R. Sherman - Looking forward to when you can get back to regular blogging.

Beau - They certainly are.

Murf - Ote was a tough old bird as we say around here. If you check their website, she still is listed as an oars person. Most of the oars people we had on my trip have evidently moved on to other things, including Nick.

sage said...

Great story and pics--I'm enjoying this ride and I can see that sky!

EcoRover said...

Hey EA, nice river stories & pics.

No Fahrenheit 451 here in SW Montana--another snowstorm last night, we're ready to track elk.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I still can too.

Ecorover - Welcome to my humble blog. As far as I know, you are the first published author to drop by. I love your neck of the woods out there near Butte. No snow here but winter is definitely on the way. We are already into the hunting season of Iowa corn fed deer, a meatier and in my opinion tastier version of elk. They are also easier to hunt.