Friday, April 21, 2000 - The sky was completely socked in when I woke in the morning but had cleared off by the time we shoved off. We had breakfast burritos and fruit in the morning and got the nine people who were leaving today sent off ahead in two dories while the rest of us struck camp. The remaining seven of us, only three of us who had gone the entire distance, got camp packed up and pushed off an hour later. We floated down to Whitmore Wash in time to see the last helicopter arrive and take the last three remaining people away and drop off a second family consisting of a single mother and her young daughter. The other family already waiting was a mother, a father and two kids.
Once again my emotions were similar to those I experienced at Phantom Ranch. Those that had been on the trip since the beginning and had left, had betrayed us in a way. They were deserters complete with guilty eyes. The six people joining us were infiltrators trying get to know those of us who had been experiencing the trip for over two weeks now through some of the biggest rapids in the world that are considered runnable by boat. Because three of the new people were children under the age of twelve, the entire dynamics of the trip would instantly change. Instead of grown adults with kids already off on their own or still single adults, we now had children around. It was like when some guy who had brought his wife to a guy's night out party at a bar. It just wasn't the same anymore. All this sat as a bitter pill in my stomach and only reminded me that my trip of a lift time was going to end soon.
When the new people had been briefed on boating procedures, we shoved off and floated down to mile 195.5 for lunch. We had sandwiches and assorted munchies mostly eaten in silence. Soon after we pushed off, the wind picked up and began howling upstream at us. Elaina, my oarsperson for the day fought it all the way to mile 205 where we had a pretty decent rapid to relieve the tedium. At mile 206, we gave up and pulled in for the night.
I found a rock ledge to pitch my gear for the night further away from the rest of the people than normal. The wind was still whipping sand everywhere, getting into everything, which seemed to fit the mood of camp. I retreated to the raft to escape the blowing sand and where I drank a few of the beers that had been donated to me with a couple of the boatmen. Almost all the people who had left earlier in the day had donated their leftover alcohol to me since they couldn't take it with them. In all, I was fairly beer rich with well more than I could ever drink with several cases of various beers and even a couple bottles of wine. This was the only positive to those that had betrayed us with their early departure. But even that had its downside because the two Germans had been some of those that had left and Jurgen hadn't left behind any of that excellent brandy of his, damn him. When I sensed that the boatmen had their own emotions to deal with and needed some time off, I slinked up the canyon behind camped to be alone until supper.
For supper we had chili, cornbread and a carrot salad. Afterwards, the skies cleared again as the wind died down and we built a small fire on the beach. As the people disappeared and the stars came out, their beauty seemed to bring back the mood of the three crewmembers still awake and myself. We talked about music, favorite songs, favorite album covers and favorite lyrics until late in the night. Tomorrow would be a new day with the crew, the old timers as the three of us who had gone the entire distance referred to ourselves, the older new guys and the newer new guys.