Monday, December 12, 2016

The Beginning

Prickly Pear Cactus and Snag

I stepped out of the airport into a brilliant white light that I hadn't seen all winter back in Iowa. Sunlight! I quickly shed my jacket and stuffed it into my already bulging duffel bag containing everything I would need for the next month. I walked off the runway into a small building that comprised the "international" airport and then out the other side. After looking around for awhile, I couldn't find anything resembling a taxi or a taxi stand so I asked the lone person walking around that seemed like they worked there. Oh, if you want a taxi you have to call one and pointed to a board that evidently contained taxi phone numbers. I called one and waited outside on a bench in the sun soaking up everything.

It has always felt unnatural to ride in an aluminum tube at over 500 miles per hour and breath canned air. Here I was about to embark into the depths of a canyon for a month and I ate lunch shrink wrapped and heated with a little plastic fork. I wanted to be a mountain man living in harmony with the land and couldn't wait to escape the reality of the airport, deserted at it was.

About a half hour later, a yellow taxi arrived, I threw my gear into the back and we headed off. I had made a reservation at a hotel where we were supposed to meet the night before the trip for a briefing and to do any final packing that needed to be done. After awhile the cabbie asked me what brought me into town. I mustered up my best John Wesley/mountain man/explorer/adventurer voice and said I was going to spend a month boating down the Grand Canyon in a wooden dory boat. It didn't get the response I had hoped for and in fact got no response at all. We continued on in silence.

I remember first reading the well thumbed through copy of Down The River by Edward Abbey and being hooked. I later learned that my father had been through part of the upper parts of the river on a huge rubber raft years earlier but it became evident with my questions that he couldn't remember much about the trip. I knew that someday I wanted to run the river and to do it the way Edward Abby had done it, the way it was supposed to be run, in a wooden dory boat. I began planning my time as I grew up and attended college.

As my college career got closer to an ending, I got serious. I did some research and found out that the same company that Edward Abbey had used years earlier was still providing trips. They offered many versions of the trip depending on which of the three legs of the trip you wanted to run and the length of time you had to do it. There aren't many access points along the way and if you were to start or end somewhere along the way, you had the choice of a hike up from the river to the canyon rim or a helicopter ride father downriver. I wanted to go the entire distance which helped me narrow down my choices. After further research, I learned that there was one trip offered in early spring when dory boats were allowed two weeks on the river with no other boats or rubber rafts allowed. I knew this was the trip I wanted and I chose the longest option which allowed for several rest days that we could spend hiking up nearby canyons. There were just two problems. The first was a wait list over a year long and the second was that it cost a staggering amount of money for a self financed soon to be college graduate.  With just a little over one hundred dollars to my name and enough possessions to not entirely fill the back of my Honda Civic, I reluctantly put my dream on hold and instead entered the work force.

I fortunately found a job that allowed me to save up my vacation, meager as it was, from year to year and they had no problem with me taking a month off. However, it took me two and a half years of not using a single day to save up enough time to take off. I scrimped my money and made do without if I could and finally the day arrived when I had enough for the down payment required to book the trip. I made the call and found out that I was the first person booked for that trip. I was elated. There was no backing out now.


Kelly said...

This is getting off to a great start! I am so impressed that you plotted and planned this for such a long time - true desire and determination! So often people (myself included) say "someday I want to..." and it never gets beyond that.

Since you mentioned flying as feeling unnatural and haven't read my blog long enough to have seen any posts about it - you might be interested to know I had my private pilot's license in a former life (meaning 25-30 years ago). :) I only travel commercially these days.

I'm glad you're treating us to this story. I look forward to the next installment.

Ed said...

Kelly - I wish I was born with some of whatever you have. I never really feel at easy flying and definitely don't like looking out the windows! But it has never stopped me and for that I'm thankful.

Bob said...

Yep, a great start. I love the way you saved for the trip and never lost sight of what you were saving for. I think we all have a sense of adventure inside of us and I love hearing how people lived out theirs.

sage said...

Looking forward to this experience. Are you rewriting or just reposting? Either way, I'm along for the journey.

Ed said...

Bob - Looking back, I'm amazed that I had the willpower to save up for it too!

Sage - I think you were reading my blog back when I initially posted about the trip or perhaps it was the repost I did a number of years later. I am rewriting parts that were clumsy to begin with and adding onto other parts. I'm also attaching photographs to them again since all the links in the old posts were broken during one of bloggers reshuffling periods.