Friday, March 6, 2009

Day Eighteen: My Betrayal

Water Going Over Falls At Travertine Grotto

Sunday, April 23, 2000 - I woke up to clear skies and by now knew that it meant it was going to be a scorcher of a day. We had a miniature Easter egg hunt when we woke up for some plastic eggs filled with candy. For breakfast, we had some eggs of the real kind along with some fried potatoes and French bread. With fewer people, everything was quickly loaded and we floated down the river for a few miles before stopping at Travertine Grotto.

Travertine is a type of colorful rock that takes on many different hues but seems predominantly emerald green in my colorblind perspective. The grotto a few miles up a side canyon consisted of a series of waterfalls that we could climb up. The largest and uppermost falls required a rope to scramble up. We walked around but didn't linger as already it was hot when not in the shade and there was very little of it in the grotto. We floated downstream to another place called Travertine Falls where we had lunch and did another short hike. This falls was in the shade so we sat up there for quite awhile watching the water obey gravity and soaking in the coolness. I knew exactly what a lizard feels.

Roping Up the Falls At Travertine Grotto

Reluctantly, we walked back to the boats and pushed through a series of very good rapids before finally reaching the foul smelling stagnate waters of Lake Mead Sewage Lagoon. There were piles of Styrofoam, plastics and other discarded refuse tucked away in coves and niches and a skim coat of oil on the surface that coated the rock walls like a bathtub ring. If was disgusting that all this was done in the name of a few watts of electricity and recreation. The electricity I could understand but who would want to spend time on these foul waters when pristine water lay just a mile upstream?

We oared our way through the slime to Separation Canyon where three of Powell's men began their journey (beneath the surface of the water now) to the outside world that had slaughtered them. Now that our journey and my dream were ending, their ending seemed like a good way to go compared to the alternative of going back to my engineering job. After unloading the boats, I helped the crew rearrange them into a rig of sorts. Both rafts were tied side by side with two dories tied off in the front and the third off to one side. One of the motors was hung off the back and everything that could be was loaded back on.

Nick At Travertine Grotto

Last night, I had decided that I didn't want to see more of Lake Mead than I had too and I would rather spend my remaining time with people of like mind and not with the clients, all but two of whom had only piecemealed the trip and hadn't gone the distance. They were strangers to me and I didn't think I could enjoy the last night on the shores of the sewage lagoon. So I committed an act of betrayal myself and secretly asked Bronco if there was anyway I could come with him and the other crew who were going to boat the rig and gear out through the canyons and across the lagoon proper during the night. He looked me in the eyes for a long while and I knew he could see more inside of me than I really cared. I squirmed a bit and looked down at my toes and mumbled about how I didn't think I could enjoy a night in camp when I would rather spend it with his crew who had been so nice to me. I started to assure him at how I would do anything wanted of me and stay out of the way when he interrupted and told me to keep my gear packed close by and wait for his word.

Falls In a Slot Canyon of Travertine Grotto

We ate a supper of steaks, salad, asparagus, mashed potatoes and cheesecake, a meal about as fine as could be had anywhere but better. It was our least meal together. Bronco told a story of Powell's journey and what had occurred at Separation Canyon to those who knew nothing about it and then walked out to the raft. Looking back, he said he needed one more person to help out and then looking at me and asked that since my gear was still all packed, if I would consider coming with him. Without a goodbye to the other two people who had gone the distance or the rest of the clients and the two remaining cooks, I threw my gear into the boat and we shoved off. I never looked back. My betrayal was done.

Looking Out of the Slot Canyon In Travertine Grotto


Sage said...

Lake Mead is a weird place--I've spent a few weekends there on a houseboat--It's not as pretty as Lake Powell and I still think the dam at Glen Canyon is the greater of the sins... The last time I was at Mead, I couldn't believe how low the water was--leaving boats and docks dry.

Travertine Grotto looks neat... Did they say anything about what happened to those who left Powell's group and who was resposnible for their demise?

TC said...

Wow, you really led us up to this betrayal. Kinda makes me wish the others who had gone the distance could have gone with you too!

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - If I had my way, I would wish a catastrophic failure on the Glen Canyon dam and hope the resulting floods takes out Hoover Dam. But if I could only get one, I agree that Glen Canyon dam is the bigger of sins. I've heard that Lake Powell is getting almost as bad as Lake Mead. Sights such as the Cathedral of the Desert has now re-emerged out of water and can be seen once again.

The did say that they believed the men were slaughtered by the Mormons but that out in society that is still only a theory. From all the evidence I have seen, I think it is probably true.

TC - I don't. The other two though they had gone the distance, weren't of the same mind as myself and the crew. They were two wealthy Seattle urbanites who had retired early and now were just bagging trips for the bragging rights. Of all the clients, the one that I would ever want to do a trip again with was the young German Jorge. We almost always hiked together and he was really into photography and nature. We weren't of the same mind but close enough to enjoy on a trip. His father Jurgen was okay though we had a language barrier between us unless we were enjoying some of his very fine brandy after supper. Then, words weren't necessary. The rest of the clients are but faint memories to me now. The crew however, remain dear to my heart and I would go on a trip with any of them in an instant.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Wait a minute, as an engineer, you're supposed to praise all the dam projects, including the ones at Glen Canyon!

Ed Abbey said...

Mother Hen - I'm not that kind of engineer!

Beau said...

Cool pictures. And hey, glad you asked... no betrayal, just a genuine desire. How many times have we all not asked and wondered? I say good for you!

The Real Mother Hen said...

What kind are you? :)

R. Sherman said...

Sometimes, you gotta do, what you gotta do.

The three of the Powell expedition, are they the ones of whom it was that that they were murdered by the Shivwits Tribe? As I understand it, it was probably Mormons, leery of non-Saint spies.


Ed Abbey said...

Beau - Thanks.

Mother Hen - The kind that can sleep at night. I wouldn't design something that I have an objection too like I do with the Glen Canyon and Boulder Canyon Dams.

R. Sherman - Those would be the same men.