Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day Eighteen: My Betrayal

Baggage raft handler Nick Grimes in Travertine Grotto
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.

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.

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.

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.

Water speckled lens photo of Travertine Falls. Note people climbing.


sage said...

I have been on Lake Mead a few times, but further down stream and never in a raft (motorboat). It's not nearly as beautiful as Lake Powell, but even that isn't nearly like the canyon was before the dam was built. Your writing gives a sense of your feelings at leaving but also why you decided to leave.

Ed said...

Sage - I have never been on Powell and because we largely crossed Mead at night, I really don't count my time on there either. Lately, I've been really interested in the talk of eliminating the Powell reservoir so that they can keep at least Mead full. I think that would be one of the best things we could do.

Kelly said...

Lovely photos and the people in the second provide great perspective!

Lake Mead is lovely from the air, so I didn't know it had such a cesspool reputation. We also saw it when we drove out there years ago and again when we took the dam tour on our last trip.

You could always include a post about Powell's trip and Separation Canyon for those of us who don't know the story. :)

Ed said...

Kelly - The story is pretty short so I'll tell it here. After 99 days on the river, short on rations and facing the a really bad rapids the next day, three of Powell's men decided to take their chances hiking up out of the canyon. Two days later Powell and the rest of his crew exited the canyon and lived to tell of their first trip down it. The three men were never seen again and no trace has been found of their bodies. Leading historians believe the local Indians, the Shivwits, found them and accused them of killing one of their women. The men told them they had come from the river but weren't believed because nobody had ever done that so the were killed on the spot. If true, it was a bad case of timing.

Kelly said...

Thanks for providing "the rest of the story"! Not to sound flip, but what a bummer for them.... if only they'd stuck it out two more days!!