I don’t know what it is, but I have been overwhelmed with so many good things in the last couple of weeks. I don’t even know how to express my gratitude. Maybe it has something to do with me releasing some things that were occupying my mind. Letting go of whatever created pressure and expectations. I consciously did that right before I entered into my days in the desert, hiking around Cataract Canyon. Maybe it has something to do with whatever began to dawn within me when I stood in awe, looking down into the haunted Maze. But maybe all my luck was granted, when I touched the horns of Malcolm Love’s wish-granting unicorn goat back in Boulder :-).
Whatever it was, now even my biggest wish is becoming a reality: Going down the Grand Canyon on the river (instead of hiking it) in a dory-boat, which is the most special, elegant and unique way to experience the River. But it gets even better: I will not be a passenger (I would hate to be shipped around) but instead I will be working on this dory-trip as an assistant, or “swamper” as they call it here.
Ahead of me now lay 18 days of Grand Canyon exploration. Whenever I talk to anyone who had done a trip through the Grand Canyon before, their eyes would start shining brighter, they would pause for a moment, smiling somewhat dreamily and then say something like “it will change your life”… When I then go on to say, that I will be going down the river on a dory trip, the faces lighten up even more. I am envied and at the same time everyone is very happy for me to get this once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Now for those of you, who don’t know what a Dory is, it is a large wooden boat, that is painted in beautiful colors. It has one set of oars and is rowed by some of the best boatmen and boatwomen in the world. Since I myself have not yet experienced how special this is yet, I will quote Martin Litton’s explanation of this boat. As one of the first masters of dory-boating he must have known:
“Something about those boats, their elegance and symmetry and balance, seem to dovetail exquisitely with the Canyon itself. They fit together in a way that is difficult to articulate but impossible to ignore. Perhaps because each seemed to frame and perfect the other. The river imbued the boats with context and purpose, while calling forth their dexterity and grace. In turn, the dories provided a visual metaphor that distilled the essence of the Canyon. It’s seductive bliss, it’s vulnerability, it’s aura of timelessness and classicism.”
I would like to warmly recommend to watch the short film “Martins Boat”. It features Martin Litton in it, and shows parts of his last run down the Grand Canyon when he was 84 years old. It is just beautiful to watch the dories kissing the waters.
How this worked out? Well, apart from all the above mentioned measures of following the good fate and trusting that everything happens for a reason, I have “Bronco” Bill to thank for that, who has put in a good word for me. He is one of the legendary dory-boatmen at the just as legendary river running company “Oars”, that has been running dories down the Grand Canyon since 1968. And then it is also due to the fact that I am writing a book about the Colorado River, which gives me the chance to promote the company that is taking me on. And this will be an easy one, as all I have experienced and learned about Oars this far is straight out awesome.
As a “swamper” I will be assisting at whatever needs to be done. Helping to set up camp and kitchen, cooking and cleaning, being helpful and alert for the customers needs at camp and during the hikes and whatever else comes up. There will be four dories and three baggage boats (18ft regular rafts) on our trip. The crew consists of the four dory-boatmen, the three people rowing the rafts and three assistants. There will be 16 clients, which is four on each dory.
Today we have rigged the boat and early tomorrow morning we will be heading to Lees Ferry, where we will be launching before noon. Only after 8 miles we will be hitting the first rapids and I can’t wait to watch the dories dance through them and to feel the rush, not only of the boat I am in, but of my excitement when heading into the wild waters.
For this Blog it means, that from the 3rd of April to the 19th of April I will be way down in the Grand Canyon and far from any internet. I will surely be writing, but I won’t be posting anything. So you won’t be hearing from me until I am flushed out at the far end of the Grand Canyon, from where I will then continue, solo again, on my trip down Colorado River to the Sea of Cortez.
This is my face when I heard that I will get on the dory trip…