Layer upon layer, we floated on, paying attention only to the course of the sun and the rapids ahead. House Rock was the first large rapid below Glen Canyon Dam. We pulled aside to scout, looking for the route that would lead us around the massive holes at the bottom of the rapid. After pushing off I started to regret my initial calm strokes as the 2,000 pound boat glided into one of the holes and flipped, tossing us into the frigid water. Instinctively, I scrambled to get on top of the overturned boat, hoping it would catch the eddy below. Once in calm water we collected ourselves and counted our losses – only two beers and a broken fishing reel. After the boat was upright I checked my Tree Ring Watch to see how it survived the rapids and to see how much time we had before dark. The watch was working perfectly, but there was not much time until darkness. November days are short. The watch was crafted from an 80 year old slow growing tree. The tree was born the same year (1937) that Buzz Holmstrom navigated these rapids alone, in a homemade boat.
I stood still in this brief moment and surrendered to wonder. In this ancient landscape, I pictured John W. Powell and crew exploring uncharted waters without any of the comforts that shielded me from the elements. I thought of the concentric rings of the watch and the layers of sediment that made up the canyon walls, each pattern telling hundreds or thousands of stories of drought, fire, and flood. Everyone and everything has a story to tell. We collect and remember particular moments, but in our busy lives don’t always have time to add the ingredient that every story should have – wide-eyed wonder. With some luck, my friends and I can tell their story of that “moment” on the Colorado River in the wild Grand Canyon.
As the days went by a rhythm started to form. A feeling to never stop seeking what is downstream, either on the river or off. The last day on the river came hesitantly, as expected. The journey is now over but continues to soak into the skin through all the dirt and sand in every crevice, inspiring courage to start all over again.