"The Canyon Trip Promised to Matthew Huggins"
First a some comments about courage and diplomacy.
Courage\ n [ME corage, fr. OF, cuer heart, fr. L cor -- more at HEART] : mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. syn METTLE, SPIRIT, RESOLUTION, TENACITY: COURAGE implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty; METTLE suggests an ingrained capacity for meeting strain or difficulty with fortitude and resilience; SPIRIT also suggests a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one's own or keep up one's morale when opposed or threatened; RESOLUTION stresses firm determination to achieve one's ends; TENACITY adds to RESOLUTION implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat.
". . . stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat." That's Bill Huggins on the tennis court again. He will win with garbage if he has to.
Unquestionably our guides, the captains of the dories that steered us through some of the highest, swiftest and muddiest rapids that Bill and I have seen in the four Grand Canyon river trips that we have taken show courage. There is no doubt in my mind that every one of them would willingly risk his or her life to save one of us tourists. The real question; however, is this: who was the more courageous - our guides, or Bill - who took his twelve year old grandson, Matthew Huggins with him on this trip.
I think it's a toss up.
This was the famous trip that Bill had promised Matthew from the time Matthew could talk, and the trip that Matthew has been looking forward to ever since he can remember.
As well as courage our guides demonstrated incredible diplomacy. The best example of this came at the very end of our part of the trip.
On the Bright Angel beach, as Bill and I were transferring our gear from the waterproof bags that Dories had provided us to our duffel bags to be loaded on the mules the next day, a very well dressed, portly and important looking fellow, having polished off an apple, threw the core out into the Colorado River. He did this with a great show of athleticism, making a pretty good imitation of a center fielder throwing a runner out at home plate. One of our guides politely told the guy,
"We don't do that here."
"What do you mean?" asked the athlete.
"We don't throw garbage in the river. We carry out all of our trash." replied the guide.
"It was just an apple core."
More firmly, but still politely, the guide said,
"We don't do that here. We carry out ALL of our trash."
(Roger Dale, the guide who was giving this advice wasn't being picky. He had a very sound reason for his instructions. What many of us have forgotten, or may never have known, is the problems that were created by unlimited numbers of river runners with no regulations on their use of the canyon. Before 1949 less than 100 people had gone down the Colorado. By 1967 over 2,000 had made the run, and by 1972 over 16,400 had done it. By that time the narrow beaches along the way had become more fouled than the average barn yard, and that year an epidemic of dysentery ran rampant through the rafters and their passengers. Clearly something had to be done. That's when the Park Service stepped in, limited the number of people allowed to run the river, and flatly ruled that all material taken in was to be carried out, including feces as well as garbage. )
About that time a chubby Ms. Portly ,(no relation to Mr. Portly) showed up - in all her finery. She had bright red, polished nails, (fingers and toes) an expensive pant suit, and was coifed with carefully bleached, curled and sprayed hair that remained rigidly in place (not unlike like a feminine version of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson's) in spite of the brisk canyon breeze.
Bill and I looked at that hair, and then at each other. The river was as muddy as in the old pre-dam days, before the Glenn Canyon Dam trapped most of the sediment up in Lake Powell. Every wave that had washed over us had left a fine film of red clay on our skin., and there was a constant renewal of a film of red clay on the seats and cushions in the dories. These two people would probably get through Bright Angel Rapid OK, and they might possibly get through Pipe Springs Rapid (rated 4 to 5 on a scale of 10) a mile down stream, but a mile farther on they would hit, or be hit by, Horn Creek rated 8 to 10. The high, rushing, red walls of water down there would wash completely over them
Within two miles of river running, that is within less than a half hour of boarding their dory, these well dressed boat passengers were going to be initiated into what a river trip is really like, and it is not like a pontoon ride on a lake. And once you start, you are committed. (No pun intended.) There is no way out until the end of the trip. Helicopters do help out in medical and life threatening emergencies, but not because of your hair.
If they had the same experience that Bill, Phil Roberts and I had a few years ago they would camp somewhere above Salt Creek, and then the very next day they would ride Granite, Hermit and Boucher Rapids (all of them respectable soakers) before hitting Crystal only 8 miles down from Horn Creek. Crystal is considered to be one of the toughest obstacles in the Canyon. It's the one where Martin Litton capsized last spring. Litton is in his 80's, but he's a tough old guy, and a very experienced riverman.
I think that there is a good chance that under the gentle and personable tutelage of our trip leader, Factor, and the other river captains that the Portlies would come to enjoy their experience, learn a lot and have plenty of wildly hilarious stories to tell in future years.
Hope it worked out that way for them anyway.
I have since learned that it didn't. Well, the crew tried had anyway.