This Blob brought to you by Funhog Press
A somber grey overcast draped an uneasy quiet over the Canyon, accentuating our insignificance beneath limestone walls that seemed to press in from two thousand feet above. The rumble of Upset Rapid grew louder as we rounded the corner. Among the kayakers, a collective anxiousness was palpable, because leader Mary DeRiemer had laid the ground rules clearly: If you want to run Lava, you have to run left at Upset. This was the test.
From Andrew’s brave charge in the front to Wayne’s Blackadar-esque rolling frenzy to Rick’s unique big water line through the heart of the lateral, everyone succeeded in their own way. At the bottom, howls of relief echoed between the canyon walls. Adrenaline, focus, determination, and finally the joy and camaraderie that comes at the end of that one little victory, within an awe-inspiring place. This is whitewater kayaking.
Of course our fourteen day trip with DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking and Tour West wasn’t all high drama. Most days were the same old wonderful routine of life on the river: Wake to daylight and birdsong, go boating, stop for a hike, crack a cold one, eat, sleep, and repeat—the good life. My highlight was a hike to the 50-Mile Diving Board, due to be featured in the new edition of Grand Canyon River Hikes.
But I get to lofty heights in beautiful places often. This is my life. What inspired me most on this trip in particular was seeing a crowd of 50, 60, and 70-somethings who were kayaking and having fun with it. Septuagenarian Tom Cowden was the senior paddler of the trip. He was on his 23rd, and maybe last voyage through the Canyon. His presence offered me something to shoot for, three decades down the road. It was an enlightening juxtaposition from my recent visit with Rush Sturges, Ben Marr, and posse—the elite kayakers of today—around whom I felt more than a little over the hill. Kayaking clearly has many faces, from pushing the limits of class V, to challenging one’s self on class III, to simply following the flow and watching the cliffs slip past.