Day Eight

September 2 - Saturday

Dad's birthday!

6:45 AM

We're almost packed up on the raft - today was an early morning to try to get us to the "Speed Boat" on time at 9 to 9:30. We just had cereal, fruit, and muffins for breakfast today.

We had steaks last night with baked potatoes and a birthday cake for Dad. Bear even had candles.

Last night Dad spotted a satellite in the sky, the first one he's seen ever if I understood him correctly. I slept pretty well, continuing the pattern of the last few nights - go to sleep in my underwear only, wake up around 11 to put a shirt on due to the cold, and wake up around 4 to get cocooned by the sheet. For some reason, I felt less rested than normal when I woke up at 5:15. I still got over 8 hours of sleep, so I don't have any reason to complain.

Lots of "lasts" now - last campsite, last dinner, last breakfast, last use of the toilet, last dishwashing in the river water, last packing of the raft. I think that it will feel strange not to do these things next week. This has been a wonderful experience. A great use of life.

12 Noon
On the bus going back to Vegas

We just had a sandwich bag lunch and we're driving through a desert full of Joshua trees. There are a lot of people living out here in Meadview and the surrounding area, and it looks like a very desolate place. We stopped in a little quickie-mart and bar (!) and a lot of people got ice cream. I can't believe I didn't feel an overwhelming urge to get some, but I didn't. I think I'm trying to protect my chapped lips a little and I had just put some medicine on there and gave it back to Gary.

After breakfast, we went through a few small rapids and Bear took us through in a way that didn't even get those of us in the front wet. I think that was further proof that he had much more control over the 'wetness' of the ride than he let on.

The two in front were Mike and me - the "Big Dogs" on this trip, although I have to give Dad and Kathy "Little Dog" status as Dad spent most of his time on the second row and Kathy rode quite a bit from the very front. Ray gets Honorable Mention for making frequent trips to the front and Gary, Douglas, and Horst need an award for 'supervising' those of us in front from their perch on the front ice chest.

I took a look in the mirror for the first time in 8 days back at the quickie-mart. Boy, do I look shady!! That long without shaving has given me about an 1/8" of growth but the worst is the hair way up on my cheeks and way down my neck. I look rough. And my hair is very flat and too long on the sides. It curls up along the line of my hat and makes me look a little more like John. I still have the odd dye spots and the highlighting in my hair. My face didn't even look familiar in the mirror.

We passed Separation Canyon where Powell's party had split and Bear told some stories about it. He also stopped to read a poem that suited our departure from the Canyon and return to the world above. We stopped for a pee-stop where a dam surveying team had camped long before, and Bear untied all our gear since the river would be calm the rest of the way. He kept the motor off for the most part and we floated along, and conversations turned towards things at home, the things we looked forward to seeing again and the things we dreaded.

The "Speed Boat" was a big blue boat that we saw coming up the Canyon, an odd sight. I thought, for some reason, that we'd be pulling ashore next to an already-parked boat that would be waiting for us. I thought the big blue boat headed upstream was on an "unfair" tour of the lowest part of the Canyon. Instead, they pulled alongside us and we moved our stuff over to the speed boat. Our time on the raft was at an end.

We said goodbye to Bear and George and shook their hands. We hope to see them again tonight but that may not work out. I hope I'll get to see ole Bear again someday. He's a colorful character.

We picked up the other boat's passengers and gear and headed off down the river again at a much higher speed than what we'd become accustomed to. The scenery was still spectacular, but we had all become jaded, I think. It seemed like some minds were already on flush toilets and clean water. Dad and I thought that this part of the canyon might be more accessible for Mom without putting her through the challenges of long-term camping. The water got wider and wider and so did the canyon until eventually we were obviously on a lake. We saw the towers for an abandoned bat guano mine - they held a cable across the river. The left side was high on the rim, the right side was much lower. Eventually the boat came to shore and we unloaded everything from the boat onto the bus. Dad and I got one last picture together (taken by Kathy) and off we went.