The night before we started on our raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon we met the head guide, Dave Edwards, in a room at the Holiday Inn in Flagstaff. Arizona for a pretrip orientation. Anxiety and excitement played tag inside me while I listened to Dave, a tall, lean, intense man with years of experience as a river guide. (Here’s a picture of Dave rowing a raft. Arlene is the “peep” sitting in the front of the raft.)
Quickly I scrounged a pen and paper (actually the back of a postcard Bob found in his pocket), and took notes: “first thing in the morning is coffee call . . . do approximately twenty miles a day . . . six hours on the river . . . hike in side canyons . . . drink lots of fluids, and not just when you’re thirsty . . . carry out all waste for proper disposal except urine (this experience prompt me to write my first nonfiction book, Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks, and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom). . . water is very cold because it’s released from the bottom of the dam . . . everyone gets a waterproof ammunition can (army surplus) for personal belongings . . . for your sleeping bag and clothing you get two heavy rubber bags slightly bigger than a grocery bag (formerly used by soldiers to carry radio transmitters) . . . in an emergency you’ll go out in a helicopter (a prospect I vowed to avoid).
Dave repeatedly characterized waterfalls, canyon walls, rapids, stars, clouds, etc. as spectacular. “I use that word a lot,” he interjected a bit self-consciously, “but it’s the way I feel.” The next day, after a three-hour bus ride to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River where the rafts and rest of the crew waited for us, we began to find out why Dave frequently said–“spectacular!”