It was hard saying goodbye to the kids in the morning. We wouldn't be back for three weeks and had never left them for more than one week before. They would be in good hands with our friends the Meeks. I knew this but it didn't make it any easier hugging them goodbye.
Once they were off to school it was not long before we took off to the airport. Everything seemed to be fine. We checked in and boarded the plane with no delays. Everyone was on the plane and buckled in . Then they informed us our pilots hadn't arrived yet. We waited on the runway for an hour before they finally took off. The delay worried us. In Denver we had exactly a one-hour layover before plane to Durango took off. Would we make it? The pilot made up about fifteen minutes in the air so it was close. Luckily we were seated in the front of the plane, and we dashed out to our departure gate, running all the while. We made the flight with ten minutes to spare.
|View from the Strong's deck.|
The puddle jumper from Denver to Durango was a small twin engine prop plane. The weather was windy and threatening to storm. Luckily the turbulence was not too bad, just a little bumpy before landing. What little scenery we could see was beautiful out the airplane window. Tall jagged mountains covered in snow. The trees made abstract designs in the snow, until the clouds closed in again and the window became solid white.
After landing Judy and Dave Strong picked us up at the airport. We drove into Cortez for dinner and to meet most of the rest of the crew. We planned to meet at an all you can eat restaurant at 6 p.m. We arrived early, just after 5 p.m.. This turned out to be lucky since everyone else had gotten there 10 minutes before us. Introductions were made for those of us who didn't know each other.
That evening we all invaded Judy and Dave Strong's house in Delores. Two bathrooms, two beds, fourteen people. Somehow we managed to all fit in. The house itself is perched on a hill overlooking the McPhee reservoir, and the views were fabulous.
I didn't sleep much last night. I woke up at 1 a.m. and only slept fitfully until 4 a.m.. After that I couldn't get to sleep at all.
The others started waking up at 6, and by 7 were all packed up and on the road. We were going to pick up a quick breakfast at Denny's but we weren't served until an hour and a half after we sat down. Fourteen was too many people for them. We had breakfast, but it was far from quick.
|Navaho Bridge as seen from below.|
The trip to Lees Ferry had interesting scenery. For the first part of the trip we followed a miniature canyon. It was only about 10 feet deep. It's sandstone was sculptured into a little version of a real canyon. Later we saw off in the distance a huge mountain of rock sticking jaggedly up into the sky. It was surrounded by thunderstorms. With its jagged appearance and lightning arcing towards it, it seemed a perfect setting for a fantasy movie where they hero must rescue a friend from the clutches of the evil wizard. There were many more beautiful sites and spectacular colors, yellows, reds, greens, blacks. Then finally over Navaho Bridge and down past the Vermilion Cliffs. The stones at the base up the cliffs have weathered into alien shapes that are pocketed and twisted. Some are balanced precariously on smaller stones.
We arrived at Lees Ferry around 3:00 in the afternoon, after five hours of driving. This is where all of the raft trips, private and public, which do the upper half of the river originate. There is a relatively large boat ramp where everyone assembles all of the boats then puts them into the water. Our group all pitched in and unloaded the trucks and van. Dave and his son Charles were already there when we arrived. The next several hours were chaotic as we tried getting all the gear organized and rafts blown up and loaded. My mother kept getting worried as others loaded things on the raft before she was done with them. We had it almost all packed and then we noticed two of the propane tanks were not put in the dry boxes. After a little rearranging it was done.
During our rush to get things organized, the ranger showed up. He talked to us a bit about our experience. Then he checked out our boats and equipment. The rush to find our driver's licenses started. Proof of identity is required for everyone taking a private trip. In not too long he found everything in order and told us we could take off anytime we wanted tomorrow.
We were looking after the rafts of another private trip that was also putting in tomorrow. They were all off at dinner. They were going to look after our boats after they were done with dinner, but we were hungry. So we left my dad at the boats and went to the Marble Canyon Lodge for dinner. Dinner was not something to write home about but the company was pleasant.
We set camp up in the dark. The moon was bright but the ground was hard. We did a poor job of tent set up but it was good enough for a mild night.
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Please contact Daphne Gould for comments or problems.