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Friday - Saturday
May 21 - 22, 2004

Day 1: Sunday
May 23, 2004

Day 2: Monday
May 24, 2004

Day 3: Tuesday
May 25, 2004

Day 4: Wednesday
May 26, 2004

Day 5: Thursday
May 27, 2004

Day 6: Friday
May 28, 2004

Saturday & Sunday
May 29 - 30, 2004

Posttrip

LINKS

Arizona River Runners

Wes Boyd's Site

Bar - 10 Ranch

Grand Canyon Weather

Grand Canyon Safety

MainStreetNews.com

Email:
scott@mainstreetnews.com

SATURDAY/SUNDAY, MAY 29/30
We were up early and ate a quick breakfast of cereal and fruit. The boats were then loaded and we drifted the short distance down to Mile 188, where the "helicopter pad" was located. This "heliport" was just a small pile of rocks hugging the canyon wall on the south side of the river. Chopper pilots only had about 15 feet between the tips of their blades and the wall. One wouldn't know a landing pad was located here if a helicopter weren't sitting on it, which I'm sure is by design. We formed a duffle line and unloaded the boat for the last time. The guides didn't have much time to rest because the same helicopters that were coming to take us out were bringing other people in for a short three-day trip to Lake Mead on the same boats we had just left.

The man in charge of the helicopters, an ageless John Wayne cowboy type, approached us and asked our name and weight. "And for you ladies concerned about telling your real weight," he said, "if you lie, you die. We got to fly you hundreds of feet straight up out of this hole and if you're fudging, you won't make it home for supper." I added 25 pounds to what I thought my weight was.

It would be about a 15-minute flight to the Bar10 Ranch, a cattle/dude ranch located on the north rim of the canyon. There were at least three different choppers coming and going and the four of us wouldn't all be on the same flight. Chase went out on the first helicopter, Marty with the second group and Brian and I were on the last group. The scenery was spectacular. Once at the ranch, we had about an hour to rest before flying back to Las Vegas from a tiny nearby airstrip called the "Whitmore International Airport." The runway is constructed of rough asphalt and is the only ground approaching the word "paved" for 80 miles in any direction. Shortly, a plane from Vision Air arrived, loaded us and we went back across the barren nothingness. The river and canyon faded in the distance.

In less than three hours, we went from sitting on a raft at the bottom of the desolate, uninhabited Grand Canyon to a hotel in glitzy Las Vegas. This has to be one of life's biggest contrasts imaginable. Coming out of a coma might be comparable. Tired and just a little overwhelmed, we turned on the television to CNN to see if anything of significance had happened in the world over the last six days. There was live coverage of the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. and we looked to see if we could spot my parents, who were in attendance. We called our families to let them know we were fine and then we went to the same swimming pool we'd been in a week ago. The chlorine in the water smelled and the pool felt warm to us after a week in nearly natural 50-degree water. Funny how a pool can heat up in a week. That evening, we dined at one of the seemingly hundreds of Las Vegas buffets and returned to the hotel to sort our gear and turn in early.

The next morning, we barely made our early flight out of Las Vegas. Only this city would have an airport that is insanely busy at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. By 3 p.m., we were back in Atlanta and thus back in the "real" world. The trip was officially over.

 

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