Grand Canyon Trip

May-June 1998

In the Spring Semester  of 1993, I was teaching a General Education course at Western Carolina University titled Earth and Man. It was my first semester at the school. One of the top students in the class was a guy named Mark Zwick. Zwick was a non-traditional student (read older) who was a superb kayaker and river runner. There is a well-known rapid on the Green River, in North Carolina, that is named after him. He had worked as a guide for the Nantahala Outdoor Center. For his class project, he took me on a tour of the geology of the Nantahala Gorge, in a raft. 

Zwick, his dog, Mamba, and I ran the river on a cool overcast day. I had only been whitewater rafting once before so I really enjoyed the trip. Afterward, we went over to a friend's house and sat in the hot tub overlooking Fontana Lake and the Smokies. While we relaxed, he mentioned that he had put in a permit application with the National Park Service a few years earlier to lead a private trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The trip would not take place for a few years yet but he asked me if I would be interested in going. Of course, I said YES!

Over the next several years, we became good but not close friends, seeing each other several times a year. One night, in March 1998, Zwick called me up and told me that the permit had come through and invited me to go along. It turned out that I was going to be in Salt Lake City just prior to the trip for an American Association of Petroleum Geologist's meeting. It would be easy to make it down to a rendezvous with the group in Flagstaff, even though it meant I would have to go camp at Arches National Park for 6 days in between the two events. In all, we would spend 18 days running the river.

I arrived in Flagstaff on the evening of May 26th. I met the other members of our group the next day. They were:

Mark Zwick Me
Joe Zwick (Mark's father) Allison Jennings
Paul Sherritt (Mark's brother-in-law) Jennifer Jennings (Allison's twin sister)
Lincoln Williams Beverley Reavis
Nick Williams (Linc's brother) Katherine Adcoff
Maria Noakes (Nick's girlfriend) Chad Yurko
Chuck Grant
Paul was scheduled to leave us at Phantom Ranch on June 5th. We would pick up three newcomers there:
Cassie Metzger (Mark's sister)
Tom Ernst
Fred Offenkranz
That evening, the original 13 of us  went out to dinner at a local brew pub and started to get to know each other. Mark already knew everyone but Chad. I had met Chuck and Beverley briefly at a party at Mark's house once. Most other people only knew a few of the other members of our party.

The next morning, we all went over to our outfitter's place. We rented all of our equipment from Canyon REO. They gave us the low-down on river safety and how to survive in the canyon for an extended period of time. They also packed all of the food we would need for 18 days in two enormous ice chests. These would ride in each of our two oar rafts. We would also have one motorized raft and 6 kayaks. Chuck would guide the motorized raft while the Williams brothers would be the two oarsmen.

A bunch of us went shopping for some last-minute items. I bought a larger day pack and a waterproof camera. We all bought plenty of beer (about 35 cases!). After a full day of packing, and preparation, we drove up to Lee's Ferry and camped at the National Park campground.

The next 18 days were spent riding more than 220 miles through the Grand Canyon. The following pages are an attempt of a daily photo essay of our journey but I quickly learned that no words I could write or photos I could shoot would ever match the magnificence of the land through which we were traveling.