The trip was a July float on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. We were 15 strong, in a mixture of rafts and hardshell and inflatable kayaks. Summer in the Canyon is Hot and sweaty. It feels good to wash off the sunscreen and funk at the end of a long day on the water. Since the river water comes out of Glen Canyon Dam, from the depths of Lake Powell, it's always icy. The low-tech way to heat up the water is fill a sun shower bag, strap it onto the raft and let the Arizona sun warm it.
The Park Service requires that all soapy water be deposited directly into the river or wet sand, to protect the fragile desert landscape. Our crew ingeniously devised a system, using a couple of oars and a length of rope, to cantilever the shower bags out over the river bank. Usually we didn't have to artificially screen them; brush or distance from camp would suffice.
After setting up camp and tackling the evening meal and chores, we'd take turns at the shower setup. Now, I'd volunteered to write a real-time blog from the river, using a laptop and satellite phone to post the day-to-day stories of our trip. I work for NRS and the blog was (and still is) posted on their website. Writing the posts and hunting, sometimes in vain, for a satellite contact in the steep walled canyon often meant I was last in line for the shower.
On this particular night it was dark when I stumbled through the tamarisk in search of a bath. I propped my headlamp on a rock, stripped to the buff and applied soap and wash cloth to hair and hide.
At this point I fondly recall the words of my former father-in-law Julian as he described bathing on the month-long summer camping trips the family took. They camped in a homemade tent trailer and bathed in a small inflatable kid's wading pool. He said, "We'd wash up as far as possible and down as far as possible, then we'd wash possible."
As I washed up and down and possible, I was totally oblivious to the fact that my headlamp was serving as a Magic Lantern to project my silent movie on the sheer canyon wall across the river. I was experiencing joy at getting clean. My trip mates sitting in camp were also experiencing joy… gut rolling with laughter!
It doesn't take much to amuse boaters. We're a simple lot.
Written by: Clyde Nicely (NRS e-News Editor) - Moscow, ID
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