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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

North Canyon Contact

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 7/22/2024
Posted: 3/30/2006
Page Views: 6822
Topics: #AlienAbductions #GrandCanyon #WhitewaterRafting
All about the time aliens found and abducted me from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

As previously mentioned, I had taken my daughter, Dorothy, on a three-day Grand Canyon rafting adventure in 1992. It was a short trip because I wasn't sure whether I'd like whitewater rafting (I knew the camping aspect would not be a problem). It turned out I loved rafting; so in 1994, I signed up for a fifteen-day autumn trip. While I had little hope the aliens wouldn't be able to find me, I did look forward to taking a break from the Support Group and the high strangeness that seemed to have taken over my life.

There was also the issue of Arcadia and her secret agency and her agonizing love life and my doubt as to whether what she and her organization was doing was really good for humankind, or merely expedient for the government. So I really needed this vacation.

I told Arcadia I was going. "We'll keep an eye on you," she said.

"That'll be a neat trick in Grand Canyon. No phones, no lights, no motorcars. Not a single luxury." Arcadia left the implication that I would be "watched" psychically and I good-naturedly didn't argue. I figured, if I don't know, I don't know.

In point of fact, Arcadia had been visiting—in a sense—each Tuesday night. Not only online, but after I went to bed; each Tuesday night I would sense that warm feeling in between my neck and shoulder and I would know she was checking on me. Sometimes the experience would be accompanied by paralysis. She had explained that she was trying to teach me to astral project, a state I had entered on my own a few times but couldn't deliberately initiate. So I accepted the visits; and if she wanted to "touch" me the two Tuesdays I'd be in Grand Canyon, I had no problem with that.

By now these jaunts to the Canyon were becoming second nature. I flew from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Las Vegas; from there I drove to Flagstaff where I checked into the Days Inn where O.A.R.S., the rafting company, would meet us in the morning.

An O.A.R.S. boatman named Brian briefed the passengers at the motel during breakfast. Then we piled into two long vans and settled back for the five-hour drive to Lee's Ferry, the put-in point for the expedition. Lee's Ferry was founded about 150 years ago by an excommunicated Mormon trying to get back in favor with his church. His positioning a ferry there opened up southern Arizona to Mormon proselytization. Lee's Ferry is the last place roads can get across the Colorado River before the width and depth of the Canyon makes that impossible, so it's a logical put-in point for the rafts.

Rafts waiting at Lee's Ferry.

When the vans arrived, we found the rubber rafts arrayed along the shore, equipment neatly placed in front of each, ready for stowing. The boatmen who had not been driving were busily checking out their craft; some I recognized from my previous trips; others I did not. Robby, the lead boatman on my first trip, would be leading this one as well. He was quietly supervising the loading of the rafts. Since the boatmen are so familiar with what needs to be done, this was pretty much a non-job; he took a moment from it to greet me and tell me that when he saw my name on the passenger list for this trip, he'd adjusted his schedule so he could lead it. That was nice.

But one of the new guys instantly caught my attention. He was about five-foot-eight or nine, sturdily built, shirtless, with a shock of brown hair and powerful-looking chest. But my attention was not sexual. There was…something…about him. Some energy, something about his aura. I somehow just knew that he was the mechanism by which Arcadia was planning to "watch" me.

"Who is that?" I asked Robby.

"His name's Rusty*. He's going to be swamper on this trip."

On an O.A.R.S. expedition, there is a raft for each four passengers, and for each 16 passengers there is a baggage raft. This was a 24-passenger expedition, so there were two baggage boats. A "swamper" rows the baggage raft to load and unload and do other maintenance tasks when the expedition is camped. Usually a swamper is a kid who's training to be a licensed Grand Canyon guide but hasn't yet taken his or her test. However, this guy was in his mid-to-late thirties.

"He does this full-time?" I asked.

I'm sure Robby was curious why I was so interested in one, specific, baggage boatman; but he answered, "No, he's actually a police chief from some town in Pima County. He just does this for his vacation."

"A police chief?" I didn't buy the vacation bit. A professional policeman might well be the kind of person who would be associated with Arcadia's secret agency. (Of course, they were wooing me, too; and I'm a computer programming trainer. But, still, Rusty fit my notion of what a spy might be far better than I did!)

I decided that, no matter what my inner sense of knowing told me, I wouldn't act on my suspicions. After all, what could I do? There was no point in letting him know I knew. Better to be cool and see what, if anything, developed.

I greeted the boatmen I already knew: Tony and Anne, a husband-and-wife boatman team; Phil, who rowed in the summer and was a ski instructor in the winter; Mike, who usually rafted rivers in Alaska, and Morris, a grizzled old veteran boatman. Robby introduced me to the other baggage boatman, a beautiful woman named Cathy.

The passengers were likewise a diverse group. They ranged from Lynn and Walt, an older couple who would be celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary (and his 70th birthday) on the trip, to a single woman and a tall, dark-haired man who I sensed would wind up together, though they had arrived separately. We also had Liz, an Editor from People magazine who wore makeup and toenail polish the whole time, and an enormous blonde woman in a Spandex bathing suit who loudly announced her name, Judy, in a grating, abrasive voice along with the fact that "everything always happens to me!" Everything, apparently, but anorexia.


Another couple of guys I noticed were Warren and Jerry. They had arrived together and I instantly spotted them as a gay couple. However, they weren't "out" and seemed to avoid me as if they knew that I knew. Nevertheless, when we chose our boats for the first day, Warren and Jerry and I wound up in the same craft, rowed by a former ASU wrestling champion nicknamed "Turtle."

I had debated over whether or not I should out myself as gay on this trip. I was awakening to the fact that, politically, it's important for gays to reveal themselves because most people who try to restrict the rights of gay folk do so under the mistaken impression that they don't know any. Still, I couldn't reform the entire world on my own; and the idea of taking a vacation from being the Gay Community's Official Representative was definitely appealing. So I decided that, while I wouldn't deny it if the subject came up, I wouldn't bring it up.

I similarly had to grapple with outing myself as an abductee. Canyon evenings, without TV, are long and UFO stories rank right up there with ghost stories as stock campfire fare. And again, I appreciated the politics of making sure the average citizen understood the phenomenon was real. But I wanted a vacation from that, too. So, in Turtle's boat, when we introduced ourselves to each other, I simply described myself as a technical author and an instructor of computer programming. Warren and Jerry were both medical doctors. And Turtle, we learned, was on his first trip with O.A.R.S.

"I used to run motorized trips," he explained. "This is my first oar trip." Some companies have put together giant rubber rafts, with motors, that carry some twenty people each as they careen through the Canyon—not my idea of a relaxing, introspective communion with this awesome natural wonder.

"Isn't it going to be a strain?" I asked. "We'll be traveling 280 river miles to Lake Meade. That's a lot of rowing." Like a few other passengers, I had memorized the itinerary.

"No shit," he commented, his jaw set. "But I reckon I can manage it."

Navajo Bridge, last crossing of the Colorado River until Hoover Dam.

We stopped for lunch at a beach just past Navajo Bridge, a span high above the river, over which we had passed on our way to Lee's Ferry. With practiced motions the boatmen assembled a lunch cart in just a few moments, laden with dark breads, meats, cheeses, vegetables and condiments and complete with a jaunty red-and-green umbrella. Each passenger lined up to build a sandwich.

"Where's the white bread?" Judy, the large Spandex woman, complained. Apparently she hadn't been listening to Robby's briefing.

"They only serve whole-grains on these trips," I explained, "to avoid problems with constipation that a change of diet usually incurs."

"I never have that problem," she snapped.

"Most people do, though," Warren affirmed.

"And how would you know that?"

"I'm a doctor."

"Ooh, really?" Judy's attitude changed instantly as she warmed up to the hapless physician. I caught him and Jerry exchange glances that no one else would have understood meant, Oh, God, trapped by a man-hungry straight woman.

Tony was like an Italian mother: "Eat! Eat!" he said as we stared at the array of food. "Then we'll get back into the rafts and go to another place so we can eat some more."

The boatmen made their lunches after we did, and soon I found Rusty standing next to me with his sandwich and canteen. "So, Paul, right?"

"That's me," I said, shaking his proffered hand.

"I'm Rusty," he introduced himself. "I understand you're an abductee."

I almost choked on my sandwich. I had never expected him to reveal himself so bluntly…or so casually; he had spoken in a normal tone of voice. "What makes you say that?" I asked, quietly.

"Tony told me," he said, pointing at the burly boatman I knew from my previous trip.

"Tony told you? How would he know?"

Rusty stared back at me in all innocence. "He said you told him last year."

Did I? I suppose I might have told Tony on my previous trip…but I sure didn't remember doing it. Still, I couldn't very well call Rusty a liar; so I nodded.

"I'd like to hear all about it," Rusty urged enthusiastically. "I'm really into that sort of shit."

"Well…maybe sometime along the trip," I half-heartedly agreed. "I'm kind of trying to take a vacation from it, if you know what I mean."

"Sure, I understand. Whenever you'd like to talk about it, well, I'll be here." So much for being an inconspicuous spy! Or, for that matter, subtle. But I determined all the more that I would not let on I had him spotted. I hadn't forgotten that I was supposed to keep all this secret. For me to be the one to reveal Arcadia to him, would show I couldn't be trusted.

One of us was going to maintain his cover, even if it wasn't him.

The lunch table was struck and we re-boarded our rafts. I asked Turtle if I could row. He seemed surprised at my request, so I mentioned that Robby had let me row on my previous trip. "Not in any real difficult rapids," I added.

"We'll see," Turtle said, but I did no rowing that day.

At Lee's Ferry, where the Colorado first cuts into the earth, the Canyon walls are not very high. They rise, on the average, 50 feet per river mile. You can see the separate geologic layers and the guides rattle off the romantic-sounding names: Kaibab, Coconimo, Hermit Shale, Supai, Redwall, Muab, Bright Angel Shale, Toroweap. And then the Great Unconformity: a "hole" in the sequence where 600 million years of history is missing. Rock is deposited only when the land is under water; when it is exposed, the rock is worn away. Beneath the Great Unconformity is the Vishnu Schist, 1.2 billion years old.

That evening we made camp at a beautiful, sandy beach. I pitched my tent in a nice spot, then assisted a couple of novice campers in pitching theirs, while Robby and Brian cooked dinner and Rusty and Cathy found a suitable spot for the porta-potty (a toilet seat on a sealable canister). I went to sleep to the rushing sound of the river, beneath brilliant stars, and knew I was where I ought to be.


The next day we loaded up the rafts and again split the day between drifting down the river and hiking. In the evening, Robby's first choice of campsite was taken by another rafting company; so we rowed until the sun had gone down below the canyon rim and we finally stopped at North Canyon, one of the larger of the innumerable side canyons that contribute to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Another beautiful, wide beach of white sand lined the shore, broken only by the dry wash of rocks pouring from the side canyon itself. It was late, almost dark, as Tony and Anne prepared dinner and Phil supervised the handing out of tents and sleeping pads. By the time he was done, our second dinner was ready.

Ann and Tony, the night's chefs.

It was salmon. I am not a big fan of fish, especially to eat. But I determined to be a good sport and found a place to sit and eat by myself. I wasn't alone for long, however. Rusty plopped himself onto the sand beside me.

"Enjoying the trip?" he asked as he scooped a forkful of pink fish flesh into his mouth.

"Of course," I admitted. "And you? Does this really qualify as a vacation for you?"

"Who said I was on vacation?"

"Robby. I understand you're a police chief at your day job. That must be cool." Turnabout was fair play, and Rusty might as well learn that two could play detective.

"It's all right," Rusty allowed. "But a couple weeks off every now and then is an appropriate reward for building up a department that runs well without my constant supervision." He nodded toward the crumbled wall behind us. "Where are you planning to put your tent?" he asked.

"I don't know. Didn't have a chance to pick a spot before dinner was ready."

"Well, it's getting dark. Don't step on me."

"Why would I do that?"

"All the good places were taken. I had to lay my sleeping bag out right on the trail."

"No tent?" I asked, swallowing a bite of what was probably an excellent example of cooked salmon.

"Don't need one tonight. It's beautiful."

That was true. It was now full-on dark, and though a warm breeze was picking up, the stars glittered in a far too-crowded sky.

I was just as glad Zeta Reticuli can only be seen from the Southern hemisphere. But there, framed by the rim of the canyon walls, was the sprinkling of stars known as the Pleiades.

"And warm," Rusty continued, "but not hot. Which is good, because I sleep in the nude."

Rusty couldn't have known in the dark, but my eyes opened wide. This is not something one straight man would say to another as they sat together eating dinner. Either Rusty was gay (and I didn't think he was), or he was trying to get me to admit that I was gay…and that was definitely not something I had told Tony, or anyone else, the previous year.

(I should add here that my long-time friends showed every sign of being legitimately astounded when I did come out to them, so I doubt that Rusty's gaydar, if indeed he had any, would have picked up on me on the basis of several days and only two or three short conversations).

We finished eating and, in accordance with custom, washed our own plates; I then looked about for a location to pitch my tent. It was getting quite windy, sand blowing about and an extreme weariness was washing over me. Rather than struggle to find an open spot on the beach where we'd eaten, I decided to cross the rocks of the dry North Canyon river bed and camp on the deserted beach beyond. The idea of being away from everyone else was very appealing. I especially didn't want to risk tripping over the naked Rusty in the dark.

On the trail. Really?

Fucking amateur.

I held the tent, poles and my sleeping bag under my left arm, my right hand gripping both my ammo box (a waterproof container for small, personal items) and my dry bag (a sealable, rubber sack for clothes) and a flashlight. I normally would have made two trips, but by now the wind was blowing so hard and I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. When I crossed the rocks and reached the far beach, my feet sunk into the sand with every step; each time I raised a foot to take another, I wasn't sure I had the strength to lift it out of the ground.

Finally I dumped everything on the ground and tried to set up the tent. The wind whipped it around, making it impossible to fit the poles into the assigned clips. Normally, two people put one of these together. I knew that if I went back and asked, any of the boatmen would assist me. But I didn't have the energy to make the return trip.

I gave up. I threw the tent and poles onto the sand, unrolled the sleeping bag and collapsed on it face down. I was asleep before I'd taken a breath.

And then I awoke, sort of, suddenly, on my back. I was conscious but felt sedated, confused. I was lying on some kind of gurney being rolled down a narrow corridor with lights and pipes and cables lining the ceiling. I could see the legs of the beings moving me; I knew they were aliens because they didn't move the way human legs do. They skittered, more than walked. I couldn't move, of course, not even when we entered a chamber and I was rolled onto my stomach—but not before I could see the machine I was being rolled under. It was black and curved, with a single downward-pointing needle protruding from it.

I felt the needle penetrate the back of my neck, followed by a burning pain worse than any I'd ever experienced. The scream that welled up within me had nowhere to go. I could neither move nor talk but I tried to project an image of myself in pain.

You said you wanted conscious contacts from now on. I didn't hear those words, but the idea was impressed into me somehow.

Not during surgery! I responded the same way. Put me to sleep! And with that, I blacked out.

The next thing I knew I was back on the beach. The wind had stopped, but sand had blown over me, half-burying me and even getting into my slackened mouth. I rose, coughing, spitting out grit, a band of intense pain circling my head so that keeping my balance took more concentration than I could muster.

Nauseated, I tried to run for the river but couldn't make it before I puked most of the previous night's salmon onto the sand. I kicked sand over the vomit and staggered back to my ammo box, somehow finding the vial of Tylenol #3s I had brought into the Canyon, and washing a couple down with Gatorade from my canteen. I shook out my sleeping bag and got in it, as the night was now cool.

I waited for the pill to kick in while replaying what had happened to me. The quality of this experience had been different, somehow, from others I'd had. For one thing, I'd never before felt pain during an abduction. For another, I seemed more alert, more awake during this one than usual, even though I was paralyzed. I tried to remember the aliens' legs moving and found the memory fading. I realized that I couldn't have seen both the ceiling and their legs; was I on my back or my stomach? I remembered both, but couldn't have been in both positions at the same time. I wondered if I were compressing several memories together, or if indeed a contact had actually taken place. My memories might have been, like Marley's ghost, an undigested bit of salmon, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.

The most damning part of the abduction scenario, as always, was the doubting of one's own experience.

Finally the buzz of the Tylenol #3s dulled the worst of the pain and I drifted into sleep, recalling as I did so that it had been the first Tuesday in months that Arcadia hadn't "touched" me psychically on my shoulder after I had gone to bed.