By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/20/2020
Posted: 5/7/2010
Topics/Keywords: #UpperSaltRiver #Arizona #WhitewaterRafting Page Views: 1490
I head up to Salt River Canyon for an overnight rafting trip and realize my rafting buddy won't be there.

My rafting buddy, Frank, was supposed to be with me.

Last year, and the year before, Frank and I had rafted the Upper Salt River together, taking one-day trips with Wilderness Aware. And we planned to go again this year, except to make it a 2-day, overnight trip. Frank is a flight attendant, and can usually arrange days off if he has a month or two advance notice. And even then, it is guaranteed until he bids for that day and, a couple of weeks later, gets the results. He has a lot of seniority, so he usually gets what he asks for. But, since he isn't the World's Oldest Living Flight Attendant, nothing is certain until the results come in.

So, what we've done in the past, is I've made the original reservation (because the date I have in mind might not be offered or have space available by the rafting company) first, told Frank the date, he bids and if it's available, made his own reservation. Except, once, he was in India when the availability went through so I made his reservation for him and he paid me back later.

This year, it was more complicated, because the first date I proposed conflicted with something else already on Frank's schedule. And the second date turned out to not be available from the rafting company. The third date worked out, and I sent the information on to Frank. But, for some reason, he thought I was going to make his reservation, too, without actually asking me to do it. I didn't, both because I hadn't been asked, and because when I made my reservation I didn't know if he'd even get those dates off—and the reservations are non-refundable.

So, two days ago, we realized that Frank didn't have a reservation. And Wilderness Aware had already filled that trip. In fact, since tomorrow is the last day of the season, they had filled all their trips and assigned every available river guide.

I toyed with the idea of offering to be a guide, just for Frank and me. I have some experience with an oar frame. But I'm not certified, and besides, my right bicep is still healing from being torn during Michael's and my trip to Hawaii a couple weeks ago, and I'm not confident I could run even a class III rapid, much less row for hours against a headwind.

By this morning, Wilderness Aware had been unable to locate an extra guide. So it looked like Frank would be unable to go, unless a miracle occurred.

I got off work early, and went home to pack. I text messaged Frank: "Have you heard ANYTHING either way?"

He replied, "Looks like you are on your own mister. They don't have another boat man."

Perhaps if I'd called instead of texting, we might have had a longer conversation in which I might have mentioned I didn't plan to leave the house until 5 pm or so. That might have been significant. It might have been more significant that I didn't actually pull out of the driveway until 6:30 pm.

In any case, I inflated my queen-sized air mattress in the back of the SUV, made it up as a bed with my sleeping bag as comforter, put my rolled-up tent in the front-seat passenger well, my packed gym bag in the passenger seat, and set off in the direction of Globe. After an hour of driving through the glorious, sunset-lit Queen Creek Canyon, I arrived in Globe, turned north on US 60 and, by 8:30, had arrived at the GPS coordinates provided by Wilderness Aware, and parked in their compound just north of the Salt River Canyon Bridge.

Of course, once I left Globe, there was no cellphone signal, except for two places along the road where somehow a signal activates the phone, then vanishes. That, also, might turn out to be significant.

They have a row of porta-potties there, so it's a perfect place to car-camp while waiting for the other passengers to "gather" at 8 am.

Except for the sky full of brilliant stars, it's dark, with only the occasional glimmer from the headlights of a car descending one side of Salt River Canyon or the other. I can hear the river running below, obviously at a much higher volume than would be normal this time of year. That's because of the unusually wet winter we had in this desert country.

This will be the first rafting trip I've made in years without being accompanied by anyone I know. Michael couldn't make it because he's in medical school and overwhelmed by the need to study. But that's okay. It's not like I'm rafting by myself; there will be at least one guide and at least six other passengers; and we are all certain to be good friends by the time the trip is over. It won't be the same without Frank, but it will still be fun.

It will be a few days before this can be posted. Meanwhile, it's sleepy time for your blogger.