By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/16/2019
Occurred: 5/8/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Arizona #SaltRiverCanyon #Travel #UpperSaltRiver #WhitewaterRafting Page Views: 679
How I spent two days camping and rafting on the Upper Salt River.

The alarm on my cellphone went off, as set, at 7 am. I stretched in the cool morning air, flowing freely through the open windows of my SUV, where I had slept in outdoors luxury on my queen-sized air mattress, with pillows in satin cases, flannel sheets, and two opened sleeping bags for comforters.

It was quiet. I had expected other guests might already be here, although we weren't required to "gather" until 8.

"Here" was Wilderness Aware's compound on the Upper Salt River. The gathering was to precede a 2-day expedition into the Arizona wilderness, far from any roads, aboard rafts floating down the Salt. The compound is just off US 60, on the north side of the Salt River Canyon Bridge, on a bluff overlooking the river itself.

The Salt River from the Wilderness Aware compound.

While waiting, I changed into my rafting clothes (no cotton; bathing suit, non-cotton long-sleeved athletic shirt, wool socks, river shoes), ate breakfast (a couple of cheese Danish) and went to the bathroom (in one of the porta-potties considerately placed there for that purpose).

The Wilderness Aware compound. My car parked to the right.

The compound consists of a couple of trailers, picnic tables, and the porta-potties. It looked terribly deserted, especially by 8:30, when the sign on the door said their "hours" began. Worse, the welcoming placard in front was dated March. So, of course, I began to wonder if I'd come to the wrong place? I mean, I'd been here before, but not for a 2-day trip. Perhaps they started from a different location?

It was almost 9:30 by my phone when the Wilderness Aware truck pulled up. Of course I worked into my greeting words to the effect of, It's about time! But the man I was talking to, Glenn, insisted that it was just 8:30 am, and that everyone's watch agreed. I turned on my car and checked the clock in the radio. Sure enough, it was 8:30! Only my phone thought it was 9:30…as, it turned out, did the cell phones of everyone else who'd arrived from the south (but not those who came from the north). My conclusion: Those two brief, wayward, phone signals along the road must somehow, by some magic combination of atmospherics and mountain echoes, come from the Navajo reservation many miles to the north, where they adhere to Daylight Savings Time. Since that was the last signal my phone had received, it had reset its internal clock and so was running an hour fast.

I could have slept another hour!

But Wilderness Aware was, in fact, running exactly on schedule. At 9 am, everyone had arrived, including the compound leader, Brad, who had led a previous trip taken with my husband, Michael, and our grandson, Zachary. I looked around at my fellow passengers in bemusement. "So," I said to Brad, "I am going to be rafting with five beautiful women and a beautiful female boatman. What a pity it's going to be wasted on me." It took Brad less than a second to remember I was gay (he'd been guide for Michael and me) and then shoot coffee from his nose.

There was one other guy passenger, a cute young man who seemed to have arrived with two girlfriends. So, not only would I be solo on this trip, I would be the token gay person…unless some of the ladies were lesbians. Which didn't seem to be the case.

We were given dry bags (waterproof, rubberized sacks about twice the size of a pillow case) to put our stuff into. Since I was bringing my own tent (we could rent them there, I needed more room and Glenn, who turned out to be our trip leader, produced an "overflow bag" to put it in, along with some of the rental self-inflating ground pads. A van drove us to the put-in, about five miles downstream from the usual 1-day put-in. Once there, our boatman, Liz, loaded the baggage boat while Glenn gave us the traditional safety lecture and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Safety lecture.

From left-to-right, the people in the picture above were: Angel, Tabbatha, and Anika, who all turned out to be war widows; Justin, Lauren and (another) Liz, who were graduate students from Tucson; and Glenn Richmond, the trip leader, who would be rowing the baggage boat.

Upper Salt River 2-Day Expedition, Day 1

By: Paul S. Cilwa Posted: 5/8/2010
Topics: #Arizona #UpperSaltRiver #WhitewaterRafting #WildernessAware Page Views: 3900
I spend the first of two days rafting the Upper Salt River.

Some people, possibly most people, go on whitewater rafting trips to experience the thrill of the whitewater. I'm more about the river experience: Getting away from civilization and artificial noises, to where I can hear the birds and see the stars and enjoy untrammeled nature. I enjoy the whitewater, of course; but even more I appreciate the slow unfolding of scenery as the raft travels down one river corridor and then another. Each part of a canyon is unique and a thousand photographs would be too few to do it justice.

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Upper Salt River 2-Day Expedition, Day 2

By: Paul S. Cilwa Posted: 5/9/2010
Topics: #Arizona #Travel #UpperSaltRiver #WhitewaterRafting #WildernessAware Page Views: 1793
How I completed my 2-day Salt River rafting trip.

I awoke on my own about 5:30 or 6 o'clock. I had only awakened once during the night, and gazed at the stars through the netting at the top of my tent—I hadn't bothered to put on the fly, since I knew it wouldn't rain—until I fell back to sleep. But now I got up, made use of the marble bathroom at the downstream end of camp, and staggered to the hors devours table where Boatman Liz and Glenn had already prepared a pot of hot river coffee (which some call "mud").

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