"Some people really embrace the soli­tude, and some people don't expect it," smiled Christian Seamans on the drizzly fall morning of our own departure.

Christian dipped his oars into the cocoa-brown Colorado and smiled again.

"Welcome, everyone," he said, as we moved out into the main current. "It's always nice to push away."

Enjoying nature is about pushing away, and all of us - 19 paying customers who had signed on for a 14-day oar trip with Wilderness River Adventures - had en­­sured ourselves additional solitude by coming to the river in October.

It is something of a secret, and I will likely be tossed into the Colorado tied to an anvil for saying so in print, but fall and spring are the river's unsung seasons; quieter, cooler, heavier with repose. In July, the average high in the canyon is 106 degrees. In October, it is 85, and the low, on average, is a still-quite-pleasant 59. In summer, 150 people a day put on to the river at Lees Ferry, 15 miles below Glen Canyon Dam, and plenty more would join them if the Park Service didn't en­force this cap. On the morning we left, only three other groups were starting off. Over the next 13 days we saw them now and again, but mostly it was just us. October offers a final plus. No motorized craft are allowed on the river after mid-September, making it easier to hear a raven's wing beat or the sound of your own heart in the last wink of silence before a rapid's roar.

Our party numbered 26: 7 guides, 19 clients, 6 rubber boats, and enough food and drink to embarrass Club Med.

Our Wilderness guides proved su­premely competent, but they didn't take their competency too seriously, preferring instead to dye their hair green, announce dinner with a Gregorian chant, and even, on the proper occasion, wear women's underwear. There was Christian, Heather, Brett, Jeffe, Nate, Nute, and our trip leader, Okie. It quickly became obvious they all loved the river and the canyon. They knew its history, its wildlife, and its geology, but mostly they knew how to rightly enjoy it.