Though it is casually labeled a river trip, rafting the Grand Canyon is far more. Traveling down the Colorado gives you access to remote places otherwise reached only with great difficulty or a very long fall. We saw hikers now and then, dirty, bedraggled figures who regarded us dully with the vacant eyes of a mongrel dog. We simply hopped ashore from our happy blue-rubber boats, lunched on taco salad and fistfuls of Oreos, and, duly fortified, strode into side canyons serene and glorious, hushed places pressed in by walls as smooth and cool as satin sheets, where clear creek trickles ran, and here and there sat truck-size rocks deposited at times when the creek was nothing like a trickle.
Some side canyons were dry - tomb-still and quiet. Others drummed - waterfalls cascading into pools with a sonorous boom blew sprays of rainbow mist. One canyon held turquoise pools so clear and still they appeared to be not pools at all, but vast emerald gems set in the earth. In some of these places we sat apart in contemplative silence. In others, we did what was only right, plunging into the pools and hooting beneath waterfalls like 10-year-olds who had discovered their parents' hooch. These places had magical and apt names: Elves Chasm, Shinumo Creek, Matkatamiba, and Blacktail Canyon. They sat stoic and seemingly untouched. It felt as if we were the first to set foot there.
We weren't, of course. On our sixth day, 68 miles downriver, we hiked up to a butte overlooking Tanner Rapid and then followed a trail along the sloped hillside. Here and there were metate and mano - stone trough and handstones used by the Anasazi Indians to mill corn. They were scattered about as if the Anasazi had just up and left, perhaps to take advantage of this lovely day and go for a hike.
Okie picked up a shard of pottery, turning it slowly in his fingers.