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Early morning at Bass Rapids.
(April 1978)

Why backpack the canyon?

Consider just a few of the things you will do if you go:

Get stabbed in the shin by an agave plant. Lose the trail. Scrub your Sierra cup clean with sand. Pop a blister. Dig a hole and defecate. Watch the bats flit around at dusk. Worry about those clouds rolling in.

Snooze beside a stream. Wonder how you’ll ever make it back to the top. Watch little lizards scurry about. Find a scorpion under a rock. Wonder how bad you smell. Tell stories at night. Run out of liquor halfway through the trip. Get sunburned. Eat more dried fruit than you thought possible. Hike by moonlight. Crave a cheeseburger, or a Coke. Reorganize your pack, again. Smell the sagebrush. Smell a skunk.

Look for water. Pump water. Boil water. Drink water. Ignore the book you brought. Marvel at how a twisted old juniper has survived for so long down here. Slide off your sleeping pad in the middle of the night. Study the habits of a pair of ravens. Feel the sting of sweat and sunscreen in your eyes. Explore a side canyon. Get rained on. Flick ticks off your clothing. Put off getting up to pee at night.

Watch for rafters, who might give you a beer. Wish for a patch of shade along the Tonto Trail. Wonder whether you’ve lost the trail. Lay your gear out to dry. Look and listen for rattlesnakes. Eat cheese that has turned slimy. See cactuses in bloom. Get sand inside your camera. Wade in the cold, cold river.

Watch the stars come out. Hear an owl hoot and a coyote howl. Forget that you really live somewhere else.