Dave Shively: A Grand inquisition | SteamboatToday.com
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Dave Shively: A Grand inquisition

I put a certain item on the long-term life goal list long ago.

I even red-flagged it, putting it far above the half-hearted, pseudo-goals such as “learn to slam dunk a basketball” or “win Rock-Paper-Scissors title and/or GoldenPalace.com-sponsored eating challenge.”

And it just sat there, as if “privately floating the Grand Canyon” would remain the one indelible fixture that time and circumstance would always conspire to keep me from notching.



Then it happened last week: “Hey Dave, you want to row a boat on a Grand trip?”

Wait, what was that? Already? I thought people were doomed to wait their entire adult lives while their non-commercial private permit sank behind thousands upon thousands of other dates in the National Park Service directory.



But of course, there was a catch: “The launch date’s in March.”

Then the debate started. Pros versus cons. The trip could cost a grand in itself, once gas, beer and the price for an outfitter to pack the food and run the shuttle factor in, not to mention diplomatically arranging at least two and a half weeks off work without severing employment. But then the images sparked of 16 days of endless canyon walls and convenience store-sized hydraulics churning the Colorado’s murky chocolate milk.

I put the decision off and teetered on the less than ideal winter weather and the fact that I didn’t really know anyone else on the trip. Then on a recent slack-jawed stroll through the new Denver Art Museum I relapsed upon seeing the one piece more interesting than the Hamilton Building’s mind-bending design.

Tony Foster’s “16 Days Rafting the Colorado /225.8 Miles, Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek,” is a master-work of 16 separate watercolor paintings from his 2000 private trip down the canyon, each painfully evoking the limitless sensation of enclosed sandstone walls and rushing water. I could almost feel the sand in my toes, sun on my back and can of Schlitz in my hand.

But my decision was resolute after talking to David Yeamans. Like many aspiring private canyon boaters, I was confused by the intricacies of the permit game, so I consulted Yeamans, president of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association. His conclusion was that the NPS’s 2003 suspension of its waitlist (one capped at more than 8,000 names that had newer holders waiting 20-plus years for their assigned launch date) and 2006 adoption of a weighted lottery system favors private boaters.

“I must say that the lottery system’s been working out fine,” Yeamans said. “You get an absolute known launch date of your choice, and the main reason people are happier is that private boaters have doubled their number of launches.”

I had to rationalize. So I’ll keep waiting for the trip when the weather, timing and crew coincide slightly better, knowing the invitations no longer carry the “once-in-lifetime” weight they used to and that I’ll get that grand item crossed off the list.


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