A cheap vacation that got out of hand

 

THE WEST

John Daggett, one of the West's iconic characters, died recently at age 82, though his amazing feat of body-surfing the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon 56 years ago will no doubt live forever. Back in April 1955, Daggett and his friend, Bill Beer, both 20-something Southern Californians, got the crazy idea of swimming 270 miles of the cold, pre-dam Colorado River with equipment so low-tech it's almost unbelievable: wool long johns, $15 black rubber shirts and 89-cent rubber generator boxes filled with food and a movie camera. Only some 200 people had run the river before them -- and that was by boat -- yet for 26 days the two friends "floated, swam, clanked, banged and dragged themselves and their water-logged river boxes downriver," according to Tom Myer's poignant farewell to John Daggett in the boatman's quarterly review. The adventure remains one of the classic stories of the river, and what better time to read or reread Bill Beers' cheerfully titled account: We Swam the Grand Canyon: The Story of a Cheap Vacation That Got a Little Out of Hand.

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