A river rat remembers

  • Book cover of "All My Rivers Are Gone" by Katie Lee

  As we round a bend and come over a small rise, I feel like I've been hit in the middle of my everything. I grab for Frank's arm and say, "Wait a minute, Bigfeets, I don't think I can take much more of this. It's too beautiful!" Suddenly, I'm crying. He nods, takes my hand, and squeezes hard. When I look at him, there are tears in his eyes as well.

I ask myself, what's here that triggers an emotion so overwhelming it brings tears? It's not like theater, where our emotions are aroused by what we hear, and we cry over words and evolving situations. This is rock - inert - water, air, aromas, silence, light, and shadowplay. Words would mock this scene.

Our tears have come unexpectedly because we're thankful to the point of overflowing. We've just been handed a spectacular gift - rare, flawless, stunning to the senses - and the privilege has touched our hearts in a wash (of) humility and reverence. I am humbled and bow my head before these generous Canyon Gods, glad to be the one who can shed tears.

Floyd Dominy would probably stop here and take a piss.

" Katie Lee,

All My Rivers Are Gone

from an Oct. 1, 1955, journal noteA river rat remembers

Almost 45 years ago, a young folksinger named Katie Lee escaped from Hollywood and started rafting the Colorado River. She soon fell head over heels in love - with both the power of the river and the beauty of Utah's Glen Canyon. Sixteen river trips and less than a decade later, her love affair was interrupted by the Bureau of Reclamation, which built Glen Canyon Dam and put the redrock canyon under 500 feet of water.

Now, a 70-something Katie Lee is sharing her memories of Glen Canyon in a witty, angry scrapbook of journal entries, songs, and stories. From the start of All My Rivers Are Gone, it's clear that her passion for the Colorado isn't just nostalgia for what used to be: On the first day of her first trip, before she'd even heard of the Bureau of Reclamation, Lee's notes show that she was bowled over by the river and its canyons. During the next few years, she immersed herself - both literally and figuratively - in Glen Canyon, skinny-dipping, sunbathing and squeezing through side canyons at every opportunity.

She can't say enough about "my river," but Lee is anything but sentimental. "It started raining and blowing like hell! I spilled hot coffee on my hand! Ann dropped the bench with all the food on it! Everything was full of sand!" she complains to her journal at one point in a river trip. She's cynical and profane throughout, with a self-described "sadistic sense of humor," and you get the feeling that she never puts aside her hard shell unless she really has something to say. In All My Rivers Are Gone, she most definitely does.

" Michelle Nijhuis

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