Down the Colorado
The Diary of Buzz Holmstrom (abridged)


   In 1937 Buzz Holmstrom took a vacation from his job at a Coquille, Oregon gas station to go on a boat trip. He crafted his boat by hand from lumber milled from a deadfall Port Orford Cedar tree he found. He loaded it on an old trailer, drove alone to Green River, Wyoming, and began his seven week trip.

   He kept a journal along the way. His entries portray, more than any latter day historian’s interpretation ever could, a phenomenally sensitive, perceptive and talented young man. When you consider that his previous big water experience was virtually nil, that the art of rowing boats through whitewater was far from advanced, and that most boaters who went before him were a bit boastful of their prowess and protective of their terrain, I think you will find Holmstrom even more remarkable then you might have imagined.

   I’ll leave the rest to Buzz.

 

Green River, Wyoming

October 4, 1937

   Rained out last night. Got up at 3:30 to keep my bed from getting wet. I could see long jagged streaks of blue lightning off over the mountains to the southwest, then it would be about fifteen seconds before I heard the thunder.

   My boat is tied up about two hundred yards above the island where the Kolbs kept theirs. The view of Castle Rock behind the town is almost identical with the picture in their book…

   The boat looks very good, but leaks some. I hope a day or two of soaking will cure that. The seat is a little too high and the oars should be eight feet instead of seven and a half. Loper has four of the very finest ash oars that were given him by Julius Stone, who was out to Salt Lake two weeks ago. It seems as if all the boatmen around this country are down at Vernal. Loper sure gave me a lot of dope on the different men who have made or attempted trips here.

   According to Green River folks, the big obstacle in my way is the boom a mile below here. I don’t know but what I shall have to give up the trip if it is as bad as they say…

October 5

   My greatest worry is the early October blizzard which everyone says is due here now. At present I am engaged in thawing out my shoes so I can get my feet into them. The water froze solid overnight.

   I hit the river again at 8:10. It is nice and warm now, the country is beautiful, with lots of little parks and islands covered with cottonwood and willow…

October 6

   .... dark.... I am camped in a dry creek bed a few miles above Perry’s Fork. The last few miles of river were awful: about a hundred yards wide and full of sand bars that run in all directions, like a puzzle. I go down one side and find myself trapped. Then must either row back or drag the boat over. It has been pleasant all day. Perhaps the early October blizzard will hold off long enuf for me to get out of the country.

   I find myself feeling nervous and worried a little, but I guess that is because it takes so long to get to the rapids. I think I will be okay as soon as I get to them…

October 7

   8:30 The grain of the rocks is sloping up now. I am getting near the mountains. I never saw more beautiful surroundings; sloping rolling hills on the left, cliffs on the right, brush all along the banks all colors of the rainbow, mostly red and yellow, with distant blue mountains in the west, the further range standing behind the nearer, and white with snow. No wonder the first travellers thought they had found an easy way…

   6:00 Flaming Gorge, Horseshoe and Kingfisher Canyon are indescribably beautiful even at this late season, and just full of birds, whose songs are echoed by the cliffs. Here in Red Canyon the walls are high but not so unfriendly looking… but the rude awakening is not far off now. The cliffs are full of crevices with pine trees in them. I kept my feet dry all day…

October 8

   6:00 PM I surely have done some funny maneuvering today. The first two miles took two hours because of rocks and shallow water. I walk along the banks further than I go in the boat. I made Skull Creek at 1:00. It has good gravel rapids till Horseshoe, where was a mile of the most miserable rowing I ever put in: wide, shallow, and rocky and the sun was squarely in my eyes, so I couldn’t see downstream at all, and just zigzagged back and forth.

   At four I reached Ashley Falls. I took two time exposures, probably no good tho. I ran them without any trouble, tho it was close quarters…

October 9

   At 2:30 I came to Red Creek rapid. It is a dirty son of a gun to put it mild–steep, long and rocky. At its head is a steep drop with water shooting into the right cliff, a channel there, but no room to use the right oar for the cliff. Anyhow, something had to be done, as the rapids divide into three parts. I might have tried to run it if close to home and everything favorable, but here there is too much to lose by a smashing, so I portaged the boat over a beaver dam down a little side channel, then ran down a way with the oars, then slid over the rocks into another shallow channel and ran down to the foot light. It did not take over twenty minutes, but then the trouble began. It was over a quarter of a mile from the duffel at the head to the boat at the foot. I made it all in three loads, but I am sure a donkey’s ears would have burned with shame watching me. I got away from that place, altho it was dark by the time I got the stuff in the boat, as there is just a long windy rock bar to camp on there. I hated to break down and portage, as I have not done so before, but what I am trying to do is see how far I can get rather than how many I can run. If there are many more long portages, about half my stuff is going overboard.

   Well, tomorrow is the day that Dodge’s outfit is supposed to start from Lee’s Ferry…

October 10

   6:00 Brown’s Park. Prettiest place I ever saw. Park is right. I have come many miles thro it and have not seen a living soul. There are several ranches in the upper end, but they are deserted. There was one place, tho, where I know someone was living. Every fifty feet or so there is dirt from beaver slides, and the ducks and geese are thick. I was looking downstream at some geese, and happened to glance thro an opening in the willows on the left, there was a deer. I got out the camera and shot him as he disappeared in the willows, and I was cursing my luck at not getting a good picture, and winding up the next film, when two more followed him across the opening. But I still could not get the camera ready in time.

   There are high mountains all around the valley, sort of protecting it, it seems, and I feel kind of guilty going thro here myself. The river meanders awfully, with very large groves of cottonwood trees along its banks, and terribly tricky sand-bars in the channel. On one bank, almost all the way, is a very thick growth of willow; just short; five to eight feet tall, but no trees. The beaver make paths thro this and cut shoots off and take them down to their houses to eat. They seem to have high water houses and low water ones. There are many cattle and sheep around the valley, but some fields of grass nearly a mile across, ankle deep and thick, that is not grazed at all. I took quite a few pictures, but know they can’t do the place justice. The mountains surrounding the valley rise higher and higher and bluer and bluer into the distance. There are also birds of every description here.

   I expect to pay dearly for this peaceful cruise thro the park, tho, when I hit the next canyon, which is Lodore.

   There is a little sliver of a moon tonight, but the air is so clear it causes things to throw a good shadow.

   It was 110 in the sun today. I am well sunburned. The man who said “Time flies” must have been on a boating expedition ..... six and a half days already.…

October 11

   Evening… The water is so muddy here you can’t see the bottom of the cup…

October 12

   Evening. This portaging duffel is real work. It sure makes me warm, also tired, but it will do me good, I know. The water doesn’t seem cold at all. I feel that I have done pretty well on the river, but tomorrow will tell the story, for the Green at least, for a mile below here is Hell’s Half Mile. It will certainly have to be a portage of everything except maybe the boat, over a steep hillside, too, I think. It is the most difficult going in Green River. Today was my poorest day, only about forty-two miles but I will be lucky to make twelve tomorrow. It was warm and clear all day, with no wind. I can see traces of a camp all over the bar here. Some of the traces are pretty old, I think.

   The moon is now lighting up the top of the canyon walls.... pretty.... I am going to bed now; it is late for me to be up. (7:30)

October 13

   11:30 I left Triplet at 8:15. It was only about a half mile to Hell’s Half Mile, which is well named. I unloaded at the head. The first drop was the worst, and it was bad. I struck bottom and hung up on a rock under the fall. The boat swung around the wrong way. I pulled over to the right as best I could, anyhow, and the stern struck, but not very hard. She swung round and made it OK. Finally washed Green River sand off the rear deck. The middle rapid is awfully rocky, but I went thro it without touching one. Then in the lower end, where it is swift again, with a couple of rocks. An oarlock pulled out of its socket at a critical time, and while I was putting it back the boat drifted upon the piled-up water on a rock, but slid off and by that time I had the oar back in place and made it OK. I worked the boat back up the left channel fifty yards and made it much easier. The boat has started leaking, and I am worried sick for fear I have smashed a plank. (Later, on examination, I find that the paint has merely got knocked off a screw hole that has no screw in it.)…

   Evening. Camped just above Jones Hole Creek, I think. There is a long bar on the left of the river. A dead cow and horse are on the lower end of the bar, but as I say it is long, and they shouldn’t mind my company…

October 15

   12:00 I am right in the middle of the storm with thunder and lightning, huddled under a rock with water streaming down all around. It can’t keep me dry above the hips, tho. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. There are creeks falling over the cliffs all around, and right across the river is almost a landslide: a big stream bringing down rocks by the ton, the river is turning dark red, almost black. Maybe this will give me a little more water to go on, anyhow. Only two more miles of this canyon.

   I can’t see the tops of the cliffs near me ....very impressive.... I think I am in a safe place from slides; anyway I hope so. A rapid is right under me, and I can’t hear myself think. It has only been raining twenty minutes. This rock doesn’t soak up water at all…

   Evening. So far this trip I have looked all the rapids over carefully, and it is lucky I have, as the channels thro most of them are mighty complicated. All the canyons so far have dealt very kindly with me, and the weather man did too until last night and today…

October 18

   Evening. At 3:30 I got stuck on a sandbar, took off my shoes and pulled the boat thro. A lot of the way the river is four to five hundred feet wide. The wind came up again. I got into straight waves a foot and a half high. Simply awful to try to do anything. Can scarcely buck it, and when sideways I go along with one oar backing water and rowing with all my might on the other. I couldn’t find a good camping spot, and it got so dark I stopped here. It is flat, soft mud, seventy-five feet out of water. There is a narrow fringe of cottonwoods and brush and then desert and sagebrush…

   I think I am on the Uintah reservation now, and no wonder. No white man would want this country…

October 20

   7:45 This morning I actually saw two red skies at once. In the east the sun made a big red sky, and in the west the moon, which really shines bright here. I read the writing in this notebook by it last night. It was shining up on a cloud when the sun rose, and while not really red it was sort of pink. I will be sorry to see the moon go. It is like a friend to me now, waiting all lit up bright when the sun goes down, and staying till the sun comes back again…

October 22

   The moon was so bright last night that it actually hurt the eyes to look at it. It is absolutely clear this morning, no frost, either. It is probably raining at Coquille now, and everyone running around snuffling with colds and so on, while here am I in better shape than I have ever been, I am sure, except that, due to the long spells of rowing I have put in the last few days, it is much more comfortable to stand up than to sit down. I am going to try to get some kind of cushion at Green River…

October 23

   6:30 A.M. Green River town seems to be a mile from the river, and is the most miserable dilapidated one-horse town I ever saw. However, I guess I can get everything I need here…

October 24

   9:00 A.M. Ready to leave camp just below Green River. Getting late start. Arranged load all over. Fixed ropes, blocks, etc. One oar has a cracked blade, and one of the spares which I thought the best is so badly warped I can scarcely use it. I could not get any around Green River, tho I hate to start thro the cataract with only two good oars…

   My tennis shoes are going very haywire, but I could get none in Green River. I ordered some sent to Lees Ferry, and also oars, but as I don’t know just who to send them to I may not get them…

October 25

   9:00… I met a man just above here, who says there are 1900 feet of water in this river, and about 3000 in the Colorado, making 5000 on Cataract. That is more than I expected, but I think it will help…

   6:00 P.M. I did not work very hard today, and am not as tired as I should be. Tomorrow I am going to use the old oars. I’m tired of wearing out my arms and twisting the skin off my palms trying to use the warped ones. Captain Yokey says it is all right to start thro with them, as I am pretty sure to find some in the drift. He had one he had found in a drift he wanted to sell me for 25, that I would not trust to go across the river in a still place with…

October 26

   It is a swell night, warm and clear. There was not much wind today. I am cooking prunes this evening. This A.M. I tied the warped oar to the hatch so it is sprung the opposite way, and will leave it till I hit Cataract and see if that helps any.

   I’m sure glad to eat the last of that old Jensen cheese. Makes my mouth burn like I was a fire-eater…

October 27

   I had a fine breakfast: coffee, toast, cracked wheat mush and prunes. Last night there was a splashing around, groaning, jabbering and scraping and hammering sound for a long time across the river. It sounded like crazy people. Finally I concluded it was some beavers at work, and maybe something else too, as I didn’t think beavers made any vocal noise. Pretty soon I got up to see if one of them was chewing a hole in the boat, as it sounded close, but there was no sign…

October 28

   My vacation from the service station ends today, but I can’t very well be back to work on time.... Well, I have almost forgotten the gas business. Those cataracts ahead seem quite important now. I washed this morning…

November 1

   5:45 If there aren’t some tennis shoes for me at Lees Ferry I will have to walk out to Salt Lake and get some, as both my soles and heels are right on the ground…

November 3

   I am getting so I can pretty well tell time at night by the stars, and a good thing, as my watch is clear haywire…

November 4

   I looked at my squash in the coals this morning. I poked around, and there seemed to be one coal a little bigger than the others. I broke it in two. It was red-hot clear thro. All that remained of my squash!…

   I have no light now. I bought some flashlight batteries from Montgomery Ward and they were dead without scarcely any using at all. I wish the fellow who sold them to me was here and I would push him into the creek…

November 5

   I got to the bridge at 4:30, and climbed out a quarter-mile above on the left. It is an awful climb. I don’t see how I can carry anything down there. I will go down to Badger Creek in the morning and see if it is any better. The oars are in Flagstaff, and I will have to go after them and to mail things, as there is no post office here, no stamps or anything. And no groceries…

November 6

   This is the memorandum of the things I must get and do in Flagstaff.

   Get oars
   Get supplies for two weeks
   Mail rocks (to mamma)
   Mail tent
   Mail thermos bottle
   Fix so can tie load inside
   Mail films
   Write Uncle Roy
   Batteries
   Screw eyes

November 7

   2:30 A.M. Flagstaff. I spent two and a half hours trying to find Badger Creek, where I could reach the river easier. Never did. Still think I can, tho, tomorrow, with the aid of a retired army officer staying at Lee’s who used to live in Jackson’s hole and knew Teagarden there.

   The largest stand of pine in the United States is south of Flagstaff, reaching to the border.

   I heard part of the USC-Stanford game. Stanford, 7-6.

   No one here knows about rivers…

   Mrs. Pete Nelson says she knew a fellow who was thought to have killed a man above, and came thro Cataract in a pig trough, but I think it must have been Glen Canyon…

   I wish I hadn’t come to Flagstaff. I look like a wild man now…

November 8

   8:45 I just ran Badger Creek rapid. I intended all along to line it, and felt kind of blue this morning when I got up, but after breakfast felt much better. I kept looking at the rapid and thought I saw a way to run it… drop over the top on the right side of the main channel, which runs square into the rock below, and the suction below the rock sort of pulls the boat to the right so as to miss the rock. It worked fine. The waves were large but the only water I took on was from the sidewinders…

  Soap Creek is next, which I will portage even if it looks good…

   1:10 Well, I am sure getting to be a first-class liar. I came down to Soap Creek, and looked at it. It did not look so bad… very large waves that would surely wreck things were on the left, but on the right a little narrow channel, very swift, no doubt the same one Kolbs used in ‘11. They upset both boats, but it didn’t look too bad, and it is a big job to portage, so I unloaded, apologized to myself, and ran it…

   At Badger my knees got very weak, but they were like steel rods compared to the way they were here. If that channel was not entered just right with crosswise momentum it does not take a blueprint to tell one what would happen…

   Two miles below the rock is North Canyon rapid. I stopped and looked it over from the right bank. It is a very steep drop and the narrowest one yet. It runs against the left bank and curves to the right. The waves in the center are larger than Soap Creek, and swifter. I intended to stay on the right on the inside of the big line of waves, but did not look carefully enuf and the boat was drawn over into the center. One wave came over the side and gave me two and a half gallons and drenched me. I could see I was being drawn into the center of the biggest wave, but was not worried much as I was sure the boat would rise over it. The boat was flooded down on a rock in the trough and stuck there. All I could see was water on all sides. None came in tho. Why I didn’t upset or go clear under I don’t know. Too good a boat, I guess. The oars looked awfully small and useless in those circumstances, so I let go of them and grabbed the gunwales and expected to go over, under, or end over end, but she came loose, shot out of the wave cornerwise and headed for the ledge on the left out of the big waves. Then I grabbed the oars and ran the rest OK. I am going back up there, a half mile, in the morning, and try to analyze it and see for sure just what my mistake was. Mostly carelessness, I am sure…

   The waves, especially in Soap Creek and several of the other rapids down here, break at intervals somewhat like the ocean ones. They will topple over upstream, then subside a little, then shoot up and break over again…

November 9

   11:15 I am now at 25 mile rapids. I like its looks even less. I must come in at the head in the middle, shooting in to the left shore to miss the rocks at hand on left and the jumble of rocks and waves below on the right, cross over in a length of not more than 25 feet in swift water…

   I will shove off now. The next rapid is one mile below here. I am making very good headway so far, but no one can tell what the next rapid will bring. That is what makes it interesting. I can still sing and whistle, only the echo is poor here, and not kind to my voice, as was Labyrinth. The boat has simply behaved like a million so far…

   It really hurts to go thro here in a way, there are so many wonderful things and on such a grand scale I cannot begin to describe them, and pictures are almost an aggravation, as they do not show things as they really are.

   Last night the quarter moon came around looking for me, but I was camped under a vertical cliff. The moon came down over the upper walls of limestone but could not get down into the narrow inner gorge where I was. Tonight I picked out a place where the moon is shining now and will till late. It seems like an old friend.

   Things have been going so good and easy I am sure I must be in for some bad luck soon. I have been very cautious today, and have not had any trouble at all. Many of the rapids are close, tho, and a foot or two off at the critical time would make an awful difference.

   In 25 mile rapid today I had to start in the middle and pull to the left thro a narrow space below a rock above the left, and a rats nest of huge waves and rocks below on the right. I started well over to the right and rowed across to get momentum to shoot in below the rock. The current got swifter sooner than I figured, and I thought for a little I was going into that rats nest, but I really laid hard on the oars and slipped thro. In several rapids it has been necessary to shoot in from one side or other at the head to get proper position in the swift water. I would be unable to drop straight down and pull over. If you are in swift water and try to pull over into an eddy behind a rock the still water below the rock forces the boat back into the current. It was not so in the Green, where the water is not so swift…

   It is 7:30, and I am going to bed. The canyon is more beautiful by moonlight than by day. The moonlight is reflected off the waves in the rapid below me…

November 10

   12:00 I am at the Little Colorado–the much anticipated Junction. There is not much water, but it is clear and very blue. It leaves a white deposit all over the bottom of the stream. I may drown in the next rapid, but am sure proud of having run all the rapids in Marble Gorge in two and a half days’ time…

November 11

   It did not rain after all. I worried, tho. It is still cloudy. My suspenders broke in two places as I was about to get into the boat this morning, and I spent some time repairing them. It sure was lucky it happened here, tho. Just suppose I had been going thro a bad rapid and they had broken. I would probably have had to drop the oars and grab the pants, and would have wrecked the boat and drowned. It is 8:00, and I am leaving…

   I am camped just above Bright Angel suspension bridge and gaging station on the left. I got here at 3:30. I could have made it up to the top by dark, but decided to wait till morning. I got some stuff straightened out to take up, and took a bath and washed my underwear. I am camped on an open bar and the wind blows a gale, making it difficult to do anything. It doesn’t seem possible I came from Lees Ferry in four days minus. That was because I did not have to portage. I know there will be six or seven portages below…

November 12

   I’m rich! Almost to the top of the rim, and starved–thinking of the burned biscuit bottoms I threw away last night, and so weak I could lie down and die in the trail, when I find a piece of cheese the rats have been gnawing on the edge of the trail. I trim it up a little and am now sitting in the trail eating it. MM-M-MM--M!:

November 14

   10:30 Ready to shove off at Pipe Creek, two miles below the Suspension Bridge. Emery Kolb helped me pack down my supplies and camped with me last night at the bridge, with his grandson, Sonny. He ran the boat down here thro some riffles, giving Sonny his first boat ride on the Colorado. I rearranged my load, threw away the wormy raisins, and am now shoving off…

   11:15 I ran ashore a half mile below Horn Creek to straighten the left oarlock which bent when I let go of the oars in the rapid, and the oar was carried under the boat in a big wave…

   Just ran Hermit Falls. Am not very proud of my performance there either. All went off as planned, only an oar got caught on the upstream side and carried under again, in the first drop. There was a loud crackling noise, and I expected to see the oar broken in two, but it was not, and I went on in the way I had expected. Took on about five gallons again, but did not come near tipping over. It’s a bad rapid, tho: large waves at the head, making it necessary to go down the right, holding in against angling waves, and drop over a steep chute with fast angling reverse waves at the bottom. It was in the wave at the bottom that I cracked the oar. It was like Horn Creek, but less nasty. Didn’t have any difficulty at Granite Falls. I dropped down the left of big waves against the right cliff. I got drawn into the center of the big ones at the bottom, but took no water at all. I am going to continue to use the oar, as it seems plenty strong yet and has been lucky so far.

   The next one, Boucher, was pretty easy, a long, wide not very swift section and then it narrowed up and big waves were at the very last steep drop. I kept clear of rocks. I took some water, but it did not matter.

   Crystal Rapids were next. They were much like Boucher–long, wide and slow at first, steep and clear at the last. I took no water, and camped just below Crystal, tired and hungry. Did not get much sleep last night. Kolbs used the bag, and I tried to sleep on the sand under the rubber poncho, but there was not much warmth in that, and my sleep was disturbed by an absence of heat.

   It is a nice place here, with lots of wood and a good beach for the boat. Tuna Rapids, just below, sound bad. I hope the tuna doesn’t bite. By the way, I had some for lunch. Fight fire with fire…

November 15

   I had to peel the biscuits on the bottom. I haven’t too much grub: plenty unless I have trouble, but am going easy on it. I feel well satisfied with the day’s run of fourteen miles. I had been dreading Waltenburg. I should have fairly easy going tomorrow for about fifteen miles. I am not properly worried about not being able to get out of the canyon. I sit here like a king in front of my fire, governed by no man-made laws. Of course I can’t make the wind stop blowing smoke in my eyes and things like that, but it is fine anyhow. Tomorrow night I may be clinging to some rock in midstream, but no use worrying yet.

   The boat takes on more personality all the time. My fate and its are pretty well sealed together. If it is broken or sinks, so do I…

   Thoughts of home are very pleasant, but it sure does seem a long way off. The moon is bright tonight, and almost full. For the first time in my life I can see the man in the moon.... large, bushy eyebrows, much like Mr. Holmes.... my old friend, the moon…

November 16

   2:00 Just ran Bedrock. Bedrock Island is in the center of the rapid. It was easy to go on the right. That was one I had been dreading. The next one is Deubendorff, and it has a very bad reputation.

   3:15 I am going to try Dubie’s rapid. I don’t like the looks of it, tho.

   6:00 Made it OK. On the left above the rapid I put my prunes and raisins in a bag and unloaded the rest of the duffel on the right. In the center at the head of the rapid is a sort of rocky island with most all the water going on the left. It would be pretty easy to line a boat down the right to the lower portion, which is clear of rocks. The main current on the left runs thro a few very large waves which could be run easy, and then into a bunch of big rocks, mostly under water, which would smash a boat SO quick, but at the foot of the island the water begins to turn to the right thro some rocks and run into clear right side of lower end. I dropped over the head of the island as close to it as I could possibly get and hung right against it and slipped between two rocks at the lower end of the island and thro the lower end — BONE DRY!

   The whole thing hinged on whether or not I would be sucked out into the main current and waves leading into the left end of the last drop, or whether I could hold against the island as there is a strong current away from it at the top, and once in the waves one could not pull out. I was some worried and sized up the country for escape and it did not look very promising. I don’t get as scared as I should, tho.

   This is the rapid Deubendorff’s party upset in, and Eddy lost a boat here lining it. I think maybe [Dodge’s] outfit did the same as I, as I see many tracks but no signs of portaging boats…

   I felt swell when I got thro this rapid, and better yet when I finally remembered the last two lines of “Barnacle Bill” which I had been trying to think of. They almost fit my case.

   “My whiskers grew so bloomin’ fast
   The sea horses ate ‘em instead of grass.”

   Mine are almost that bad.

   I am camped at the lower end of Deubendorff, where I have the boat all loaded again. It was quite a long portage of the duffel over soft sand and rock bar. I cooked some prunes and raisins for supper, but did not eat them till after dark, as I have reason to believe that the raisins I threw away and replaced were not the ones that were wormy…

November 17

   3:00 I am in walls much like Marble Canyon, high, narrow, sheer and smooth since above Kanab. Got out of the granite below Deer Creek. I am going to take a picture downstream, I can see the rays of the sun from above the left cliff, but they don’t reach down to the river. It should look forbidding and dark downstream, rough, and no way out, but it doesn’t look that way to me at all. Probably because I am just thro a bad one and no bad ones ahead for a while.

   When I remember that I once considered selling the boat when I am thro, I am ashamed of myself. It has saved my life many times already and still has a job ahead. There are still a hundred miles of bad rapids…

November 18

   2:00 A.M. The rain finally came. It woke me up at 1:30, with wind roaring up on the cliffs. I rolled up my bed and put it under a rock, as I don’t want to get it wet. It is an awful job to dry it out. I fixed up the fire and am now sitting on my table thinking of the tent I discarded. It was heavy, tho, and if the rain doesn’t last for days I am better off without it. This is fun now but would no doubt lose its humor if prolonged…

   6:45 A.M. Had a little extra time, so washed face, hands and teeth. Hadn’t figured on doing that till the end of the trip, but might as well do it now and not have to bother then. Breakfast was just mush and coffee this morning. My flour is going down awfully fast. I will now shove off…

   7:00 P.M. Gateway was easy. Started down the center and finished on the right. I looked at none of them till Lava Falls, at 1:45 o’clock. (Mi 178)

   A mile above the Falls a huge pillar of lava stands in the center of the river. I played with the idea of running the Falls on the right for fifteen minutes, but decided to portage on the left, then had to cross back to the right for poles to slide the boat on. I started to portage at 2:30 and had the boat down at five. I will take my duffel down in the morning. I just might have run it, but it is very, very bad…

November 19

   8:00 A.M. Have the boat loaded below the Falls. It is cloudy again this morning, but I will take some pictures before I shove off. I got up early and took a drink of water out of the bucket in the dark. At daylight I discovered two drowned rats in it. Before drowning, however, they had eaten one butter for me. Between rats and myself the butter is not holding out very well. On looking over the Falls this morning I am quite sure I could have run them, but would portage every time just the same, unless there was some very good reason for running them…

   8:40 A.M. I got to thinking that perhaps those rats drowned themselves in remorse for having eaten my butter…

   5:00 P.M. Camped at Granite Park, mi. 209. Made thirty-one miles today. Got here at three o’clock, but it was such a good camp that I stopped. Dodge’s outfit stopped here, and left a sign saying, “Hello, Buzz! November 17, 1937” on some poles. Their fires were still alive. My figures say this is the 19th, so I am sure either theirs or mine are off as I believe they must have left here this morning. They left some cocoa in a can by the fire. I am drinking it now. This is the first time I was sure they knew I was coming. It sure seems good, almost as good as seeing someone. They may spend a day or two at Diamond Creek, and so I may see them there…

November 20

   6:50 A.M. I am ready to shove off, but waiting for a little more light, as there is quite a rapid right below. The sunrise is beautiful. The moon is still in sight in the west, as if to show the sun the way; in the east above the dark cliffs the sky is the bluest blue I ever saw, and runs thro different shades up to the pink and red clouds. It makes me mad to try to describe it, as there are no words that will do the work.

   My overalls are developing a good-sized hole where they rub on the seat of the boat the most....

   Off at 7:00. Met Dodge’s outfit at Diamond Creek, mi 226, at 11:15. Stayed with them at Travertine Creek, three miles below.

November 21

   6:00 evening. At gnEISs canyon at 236, current strong against the right cliff. I started right, ended in center easy and dry. Bridge Creek at 235 was easy. I ate lunch at 236. They were all easy to Separation. I took a long walk down the side. It was easy. I started on the right of the main tongue at the head, pulled to the right and dropped thro the second section on the right of a big submerged rock with a large wave, thro big waves to the third section. I started it on the left, and pulled over to the right; dry all the way.

   At 240 I shot a steep one. Ran on left of a big rock at the head, hit a funny reverse wave, the boat stopped completely and tumbled crossways with its nose to the right bank, but I went thro dry.

   241 mile rapid is steep and rocky. I dropped over next to a rock on the left bank and kept to the left thro big waves and pull out to the right at the foot where the current runs strong against the left cliff. I ran the rest to Spencer without looking them over.

   I looked Spencer over from the left side at the head. I could not get down far on the left, but could see enuf. A nice clear stream comes in at Spencer. I started slowly thro the channel between submerged rocks at the head and pull over to the left cliff, dropped thro small reverse wave near the cliff and near enuf to a big rock to touch it (the rock is almost against the cliff on the left). To the right of the rock is a steep drop and very deep trough and monstrous reverse wave. I did not want to go thro that. Next to the rock was a better place, not so deep trough. Went thro there OK. The current shot the boat against the cliff, a big boil rebounded it, the stern eased against the cliff, and I pulled around bow first away from the cliff and thro OK, with about three gallons of water. Am camped on the right at the lower end of rapid mile 247, with the last bad one above me.

   The Bad Rapid — Lava Cliff — that I had been looking forward to for nearly a thousand miles, with dread.

   I had thought: once past there my reward will begin, but now everything ahead seems kind of empty and I find I have already had my reward, in the doing of the thing. The stars, the cliffs and canyons, the roar of the rapids, the moon, the uncertainty and worry, the relief when thro each one.... the campfires at night.... the real respect and friendship of the rivermen I met and others....

   This may be my last camp where the roar of the rapids is echoed from the cliffs around and I can look at the stars and moon only thro a narrow slit in the earth.

   The river and canyons have been kind to me.

   I think my greatest danger is ahead — that I might get swell-headed over this thing. I am going to try to keep my mouth shut about it, go back to work in the old way and have it only for a memory for myself. I have done no one any good and caused a few people great worry and suffering, I know.

   I think this river is not treacherous as it has been said to be. Every rapid speaks plainly just what it is and what it will do to a person and a boat in its currents, waves, boils, whirlpools, and rocks if only one will listen carefully. It demands respect, and will punish those who do not treat it properly. Some places it says, “go here safely, if you do it just this way” and in others it says “do not go here at all with the type of boat you have” but many people will not believe what it says.

   Some people have said I conquered the Colorado. I don’t say so. It has never been conquered and never will I think. Anyone whom it allows to go thro its canyons and see its wonders should feel thankful and privileged. Sometimes I feel sorry for the river. It works every second of the ages carving away at the rocks, digging its canyons. It carries a million tons of silt a day. And again, I feel sorry for the mountains, with the river gnawing at their inside, but I guess my sympathy doesn’t seem very important to either of them.

   I know I have got more out of this trip by being alone than if I was with a party, as I have more time, especially at night, to listen and look and think and wonder about the grandeur that surrounds me, rather than to listen to talk of war, politics and football scores.

   The river probably thought “He is such a lonesome, ignorant unimportant and insignificant pitiful little creature, with such a short time to live, that I will let him go this time and try to teach him something.” It has been less kind to many prouder people than I…

   I have about thirty miles of rapid yet, but all pretty easy I think. I will continue to be careful, tho. I felt lucky here, especially as I recognized places shown in pictures where others had toiled portaging and lining, and within fifteen minutes of the time I reached the head I was at the foot, load and all.

   A perfect night. The moon comes up later now.... still.... every star in the sky lighted up brighter than usual.... my last night in the Canyon.


   This excerpt represents about one quarter of the original manuscript. It was diffucult to edit it at all, but space dictated. Three dots(…) represents an omission by me. Four dots (....) is copied from the original.
   I received my copy from Joan Nevills Staveley, who got it from one of Buzz’s brothers. It is said to have been typed by Buzz’s mother from the handwritten original. I have tried to remain faithful to the copy I have, leaving grammatical and spelling eccentricities as I found them.
   We hope to publish an unabridged manuscript with pictures, annotations, etc. at some future date.

Brad Dimock