In September, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to float the San Juan river which divides the Navajo Nation from Utah on the Arizona/Utah border. This Grand Canyon Field Institute and Wild Rivers Expeditions trip was lead by my favorite river guide Christa, 2 additional boatmen, and 7 passengers. A good group it was, gelling in a way that I have been told is less frequent than not. We all told stories, listened, and worked hard as we explored 87 miles of this muddy, brown stream.
It is hard to explain what I experienced, for it remains overwhelming to me even now. The knowledge shared between Christa, Taylor (the new co-owner of Wild Rivers) and Greg (a botanist and archaeologist) was astounding. While I did my best to absorb the information conveyed about the history of the people (from ancient native Americans to the Mormon settlers), the million years old rock formations, fossils, and the river itself, I must humbly admit that I remain completely ignorant.
As an assistant in training to the crew, I was removed from the comfort of being an expert in my geek world, instead learning again how to do the simplest of tasks. Cutting vegetables, anchoring a boat with the bow line, even shitting in the out of doors (a task for which I would have claimed to be an expert prior to this trip) was given a new, strict, and valid set of rules.
I sat silent night after night in the kitchen and around the campfire, having little to contribute to the conversations. My favorite subjects of climbing and highspeed internode communication fabrics were utterly boring in comparison to discussion of the means by which people lived in that arid land, leaving just enough evidence for us to piece together a compelling story of who, why, and where they lived and died.
I was brought to tears one afternoon as Christa told the Hopi creation story, while our dozen rested on a sandstone shelf beneath a several hundred (perhaps thousand) year old cliff dwelling. I hid behind my camera to mask the upwelling emotional invoked by the passion with which Christa sang, without instrument nor even melody.
It feels so good to be moved that way, for ultimately it is the stories of humans that humans remember most.