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What I Came For

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I should have paid more attention during the knot merit badge class
I should have paid more attention during the knot merit badge class
When the time came to get to work, I was ready. I had been just hanging around in the desert for a couple of days packing and repacking my clothes for maximum efficiency. Because I'm exactly that kind of neurotic.

The day before we put in on the river was spent loading and rigging the boats. I won't bore you with the minutia except to say that it is an extremely meticulous operation. A full eight days of food, water and gear for fourteen people on each boat is stowed away in well-labeled and pre-planned niches. Food packed in coolers in reverse order. Bread and eggs perfectly fit into World War II-era ammo cans and rocket boxes. Everything exactly the right size for the nook it fits in. It's really very impressive.

Also... there are a lot of knots on boats.

Early on Tuesday we finally had a load of passengers and were ready to get underway. I had loaded everyone's gear onto the boat, put my personal stuff into an ammo can, filled a drag bag full of beer and taken my seat next to Claire at the stern of the raft. The most obvious feature of my assigned seat was the lack of a seatbelt. This was no surprise but I began to seriously wonder what I would do to keep my ass on the boat when the river got rough.

There's a bruise on my knee in the shape of the corner of that white one on the end
There's a bruise on my knee in the shape of the corner of that white one on the end

Personal beer fridge
Personal beer fridge

After a quick briefing for the passengers, we left Lee's Ferry. A few minutes later, we were crossing under the Navajo bridges where I had looked down on the river the day before. I knew from the map in my ammo can that this was the last road across the river until Hoover Dam, almost 300 miles downstream.

Bridge over troubled water
Bridge over troubled water

Not long into the float, Claire shut off the motor for one of the group's leaders to address the other passengers. Dr. Genie Scott welcomed everyone to the annual Grand Canyon trip of the National Center for Science Education. The group, it turns out, works to defend the continued teaching of evolution in schools. They lobby vigorously to keep Creationism and so-called Intelligent Design curriculum out of science classes. They come to the Grand Canyon every year to educate their members about evolution and geology in the planet's most complete and oldest laboratory.

Genie then introduced Dr. Alan Gishlick. "Dr. Gishlick will be providing us with a complete geologic record of the history of the canyon documenting the last two billion years of the planet's history as we travel this week. As he does, I will be giving the Young-Earth Creationist retort to Gish's real science." I didn't envy her position.


I would come to admire Genie as a dedicated and passionate scientist. She would spend the coming week offering up the disjointed explanations for the literal mountains of evidence facing the Creationist position straight out of their own textbooks. She is not a Creationist at all but, in the manner of a public defender, she embraced her assigned position without apology. Plus she had a shirt with a bar graph on it that said, "Broken Down by Age and Sex". Oh those zany statisticians.

The geology lesson as we navigated the canyon was basically an advanced college course. I lost complete track of the names of all the rock formations and layer names. The all have names like winning gladiators. Igneous Magnanimous and Fellatious Dromedarius and stuff like that.

Gish had been married only a week but had agreed to come as long as his wife could come along. Alan and Alana were like a couple of ancient birds on the verge of extinction from their own physical awkwardness. They are both scientists and Alan is one of the leading authorities on Colorado Plateau geology. She had a whole theory about "wife as pack mule" she kept going on about. A perfect match, I think.

The Gishlick's
The Gishlick's

Also on the trip were my new favorite family. The Epperson's. Sue Epperson had, in 1968, taken a case to the Supreme Court challenging the anti-evolution laws in the State of Arkansas. The Epperson's are highly religious Presbyterians with a zest for life rivaled by no one. Their son, Mark, is a Pastor in Colorado Springs and spent most of the trip making me feel fat and white by wearing only an orange pair of shorts.

The Epperson's
The Epperson's

I don't think he's even flexing
I don't think he's even flexing

Also, he knows all the words to H.M.S. Pinafore, has been on the cover of Time Magazine and, oh probably has an Olympic Gold Medal he just forgot to mention. He might also be a ninja. Wouldn't surprise me. If I had a sister, I would insist that she marry him.

Tomorrow I'll highlight a few of the sites and landmarks I visited. As a preview, here's a picture of me skillfully navigating a section of the Little Colorado River as it empties into the Colorado...

I'm actually an excellent swimmer... as you can see
I'm actually an excellent swimmer... as you can see

And a cactus...

Life in the desert
Life in the desert

I swear, I'll also tell you about Sean Penn.

Permanent Link: What I Came For
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Geology nerds

Found your site via blurbomat comments. Very enjoyable. This post was great - I am currently living in Fairbanks, AK with my geologist fiancee. Can't wait to show him this post. We are anxious to get to CO ourselves once we reach the Lower 48 again...someday. You are so lucky to have had a geologic tour with these people - what a great opportunity. I'm jealous, and my LIFE is a geologic tour of wherever I am! As the saying goes, Geology Rocks! And yes, they all think that is funny. Every time.

Geography too...

If you come looking for the Grand Canyon, go to AZ not CO.

Colorado is cool too though :)

Great Scenery

Hey, Arizona, Colorado, I'll go anywhere that guy in the orange shorts is!
Hubba hubba!
(And your other photos are really nice too!)

Envy and Eppersons

I love your photos...and I've never been to the Grand Canyon, so I'm jealous...

And GO SUE EPPERSON! Now I know who to thank for the fact that my daughter's mind isn't sallied with creationism at EVERY turn - whew.

And I want Mr. Orange Shorts. HAWT.

Funny, my word verification is JACTIT.

Beautiful photos, even

Beautiful photos, even without the guy in the orange shorts.

OK, pony up with the Sean Penn story.

Thanks Pete!

Appreciating the Sean Penn promise. Sorry I've been so pushy. Great photos.

LOL Sorry. I was drinking


Sorry. I was drinking the good wine.

Sweet pics. Keep 'em coming.

Grand Canyon

Fun post! I'm glad you had a good time with us science nerds. If anyone wants to see more pictures (hard to do better than Pete's) they can check out NCSE's Grand Canyon web site: Go to 2007.

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