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River Experiences

Interviewer: So what about the Grand Canyon?

Dykinga: It's big. Big hole. Took a long time to dig. (chuckles) Well, the canyon, okay. People ask me sometimes, "What's your favorite place?" You know, probably one of my favorite places is Cape Royal on the North Rim, and looking into the canyon. There used to be places you could camp right on the rim, and spend the night with your legs literally dangling into the canyon. And of course they're off limits nowadays. But I used to go to a point above Cliff Spring and look across at Cape Royal at sunset. I've had several religious experiences there. That's what the beauty of the canyon is, is that you don't have to do a raft trip to go down the canyon and really get a feel for a place. In fact, sometimes the rim shots are even better. But seeing a storm enveloped inside the canyon, and like Mount Hayden sticks out of the fog, and that first bit of light hits it. You know, the hair on the back of my neck just stands up. It's a religious experience. So the canyon is filled with those, and it's like a big onion: you keep peeling off layer after layer, and as you get more and more intimate to the canyon — well, for me, it makes my heart sing. Really, it's a high. It's kinda like we were talking to people about the rapids. A lot of people come for the adventure and the rapids — and it's kind of similar to when you go to the mountains to go climbing. You go for one reason, and you come away with so much more. And part of the whole experience is the people, too, interacting with the folks and watching them grow into the place, and to appreciate the place.

Well, when you go down the canyon, you're thinking about the place, and there's an added benefit that sometimes creeps up on you, and that's the people and the bonding that occurs. Watching people help each other is really fun to watch. These are people that are not necessarily as comfortable in [the] wilderness, or maybe [it’s] their first time sleeping on the ground, or even hiking — and to see them each helping each other, and help pack, and coming together as a crew, in a way it was kind of reminiscent of some of the John Wesley Powell accounts. That's what flashed in my mind, as he talks about his crew becoming this well-oiled machine, and these lithe-bodied, able men working their way down the canyon. Of course these are not the same, but by the same token, they really cooperate with each other and help the weak and overcome obstacles which are just as daunting for them, as some of Powell's, I'm sure.

That was really gratifying for me, to see that sort of change in people. And sometimes it's like anything else. You could easily underestimate people, and it's really nice to be pleasantly surprised. It actually makes you think that you could get all of Bosnia down in the canyon and be all set. (laughs)

continued: river students >>


behind the scenes / in the footsteps of barry goldwater / the experience
photography / plan your adventure / interview / biography

jack dykinga / leroy dejolie / david muench


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