March 31, 2020
The following is a Facebook post written by our friend and fellow river runner, Michael W. Wellman. You can also read the post and see the reactions on Facebook.
"... To the extent that there is something funny about the current situation, it's how much river trips prep one for self-isolation / home quarantine during a time of coronavirus pandemic.
Until the last week, the most I'd heard this phrase in my life was on countless river trips. Everyone cooks and cleans on a river trip and the last thing you want is one sick person making everyone else sick. So "Wash your hands!" is a constant refrain.
Seriously, go on a 25 day trip with no resupply. This question will come up in every planning discussion, while doing the last minute shopping, while rigging the boats, while loading the boats, when arriving at the first camp, while setting up the groover, while tearing down the groover, and randomly throughout the day. You'll hear more conversations about toilet paper on most trips than you will about the 225 miles of whitewater between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek (or 280 miles if you're going to Pearce Ferry).
For those who aren't working from home, welcome to "River time". Wake up when you need to, do what you need to do, go to bed when you decide to. Time has no meaning and you move to the rhythms of your world, not an alarm clock.
One never knows what's going to happen or when on a river trip. You plan, you pack, you train, so that you can deal with whatever might come up. Bear in camp, we'll deal with it. A tree fell across the rafts, we'll deal with it. Dislocated shoulder, we'll deal with it. You're in the wilderness, you'll deal with it. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow in the current pandemic, but whatever it is, we'll deal with it.
You're in the wilderness. Sometimes the weather is going to be horrible. Sometimes the bugs are going to be awful. Sometimes you're going to be hurt. Sometimes someone is going to wrap their raft and soak the toilet paper and you're going to carefully string it out to dry. But you're in the wilderness. You've no choice but, as above, to deal with it. Right now, you're alive and this is what you're living. So keep doing it. Giving up isn't really an option.
Often times folks on long, technically difficult wilderness trips are scared. I've had people at the put-in on the Grand Canyon shaking in fear. When asked why, they'd say "Lava Falls is incredibly difficult and I'm not sure what I'm going to do there". Us: "Lava Falls is 179.7 miles downstream! Do you see anything in front of you right now that's scary?" Them: "No" Us: "Then run the rapid in front of you and don't worry about the one downstream until it's there". We'll get to the scary stuff soon enough. In the meantime, within the limitations surrounding us, live your life and keep moving forward.
When satellite phones were extremely expensive, trips used to send a three-letter text message out: "ABL" -- Alive Below Lava! "We're alive below Lava Falls", arguably the most challenging rapid on the river, so we'll be fine from here. Society has a way to go before we're all ABL. But society will eventually be ABL.
Excepting the 20 seconds that you're actually in Lava Falls and the brief moment that you're actually sending out ABL messages, you're actually always above Lava Falls. The instant you're done with running it on this trip, you're just prepping to run it on your next trip. We don't know what tomorrow will bring, but whatever it is, if it's hard and it has potentially negative consequences, it's just our next Lava Falls.