“It’s difficult to know what to bung in when beginning a story”

P.G. Wodehouse

When packing, you naturally come up with some questions, especially when packing for something people keep wanting to call “Once In A Lifetime”.  For one thing, how much personal grooming equipment should you bring?  For men, the answer might be “Not much.”  If, however, there is even one woman on the trip, though, the dynamics take on an altogether more hygienic tone.  You might not be in such a hurry to start a ‘whose nose hairs can become the most unruly in two weeks’ competition.  Things like that just aren’t as amusing if one person “just doesn’t get it.”  or “Throws up in her mouth when looking at you”.   You might think that women could be included in the competition by letting them substitute her armpit hair or leg hair or whatever in place of nose hair.

If you are the sort of person who thinks this might work, you are likely also the sort of person who is baffled by his own serial divorces.

Packing for an extended river trip is tricky.  Packing for an extended river trip in the Grand Canyon is made trickier by several details:  You’re paddling on heart-stoppingly cold water. You’re paddling in the middle of one burning hot sonofabitch of a desert.  That doesn’t even make sense, and yet you have to give it a shot.

In fact, you have no idea what you’re packing for.  I, for one, had never done anything like this before, and what was necessary and what was frivolous was anyone’s guess.  I try to personalize the generic list by guessing where my own failings will rise up to bite me… I should pack my vitamins, my glucosamine, lots and lots of antacids, more sunscreen than others might want. Heart medicine.  That might grow in importance the three weeks I’m out of town.

Then I have to decide WHERE these things get packed.  Where do they have to be for the drive there?  Where will they have to be in camps?  Where on the river?  I have no idea, and therefore, must make guesses and pack with a broad latitude for moving things around, or as is a regular thing on my short trips- doing without at the most awkward times.

Fred's truck, Mike, Jason, Me, and a lot of stuff.

I can’t say that I was completely in the dark about what to pack.  Along with the timetable for payments, we made lists based on Fred and Kathy’s advice.  The list was the sorts of things that we needed- big floppy edged hats, sunblock, waterproof liquid bandage (superglue), aspirin, waterproof duffle bags… you get the idea.  We’d gotten all that info at the meeting wherein we discussed the trip and handed off the first of three checks each to David LeMay- the totally lucky guy to whom we all now owe serious Karmic debt.  The trip wasn’t going to be horrifically expensive, as far as the fees and food were concerned, but the total was broken down into three payments.  We all quietly feared that someone would miss a payment somewhere, a deadline wouldn’t be met and the whole thing would fall apart.

There would be a second meeting, we were told, where we would have to carefully watch a 36 minute Park Service video about how to behave on the river, and we’d need to deliver another check.  And we’d need to start packing.

Speaking of packing, this might be a good time to reinforce an important idea:  The reason that I was brought along.  Entertainment.  I’m not kidding.  You pack what you need.  It will be pointed out, rather indelicately, that if some of us were smarter we would have packed along a member of the opposite sex.  In fact, the way it was put was:  “You want a woman, you gotta bring ‘er with ya.”

I’m not saying I was brought along to be someone’s party partner. I wasn’t brought for any vulgar reason.

I think I was brought along because there was no television in the canyon.