We were in the middle of another Walls-Kindred vacation. This time it was two weeks to the southwest. We had arrived at Page, Arizona, and planned to rent a boat on Lake Powell. Lake Powell is massive, 150 miles long with dozens of flooded side canyons. The water is 700 feet deep at the dam.
Early that morning we went to the dock to get our boat and skis. There was a posted notice saying no small boats would be rented, due to forecasted high winds and storm activity. We were extremely disappointed, because at the time the weather was clear, beautiful and calm. We then hiked three miles across the desert back to our hotel room.
We considered moving on to Grand Canyon, but were unable to find accommodations. So we decided to take the shuttle bus back to the airport, rent a car and find something to do. On the bus we met Jim and Kathleen, their six-year-old son and infant daughter. Jim was a ski instructor in Aspen. They had put their boat in at Bullfrog, 100 miles up the lake. He explained that they had been on the water, camping all week long. They wanted to do something away from the water. They really could not afford an airplane ride, so they thought they would take a tour of the
dam. After all it was free.
I told him our plight about being unable to rent a boat. Before I could get the
words out of my mouth, he suggested that we trade an airplane ride for a boat ride. I am sure he did not think we would take him up on it, but of course we did.
We went to the airport, rented a car, and to kill some time, decided to take the dam tour. I have toured a few hydro-electric dams, but I would have to say that was the best dam tour I have ever taken.
That afternoon we met Jim, Kathleen and their two children, and spent three hours
out on the lake. Jim's expertise with his high-performance boat made for a very exciting afternoon. He made wild hairpin turns inside tight canyons. We could not have gotten that kind of ride with a rental boat. The forecasted high winds and thunderstorms never appeared!
The following morning it was a bit cloudy with some rain. I feared we would not be able to keep our end of the bargain. Rob and I went out on the boat again for a couple hours. By then it was noon and the weather was starting to improve. We went to the airport in the early afternoon. Jim, Kathleen, Jimmy, Rob and I hopped in the airplane. The infant daughter stayed on the ground with Liz and Kim. I admired their adventuresome spirit. Not many people would fly with a pilot they barely knew, or would leave their child in the care of someone they did not know.
We took off and began flying southwest, away from Lake Powell. Jim said, "Hey, where are you going? Isn't the lake behind us?" I replied, "Well, have you ever seen Grand Canyon?" "No." "It's only forty minutes south. We can go look at it, then fly back to Lake Powell." had been five years since I had seen the Grand Canyon, and I would do anything to have an excuse for another flight. Jim was more than agreeable, so off to Grand Canyon we went.
At 10,500 feet we were 2500 feet above the north rim. We were over the widest part of the canyon. The scenery was outstanding, words cannot even begin to
describe it. Jim was in the back seat with his video camera rolling. All of us were wearing headsets, and I was doing my best to point out different features of the Grand Canyon to Jim. I was thoroughly enjoying the flight, then I heard Rob say, "I don't like this."
I said, "What? What do you mean, you don't like this?" He said, "What would happen if we had any engine problem? We would have no place to land this airplane."
I said, "Number one, tomorrow new flight rules go into effect. You will never be able to see the Grand Canyon from this point of view ever again. Number two, don't tell the airplane that it's over the Grand Canyon. If it doesn't know, it will run just fine. And Number three, don't ever say anything like that when you know passengers can hear you."
Rob was still nervous, but we continued the flight over the canyon, the Painted Dessert, Lake Powell, and back to Page, Arizona. Jim, Kathleen and Jimmy thoroughly enjoyed the flight.
Part of the thrill of vacationing is improvising when the original plan fails.