CHAPTER I. PREPARATIONS AT GREEN RIVER CITY, WYOMING
Early in September of 1911 my brother Emery and I landed in Green River City, Wyoming, ready for the launching of our boats on our long-planned trip down the Green and Colorado rivers.
For ten years previous to this time we had lived at the Grand Canyon of Arizona, following the work of scenic photography. In a general way we had covered much of the country adjacent to our home, following our pack animals over ancient and little-used trails, climbing the walls of tributary canyons, dropping over the ledges with ropes when necessary, always in search of the interesting and unusual.
After ten years of such work many of our plans in connection with a pictorial exploration of the Grand Canyon were crowned with success. Yet all the while our real ambition remained unsatisfied.
We wanted to make the "Big Trip" - as we called it; in other words, we wanted a pictorial record of the entire series of canyons on the Green and Colorado rivers.
The time had come at last, after years of hoping, after long months of active preparation.
We stood at the freight window of the station at Green River City asking for news of our boats. They had arrived and could be seen in their crates shoved away in a corner. It was too late to do anything with them that day; so we let them remain where they were, and went out to look over the town.
Green River City proved to be a busy little place noisy with switch engines, crowded with cattle-men and cowboys, and with hunting parties outfitting for the Jackson Hole country. A thoroughly Western town of the better sort, with all the picturesqueness of people and surroundings that the name implies.
It was busier than usual, even, that evening; for a noisy but good-natured crowd had gathered around the telegraph office, eager for news of a wrestling match then taking place in an Eastern city. As we came up they broke into a cheer at the news that the American wrestler had defeated his foreign opponent. There was a discussion as to what constituted the "toe-hold," three boys ran an impromptu foot-race, there was some talk on the poor condition of the range, and the party began to break up.
The little excitement over, we returned to the hotel; feeling, in spite of our enthusiasm, somewhat lonesome and very much out of place. Our sleep that night was fitful and broken by dreams wherein the places we had known were strangely interwoven with these new scenes and events. Through it all we seemed to hear the roar of the Rio Colorado.
We looked out of the window the next morning, on a landscape that was novel, yet somehow familiar. The river, a quarter of a mile away, very clear and unruffled under its groves of cottonwood, wound through low barren hills, as unlike as could be to the cliffs and chasms we knew so well. But the colours - gray, red, and umber, just as Moran has painted them - reassured us. We seemed not so far from home, after all.
It was Wyoming weather, though; clear and cold, after a windy night. When, after breakfast, we went down to the river, we found that a little ice had formed along the margin.
The days of final preparation passed quickly - with unpacking of innumerable boxes and bundles, checking off each article against our lists; and with a long and careful overhauling of our photographic outfit.
This last was a most important task, for the success of our expedition depended on our success as photographers. We could not hope to add anything of importance to the scientific and topographic knowledge of the canyons already existing: and merely to come out alive at the other end did not make a strong appeal to our vanity. We were there as scenic photographers in love with their work, and determined to reproduce the marvels of the Colorado's canyons, as far as we could do it.
In addition to three film cameras we had 8 x 10 and 5 x 7 plate cameras; a plentiful supply of plates and films; a large cloth dark-room; and whatever chemicals we should need for tests. Most important of all, we had brought a motion-picture camera. We had no real assurance that so delicate an apparatus, always difficult to use and regulate, could even survive the journey - much less, in such inexperienced hands as ours, reproduce its wonders. But this, nevertheless, was our secret hope, hardly admitted to our most intimate friends - that we could bring out a record of the Colorado as it is, a live thing, armed as it were with teeth, ready to crush and devour.
There was shopping to do; for the purchases of provisions, with a few exceptions, had been left to the last. There were callers, too - an embarrassing number of them. We had camped on a small island near the town, not knowing when we did so that it had recently been put aside for a public park. The whole of Green River City, it seemed, had learned of our project, and came to inspect, or advise, or jeer at us. The kindest of them wished us well; the other sort told us "it would serve us right"; but not one of our callers had any encouragement to offer. Many were the stories of disaster and death with which they entertained us. One story in particular, as it seems never to have reached print - though unquestionably true - ought to be set down here.
Three years before two young men from St. Louis had embarked here, intending to follow the river throughout its whole course. They were expert canoeists, powerful swimmers, and equipped with a steel boat, we were told, built somewhat after the style of a canoe. They chose the time of high water - not knowing, probably, that while high water decreases the labour of the passage, it greatly increases the danger of it. They came to the first difficult rapid in Red Canyon, seventy odd miles below Green River City. It looked bad to them. They landed above it and stripped to their underclothing and socks. Then they pushed out into the stream.