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.

Almost at once they lost control of the boat. It overturned; it rolled over and over; it flung them off and left them swimming for their lives. In some way, possibly the currents favouring, they reached the shore. The boat, with all its contents, was gone. There they were, almost naked, without food, without weapons, without the means of building a fire; and in an uninhabited and utterly inhospitable country.

For four days they wandered, blistered by the sun by day; nearly frozen at night, bruised by the rocks, and torn by the brambles. Finally they reached the ranch at the head of the canyons and were found by a half-breed Indian, who cared for them. Their underwear had been made into bindings for their lacerated feet; they were nearly starved, and on the verge of mental collapse. After two weeks' treatment in the hospital at Green River City they were partially restored to health. Quite likely they spent many of the long hours of their convalescence on the river bank, or on the little island, watching the unruffled stream glide underneath the cottonwoods.

Such tales as this added nothing to our fears, of course - for the whole history of the Colorado is one long story of hardship and disaster, and we knew, even better than our advisors, what risks lay before us. We told our newfound friends, in fact, that we had lived for years on the brink of the Grand Canyon itself, a gorge deeper and more awful, even, than Lodore; with a volume of water ten times greater. We knew, of course, of the river's vast length, of the terrible gorges that confined it, of the hundreds of rapids through which a boat would have to pass.

We knew, too, how Major Powell, undismayed by legends of underground channels, impassable cataracts, and whirlpools; of bloodthirsty tribes haunting its recesses, - had passed through the canyons in safety, measuring and surveying as he went. We also knew of the many other attempts that had been made - most of them ending in disaster or death, a very few being successful.

Well, it had been done;[1] it could be done again - this was our answer to their premonitions.

We had present worries enough to keep us from dwelling too much on the future. It had been our intention to start two weeks earlier, but there had been numerous unavoidable delays. The river was low; "the lowest they had seen it in years" they told us, and falling lower every day. There were the usual difficulties of arranging a lot of new material, and putting it in working order.

At last we were ready for the boats, and you may be sure we lost no time in having them hauled to the river, and launching them.

They were beauties - these two boats of ours - graceful, yet strong in line, floating easily, well up in the water, in spite of their five hundred pounds' weight. They were flat-bottomed, with a ten-inch rake or raise at either end; built of white cedar, with unusually high sides; with arched decks in bow and stern, for the safe storing of supplies. Sealed air chambers were placed in each end, large enough to keep the boats afloat even if filled with water. The compartment at the bow was lined with tin, carefully soldered, so that even a leak in the bottom would not admit water to our precious cargoes. We had placed no limit on their cost, only insisting that they should be of materials and workmanship of the very best, and strictly in accordance with our specifications. In every respect but one they pleased us. Imagine our consternation when we discovered that the hatch covers were anything but water-tight, though we had insisted more upon this, perhaps, than upon any other detail. Loose boards, with cross-pieces, fastened with little thumbscrews - there they were, ready to admit the water at the very first upset.

There was nothing to be done. It was too late to rebuild the hatches even if we had had the proper material. Owing to the stage of water it was imperative that we should start at once. Bad as it would be to have water in our cargo, it would be worse to have too little water in the rock-obstructed channels of Red Canyon, or in the "flats" at Brown's Park for instance.

Certainly the boats acted so beautifully in the water that we could almost overlook the defective hatches. Emery rowed upstream for a hundred yards, against a stiff current, and came back jubilant.

"They're great - simply great!" he exclaimed.

We had one real cause for worry, for actual anxiety, though; and as each hour brought us nearer to the time of departure, we grew more and more desperate. What about our third man?

We were convinced that a third man was needed; if not for the duties of camp making, helping with the cooking and portaging; at least, for turning the crank of the motion-picture camera. Emery and I could not very well be running rapids, and photographing ourselves in the rapids at the same time. Without a capable assistant, therefore, much of the real purpose would be defeated.

Our first move, accordingly, had been to secure the services of a strong, level-headed, and competent man. Friends strongly advised us to engage a Canadian canoe-man, or at least some one familiar with the management of boats in rough water. It was suggested, also, that we might secure the help of some one of the voyagers who had been members of one of the previous expeditions.

But - we may as well be frank about it - we did not wish to be piloted through the Colorado by a guide. We wanted to make our own trip in our own way. If we failed, we would have no one but ourselves to blame; if we succeeded, we would have all the satisfaction that comes from original, personal exploration. In other words, we wanted a man to execute orders, not to give them. But that man was hard to find!

There had been many applicants; some of them from distant parts of the country. One by one they were sifted out. At length we decided on one man; but later he withdrew. We turned elsewhere, but these applications were withdrawn, until there remained but a single letter, from a young man in San Francisco. He seemed in every way qualified. We wrote accepting his application, but while waiting to hear from us a civil service position had been offered and accepted. "He was sorry"; and so were we, for his references proved that he was a capable man. Later he wrote that he had secured a substitute. We replied on the instant, by wiring money for transportation, with instructions for the new man to report at once at Green River. We took very much for granted, having confidence in our friends' sincerity and knowledge of just what was required.

The time had passed, two days before; but - no sign of our man! We wrote, we telegraphed, we walked back and forth to every train; but still he did not come. Had this man, too, failed us?

Then "Jimmy" came - just the night before we were to leave. And never was a man more heartily welcome!

With James Fagen of San Francisco our party was complete. He was an Irish-American, aged 22 years, a strong, active, and willing chap. To be sure, he was younger, and not so experienced at "roughing it" as we had hoped. But his good qualities, we were sure, would make up for what was lacking.

Evening found us encamped a half mile below the town, the county bridge. Our preparations were finished - even to the final purchase of odds and ends; with ammunition for shot-gun and rifle. We threw our sleeping-bags on the dry ground close to the river's edge, and, all our anxieties gone, we turned our faces to the stars and slept.

At daybreak we were aroused by the thunder of hoofs on the bridge above us, and the shouts of cowboys driving a large herd of half-broken horses. We tumbled into our clothes, splashed our faces with ice-cold water from the river, and hurried over to the hotel for a last breakfast.

Then we sat down - in the little hotel at Green River City - as others had done before, to write last messages to those who were nearest and dearest to us. A telegram to our parents in an Eastern city; and another to Emery's wife and little girl, at Bright Angel, more than eight hundred miles down this self-same river - these, somehow, took longer to write than the letters themselves. But whatever we may have felt, we finished this final correspondence in silence, and hurried back to the river.

Something of a crowd had gathered on the bridge to wish us bon voyage. Shouting up to them our thanks for their hospitality, and telling them to "look pleasant," we focussed the motion-picture camera on them, Emery turning the crank, as the boat swung out into the current.

So began our journey, on Friday, September the 8th, 1911, at 9.30 A.M., as entered in my journal.