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Canyon Solitude: A Woman's Solo River Journey Through the Grand Canyon
     

Canyon Solitude: A Woman's Solo River Journey Through the Grand Canyon

by McCairen
 

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"It's well known that Mother River doesn't like a smart aleck," says Patricia McCairen. Accordingly, she plies her oars with reverence and skill on a sometimes hair-raising solo rafting trip along the Colorado River that winds though the stupendous stone valleys of the American Grand Canyon. Like the waters of the Colorado, which change from long, still stretches

Overview

"It's well known that Mother River doesn't like a smart aleck," says Patricia McCairen. Accordingly, she plies her oars with reverence and skill on a sometimes hair-raising solo rafting trip along the Colorado River that winds though the stupendous stone valleys of the American Grand Canyon. Like the waters of the Colorado, which change from long, still stretches to boiling white water that barely clothes sharp rocks and hides holes that can suck down a raft, McCairen's moods—and even her name—change as the miles unwind. One moment, she's the cocky, athletic river guide Babe; the next, she's an earthier, more spiritual woman who answers to the name of Patch. Hours later, she seems more vulnerable, less convinced of her strength and joy in the solitude she so zealously courts. Canyon Solitude records these shifts and beautifully limns a journey that tests McCairen's mettle and shows that determination, grit, and the will to spurn conventional rewards offer their own deep satisfactions.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Grace Butler
As more women dare to challenge society's expectations, McCairen's marvelous accomplishment may come to seem routine. For now, it is simply inspiring. -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Navigating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is usually challenging or at very least momentous. This honest, firsthand account by McCairen, a veteran rafter on a 25-day solo journey, describes a trip that was the culmination of McCairen's decision to change her life. Her keenly observant eye and finely detailed descriptions re-create the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in all their danger and beauty. Her trepidation at the outset of the trip and in some of its more alarming moments show the true vulnerability of a woman alone in the wilderness trying to accomplish a "man's" challenge. McCairen is a former city-dweller who fell in love with the Grand Canyon on her first group river trip, and wanted to experience it solo. As the book, and trip, progress, McCairen as writer and subject emerges as an ever more confident woman who discovers that the solitude she has simultaneously craved and feared has diminished as canyon and river sustain her. "Solitude has a sound all its own, a feeling, a special vision. With each stroke on the oars, I draw myself deeper into its realm.... Yes, I'm terribly small and vulnerable, minuscule compared to this deep, green river and the walls growing up around me." McCairen's experience reflects a complex array of emotions, but it is her fear, joy and ultimate elation that come through most vividly. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Hoping "to resolve the unresolvable questions of my life," McCairen became the first woman since the 1950s to make a solo raft trip down the Grand Canyon, coursing the Colorado River from northern Arizona to Lake Mead in 25 days. Despite her extensive experience (she'd been rafting for 20 years and had traversed the Grand Canyon six previous times), many thought her solo trip foolhardy and were surprised the National Park Service issued her a permit. It was "an impetuous decision," she writes, "born of sorrow and despair," though she exhibits little heaviness of heart during the trip. Her reveries on loneliness and solitude come off as book-learned rather than life-learned. McCairen does, however, write very well about the river, the canyon's lore, and her trip aboard Sunshine Lady, her 15-foot raft. "Floating the river is the easy part," she notes. Nonetheless, the journey involves hard physical labor: setting up and breaking camp, packing and securing her load at every stop. She has a grand time shooting the rapids and her descriptions of traversing stretches such as the Jewels, the wild Granite Narrows with waves 20 feet high, and the killer Crystal Hole comprise the most gripping part of her narrative. At Upset Rapid, she bitterly wonders "what the hell happened to" her confidence, as she balks at crossing, ruefully hoping for other rafters to appear, then a little angry when they do. By the time she reaches Lava Falls—nearly 100 yards wide, with a "slot no more than ten feet across"—she accepts her fear as wisdom based on experience and is thankful others are near, just in case. As an exercise in self-exploration, it isn't much; but, as a trip down a challengingriver, it's quite good.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580050074
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
04/28/1998
Series:
Adventura Books Series
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
906,384
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.62(d)

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