Adventures from Back of Beyond

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Debriefed 28 years later

I was hiking up the Hermit Trail in Grand Canyon, completing a 3-day Boucher-Hermit loop, thinking to myself what an unremarkable trip this was.

Everything went very well. Physically fine, no blisters, no knee or ankle problems, food was figured just right, no critter problems in camp. The trip was very beautiful, as expected, and fun. Just nothing really remarkable. That is until I serendipitously ran into Steve Martin at Santa Maria spring.

Steve Martin is the current superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. I first met him back in 1979, when he was a Colorado River boatman working for the National Park Service. See Deer Creek Rescue for details.

I had heard he was the new superintendent at Grand Canyon, but hadn't seen him in some 28 years -- actually since that fateful day he dropped us off at Deer Creek in September of 1979.

Let me give you some context on this encounter. I was hiking up the Cathedral Stairs, which is a very strenuous ascent of the Bright Angel shale, Muav limestone, and Redwall limestone, and stopped to rest at the top of the redwall. I was waiting for Jack and Mitch, my hiking partners, who were far behind. I had plenty of time, so I took a nap. During that time another solo hiker, who I'd noticed behind me, passed unnoticed.

Jack and Mitch were dawdling, so I continued on, and that's when I noticed the solo hiker up ahead. He had two trekking poles, and was moving out. I like to pace myself with hikers ahead on the trail, so I watched him. Not really super-fast, I could catch him, but he sustained a remarkably strong pace. I was impressed. This was a strong hiker.

I finally caught him at the resthouse at Santa Maria spring. I walked in, smiled, and said "you are a fast hiker." He pointed outside and said, "not as fast as those two, I was trying to keep up with them."

I had noticed those other two, a man and a woman, refilling bottles at the spring, but didn't pay any attention. Wasn't sure if they were coming or going.

But this solo hiker was pretty insistent I notice them. He got up and went out to refill his bottle, and I followed. If he hadn't been so insistent, this encounter would've never taken place.

That's when I got a good look at the man. I couldn't be exactly sure, but it sure looked like Steve Martin.

I approached cautiously, and from a distance said, "is your name Steve?"

He waited a moment and replied, "yes."

I walked toward him, put out my hand in greeting and said, "well I was on your boat here many years ago." He didn't recognize me, but we got to talking. And eventually I recounted the entire Deer Creek rescue story. It was the first time I'd seen him since. He got a kick out of remembering all the colorful characters.

After they departed, I continued to wait for Mitch and Jack, then continued on out uneventfully. But there was to be one more remarkable coincidence later, in Flagstaff.

I wanted to buy some Keen sandals, so I stopped at Babbitt's downtown. This was Memorial Day, and there just happened to be a free concert going on in the downtown square. Flagstaff is a happening town. Now normally, parking is very tight in downtown. But amazingly there was a prime parking spot right next to the square just waiting for me to pull in, a miraculous occurrence in and of itself.

So I checked out the concert, and looked for familiar faces. Almost immediately, I ran into David Wayne, and separately, Bruce Aiken. When it comes to Grand Canyon, both are kindred spirits. And other stories.