Don Davidson is a beast. And a pretty cool beast, at that. Since selling the garbage business and completely retiring, he has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and now has rafted the Grand Canyon. I visited with Don intending to hear all about his raft trip, but first got to learn about his time guiding a blind skier with the Ski For Light group.
Ski For Light is an organization that holds regional and international events that according to their mission statement, “ … is to enhance the quality of life and independence of visually or mobility-impaired adults through a program of cross-country skiing.” After listening to Don, I would add that it also enhances the quality of life of those that volunteer to guide.
After going through training, Don was matched up with a woman named Nancy Stevens. Nancy is a popular athlete from Bend, Oregon, who has been blind since birth. In addition to being a longtime participant in Ski For Light, Nancy was the first blind woman to climb Grand Teton. Don is of the mind that the group connects more experienced visually impaired skiers with the new guides and vice versa in order to “train” each member of the pair. Davidson was positively glowing about the experience and heartily recommends it. If you are interested, visit sfl.org for more information. You might also want to Google Nancy Stevens if you want to be inspired.
Back to Don Davidson and his raft trip. A few weeks ago, Don, along with Jerry Laverty and Ann Diamond, met up with the rest of their 12-person group in Flagstaff, Arizona, in order to begin their trip down the Colorado River. They began at Lees Ferry and went 280 miles ending at Pearce Ferry.
According to Don, there are a couple of ways to do the trip, which 29,000 people do a year. You can hire an outfitter that essentially does everything from getting the permit, to setting up and breaking down the camp every day. Don says that if you go this route, it is far more expensive, but that after a day on the river you arrive at camp where everything is already set up and ready. All there is for you to do is drink your cocktail and relax.
Instead, Don, Ann and Jerry did a private trip. A member of their group applied for and received the permit and they took care of all of their own logistics, setting up, breaking down and cooking. This includes packing out every bit of waste every step of the way. And by every bit of waste, I mean every bit of waste. There is no pooping in a hole and covering it up. Instead, an ammo box is fitted with a toilet seat, and this giant piece of crap is toted all down the river to the end. This handy device is called the Groover. Not because it is groovy, but because before someone figured out that a toilet seat could be attached, people would just sit directly on the ammo box, leaving, yes, two grooves on their buttocks. Hence, the Groover.
This winter trip was cold. They were snowed on twice and rained on several times. Rafters wore as many clothes as could fit underneath the dry suits, but unless it was your turn to row, you were doing a lot of shivering. Don and Jerry went into the water at two different times. Don’s raft flipped at the rapids called Crystal where he had to do some swimming, and Jerry was tossed out by getting hit with a wave. Lovingly, Ann pulled him back in the raft. Asked if he would raft the Grand Canyon again, Don says yes, in a heartbeat. But not in the winter.