Grand Canyon Evacuation

My husband Joe and I were introduced to the Grand Canyon and river running in 

1992 when we were invited as passengers on a small private trip. Although we had been 

avid canyon backpackers in our home state of Utah, we had never been to the Grand 

Canyon, nor had we ever been on a river trip prior to that one. Needless to say, it was a 

life-changing event for us. At the end of the two weeks, we were determined to return 

someday, with our own boat. 

We found our used boat (16’ Domar) in January of 1994. Through the mother of 

a friend of a friend, we connected with a fellow in Oregon, who had waited ten years on 

the list for a permit and was looking for another boat and boatman or two for his August 

14, 1994 launch date. After visiting on the phone several times, he offered us a spot on 

the trip. We had thought that it would be several years before we would be ready to try 

and get on a Grand trip, but as soon as we were offered this spot in March, we knew we 

couldn’t turn it down. 

We launched our maiden voyage on the San Juan in mid-March to start figuring 

out how to rig and row. We learned a lot about what not to do and came back to the Juan 

in April to try it again. In early June we ran Gray and Desolation canyons on the Green  

River with some seasoned private river rats that we had met on our first Grand Canyon 

trip in 92. We learned much from them on this trip. Next we went up to the Snake near 

Jackson Hole WY for a few days and practiced on the rapids up there in early July, then 

another San Juan in late July. We headed for Lee’s Ferry in mid-August of 1994. 

I had tears in my eyes as we pushed off from Lees Ferry. These were tears of 

relief after all the hard work to get ready for the trip, tears of anticipation and excitement, 

and tears of fear. I knew what kind of big water we were headed into, way bigger than 

anything we had done in our brief rowing career to date. But I had confidence that all 

would be well and it was. We sailed through Badger (where the boat we were in as 

passengers in 92 had flipped and Joe and I were may-tagged in the hole at the top of the 

rapid!) and set up our first camp at the foot of the Badger. 

The following days went well too. Joe adjusted to the bigger flow and push of the 

water and felt OK as we entered the Granite Gorge a week later. The group was getting 

along well, considering our collective lack of experience. 

Our tenth day out we launched from the mile 114 camp and were to have camped at 

Randy’s rock for the night. Our TL was in the lead in a 12’ paddleboat and  

 lost track of where they were and passed the camp. We didn’t catch them 

till almost dusk at the head of Specter rapid, which they ran far right and flipped in. By 

the time we got to Bedrock rapid, it was about 9 pm and almost dark, but it was decided that 

we would run it, as there was no place to camp. We all made it through ok and we pulled 

to shore on the left at about mile 131. Not really a camp, but we had to stop. It was 10:30 

PM as we were eating dinner that night. After clean up I remember getting into bed 

feeling utterly exhausted.

 I always get up to pee once or twice in the night. I keep my own small bucket 

beside my bed so I don’t have to wander down to the water. When I urinated that night, 

something didn’t feel right, a kind of strange burning sensation up high in the system. It 

had been years since I had a bladder infection, but I had brought some sulfa drugs along 

in my first aid kit incase something like this came up on the river. I trundled off to the 

boat to get into the kit and take a pill so I could nip this in the bud. 

About and hour after I got back in bed I was painfully aware that this was no 

ordinary bladder infection. I was in serious pain and it kept getting worse. I thought that 

perhaps if I could make it to the groover and produce something there that I would feel 

relieved. So I got up again, slogged through the sand and about 15 feet away from the 

bed collapsed. I managed to wake my husband and he came and helped me back to our 

We lay there for an hour or so, me groaning in pain. About 5 am a friend woke up 

and came to see what was going on. She alerted the TL that I was ill. By 6 AM, the entire 

group was aware of my situation and were hovering around me with great concern. 

These were folks who stayed up late every night and usually did not crawl out of 

sleeping bags until 10 AM! 

Someone put a thermometer in my mouth and started writing down my vitals and 

symptoms. The group put up a shade tarp over me. It was already getting so hot. I was 

given a Percocet from the major first aid kit. Unfortunately, I was unable to hold it or any 

fluids down. I have had three babies; all with out any anesthetic, but this was worse pain, 

mainly because it was relentless. I felt as though someone had a stick stuck in my guts 

and was twisting it around and around. I knew I was going to die if I didn’t get out of the 

heat and get some fluids in my body. Tom finally asked if I wanted to have the helicopter 

summoned and with out hesitation I said yes. They were unable to get a signal out from 

the bottom of the Canyon and two of the guys hiked quite a ways up the slope before 

they had success. 

The welcome sound of the chopper arrived around 9 AM; two hours after the 

radio call had been made. The group had wetted the beach down and spread out the 

orange panels. I was soon on my way out. I took my river bag and wallet with me. I was 

taken to the clinic at South Rim for evaluation. In camp, we all thought that it must be 

appendicitis, but I was soon told that it was a kidney stone! I thought that only old men 

got those, but the doctor there told me that everyone is entitled to one kidney stone in 

their life. If I started having more after this one, then they would evaluate my diet for 

changes, but this one stone was not out of the ordinary. Lucky me!

They gave me an IV with fluids to re-hydrate me and to try to flush the stone out. 

I was given occasional Demerol, which made me sleep peacefully between the times the 

stone moved, but when it moved, it felt as if there were no drug involved at all! I was 

there all day, going back and forth from x-ray to monitor the movement of the stone. 

By 7 pm when the clinic closed, I still hadn’t passed it and since they were not an 

over night facility, I was packed into a cab and taken to a motel outside the park. The 

stone started to move again as I got into the cab. They gave me another token shot of 

Demerol, handed me a pee strainer and told me to have a nice night. I finally passed 

and caught the stone in the strainer about 10:30 PM. I thought for sure it would be as big 

as a boulder, but it was only about 4 mm in diameter, but covered with nasty, prickly 

barbs. As soon as it passed, I fell into a deep and peaceful sleep for the rest of the night. 

I awoke the next morning with serious doubts about the whole incident, I felt so 

good! But here I was in some motel near south rim, far away from my husband and 

friends. I felt a wave of sadness and loss about being jerked off the trip. How could this 

have happened? I was supposed to be with them down in the Canyon! I wished that 

there were some way I could reach Joe and let him know I was OK, but that was 


Although in a daze of emotions and thought, I dutifully reported back to the clinic. 

They were happy to see me walking up right and smiling. I presented them with the 

stone, I gave them my insurance numbers, and other information they needed and they 

gave me a fat envelope full of paper work and we said good-bye. The last instructions I 

had from the Dr. were to drink lots of fluids and rest for the next few days. 

I still hadn’t called home to our daughters or my parents in Utah. I pondered what 

I should do. I knew someone in Flagstaff. I decided to take a bus down there and see if I 

could stay with Jan a day or two and then catch a ride out to Diamond Creek with REO 

when they re-supplied our group there in a few days. 

When I got to Jan’s and looked at a calendar, I realized that the Diamond re-

supply was a whole week away. I would go crazy sitting there that long. I had to get back 

on the trip! I asked Jan for her copy of Steven’s guidebook to the river in GC, and started 

pouring over it, trying to remember what our group’s itinerary was. They had talked 

about a lay over at Tapeats, but were not definite by the time I had left. I knew they were 

planning to hike all day at Havasu. If they did that lay over at Tapetes, I might be able to 

catch them at Havasu if Jan would drive me to the trailhead tomorrow. She thought that I 

was nuts, but agreed to help me out. 

I could hardly sleep that night; I just kept going over the miles and the maps in 

my head, trying to reassure myself that I would make it to the river in time to catch my 

party. Fortunately my hiking boots were in my river bag. Jan loaned me a gallon worth of 

water bottles and fixed me up with a big bag of gorp. I tried to call the Havasu 

reservation office for a permit all morning, but got no answer, so at noon we headed off 

to the trailhead. 

We got there at 4 PM and I read the sign stating not to start down the trail after 2 

PM and for women and children not to hike the trail alone. I gave Jan a hug and we went 

over our plan one more time. I still hadn’t called home, as I didn’t want anyone to tell me 

not to go, or to worry about me. If I got to the river and found that I had missed our 

group, I would hike back up to the village, call Jan and then continue hiking to the rim 

where she would meet me with her truck and take me back to Flag. In my wired, “got to 

get back to the river” state of mind It sounded reasonable. 

I made it to the village in about 3.5 hours, cruised through as if I knew where I 

was going. It was dusk by that time, and when I got a mile or so past the village, it was 

pitch black, and I didn’t have a flashlight. I could hear the water of Havasu creek and 

knew that I was in a narrow area. I also knew that I was still a ways from the 

campground, I couldn’t see where I was walking anymore, and a storm was brewing. 

There was lots of lightning, thunder and the smell of rain in the air.

 I decided to find a dry spot to wait out the rest of the night. This wound up being 

under a tiny overhang just off the trail. I had no sleeping bag or tent. It wasn’t too cold, 

but the deer mice kept running across me if I lay down. Oh great, now I am going to get 

Hanta Virus I thought! I never really slept, just sort of dozed while I kept going over and 

over the map in my head, the miles I had to make while willing it to match with the 

group’s itinerary so I would intercept them. As soon as it was light enough to see I was 

on the trail again. I cruised through the campground before anyone else was up. I refilled 

my water bottles and kept on trucking. 

We had hiked up to Mooney Falls on our 92 trip, but I hadn’t climbed around the 

falls like I had to do now. I am not a rock jock, and had never done anything like this with 

out someone to coach me along. I went slow and carefully on the 200’ vertical down 

climb, through travertine tunnels and face. There were occasional links of anchor chain 

where needed to hang on. 

The trail between Mooney and Beaver falls seemed almost non-existent. There 

had been several flash floods over the last few years that had washed out the trail. 

There was no way to get lost, but there were some tricky spots and obstacles for me and 

my river bag to get around. More than a few prayers were offered during this stretch of 

the trail. 

About this time I was beginning to realize was that my plan to hike back out to 

the rim if I missed my party was unreasonable if not impossible.  I was feeling shaky and 

weak from the combination of passing a kidney stone and a 20-mile hike with only a day 

and night with very little sleep in between. There was no way I would have the strength 

to hike back up to the canyon rim and meet Jan if I had missed my group. I knew I would 

have to some how beg a ride from another party to catch up with my group, who would 

not be more than a day below Havasu by this point if they decided not to do the lay over 

at Tapeats Crek. Even though I was feeling weak, I kept moving as fast as I could down 

the canyon, fueled by adrenaline. 

A couple of miles past Beaver falls I saw my first hiker coming up stream from 

the river. I asked him if he had noticed a party with one yellow, four gray and one white 

boat any where up stream of Havasu that day. He thought that he had, but wasn’t 

positive. I started seeing more and more folks as I headed down the canyon, but was in 

too much of a rush to stop and talk to them. All I could think of was getting to the 


 I got there around 11 am. Lots of folks were there, but not my group. A Can-X 

trip was parked down in the mouth and several motorboats were parked below the rapid. 

I stood gazing up stream with trembling legs for about 15 minutes before I saw the first 

boat of our party come into view. I climbed down to the water to a wait their arrival. 

The pull-in at Havasu can be a bit tricky especially for a group like ours that had 

very little GC experience on board. It is best to come in one boat at a time with some 

space in between. I started waving to Roger and Patty in the first boat when they were 

still a ways out. I could see Patty say something to Roger and point at me, but Roger 

shook his head negative. 

Then they disappeared behind the wall. When they came around the wall they 

saw me as they were making the cut to pull in. They started to scream! The boat behind 

them was out of sight behind the wall by then, but could hear the screaming and got 

worried that the pull in was much tougher than they had thought! When they came 

around the wall and saw me they started to scream as well, and so it went, boat by boat. 

Soon the Can-X group realized what was going on and were cheering us all on 

and helping us tie our boats off. Of course, Joe was the last boat in. When he saw me he 

was so shocked that he stopped pulling on the oars and would have gone down stream 

except for all the helping hands on shore that grabbed our boat and pulled him in. 

It was a sweet and wonderful reunion. It was hard on me to leave the trip, but 

likewise it had been hard on the group to have me (or anyone else for that matter) 

snatched out via helicopter emergency. You think exchanges at Phantom are bad....

Despite the fact that Roger fell and broke his arm while hiking around one of 

those tricky spots between Beaver and Mooney falls that day, our group remained in 

high spirits. His fracture was clean and we did a group set that he felt good about so he 

decided not to fly out but stayed on the trip. (When he had it x-rayed in Vegas on the 

way home the Dr. told him that the set was perfect and that the bone had already knit 

together fairly well.) 

Everyone was pretty uptight as we pressed on to Lava Falls the next day, except 

for me. After what I had been through the last few days, Lava Falls was cake! We had a 

beautiful run down the right side. 

I loved the last 10 days of the trip. That hike alone was something I would have 

never dreamed of doing on my own as a planned adventure, but it felt like the right thing 

to do and it was a great experience for me. I don’t know if I could do it 

now (2015), but then it was an experience that gave me confidence in trusting my gut. It 

was a great bonding experience for Joe and I to each other and our love of the Grand 


Posted on November 5, 2015 .

Things We Support: Grand Canyon Warriors

Lee taking some time to reflect and sketch in the Grand Canyon. 

Lee taking some time to reflect and sketch in the Grand Canyon. 

As many of you may know, Lee (aka Mom) and her husband Joe are AVID river runners. They began rafting in 1992 and have never looked back. They love the rivers of the southwest, and their real love is the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They have run in with friends family, a one boat solo winter trip, and Joe even works for a commercial river company (Tour West) during the summer leading trips. 

The Grand Canyon is a awe inspiring, challenging, teaching place no matter how you experience. But to spend several weeks traveling from start to finish, living on the river without phones, computers, etc. is fairly transformative. That's why, when we heard about Grand Canyon Warriors, we knew we had to help. 

Grand Canyon Warriors is an amazing trip being sponsored by members of the Grand Canyon River Runners Association; and it's purpose is provide a Grand Canyon rafting trip for active duty wounded warriors.

Their site says:

"Brave Americans in the prime of their lives, physically strong and mentally tough, left their homes and answered the call to duty. Far too many of them have returned home from combat physically disabled and mentally scarred. These “Wounded Warriors” face a long and sometimes lonely period of recovery and readjustment. As they heal and learn to cope with their disabilities they need our support and reassurance. Each of our armed services has established special units for recovering warriors where wounded service members learn to use artificial limbs, navigate without sight, or cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. These brave Americans all need our help, and the Grand Canyon River Runners believe we know a perfect way to provide it. The Grand Canyon River Runners Association is a non-profit group that works to preserve public access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. All of our members have experienced the challenges and enjoyed the wonders of a trip through the heart of America’s most famous National Park. Many of them have described the trip as a “life-changing” experience. We believe that this is exactly what the trip will be for our wounded warriors".

They are taking their first trip this year, and will be providing this experience for 25 U.S. Marines--covering the cost of their trip, all meals, transportation as well as specific equipment and military medical personal they will need to make this trip possible. Grand Canyon River Runners is a non-profit organization, and they are looking for donations to help make this trip a reality for these very deserving Marines. Their fundraising effort is not affiliated with any other charitable organization using the name ‘Wounded Warrior,” and 100% of all proceeds will go towards trip costs. We are proud to support this organization, and you better believe each of those Marines will have their own jar of Mom's Stuff to keep their skin in good working condition on the trip. 

Please consider supporting this trip, and these most deserving veterans, with a tax-deductible contribution:

On-Line at:

Or mail a check to: GCRRA Grand Canyon Warriors Trip P.O. Box 20013 Sedona, AZ 86341-20013

If a group or organization would like to assist with our fundraising efforts, they can sponsor a veteran for $3500.

Please direct inquiries to: Hank Detering 610-869-3631

Posted on April 6, 2015 .

Things We Love: Birch Creek Service Ranch

Do you have kids? Grandkids? Nieces, nephews, siblings, neighbor kids ages 12 - 15? If you do, let me tell you about THE BEST summer experience you can give them . . . Birch Creek Service Ranch. This is something that we LOVE and that has had a huge impact on generations of young people. 

The Motto of the Ranch:
Learn to like what doesn’t cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people, even though some of them may be different...different from you.
Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house, and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.
— Lowell C. Bennion

Birch Creek Service Ranch (BCSR) is a summer camp unlike any other. It is based off of the Bennion Teton Boys Ranch (BTBR), which was started by Lowell Bennion back in 1963 in Victor Idaho. Lowell started the ranch in an effort to give his city born sons the same opportunities to learn to do hard physical work that he had had growing up on a farm. He felt learning to work hard with your hands, and to do service, are crucial aspects to a young person's character formation. His program was not a reform, or punitive program, but something to help good kids become even better. Birch Creek Service Ranch was founded in 2003 by Eric Peterson, and Adam Batemen. Both men had grown up going to the BTBR and working as counselors as they got older, and they decided there was a need for more programs like BTBR. Only two years after BCSR began, the Bennion Boy's Ranch shut down, leaving BCSR the surviving branch of Lowell's amazing vision. 

The basic structure is that the kids come for three weeks and every morning spend 4-5 hours doing physical work. This work is 75% - 80% service for people in the local farming community. The jobs range from bucking bales (bringing in a crop of hay for you non-farmers), putting up fence, cleaning out an old barn, weeding a garden, to chopping down thistles or clearing trail for the local forest service. Over the year 100,000's of service hours have been given freely by many many hands. After lunch, the campers participate in a variety of afternoon activities like swimming at a lake, mountain biking, rock climbing, arts and crafts, horse back riding, etc. Evenings are filled with guest speakers, philosophical debates, talent shows, songs around a campfire and other enriching experiences. Each weekend the counselors lead the campers on overnight backpacking trips into local mountains, and canyons learning back country skills and increasing their love of the outdoors.  They work hard, play hard, make deep friendships, connect with nature, experience the joy of service, read, discuss, and much more. 

To see LOTS more photos check out BCSR Facebook Page

I became involved that first year as the cook, and continued working for 9 consecutive summers. Pretty quickly I realized that this is something that needed to be offered you young girls, not just boys, and I started the BCSR girl's session in 2006. In addition, I pursued a Master's Degree in Youth and Family Recreation, and for my thesis conducted a qualitative study on the perceived outcomes of attending the ranch from both parent and camper perspectives. My findings were unanimous. It was the work, not all the fun activities, that made this such a meaningful activity for these kids. Campers talked about how learning that they could accomplish difficult tasks using their own two hands gave them an efficacy that translated to many other aspects of their life after the ranch (like schoolwork, a hard job, etc.). They talked about how after spending three weeks in constant service they started to recognize more opportunities in their own neighborhoods and felt empowered to do something about the needs they saw. The parents commented on the change in attitude they observed as their kids came home and no longer complained about emptying the dishwasher (that's way easier than cleaning out a chicken coop for four hours!), and had new patience and appreciation for siblings. 

What I love most about the ranch is it is a space where young people get to develop in pivotal ways at a pivotal age. The kids don't have cell phones, computers, tablets, or other technology for the three week (although of course they can call home). There is no T.V. or game counsel at the ranch. Instead they learn to work hard, to serve continually, to communicate (we talk a LOT during work crew, long hikes, van rides, meals), to commune with nature, to be quiet, and to PLAY. Without all the distractions and fear of rejection they let loose and really become kids again. They get dirty and don't care, they are silly, thoughtful, sensitive, they are themselves. It's a loving, family like community, and everyone finds a place there. 

So if you have a boy or girl ages 12 - 15 in your life that you think would enjoy/benefit from Birch Creek Service Ranch, please visit their website where you can fill out the application. You can also direct message me with more questions.  


Session 1: Boys (12-15 year old boys): June 15 - July 8 The cost is $1,500 per session.

Session 2: Boys (12-15 year old boys): July 13 - August 5 The cost is $1,500 per session.

Session 3: Girls (12-15 year old girls): August 7 - August 16 The cost is $750  

BCSR is a place where Mom's Stuff get's used daily, well really hourly! From blisters on hands, to cuts and scrapes, sunburns, and more, the campers usually go through a jar a session. One year for an afternoon activity the kids wanted to make a film, and decided to do an infomercial for Mom's Stuff. So if you want a hearty laugh, watch this gem. Also please note, none of the miracle claims made in this film are real. ;)

Posted on March 13, 2015 .