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16 Divorce, 1968-1971

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In 1968 Georgie and Orville returned to Mexico and tried the Rio Grande de Santiago again. They found part of one of the boats from the 1967 trip on the bank near a village and it still said “Georgie” on it. Orville said, “So when we showed up with additional boats saying ‘Georgie,’ there was a lot of excitement. And they had a party for us.”

The local people had cut up the boats and used them to patch knotholes in their canoes and make soles for their shoes. Orville said, “I thought it was a shame that they cut the boats up. They were perfectly good when we walked off and left them. The boats weren’t bad. They were upside down.”1

In July 1968 Joan DeFato made her first of many trips with Georgie. She wound up doing a dozen trips with her, about half of them as a passenger and the others as a helper. On the 1968 trip, Georgie only took the big boat, and she was the only crew. A man called “Bouncer” (George Price) was the only person on the boat who had taken the trip before, so Georgie had twenty-one rookies. She ran the boat all day, then made the meals with help from passengers to open the cans. When she got up in the morning, Georgie would gas up the boat, change the spark plug, go around and jump on all the sections. If they were not as hard as she wanted, she would pump them up by hand. She did all this herself; she had just a fantastic amount of energy. Joan said:

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15 Disaster on a Mexican River, 1966-1967

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In 1966 the Bureau of Reclamation had a bill introduced in Congress that would allow it to construct two hydroelectric dams in the Grand Canyon.1 The proposed Marble Canyon Dam would be located above the Grand Canyon National Park boundary, and Bridge Canyon Dam would be in the lower part of the gorge near Mile 235. At that time only a fraction of the Grand Canyon was included in the existing Grand Canyon National Park. Bridge Canyon Dam, as proposed, would extend a reservoir thirteen miles into Grand Canyon National Park.

The integrity of the park was threatened according to the Sierra Club, who rather than remain on the defensive mounted a counter-offensive. In April 1966 they sponsored legislation that would enlarge the park to include the entire canyon and would specifically prohibit any dams or diversions between Lee’s Ferry, where the canyon begins, and the Grand Wash Cliffs, where it ends.

Other conservationist groups followed suit. Hugh Nash, editor of the Sierra Club Bulletin, wrote:

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4 Taking Passengers through Grand Canyon, 1953

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In the winter of 1952-1953, Harry Aleson organized a hiking trip that would attempt to follow the old wagon road made by rugged Mormon pioneers in the winter of 1879-1880 on their trek from Escalante to the town of Bluff, Utah.1 By the time Georgie arrived at Richfield, Utah, on April 10, 1953, all who had signed up for the hike had dropped out except Harry. When asked if she wanted to call it off, Georgie replied, “I didn’t come from L.A. for nothing.”2

They left Richfield in a snowstorm on Saturday, April 11, and traveled for several hours in a Jeep with Dan Manning and Neal Magelby, both of Richfield. Georgie and Harry were dropped off at the top of Hole-In-The-Rock; after a little looking around, Manning and Magelby headed back to Richfield.

From this point in 1879, 250 Mormon pioneers from the Cedar City and Panguitch areas had blasted and prayed their way across this most isolated, wildly eroded “slickrock” wilderness in the dead of winter to settle the town of Bluff, Utah. Here at Hole-In-The-Rock, a narrow slit in the rim of Glen Canyon more than a thousand feet above the Colorado River, Georgie and Harry encountered the first signs of the powder-blasted, hand-built dugway made seventy-three years earlier.

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13 More of Mexico, 1963-1964

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In August 1963 Georgie’s wanderlust took her on another trip to the Rio Balsas in Mexico. The party of seven included a man named John (last name unknown), Orville Miller, Ivan Summers, Allan O’Brien, Ellis L. Spackman, Delphine Mohrline, and Georgie. In an article about the trip, Spackman said:

Georgie is one of the most extra-ordinary women in America. I am sure you have seen her pictures on TV. She has taken more people down more rivers than anyone else. She has been instrumental in working out the technique. And she hasn’t lost a client yet.

It is obviously designed for men only, yet the champion is a woman, and not a very big one at that. It isn’t fair to us men.1

From the journal of Delphine Mohrline Gallagher, we learn more details of that trip.2 In Mexico City on August 14, it took one whole day to get the rubber boats loaded on the truck from the attic where they were stored and to get Georgie’s other baggage off the plane and through customs. At 8 P.M. they were finally on their way for the five-hour truck ride to the town of Mexcala, where they would enter the Balsas River.

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3 From Passenger to Boatman, 1948-1952

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In February 1948 Georgie wrote to Harry: “I am open to any and almost all trips. That is what I live for and one summer to the next certainly seems long. Does it to you?”1

Over the next few months Georgie and Harry made plans to go down the Escalante River. They arrived at the small town of Escalante in southern Utah on May 24 and bought provisions for the trip. Both the town and river are named for Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante of the Domínguez-Escalante expedition of 1776. Oddly, Escalante neither saw nor came close to the river bearing his name. Major Powell also floated past its mouth on both his 1869 and 1871 explorations of the Colorado River unaware that it was a major tributary. A year later in 1872 the Thompson-Dellenbaugh survey party at first took it for the Dirty Devil, then realizing their error, took credit for its discovery. It proved to be the last river to be discovered in the contiguous United States.2 Even at this time in 1948, very few Anglos had traveled down the Escalante.

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