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14 High Jinks, 1965

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

The Grand Canyon was Georgie’s special place, and she began to spend more and more of her trip time there. In 1965 her schedule called for two Havasu Canyon hikes, one Cataract Canyon run, five trips through the Grand Canyon, one on the Nahanni River in Canada, and one on the Usumacinta along the border of Mexico and Guatemala.1

Georgie was a champion of animal rights, even though she didn’t spend much active time in the movement. In the spring of 1965 she wrote to California State Senator John G. Schmitz in support of a bill for the protection of poultry and rabbits presented to youngsters for pets at Easter. In a reply dated March 4, 1965, the Senator agreed with her that “many of these children are too young to understand their responsibility toward pets of this type and lack the maturity of control which should be exercised in handling them.”2

Whitey continued to have severe drinking problems. He would be on the wagon for a while and then try to catch up when he fell off. During his drinking binges he was not always reliable. Georgie tried to be a stabilizing force for Whitey, but that in itself may have contributed to the problem. The rafting company was now Georgie’s, and she controlled the purse strings.

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1 Swimming Rapids in Grand Canyon, 1944-1945

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

Georgie White and Harry Aleson stared at the raging, silt-laden Colorado River. The awesome beauty of Grand Canyon would be lost on the pair for the next four days as they fought the swirling brown water. It was June of 1945, just a month after V.E. Day, and the two had decided to swim the lower reaches of the Grand Canyon from Diamond Creek1 to Lake Mead.

From Boulder City, Nevada, they had taken a bus to Peach Springs, Arizona, on U.S. 66, where they stripped down to swimsuits, tennis shoes, and shirts. Each wore a life preserver and a backpack which held a malt can containing a light jacket, sugar candy, powdered coffee, dehydrated soup, and their cameras and film. They had asked the sheriff in Peach Springs to ship the rest of their clothes back to Boulder City. After a hot twenty-mile hike down to the Colorado River, they were faced with a rampaging, debris-filled stream at the height of spring runoff. The swift current carried along trees and other driftwood the rains had washed down from side canyons. Lashing waves crashed against the shore rocks with an ominous roar.2 And, as happens with all floods of this kind, the air was filled with the pungent odor of rotting vegetation.

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10 Dead Man in Cataract and Other New Experiences, 1960-1961

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

On May 22, 1960, Albert Q. Quist of Salt Lake City was leading a two-boat, twelve-member party through Cataract Canyon. About noon, after running three rapids, one of the twenty-four-foot rafts slammed into a rock and hung up there, pitching four of the men into the river. Quist and his son, Clair, made it safely to shore about three-quarters of a mile below, but the other two men, Leon Peterson and Keith Howard Hoover, both of Provo, Utah, could not be located and were presumed to be drowned.1

Two weeks later Georgie embarked at Green River for a trip through Cataract Canyon with a party of thirty-five. She was asked to watch for the missing pair. Among Georgie’s passengers was Father John Finbarr Hayes, a twenty-eight-year-old Catholic priest, who had gone through Grand Canyon with her the year before.

Georgie was leading the party in her big boat when they came to placid water below Dark Canyon. It was Sunday, about nine o’clock in the morning. The party had been on the alert for the bodies of the two lost men, and as they drifted along Georgie spotted something unusual in a mass of floating driftwood. She knew instinctively what it was even though the man’s body was arched over with only the top curve of his back above the water. Both his head and his feet were submerged.

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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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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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