National Geographic : 2016 Oct
46 national geographic • october 2016 We spread ground covers and light sleeping bags over the soft sand and watched the remains of a day slip away. It was sublime. But still, Casey and I experienced a bit of Internet withdrawal. The NBA finals—the championship!—remained un- known to us in our digital desert. The U.S. pres- idential campaign was in turmoil, and of course I wondered, What had Donald Trump said now? Had the stock market crashed or soared? I could only imagine who might be seething because I’d failed to respond to an email or text. It wasn’t just us. The youngest member of our trip, an eighth grader from Austin, Texas, had brought along a cell phone, two spare ones, and a portable charger powered by the sun. He had plenty of power but no connection. When he couldn’t get a single bar, he looked as though he were starting to twitch. We should just ... let ... it ... go, I suggested. Try to be mindful. Stare at the stars. Drift. “I get it,” said Casey, “this thing about being discon- nected. But what if you had pockets of oppor- tunity to dip back in? Everyone I know likes to share—publicly—what we’re doing. We are social travelers. If you can’t share it now, is it really hap- pening? Just a thought.” He complained about sand in his bag, bugs, and no hot shower. We were both mildly worried about all this poking, prodding, and studying of mil- lennials and minorities seems a bit odd, as if a clus- ter of green-uniformed Very Concerned Experts were trying to fathom an unknowable species. THE COLORADO RIVER was a churn of choc- olate brown from silt and the hurried runoff of flash storms. During our trip it flowed at about 14,000 cubic feet per second—that is, roughly 527 tons of water, enough to smash a canoe caught sideways. It was cold, this muddied stream in the arid West, because it came from the depths of a reservoir, behind the Glen Canyon Dam. On our first day on the river, entering a patch of rough water, we were anxious, clenching the side. But soon we couldn’t wait for the next roll through the rapids. When a wave curled over our boat and soaked us to the bone, it was a numbing, pleasant sensation. Everyone hooted with joy. In the calmer stretches, the canyon was quiet, save for the sound of flycatchers and other birds gliding just above the surface. The cliffs rose around every bend, the colors bright shades of antiquity. We took breaks along the shore, exploring a tuft of wildflowers here, an enormous natural amphitheater there. In the evening we feasted on prime rib and portobello mushrooms, cooked over a gas grill.