On my knees in the bright pebbly waters of Hermit Creek, I looked up from the cotton shirt I was wringing out to the buff-colored rim of the Kaibab Plateau, over 4,000 vertical feet overhead.

"Its a long way down from up there," I told Tom Sheeley, who had just arrived along the trail from camp at the pool.

"We have a mile and a half to go still to the river, remember."

"And a longer way yet back up," I added. For individuals as well as civilizations, there's a penalty inevitably to be paid for yielding too much ground. "Where's Tib?" "Tib" was Tim Smith, but after months of hay fever we all found it easier and finally more natural to say "Tib," as Tom came out "Tob" and Chip, "Chib."

"He's off reading somewhere." Tom, who carried a can of Ice House beer in his hand, produced a second one from the pocket of his nylon shorts. "Care for a lunch cylinder?"

The case of beer, backpacked down the previous month by Tom and Tim and cached beneath a snaky-looking rock pile, was a luxury.

"God yes!"

I hung my shirt, underwear, and socks to dry from an acacia branch overhanging the pool while the two of us lolled in the fresh waterspout cascading between limestone boulders, drinking beer and watching a pair of ravens fly reconnaissance 50 feet above...

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