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Over the years, we've gotten familiar with the adventures of Hal Cannon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center, and his wife, writer and painter Teresa Jordan. They've taken us along on many of their extraordinary trips through the western United States. The first one took place one summer when they joined a group for their first rafting trip down the Colorado River, through the heart of the Grand Canyon. This week, we revisit that journey.

by Hal Cannon & Teresa Jordan

Listen with RealAudio: The Grand Canyon

This afternoon the world exploded. Clouds closed in, thunder reverberated off the steep walls. Flashes of lightning blinded us again and again. Then came torrents of rain and soon the canyon seemed to blow apart. A hundred surging cataracts burst forth blood red with dirt and rock and boulders twice the size of cannon balls. When the rain finally let up we looked at one another and our eyes burned demon red.

I looked at our guides. Tears were streaming down their faces from the dirt in their eyes and they were as amazed and giddy as we were. Though each had made this trip 30 times or more. They all agreed they had never seen the canyon flash with such exquisite violence. This dangerous excitement of seeing the canyon anew with each trip is what brings these men back season after season.

I never liked the idea of yours, traveling with strangers. But I have to admit I grew fond of my companions. I became friends with Max, who's singing here with our late evening talent show, and with Valentina Terlota, the psychoanalyst from Rome, Keith the Missouri farmer, Jack a retired astronomer, Francis had worked lights at Woodstock and was celebrating her 50th. It was more than the shared experience that brought us together. It was the helping hand scaling a slick rock trail or pulling a water-logged traveler into the boat after he had been catapulted into churning water. It was also the risk we shared that bonded us.

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