Thanksgiving and Iconic America

There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving weekend.  In Canada, it happens on the second week of October while the USA is much later.  In either case, and after three decades in the travel industry, it has become apparent to me that this holiday weekend is a focal point for trip planning with friends and family.  And for good reason – the weather has started to turn, days are shorter and it’s a rare opportunity to have a quorum of family members available in person to cast a vote for the next exotic destination.  With more than 45 million Americans flying this weekend, it’s also a time when families are truly connected face-to-face (rather than the a Verizon telecommunications alternative that suggests a family connects through phone and text packages).

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday because there are no religious overtones or gifts involved so one can simply enjoy a long weekend to chill out with family and friends.  And my American neighbours have much to be thankful for in November.  An extra down to get 10 yards in football (we Canadians only need three),  Black Friday for discount electronics (everyday in November day is dark in Canada at these latitudes) and most importantly, the launch of Christmas season shopping and carol soundtracks (two out of three ain’t bad).

OK, all kidding aside if you want to talk “Americana” beyond apple pie and football, what could be more American than a compelling, dramatic and gripping story about the Grand Canyon?  This natural wonder of the world is certainly one of most amazing spectacles on earth and when combined with the dam that blockades it, truly represents the complex psyche of “America” like no other.

With this in mind, I suggest you take some time among the Thanksgiving family mayhem to find a comfortable chair and curl up with the newest adventure book called “The Emerald Mile“.

Written by Kevin Fedarko, a former senior editor at Outside Magazine, it is already being heralded as the greatest adventure story ever written and I couldn’t agree more – even surpassing my former favourite, “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson.   Kevin’s book is also a true story but blends a brilliant mix of history, introspect and drama into a tapestry of adventure that will not allow you to put it down (except maybe for pumpkin pie).  The main story is about the fastest ride in history through the heart of the Grand Canyon during an El Nino flood period at the brink of a near collapse of the Glen Canyon dam in Arizona.

What’s even more exciting is that Kevin is going to be hosting our “Reading the River” series this coming July 19th on the Chilko River.  An eight-day adventure of its own grandeur, the Chilko will make for wonderful campfire readings of the Emerald Mile by the author himself.  How cool is that?   

 The Chilko River could not be more different than the Grand Canyon on so many levels but does boast the longest stretch of commercially navigable whitewater in North America.  It’s free flowing, non-stop Lava Canyon stretch is more akin to what these three crazy river guides pulled off in 1983 during the Colorado’s flooding outlined in The Emerald Mile.

Like the book, every aspect of a Chilko River expedition builds in excitement.  The flight to Chilko is spectacular and makes one realize that we are miniscule in the grand scale of things.  The river is still pristine and you can drink from it without filtration or need to purify.  The “yin” and “yang” of the expedition will overwhelm your senses as we go from relative tranquility to absolute madness in the raging whitewater and back again.

The Chilko River’s energy has yet to be harnessed or impeded by man-made structures like Glen Canyon dam.  The vastness of the British Columbia wilderness is one of the few things that can dwarf the Colorado Plateau and at the end of the trip we drift silently on the mighty Fraser River which is on average 10 times the volume of the modern day Colorado River.

Here’s to hoping that turquoise river, superfluous whitewater, northern lights and surreal sunsets in Chilcotin country will inspire Mr. Fedarko to write another book…   Even if his next book is half as good as The Emerald Mile, we will be waiting anxiously.