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Grand Ambitions

"Just don't tell anyone about it," the heavy-set man on the all-terrain vehicle said with a laugh. "We did that with Lake Powell and now it's been ruined."

Lake Powell was the two hundred mile long reservoir pooled behind Glen Canyon Dam, upstream of Grand Canyon National Park. It was named after Major John Wesley Powell, the first man to explore the Colorado River by boat. His party marveled at Glen Canyon's ancient dwellings, banded grottoes, verdant springs, and the contoured valleys of orange, pink, and crimson. Because of the "ensemble of wonderful features - carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds, and monuments," they struggled to name it. Today, motor homes parked on the reservoir's barren sandstone shores and houseboats cruised its glimmering surface.

I was seeking the unspoiled Colorado River captured in Powell's diary. A vague reference in a book had led me to a part of the Arizona Strip I found to be disregarded by most map makers and largely unfamiliar to local residents. I watched the man's wife, on an ATV of her own, wobble along a rutted, dirt road toward dry buttes and closing skies. Eighty miles ahead of me was a section of the Grand Canyon the gentleman described as "God's country."

"You'll have it all to yourself," he assured me. "The rafters don't see a raft and wonder how you got there!"

I'm certain he could see the delight in my eyes.

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