It’s mid-afternoon on a Thursday in early July, day one of my Grand Canyon Gay Rafting Adventure, and a long day it’s been. Yesterday Tom welcomed us individually to the hotel in Vegas then hosted an evening meet-and-greet in the lounge. Tom is tour director, openly gay, about fifty, moderately overweight, friendly, soft spoken and kind, his psoriasis partially hidden by long fine hair the color of tarnished bronze.
As we ate pizza and drank beer at our private table in back, near the pool, Tom asked us to introduce ourselves and explain why we’d signed up for this expedition. I forgot names as soon as they were spoken, absorbing instead the voices and faces of the other guys I’d be with for the next eight days.
When it was my turn, I withheld my primary motive, that in addition to seeing the Grand Canyon from the river and making new friends, I’m also hoping for raw sexual experience. (Between you and me, I’ve embraced my original attraction to guys for only the past few years, and gay men where I live, in a small coastal town in South Carolina, are hard to come by. Occasionally I get hard and come by myself.)
We all turned in early for today’s 4 a.m. wake-up call, and by five like zombies we’d loaded our duffels into the belly of the bus, which was too large for so few guys. Most of us slept on the long drive northeast to the Utah-Arizona line, where we stopped at an isolated country store to stretch our legs, fill our lungs with dry piney air, take a leak, buy ice cream and pick up Cliff.
He stood at the front of the bus facing us to introduce himself, our gay skipper and Canyon guide. Now we were fully alert: Cliff is a handsome young buck, mid-thirties, who runs the river several times each summer then skis Aspen all winter. He has thinning flaxen hair, bright blue Scandinavian eyes and the body of a rock climber, which is how he got his nickname. Surely I wasn’t the only passenger imagining him naked and fully erect.
For the next thirty minutes, Cliff walked down the aisle shaking hands and chatting with each of us, charming me out of my skin while creating professional distance between us. Finally, in a barren desert parking lot at Lee’s Ferry the bus stopped beside the Colorado River where we transferred the contents of our duffels into the large dry bags Cliff provided.
Each man carried his gear down to the boat ramp where our guide’s unpaid “swamper” smiled shaking hands before grabbing each dry bag. He stacked and tied the bags down across the middle of the thirty-seven-foot motorized raft outfitted with huge twin pontoons left over from World War II. Then Cliff called us closer into a semi-circle for an orientation session, but first introduced Adam, a recent graduate of Arizona State. We applauded. Adam demurred admitting he still hadn’t found a real job. “What, this isn’t real?” Cliff asked. “A job that pays real money,” Adam corrected himself, laughing.
Disarmingly he added that he’s straight, but gay-friendly, and our good natured booing and hissing made him laugh out loud again. He has the cropped brown hair of an early British rocker, and doesn’t seem to realize that, like Cliff, he’s also very attractive: five-ten, distance-runner thin, perhaps a bit nervous and shy amid so much errant testosterone.
Indeed, Cliff sounded like everyone’s older sister: “wear your life preservers at all times on the raft; drink so much water your urine runs clear, and urinate only into the river or one of the little plastic buckets I’ll distribute at each campsite then empty your little plastic bucket into the river; if you need to piss from the raft, let me or Adam guide you into the engine well, hang on to something beside your penis to maintain your balance and don’t piss all over the engine; also, don’t push yourself too hard in this harsh climate; again, drink so much water your urine runs clear, ’cause if you start bitching, that means you’re dehydrated, and nobody likes a bitch; always work as a team unloading and loading the raft for everyone’s benefit; take turns carrying the ‘honey pot’ and use as little toilet paper as possible so we don’t run out.”
“And guys,” Cliff continued, “as the river here is only forty-seven degrees, please don’t fall in; but, if anyone does fall in, please don’t laugh at his shrunken little cock when we pull him out, ’cause it could happen to you.” We were laughing now. “Seriously,” Cliff concluded, “welcome to the unbelievable Grand Canyon and have a fucking grand time!”
We applauded and cheered our guide and blushing swamper. Donning bright red life preservers, we hoisted ourselves up onto the raft and tentatively settled into three rows across the aluminum deck. Here we were, at the entrance to the Grand Canyon innocently pushing off from Lee’s Ferry into the blue-green Colorado River. Unreal!
Measurable in hundreds of feet, the low canyon walls on both sides comprised multiple stacked layers of burnt-orange and rusty sandstone. Puffy white clouds in the cobalt Arizona sky reflected softly in the benign river, the raft’s engine barely audible. At the helm behind us Cliff and Adam were smiling. Our journey had begun.
But after only forty-five minutes Cliff brought us to shore for a lunch break, and things finally got interesting. We unloaded one of the large, heavy, unfolding aluminum tables on which guide and swamper prepared sandwiches. The rest of us stood around on the narrow sandbar talking, watching the river flow past when suddenly from the back of the pack Aussie bolted past us naked diving bare-assed into the river, surfacing breathlessly.
“Fuck!” he shouted. “It’s like ice, mates!” Mindful of Cliff’s instructions, we only smiled at Aussie’s anatomy as he ran up hugging himself from the river to higher ground shivering right beside me. Instinctively I reached down discreetly patting his chilled buttocks, but he only shuddered turning away. About forty, Aussie looks and acts younger. He’s tan all over, average height with taut, sculpted muscles. He never combs his Just-For-Men chestnut hair. His long eyelashes look almost feminine when he smiles down self-consciously. I love his down-under accent.
Inspired by his fearless example, I turned to Tex-Mex asking if he’d take the plunge with me. Short, barrel-chested and hairy, the young teacher from El Paso shrugged saying what the hell. We both stepped out of our bathing suits, and Aussie joined our screaming charge back into the frigid river, all three of us surfacing instantly, hooting, scrambling back to shore, kicking water, laughing breathlessly, glancing down at the diminished sources of everyone’s polite amusement.
Liberated, heroic, standing naked on display among the others, we three caught our breath as the warm desert air dried us in minutes. We pulled bathing suits back on to eat lunch, then everyone reloaded the raft and we returned to the river rippling and lapping over long shallow diagonal riffles. An hour later we pulled ashore to climb rocks up to a one-thousand-year-old Indian dwelling preserved on a plateau. When I pointed my camera at a boulder scratched with pictographs, Aussie suddenly appeared in the background smiling in my direction then just as quickly ducked out of the photo.
Now we’ve claimed our first campsite below Badger Creek Rapids. All nine of us passengers and Tom are sitting in a cozy circle on those low folding beach chairs almost impossible to get up out of. Cold beer is gradually reviving us as Cliff and Adam begin preparing dinner in their “kitchen,” both large folding aluminum tables placed perpendicular to each other, pots and pans stacked beneath and propane stove off to the side. A metal bin at the bottom of the raft will keep our food fresh and our beer cold for the next week.
We’re all tired but well satisfied, bantering, wisecracking, laughing or, like me, just spacing out as I ponder an odd perception: after being on the raft for only a couple of hours today, the opposite shore seems to be slowly receding upriver. (At sixty-four I’m apparently the oldest guy on this expedition and the only one taking notes, to shore up a faulty memory.)
Behind our campsite, a rocky plain softened by mesquite and coyote willow slopes up to a vertical wall already darkened by shadow. Across the choppy green river, we face a sun-drenched midrise sandstone cliff the color and texture of rare roast beef. A canyon wren, invisible, calls in plaintive notes descending. Is she lonely in the fading sunlight? Hot wind blows down from either side of the canyon, fine sand coating us, and everything. Why bathe? We might as well be camping in a brick oven.
After an early dinner, we retreat to the metal cots we’d wrestled with after landing here. The cots are scattered across the campsite as if we all want some privacy, but not too much. (Cliff and Adam will sleep on the raft.) The sun sets prematurely, a horizontal shadow creeping slowly up the opposite cliff. Longing for companionship I lie back on my cot closest to the river, feeling conspicuous in black Polo briefs, listening to guys walk back and forth behind me.
“Love your undies, mate!” Aussie calls jogging past. Smirking to myself, I only raise one hand waving the flirt away. Though exhausted I’m kept awake by small bats swirling among early stars in the azure sky.
By day three I understand that the river and canyon change mile by mile as does my experience here. Yesterday, after bucking through steeper rapids, we stopped to explore Redwall Cavern. From a distance it looked like a wide low gash in the pinkish-orange sandstone at a bend in the river, but as we approached shore and beached the raft, we all marveled at the cavern’s immensity – several thousand natives easily could have gathered underneath.
Everyone drifted toward the darker back of the cave until we could actually reach up and touch its cool ceiling. Standing beside Aussie I also placed my hand lightly around his waist, but he wordlessly stepped away. Had I been too forward? Am I trying too hard, hoping for too much? Maybe not: at our lunch stop an hour later, things again got interesting.
We pulled up on a large sandbar with a small hill in the middle. Guys milled around under the hot sun directly overhead, pissing in the river, sitting on rocks in the dappled shade of hackberry trees as Cliff and Adam fixed sandwiches. Behind me Ricardo and Carey trudged up the sandy hill in their bikinis, and I instinctively knew what I’d find if I followed.
Ricardo is a tall, handsome, Cuban-born dentist from Miami, with dark curly hair and the physique of an Olympic swimmer: wide shoulders, tapered back, thin waist and perfect little butt. Like me he’s something of a show-off. He knows he’s gorgeous (unlike me), but he also happens to be very engaging.
Carey, his married partner, works in residential real estate. Whereas Ricardo is somewhat macho, Carey is the opposite: receding hairline of auburn waves, beautiful green eyes and a tan, thin, feline body. On the quiet side, he lets Ricardo do most of their talking. They complement each other well, like a regular couple, and apparently enjoy an active social life in south Florida.
As I reached the crest of the hill, my instincts were confirmed when I saw spread out below me four naked gay men. To my right was Paul, a seriously overweight assistant principal from Alaska who, I have to admit, I’ve avoided so far, especially when he has difficulty hauling himself up onto the raft. I mean, lose some weight. On the far side of a long narrow wading pool behind the sandbar, he sat alone privately splashing water on pasty blubber, and I don’t mean to sound catty, but he reminded me of a beached whale.
To my left, Ricardo and Carey had removed their skimpy bathing suits entering the wading pool side by side, holding hands, walking away from me toward Aussie, who was stretched out on the far bank leaning back on elbows.
The three of them laughed about something I couldn’t hear. Quickly I stepped out of my bathing suit walking in fine sand down toward them, the towering cliff above reflecting and intensifying hot sunlight in the dry air. Once again I was liberated, this time beginning to swell. As I entered the warm, shallow pool, Ricardo and Carey, both dangling flaccid, turned and rejoined hands strolling back toward me, dragging their feet sensually through the water.
“Pardon my arousal,” I called. They smiled back at me.
“No, we love it,” Ricardo said, and I walked right into his one-arm embrace.
“You guys are so hot,” I said against the Cuban’s warm, hairy chest.
“We’re going back for lunch,” Carey said proprietarily, and I pushed away.
“Save some for me,” I quipped, not intending the double entendre. Walking around them I continued toward Aussie who I could now see was impressively endowed likewise aroused.
But when he noticed me approaching, he pulled one leg up obscuring my view. I got the message sitting parallel to him at a safe distance. Closing his eyes, he again tipped his head way back, obviously not wanting to talk, and I wondered if I’d been misinterpreting his outgoing frisky playfulness from the moment he ran naked into the river on day one.
At best, perhaps Aussie wanted to be only a temporary friend, nothing more, and that’s okay. I’m older, of course; too old. I’ll enjoy our friendship, however fleeting. I’ll adjust to reality. But my cock follows its own agenda; still distended it was now emitting a fine web of pre-ejaculate onto my thigh.
Swiping the oil, licking it off my finger as a consolation prize, I pushed myself up, brushed sand off my ass, told Aussie lunch was probably ready, turned and walked back through the wading pool up the hill to my bathing suit, which I stepped into, deflated. From a distance I could see the lunch table already surrounded by hungry primates.
In the afternoon, we motored between higher and higher cliffs, listening for the first distant warning of a new set of freezing rapids, which are easier to endure midday when the sun penetrates the canyon walls down to the river. We wound through a section of wider canyon where the cliffs, walls and spilled boulders back away from the river in a long S-curve, a side canyon slowly opening to a massive jagged coliseum.
Later we beached and unloaded the raft, set up camp, drank beer in a circle, pissed happily into the river, drank more beer and ate dinner. Again I placed my cot in a semi-private yet still accessible place back from the river half hoping Aussie might visit. Later I took comfort in the realization that none of the other single guys had hooked up yet.
Today, after an early start, we stopped to hike one mile up a very steep, very narrow trail to inspect ancient Pueblo granaries that looked like a row of four large dark windows carved into sun-bleached sandstone high above the river. But my bursting lungs couldn’t take the climb. Letting guys pass me as I bent over struggling for air, I returned meekly to the raft, where I was delighted to find Adam alone on deck catching rays in maroon Sun Devil gym shorts with a small gold pitch fork on the side.
“How’s it going?” he asked, raising his head, squinting and smiling.
“I think I’m too old for this shit,” I huffed, and he laughed.
“You’re not old,” he assured me.
With that bit of encouragement I warned him I wanted to skinny dip, stepped out of my bathing suit and plunged momentarily into the frigid Colorado beside the raft, hoping the icy water would simultaneously revive me and chill any possible arousal, especially as Adam, alone, seemed more accessible, dare I say vulnerable.
Stepping quickly back onto hard-packed sand I glanced at the raft, slightly disappointed to find Adam lying again on his back, hands under his head, smiling only at the sky, eyes closed. Turning to face downriver I let my skin dry in the heat until I could step modestly back into my bathing suit to face facts: our sexy young swamper, so lean and sinewy is untouchable, strictly off-limits.
But Adam did take notice when I pulled myself up onto the raft. As we were alone for the first time, I sat close enough to feel his presence without triggering the inevitable defenses, casually noticing his gray eyes watching me, a tiny mole below his right cheekbone, his cropped brown hair curling around under each ear, the dark conical nipples small as pennies. Boyishly he pulled his knees up near his chin clasping hands around bony knees, his thin legs lightly laced with hair.
“So, you just graduated,” I said necessarily looking away.
“Yeah,” he sighed; “now for the real world.”
“What are your plans?” I asked facing him, and he smirked.
“Problem is I don’t really have any.”
“Ah, you’ve graduated college just the way I did,” I said; “without direction.”
“What’d you end up doing?” he asked.
“Well, the Vietnam War was a good incentive to stay in school,” I recalled: “I got an M.A. and ended up teaching for forty years.”
“What’d you teach?” he asked.
“Literature,” I said; “creative writing.”
“I majored in English,” he said.
“Glad to hear it,” I said. “I thought English had gone the way of alchemy.”
“So, who’s your favorite author?”
“I like E. M. Forster.”
“A Passage to India,” Adam mused.
“Very good,” I said.
“I love that book,” he smiled.
Was I elated by this conversation? I should’ve been, but my mood in fact was sinking like a stone tossed into the river. I mean, I’d been initially stunned by Cliff, who wouldn’t know me from the biblical Adam but for this expedition. I’m still trying to dampen my presumptuous infatuation with Aussie, who wants nothing more than superficial friendship. The fat guys on the raft turn me off. I’m too old for the younger guys. Ricardo and Carey are exclusive.
And here was this intriguing young man with whom I actually have something in common, only I’m old enough to be his grandfather. Still, we agreed that, like Forster, Dr. Aziz and Fielding were secretly attracted to other men, to each other, their mutual attraction sadly verboten.
A while later, the rest of the guys returned and Adam stood then jumped down to the beach to help Cliff with lunch. After motoring a couple more hours we found that several other rafts had pulled up at our next stop, the conjunction of the Little Colorado, which flows bright turquoise from a side canyon into the main river.
We hiked single-file up along a path to a giant bolder from the top of which a few of the younger guys plunged into the warm pool below.
Cliff showed us how to step into life preservers like bulky, bright red diapers for floatation. Along with the other nudists – Aussie, Ricardo, Carey and Francis – I stripped before stepping into my life preserver then, one by one, we tipped backward into the much warmer water and began drifting downstream feet-first like turtles on our backs.
Francis, by the way, is a former priest from Boston who now resides (or hides) in rural Connecticut. A fallen Catholic myself, and former altar boy, I’m a bit guarded around Father Francis, as he radiates a guilty aura of scandal. Not only that, but he revealed yesterday on the raft that he’d never been with gay men before, and I was tempted to ask, what about boys? But I bit my tongue. He’s not a bad guy, just sort of paunchy in his mid-fifties. I don’t even want to describe the former priest nude.
As I floated merrily downstream behind Aussie, gazing up at towering canyon walls against the cerulean sky, I spied a line of young guys and gals hiking up toward us. Casually draping my bathing suit over the swollen penis sunning against my thigh, I smiled back at them as one by one they discovered our mostly naked flotilla.
“That looks like fun!” a tall athletic girl in shorts and bikini top called down to me.
“You have no idea!” I answered, raising both arms religiously to the heavens, hopefully diverting her attention. A few hundred yards farther down I had to laugh when Aussie scrambled bare-ass up the weed-covered bank stepping out of his life preserver hurriedly pulling on his bathing suit. Laughing wickedly with me he began jogging up the path to jump back in. Awkwardly stumbling from life preserver into bathing suit I followed, still laughing.
By mid-afternoon we’ve established our new campsite on the west bank of the river at Lava Canyon. Full of warm drinking water I jump almost falling down from the raft walking immediately to water’s edge to take a leak. Hands on hips, initially I just let my limp penis droop over my bathing suit as urine gradually snakes through my urethra constricted by an enlarged prostate. Suddenly Adam stands beside me pulling down the front of his Sun Devil shorts.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he smiles as if we’re standing at adjacent urinals in a locker room.
“Slowly,” I answer, and glancing down at my anatomy, Adam looks away pissing a big ragged amber arc plashing into the river. As my own little stream begins to trickle, I widen my stance to avoid pissing on my feet reaching down lifting my penis outward to initiate my own inferior arc as Adam finishes shaking his dick.
“Patience,” he teases, winking, snapping his shorts back up, turning and walking away. Emptying my bladder I fill with ambivalence. On one hand I’m honored that the young college grad genuinely seems to like me. (Is he trying to be cute? I mean, he must know I’m attracted to him.) But I can’t escape the obvious: that he also feels safest with me, the oldest gay man on the raft, as if I’m impotent, harmless, over the hill. Shaking my dribbling penis, I tuck in and return crestfallen to the circle of chairs where happy hour is getting underway.
Ricardo pulls up beside me, locks me in a friendly head lock with his big hairy left arm and reaches across with his right hand to cover, squeeze and rotate my small left breast. It’s a nice gesture. It feels good. But I wonder, am I for him a surrogate woman? Is Carey for him a surrogate wife? Ricardo lets go of me, and I proceed to the cooler for a beer, thinking, I want a man because he’s a man, with the body of a man, not the tits of a prepubescent girl.
By day five I must say the last two days have been exciting though in different ways. For one thing, the rapids have gotten formidable. Sliding toward each new set we usually glide down gently over three smooth swells then drop suddenly into wall after wall of back-crashing white water that has “warmed” into the low fifties, according to Cliff.
It’s fucking wild! After you drop into the first deep trough, the raft climbs a turbulent wall of surf drenching you with frigid water. The raft drops again crawling more slowly up the next wall, the engine straining. But after dropping a third time, the nose of the raft just can’t recover in time – the waves are too close together – and a huge wall of ice water breaks right over the length of our craft as we scream and curse at the river like insulted cheerleaders.
This insanity continues for a hundred yards or more until the river spits you out the back side where it again flows smoothly. Shivering intensely, we laugh anxiously waiting for the sun and dry air to restore body heat. Sometimes, though, just as we get dry, we enter a whole new set of rapids holding tightly onto ropes and each other.
At our lunch stop yesterday, on a wide sandbar filled with small rounded stones, Cliff saw me standing alone and walked over. He turned me toward a narrow side canyon, draped his manly arm over my shoulder pointing and suggested I follow the barely visible footpath up through the boulders about five hundred yards where I’d find a “lovely” waterfall. Everyone was milling around the raft talking so I set off by myself, grateful for the momentary touch of Cliff’s arm.
The uphill footpath merged into a shallow creek bed as the canyon walls closed around me. Soon I reached the waterfall, only about twenty feet high, but its source must have been a thermal pool: the clear falling water felt about seventy-five degrees warm.
Incredible! In seconds I was naked, standing under the sunlit waterfall actually bathing for the first time since Vegas. The sensations of heat and light were exquisite; letting water crash onto me frontally I indulged in burgeoning arousal.
But when I turned around I noticed several guys walking up the creek bed toward me. Well, let them see me like this, I thought, and too bad if they don’t like what they see: I’m tan, I’m relatively fit, I’m hung, I’m mostly hairless and I happen to like showing off, deal with it.
I even started hooting loudly to proclaim my liberated joy at the discovery of this most sensuous spot so far in the whole Grand Canyon.
As the guys drew closer, I deliberately teased them turning my back hiding partially behind the waterfall. After a minute I turned back around, surprised to find everyone, the whole raft including Cliff and Adam, standing in a semi-circle watching me with interest.
Playfully I turned my hips waggling a plump penis at them then struck several Charles Atlas poses, which made some of the guys smile. Ricardo raised his GoPro on a stick taking aerial video; I could only hope I wouldn’t return home to find clips of me all over YouTube partially erect under a waterfall.
Facing Ricardo I posed scowling like Hulk Hogan, the salient muscle between my legs better developed than any other on my body. He handed Carey the camera and peeled down his white bikini casually loosening with one hand his loaded genitals.
Walking right into the waterfall, with both large hands he simultaneously caressed my belly and buttocks. Oh, fuck. Lightheaded and thoroughly cleansed, I stepped back a few paces to grant him the spotlight, the others looking back and forth from Ricardo’s perfect body to my nascent erection rising leftward.
Carey handed the camera to Marvin, daintily stripped trying to hide his distended cock then pranced into the waterfall to embrace his partner. Ricardo, now primed, stepped away to let Carey solo as the rest of the crew watched, captivated.
Marvin, by the way, is the only African-American on the raft. A balding Chicago cop about thirty-five, he has the body of a former athlete: thick rounded shoulders, muscular thighs and small, high buttocks. Handing the camera back to Ricardo he wiggled out of his tight purple Speedo to uncoil for the first time a long plump penis, which caught everyone’s attention.
In response to Ricardo’s stage direction, Carey leaned with hands against rock wall sticking his pale boyish butt out to deflect the waterfall as his partner videoed him – I swear it looked like the set for a fucking porn film. Speaking of which, Marvin strode right up to Carey’s backside, grabbed the other man’s upper buttocks and thrust back and forth against him in a convincing pantomime. Someone whistled. A few others laughed tensely. Marvin comically turned his head lasciviously sticking out his tongue at us slapping Carey’s butt backing away, his big cock further lifting.
“Time for lunch,” Arnold objected.
A soft, pale lawyer from Brooklyn, dressed in pith helmet, cargo shorts and tee shirt, Arnold has looked out of place on this trip ever since the launch at Lee’s Ferry. He’s blind as a bat – just this morning he stepped on something spilling half his little red bucket of urine in the sand just outside the circle of chairs. Several guys groaned. Arnold no doubt is very bright, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he dearly misses his favorite New York City gay bar.
The day ended on another fun note as we encamped at Talking Heads. Throughout happy hour, dinner and twilight we tossed out lyrics as they came to us: “letting the days go by, let the water hold me down,” and so on.
For the first time since leaving home I felt really horny from all the nudity, arousal and playful acting out. I considered jerking off to get to sleep, though I prefer to conserve, just in case. Anyway, I did fall asleep easily on my sandy plateau farther back from the river than anyone else. In the middle of the night, however, I woke to soft cooing. My initial guess was a canyon owl, if there is such a thing. Sitting up naked on my cot I listened to the faint pulsing sound and like an owl myself, turned my head left and right to locate the invisible bird.
There it was again, the soft cooing, and I could tell it was coming from my left, slightly below me, about thirty paces away. Then I smiled like an idiot: Ricardo and Carey had pitched their private tent among some trees exactly where I’d located the owl. Only that was no owl I was hearing, it was Carey, I’m positive, cooing softly like a young bride as I pictured him rocking on hands and knees, Ricardo fucking him forcefully from behind.
I was wide awake, and the night so warm I actually enjoyed the light rain that fell sometime past midnight. Unable to fall back asleep, I did try to jerk off, but was physically too played out even to maintain an erection.
Early the next morning, as a few of us, including Ricardo, were dinking fresh coffee, Carey tip-toed like a girl into the campsite in cute pink shorts and white tee shirt, Ricardo greeting him with a kiss on the lips. “Hi, sweetie,” he said. They were an odd, darling couple.
At breakfast Cliff instructed us all to prepare sandwiches for bag lunches as we’d be taking a long midday hike. After crazy morning rapids we pulled over at the mouth of Havasu Creek, where two other rafts had already tied up. It was up above that Creek that I experienced my only scary moment of the expedition.
Cliff led the way, climbing up steep rock, side-stepping along a narrow ledge, climbing farther up a sheer, nearly vertical wall traversing another ledge back the other way, zigzagging, climbing higher and higher above the river. “Watch the feet of the guy in front of you,” he advised; “don’t look down.”
My weak knees and damaged lungs forced me to use my arms and torso awkwardly to push and pull my body upward onto each new ledge almost losing a sandal as I struggled to keep up with Marvin, whose tight Jamaican-flag shorts bulged above and ahead of me. Finally we reached the top of an intermediate ledge that opened to the side canyon, but after straggling another fifty yards I realized I should’ve stayed below near the raft.
Gulping air I kicked off my sandals, plopped down and caught my breath, feet dangling in the cool turquoise pool from which water cascaded down some two hundred feet. When Cliff saw me dropping out he directed the group to proceed up the trail to the narrowest point in the creek and cross to the other side for more uphill hiking. Then he returned to ask if I was okay.
“I’m fine,” I huffed catching my breath, “but my lungs can’t take it. I’ll just wait for you guys to come back down.”
“It’ll be an hour or more,” he cautioned. “You sure you’re okay here?”
“I’m perfect,” I said, holding up my provisions. “I’ve got my sandwich, my water.”
“Well,” he said, “you do have a beautiful place to hang out. Just stay out of the sun.”
I nodded, and with that he hurried back up the trail to rejoin the group, which had single-filed across the creek and was now disappearing around a massive wall of stone. Within minutes I devoured my sandwich and drank half my remaining water. Cooling my feet I marveled at the terrible beauty of this remote spot: smooth granite cliffs opposite me, huge boulders precariously balanced, the turquoise creek flowing down from my right into this pool, the blazing sun directly overhead. I was utterly alone, exposed and possibly at risk.
Soon I became restless. How could I stay here for at least another hour with nothing more to eat, very little water left to drink and no one to talk to? I decided to return to the relative comfort and safety of the raft.
Pushing up, stepping into my sandals I walked back along the narrow trail that had brought us to this point, but quickly reached a fork I didn’t recognize: go left, I’m climbing higher; go right toward the creek, I’m circling a boulder I don’t recall.
It wouldn’t make sense to go higher when you’re trying to descend, would it? Realizing I was probably making another mistake, still I chose the trail I couldn’t remember. Barely two feet wide, it rounded the huge boulder only to end abruptly against an ancient limestone wall. I had to turn back, having picked the wrong escape. And I couldn’t help it – I looked down.
Two hundred feet below me, the tiny turquoise creek silently flowed into the big green river. At the mouth of the creek three rafts, including our own appeared no bigger than the elliptical ends of kitchen spoons. There was nothing to grab onto to break my fall should I slip. As I back-tracked almost hugging the warm granite boulder, carefully placing each footstep, the inevitable headline flashed through my mind: South Carolina Man Dead in Canyon Mishap.
A strange taste filled my dry mouth, the metallic flavor of panic, which was alien to me. Stay calm, I told myself, shuffling back around the boulder, trudging to the side of the pool where I could finally plop down taking a deep breath. I was a fool. I didn’t belong here. Even my sandals were all wrong. But at least I could push back from the pool into a shadowed recess in the vertical wall and there patiently bide my time licking a wounded ego.
A lime gecko crawled down the rock wall over my shoulder. Tipping its head, blinking microscopic black eyes, the tiny lizard seemed to ponder my stupid dilemma. I made eye contact silently admitting to the gecko that I was a supreme human asshole. And I envied him, his sure-footed survival in this cruel, unforgiving place. But when I reached to touch him for reassurance, he skittered away.
Luckily after fifteen minutes a young bearded guy from another raft appeared picking his way like a spider down over and around giant rocks. Humbly I asked if he were going back to the river, and he cheerfully invited me to follow him. It was so easy! My bad decision at the fork had disoriented me that was all. Otherwise I could have found my way. Now that I’d recovered a modicum of confidence I could afford to mock my ignorance and laugh at the tragic newspaper headline I’d imagined, the river looming ever closer below me. I thanked the bearded guy turning to complete my descent independently. “How goes it?” a voice called, ahead of me. Adam was smiling, wearing only his maroon Sun Devil gym shorts, squatting like an Indian in the shadow of a shallow little cave above the raft.
“Hey, can I join you?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said, sitting, pulling his legs up near his chin, clasping hands around knees as I sat down beside him.
I told him about my tense moments above; he shook his head dismissively. “It could happen to anybody,” he graciously offered. Welling with relief and affection, I looked away trying not to picture him naked.
Out of the blue he asked me when I had realized I was gay, and I walked him through my childhood and adolescence – alcoholic parents: unpredictable mother, distant father; emotional insecurity; my queer attraction to other boys, touching them playfully in middle school; jerking off in my teens with my best friend before denying, repressing and hating the obvious truth.
Adam, in contrast, was from a strict Mormon home, but he assured me he had a hot girlfriend who was now in Europe with her new roommate. She’d be returning to Tempe to begin her senior year, and he planned to meet her at their former off-campus apartment to reclaim some of the shit he’d left behind.
Adam didn’t sound to me at all like a typical Mormon, so I wasn’t surprised when blinking wounded eyes, turning away he revealed that his father had refused to attend his graduation, apparently betrayed by his son’s immoral lifestyle.
Eventually the ten other guys returned to the raft, the baked aluminum deck of which we had to flood with river water before climbing aboard. The afternoon rapids were awesome, chaotically steep, the icy water in this punishing sun actually refreshing once you recovered your breath.
A small tourist helicopter landed below the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Later we camped uneventfully at Granite Park.
So, today is day seven and it seems I’ve been reborn. Early yesterday morning a raft similar to ours passed our campsite as we were loading. The raft was filled with solemn Native Americans with straight jet-black hair who, Cliff explained, were being escorted for the day by the young guy and pretty blonde gal to various sacred places along the river.
Mid-morning, Cliff and Adam beached our craft beside the Indian raft, now empty, facing a very tall waterfall. At the top of the waterfall, Cliff explained, tribal adults pierced the ear lobes of younger Indians so that their spirits one day could jump across the waterfall to join their ancestors’ spirits. Our guide then warned us that the hike to the top would be the most arduous of the whole expedition. I easily decided to stay below, a no-brainer.
Everyone else disappeared single-file into a narrow shaft in high-rise vertical rock beside the waterfall and, like an old fart I backed into a recess to get out of the sun. The very cute blonde girl from the Indian raft appeared smiling from nowhere. I stepped into sunlight as she walked right up to me cheerfully introducing herself shaking hands.
She wore baggy gray gym shorts and a revealing light blue bikini top the color of her eyes. A worn red baseball cap identified the small college in California she attended. She was exactly the type of girl I recklessly pursued earlier in my life, climbing out on a limb drunkenly to fuck once or twice before preemptively dumping.
The girl invitingly described the purpose of their visit to the waterfall, the earring ceremony, her college, her hometown. As she spoke I became increasingly distracted by loneliness. My gay rafting adventure had produced only a few fleeting friendships, some fun teasing nudity, for sure, but not a trace of romance or true love, certainly no sexual contact. Cliff was way beyond my reach. Aussie was playfully elusive. Ricardo and Carey were hitched. Adam was hopelessly straight. Nobody else attracted or interested me, and vice versa.
Smiling helplessly and perhaps sadly back at the blonde girl, I almost interrupted her to ask if I could please just see her small pretty breasts. But what if she agreed? What if she led me back to a secret lair also to remove her gym shorts and tempt me with her vagina? I mean, what if she actually wanted to fuck me?
This possibility, a distinct probability here in this secluded spot that we had all to ourselves, sent a warning down my spine. With a shiver I politely told the girl it had been a pleasure meeting her, we shook hands again and I retreated to my original shelter, a pathetic homosexual loser.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about this billion-year-old gulley in the earth’s surface, almost anything can happen here. And I kid you not when I say we actually set up our campsite early yesterday afternoon at Surprise Canyon, which is really where the whole trip happened.
Okay: we’re near the end of the expedition. Marvin and Francis are skinny-dipping while a few others take naps. Tex-Mex and Paul disappear into the trees. Cliff and Adam organize their kitchen. But it’s way too early for happy hour, the sun almost directly overhead.
As we’d been approaching this crescent of beach surrounded by willows, I’d noticed a narrow spit of sand isolated from our campsite by a haphazard spill of gray boulders big as cars and small buses. Now’s the perfect time and place for me to be alone, to reflect and jot down more impressions in my notebook, so I walk back toward the spit of sand, glad to see that no one has noticed or followed me.
I step carefully through knee-deep water around the lowest boulder to reach my private beach, where I drop notebook and pen, remove bathing suit and lower butt onto hard moist sand leaning back propped on elbows, my feet stretched out before me. Taking the deepest possible breath, I gaze up at protective canyon walls, sunny distant mesas almost a mile high and I acknowledge my need to reconcile my experience, to absorb and commit to memory all the wonder of this unique place, which I admit I’m ready to leave.
The river flows quietly here, an invisible canyon wren calling sadly from the opposite cliff. Hot sun warms the whole front of my body. Absently I fondle my penis letting it partially fill with blood if only to complement my swelling mood. Maybe it’s time finally to throw in the towel and jerk off. Closing my eyes I tip my head way back listening to the wren, soaking up rays. And of course I recognize Adam’s voice. “Hey, you want company?”
I lift my head opening one eye squinting under my free hand at his smiling approach. “Sure,” I answer, thinking, look, I was here first. And Adam by now is close enough to realize I’m naked and aroused. Still, as a courtesy, I replace my cock on my left thigh pointing away. It’s up to him to continue or turn around. I’m just not going to hide myself further to prevent shocking his straight and narrow Mormon sensibilities.
But if anyone is shocked it’s me – Adam is standing tall at my right side, slightly behind me turning away as he pushes down Sun Devil gym shorts, his pale compact buttocks revealing daring nudity. In deference I politely look upriver until I know the young swamper is sitting safely behind me, only one arm’s length away.
“So, what’re you up to?” Adam casually asks, and I twist now to face him. As usual he’s pulled his legs up near his chin clasping both hands around his knees, as if he’s cold, or ashamed of his nudity, though his genitals remain hidden behind crossed ankles. The sides of his naked hips are very pale, but the rest of him is nicely sunburned. Smiling he tips his head sideways at me, determined to ignore my provocative penis.
“Just relaxing, as you can see: writing, catching rays like a horny old queer.”
“What’re you writing?” he asks, ignoring the rest.
“Notes maybe for a story,” I say maintaining contact with inquisitive gray eyes.
“That’s cool,” he says nodding. “What’s it about?”
“Well,” I say taking a deep breath, “if you must know, it’ll be an erotic fantasy about an older gay man who goes rafting in the Grand Canyon only to fall helplessly and hopelessly in love with a younger straight dude.”
Adam squirms imperceptibly, but at least he doesn’t object. Looking downriver away from me he quietly asks, “How’s it end?”
“That I don’t know yet.”
Cautiously he probes. “Has it got a title?”
“I may just call it ‘Adam’,” I say. Still looking away, he nods. “I hope you don’t mind,” I anxiously continue. “I could easily change your name to Peter, or Adonis, whatever.”
Now Adam glances back at my plump penis before facing me pressing nose, mouth and chin against upper arm so I can see only his eyes.
“No,” he says in a muffled voice, “I like the title.”
My breathing has become shallow. If Adam is intentionally torturing me, I think I’m prepared to die. A drop of perspiration rolls down from my armpit. And my cock, reclining almost erect against my thigh has dribbled pre-ejaculate, which I don’t think Adam can see.
I have no idea what to say, but I do know the ball is in my court.
With my left thumb, as Adam watches, I simply toggle my firm swollen cock tipping it over leaking onto my lower abdomen pointing directly back at my companion, the simple motion leaving a gossamer thread of clear lubricant strung along the buried pipeline under my shaft.
Adam glances over his shoulder in the direction of the campsite: no one there. Turning back to me he takes a deep breath.
“Okay,” he confesses, “I want to try something.”
“Okay,” I say trying nervously not to chuckle.
Unclasping hands Adam pivots slightly on the sand leaning toward me placing the fingers of his right hand over my scrotum, his palm over my hard cock.
“That feels good to me,” I say; “how’s it feel to you?”
“Warm,” he says, staring incredulously at the placement of his stationary hand.
He seems stuck. I reach for his wrist slowly guiding his hand lightly back and forth along my shaft. But he knows what to do. I withdraw my hand.
Jump-started, he points my cock straight up and circles it with fingers and thumb tenderly stroking shaft and rim of glans, also running fingers over the scalloped skin of my baggy sac.
He pauses releasing my cock, which I’m proudly amazed to see maintaining a stiff vertical pose entirely on its own.
“How’d that feel?” Adam asks.
“Very nice,” I say, breathing steadily. “You seem to have practiced.”
He smiles examining the smear of oily fluid on the knuckle of his index finger.
“Taste,” I suggest and he licks the finger smiling.
Stretching his right leg straight out in front but defensively maintaining the raised left knee, he reaches and resumes stroking me more rhythmically. Together we watch his hand intently as countless synapses tingle vaulting me uphill toward the point of no return. I begin huffing. My belly undulates. The orgasm ignites slowly, ramifying throughout my central nervous system.
“I’m coming,” I gasp. Adam slows his hand pumping only the base of my shaft. I clench ecstatically as pulsing semen oozes out into an opaque little pool on my belly.
“Fuck” I blurt, falling from a great height gulping air as Adam continues pumping. The very intense orgasm fades as my ejaculation tapers down to a trickle. I push Adam’s hand off my sensitive cock.
His fingers knowingly scoop under my scrotum pressing gently into firm cables then squeezing slowly all the way up to produce a final gob that he swipes with his thumb, releasing my penis, intimately licking the thumb, swallowing.
“Goddamn,” I say. We smile at each other as if for the first time. Adam replaces his hand lightly rubbing my inner thigh, lifting, centering and slowly petting with fingers my distended penis. Savoring the gradual flow of blood back into my extremities, the warm afterglow augmented by a relentless sun, I let the back of my right hand flop against Adam’s ribcage.
As my whole body seems to melt against hard sand, we silently and reverently listen to the river, the invisible wren, maintaining minimal one-handed contact.
I take a deep breath reaching casually to place the palm of my left hand on Adam’s raised knee. Incredibly the simple touch reverses the flow of my blood – my penis actually begins reloading, which hasn’t happened in years. Adam removes his hand.
I pull gently on my friend’s knee feeling subtle resistance. Removing my hand I look at Adam. “It’s your turn,” I say. “May I?” He blinks drawing breath then nodding.
Replacing hand on knee I pull again and Adam finally lets the leg tilt down revealing his hard handsome erection, a younger version of my own, about eight inches the color of terra cotta, a nicely rounded bulbous glans adorning the shaft like a brimmed rose-gray ski cap.
Adam’s brown pubic hair is neatly trimmed, the puckered skin of scrotum only lightly fuzzed. Pointing stiffly above his belly the cock looks slightly bruised against surrounding pale flesh. Again I ask permission. “May I?”
Compressing his lips Adam nods again. As I lean onto my right hip toward him the tablespoon of my semen, already liquefying under the hot sun, spills like egg white onto the sand between Adam and me.
“What a waste,” he says. We smile at each other.
“There’s always more where that came from,” I say wiping slick residue from my skin, transferring traces of semen with my right thumb onto Adam’s thigh.
With my dry left hand I reach over circling his irresistible cock. He recoils slightly.
“You okay with that?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says tensely.
“Relax,” I urge.
Ever so gently, I slide fingers and thumb up and down the length of Adam’s very hard erection, concentrating as my digits ripple lightly and rhythmically over soft corona of velvety glans. When I pause to squeeze his shaft a full bead of clear lubricant blooms between the parted lips of his meatus, inching slowly down side of bulb. Blocking and catching most of the fluid I suck my thumb humming gratefully. Breathing steadily he returns my smile. I reach again for his cock and stand the hard muscle straight up, sunshine glinting off slick little guppy mouth.
“Now I want to try something,” I say playfully toggling the erection.
“What?” Adam asks, almost out of breath.
“Have you ever had a blowjob?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says, “from my girlfriend.”
“How was it?”
“It was nice, except she got up and spit my stuff into the toilet.”
“How rude,” I say. Lowering my open mouth I envelop and embrace with lips and tongue the top half of Adam’s fine cock intentionally letting my mouth sound a bit sloppy as I rock my head, saliva slipping down marbled shaft. Eric places one hand atop my head pushing down gently. I hum to encourage him. He increases our mutual pace.
But soon I have to pause pulling up. Holding the shiny erection between thumb and index finger I gulp air recovering with a few slow deep breaths. Squeezing upward I coax more pre-ejaculate spilling over glans. Quickly I replace my mouth mixing saliva and slick lubricant with tongue and lips, resuming the rhythm Adam had established.
His shaft is deliciously smooth, lightly salted. With salivating lips I spread lubricant deeper over the hard cock at an even faster rhythm, Adam’s blunt glans prodding the back of my throat. His pelvis lifts off the ground, his whole body stiffening, and I blindly grab his hips.
“I’m coming,” he whispers. But I’ve just pulled up gasping.
A silky sunlit ribbon like vanilla icing suddenly spurts striping Adam’s chest and stomach. I reinsert his pulsing cock, more spurts tapping the back of my throat. Humming with joyous fulfillment I suck the spouting cock until, running out of air, I pinch up the shaft quickly for one final spurt carefully pulling sealed lips up and off to contain as much of my mouthful as possible, trailing a gooey thread.
I catch the spillage on the back of my hand as Adam’s nodding cock spurts onto his belly, and again. With tainted hand I reach, squeeze, pump and drain hard muscle. Adam collapses on the sand. I consolidate his tepid sperm way back on my tongue and swallow hard gasping. Releasing his cock I lick both sides of my hand, swallowing again, gasping.
“Fuck,” I blurt almost panting. “You had a lot. Like a fountain.”
“Fountain of youth,” he tells the sky, breathing hard, and I smile.
With my left hand I waggle his spent erection. Dazed he pushes up onto elbows. Bending down I kiss his moist slit. He smiles approvingly. I replace the distended cock against upper thigh and rub a gob of semen into sunburned skin above Adam’s navel. He grins at my plump penis lifting slightly over my thigh and leans toward me. For several minutes we silently caress each other’s recovering genitalia.
“I guess you’ve sucked off lots of guys,” Adam eventually ventures removing his hand, looking downriver.
“Actually, no,” I say like a cat inspecting and licking its paw; “you’re my first.”
“No way!” he protests turning to face me.
“Adam, my friend,” I say, “I’ve got a lot of faults, but dishonesty isn’t one of them. Until now, I hadn’t even touched another guy’s cock since I was sixteen.”
“Holy shit,” he whispers.
“It’s true,” I say, fingerling his ripe penis and potent testicles.
“That’s incredible,” he says watching my hand. “It’s my first time, too, you know.”
“I know, and I swear I’ll never forget it. You’re very special to me.”
Adam blushes, another thing I like about him. We’re silent as our personal revelations require processing. We’re also fully engorged again.
“So,” I finally ask like a therapist, “when did you first realize you might be gay?” We both laugh. “I’m serious,” I add. Adam gently strokes my fresh erection as I continue stroking his.
“At Mormon summer camp,” he says, “when I was twelve.”
“But you said you were straight,” I remind him. “You said you were only gay-friendly.”
“I’d say I’m very gay-friendly,” he laughs, a diversion.
“What about your girlfriend?” I persist.
“Half the time,” he confides, lowering his voice, “I don’t even want to be with her. She gets naked, her cunt turns me off. And she’s fucking beautiful. It’s so depressing.”
“Been there, done that,” I remind myself.
Adam releases my cock looking over his shoulder in the direction of the campsite.
“I’d better get back,” he says. “Cliff might need me.”
“I might need you,” I tease, waggling my insistent erection. “And you can’t just walk back into camp hard as a rock striped with semen.”
Adam frowns looking down, rubbing a web of ejaculate into a slick creamy sheen on the skin above his nipple.
“How’d you meet Cliff?” I ask. Adam looks up.
“He had a table at the job fair. I filled out an application and met him for an interview.”
“Did he tell you he was gay, that he ran white-water rafting trips for gay men?”
“Oh yeah, he told me everything up front. I said, as long as we all respect each other, I didn’t see a problem.” He rubs another semen stripe into his belly. I gently pinch his shaft.
“Were you sub-consciously seeking more than just an unpaid job on the river?” I ask. Adam looks up at me beaming.
“Oh, it was beyond sub-conscious,” he says. “My instincts were pretty clear.”
“I’m proud of you,” I say squeezing his thigh.
“You want to take a dip?” he asks brushing hands together. I nod and we push ourselves up, but first I pull him by the arm into a loose tentative embrace, two hard touchy twin cocks mingling for the first time until Adam twists away, steps to the river, wades in and carelessly dives.
I plunge in behind his pale joggling buttocks, which my hands grope for underwater. Surfacing, we breathlessly laugh scrambling back to shore, both distended penises tipping and waggling. For several glorious minutes we stand side by side hip to hip arm in arm draped in sunlight as the wide river glides past, indifferent to the blatant arousal we share.
Adam turns away, bends down for, steps into and pulls up his gym shorts reaching inside grimacing to adjust a stubborn erection, which doesn’t quite fit. Smiling at him I reach down for my bathing suit.
“No, you stay here for a while,” Adam instructs me, and I think I understand – he needs to complete the expedition with his straight image intact among all the others, especially Cliff. Obediently sitting on the sand leaning back on my right elbow, I proudly point my hard cock right at Adam looking up to challenge him.
“Adam, don’t make the same mistake I made. Be yourself. Let people know you’re gay. And love yourself for it. Tell your girlfriend, your parents. It takes guts. But if you don’t live from the inside out, you’ll be living a lie.”
“Like you did,” he says.
“We change, Adam, but you’re right: for much of my life I deceived no one as badly as I deceived myself.”
Stepping to me, he crouches, leans and suddenly kisses my mouth.
“I believe you,” he says. Grinning he turns standing, walking quickly grinding his feet in the sand back toward the campsite. Halfway there he turns his head flashing a smile. Spellbound, I watch him until he rounds the giant boulder disappearing.
And there you have it: end of story. Today is day eight and most of us, but not all, are eager to exit the Grand Canyon after 240 miles on the Colorado River. Throughout yesterday’s happy hour and steak dinner Adam reverted to his straight, gay-friendly persona with me, with everyone. The atmosphere was festive. Arnold even made an eloquent little speech thanking Cliff and Adam. Everyone applauded. Of course I lay awake on my cot naked and aroused waiting for a secret late-night visit, which I reluctantly realized was hoping for too much. My cup had already runneth over: one memorable encounter with Adam would have to be enough, I tried to console myself.
We entered the river very early for the last forty miles. At one point the Canyon narrowed almost to a sharp, angular bottleneck of shiny black basalt, the walls so close together you could have thrown a rock across. Then the river released us, widening and slowing as it gradually emptied into Lake Meade. A jet boat sped upriver to return us to our bus.
We tied up side by side with the jet boat, Cliff and Adam proceeding to toss all the dry bags into our sleek new craft. Guide and swamper had to return the raft to a pick-up spot on the far shore of the lake, which Cliff had said would take them all day to reach. I dreaded to consider how they might kill the time.
They stood together to say goodbye to us as we stepped one by one from raft into jet boat. I dropped back to the end of the short line finally thanking and hugging Cliff then embracing Adam for a few extra seconds until he pushed us apart. Turning I climbed into the jet boat and sat down on an empty bench looking away holding back tears.
Cliff and Adam loosened the ropes and pushed off. The jet boat circled around upriver. We accelerated past the raft about fifty yards away, my eyes streaking. As we roared by, Cliff shouted wildly pushing down his shorts finally revealing his coveted erection bobbing as he turned from side to side, and nine other gay men cheered and whistled. The jet boat captain looked away disgusted. I alone tried to focus on Adam. He was smiling, waving, receding.