“With some feeling of anxiety we enter a new canyon this morning.” — John Wesley Powell, Aug. 5, 1869
Such is how Major Powell described one of the early entries of his expedition into the cold waters of the Colorado River not long after the Civil War. Powell was a decorated officer and explorer who followed Spanish soldiers and Native Americans in exploring the wonders of the Grand Canyon. Since ancient times the Hopi, Havasupai and Navajo tribes have drawn on the river and its “grand canyon” as a source of spiritual enlightenment and nourishment. Each year, some 25,000 adventurers explore the inner depths of the canyon. Now, the roster of adventurers includes a group of Bloomsburg swimmers and their families.
Arizona River Runners’ expert Colorado boatman and canyon guide Jon Stoner ’73 convinced some of his comrades from BU swimming in the 1970s to venture down the source of his lifelong passion. Stoner and his wife, Ruthie, have guided and managed river trips down the Colorado since 1978, and over the years a few of his friends from BU completed the trip with him. But with children, careers and other commitments, the call for adventure was a low priority. Finally, a group of close BU friends decided to give it a go.
The voyage commenced when the team met at the Lee’s Ferry put-in point on June 23, 2012, for orientation, safety training and introductions to the other members of the two-craft expedition. The seven-day, 187-mile voyage included incredible vistas, geological education and a history of canyon exploration beginning with Major Powell’s first run in 1869. The group made daily hikes into side canyons, up sheer cliffs for scenic views, and into the Little Colorado River and Havasu Creek for swimming and rapids running. The camping experience was extremely well organized by the Arizona River Runners for the group of 30.
The 1970s were exciting times for the BU swim team under the tutelage of Coach Eli McLaughlin, who passed away in 2009. During the decade, Bloomsburg was represented at PCACs by many outstanding swimmers and sent several competitors to national events. All Americans and BU Hall of Famers Dave Gibas ’73 and Stu Marvin ’78, now in his fourth year as BU’s swimming coach, won several national titles in freestyle sprint events. The group of 1970s swimmers returns to BU to support Marvin and today’s swim team members and remains close through social get-togethers, held at least annually and usually coordinated with Stoner’s visits to his hometown of Coatesville. It was a visit in 2010 that got the trip off the ground.
Former BU swimmers and their spouses who took part in the trip are: Jon Stoner ’73 and his wife, Ruthie; Doug Yocom ’73 and his wife, Nancy; Stu Marvin ’78, Jack Feyrer ’72 and Sue Green Feyrer ’73; Dave Gibas ’74 and Jill Cotner Gibas ’73; Jim Campbell ’76 and his wife, Jeanette; Bob Herb ’72 and his wife, Becky; Linda “Wanda” Williams ’77; and Joe Hilgar ’75.
What the team members remember is the great fellowship, teamwork and relationships that were a result of their times at BU — or Bloomsburg State College (BSC) as it was called then. These memories and stories flow freely at each reunion gathering and were shared, once again, during a trip down the Colorado River.
–Joe Hilgar ’75