(As first reported in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, by Shelby Reardon)
When Steamboat Springs residents Patrick Keogh and Michelle Johnson concluded an 18-day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, they emerged to discover an unfamiliar world.
“That’s always a joke on the Grand Canyon. I did a trip in November 2018. There was some conflict in the world, talking about nuclear weapons across the world,” Keogh said. “You always joke, what if things are different? What if we come out, and there’s a nuclear war going on? This time it was actually true.”
The world wasn’t flattened or poisoned from nuclear warfare, but it still had a post-apocalyptic feel to it. As the couple traveled, they drove by lighted signs that said “Stay Safe,” “Stay Healthy” and “Wash Your Hands,” which Keogh said reminded him of zombie movies. The scene resembled a movie, like something out of “2012” or “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Roads were empty, gas station bathrooms were closed, toilet paper shelves were bare and there were new words and phrases circulating on social media. Keogh and Johnson had to look up the terms “social distancing” and “flatten the curve.”
Since their return to the real world on March 22, Keogh and Johnson have been bombarded with serious life changes. Only one had a job to return to, and so they now live in different states.
For those keeping tabs on the situation surrounding coronavirus, things have been happening fast, but for Keogh and Johnson, it all happened in an instant.
‘You don’t know what you’re coming back to’
The group of 15 rafters took off on nine separate boats March 5. At the time, there were 164 cases of the coronavirus in the United States, mostly in Washington and California. When the group came out of the canyon March 22, there
During the trip, they had a few small indicators that the situation outside the canyon was getting worse. Via satellite phone and through a few travelers who had wifi hot spots, the group received text messages that some schools and universities were shutting down, but Keogh said that didn’t really set off any alarms for the group.
About two days before the trip ended, a group member who left early and hiked out of the canyon texted the group saying they may have a problem with their original takeout plan since the Hualapai Indian Reservation was closed to visitors.
Professional River Outfitters, PRO, was supposed to pick them up at Diamond Creek Beach on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. After reaching the outfitter, the group was reassured PRO still had access to the beach, and the group could proceed as planned.