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The Ballad of Glen and Bessie Hyde 

Some stories just get bigger and bigger in the telling.

Such is the story of Glen and Bessie Hyde, honeymooners who took off in 1928 in a handmade boat to run the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Bessie would become the first woman ever to run that section of the river, and planned to write and illustrate a book describing their passage. Glen hoped to set a record for speed and to give his young wife the adventure of a lifetime.

But just a month after the Hydes set off, they vanished, never to be found.

This summer, two books have been released -- one fiction, one nonfiction -- depicting the Hyde's voyage and speculating what happened.

Arizona author and boatman Brad Dimock went so far as to reconstruct the Hyde's craft and float the river with his wife, Jeri, to gather information for his book, Sunk Without a Sound, a detailed compendium of Hyde lore and known fact. First-time novelist Lisa Michaels says her inspiration for writing about the Hydes came from experience as well.

"I was setting out on a hiking trip down the Canyon with my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and I picked up this book, River Runners of the Grand Canyon by David Lavender, a treatment of all the early adventurers who floated down the Canyon," said Michaels. "There was a picture of Glen and Bessie, and they were just so beautiful, lean and kind of fierce. She was so attractive in her fur-collared jacket, he in his felt hat. I just had the feeling you sometimes have of wanting to know these people, to know who they are."

With images of Glen and Bessie fresh in her mind, Michaels hiked into a snowstorm so huge that snow was actually falling at river level. She and her companion climbed up 5,000 vertical feet to the rim where they emerged in neck-deep drifts of snow. He was frostbitten; she was hypothermic.

"We emerged literally covered in snow like abominable snowmen," said Michaels. "The story of this young couple, then, took a kind on a kind of personal angle for me. I was struck by the dynamics that came up between my husband and I -- he was the more experienced outdoorsman, more knowledgeable about hiking, camping, etc. Yet, in that situation, I found that I drew on some strengths I had from different kinds of life experience. We really took turns being the strong one and the one who was frightened and in doubt."

Michaels' triumph in the novel, which received glowing praise in The New York Times Book Review, is her depiction of the inner workings of these two young adventurers who were madly in love but had known each other only a short while before setting off on the dangerous journey. As their early optimism turns into a sense of doom, at least on Bessie's part, we witness a dance familiar to anyone who has ever supported a spouse through a difficult time:

He lit the box stove again and set water for coffee. "You're not going to drown down here, Bess. I won't let you."

He didn't sound boastful, merely resolute. It struck her as a fatherly phrase: I've got you. I won't let you fall. Two weeks ago -- weeks that felt as stretched and full as years -- she might have believed him. It was such an easy tumble into helplessness, into faith. But that was before she saw how close he had come to missing that rope in Sockdolager -- it was sheer luck -- and how close to drowned he had looked when she dragged him out. After that, she had vowed to stay alert.

Where Michaels' depiction of Glen and Bessie, and Glen's father Reith Hyde's persistent search for the lost couple, focuses on the inner workings of the chracters under extreme stress, Dimock sets out to explore many of the rumors surrounding the Hyde's disappearance that have become river-running folklore: Glen flew into a rage and killed Bessie; Bessie killed Glen and lived under a pseudonym to an old age; both were killed by wild animals while attempting to hike out of the Canyon. For the most part, the legends are quashed, and Dimock concludes that neither he, nor anyone else, can say with certainty what happened to the Hydes.

For Michaels, who invented the specifics of their demise, reaching the conclusion of her story was a difficult emotional experience.

"I spent two years of my life trying to invent their inner lives," she said. "I felt enormously respectful of the actual Glen and Bessie who did this audacious thing, and I had also grown terribly close to these people I had gotten to know so well through my own invention. The first time I wrote that scene, I broke down and cried. It was just so sad."

Both authors relied heavily on archival material collected by Otis Marston, a river runner and amateur historian whose papers are housed in the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., Michaels using the Hyde archives as a bare outline of facts to be filled in with her own imaginative treatment, and Dimock using them as a stepping off point for further, more detailed research.

"There was just enough there to give you hints at what might have happened," said Michaels. "What I did was to come up with the motivation and the direction of their actions.

"If it doesn't sound too presumptuous, I became Bessie's spokesperson."

Some stories just get bigger and bigger in the telling.

Such is the story of Glen and Bessie Hyde, honeymooners who took off in 1928 in a handmade boat to run the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Bessie would become the first woman ever to run that section of the river, and planned to write and illustrate a book describing their passage. Glen hoped to set a record for speed and to give his young wife the adventure of a lifetime.

But just a month after the Hydes set off, they vanished, never to be found.

This summer, two books have been released -- one fiction, one nonfiction -- depicting the Hyde's voyage and speculating what happened.

Arizona author and boatman Brad Dimock went so far as to reconstruct the Hyde's craft and float the river with his wife, Jeri, to gather information for his book, Sunk Without a Sound, a detailed compendium of Hyde lore and known fact. First-time novelist Lisa Michaels says her inspiration for writing about the Hydes came from experience as well.

"I was setting out on a hiking trip down the Canyon with my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and I picked up this book, River Runners of the Grand Canyon by David Lavender, a treatment of all the early adventurers who floated down the Canyon," said Michaels. "There was a picture of Glen and Bessie, and they were just so beautiful, lean and kind of fierce. She was so attractive in her fur-collared jacket, he in his felt hat. I just had the feeling you sometimes have of wanting to know these people, to know who they are."

With images of Glen and Bessie fresh in her mind, Michaels hiked into a snowstorm so huge that snow was actually falling at river level. She and her companion climbed up 5,000 vertical feet to the rim where they emerged in neck-deep drifts of snow. He was frostbitten; she was hypothermic.

"We emerged literally covered in snow like abominable snowmen," said Michaels. "The story of this young couple, then, took a kind on a kind of personal angle for me. I was struck by the dynamics that came up between my husband and I -- he was the more experienced outdoorsman, more knowledgeable about hiking, camping, etc. Yet, in that situation, I found that I drew on some strengths I had from different kinds of life experience. We really took turns being the strong one and the one who was frightened and in doubt."

Michaels' triumph in the novel, which received glowing praise in The New York Times Book Review, is her depiction of the inner workings of these two young adventurers who were madly in love but had known each other only a short while before setting off on the dangerous journey. As their early optimism turns into a sense of doom, at least on Bessie's part, we witness a dance familiar to anyone who has ever supported a spouse through a difficult time:

He lit the box stove again and set water for coffee. "You're not going to drown down here, Bess. I won't let you."

He didn't sound boastful, merely resolute. It struck her as a fatherly phrase: I've got you. I won't let you fall. Two weeks ago -- weeks that felt as stretched and full as years -- she might have believed him. It was such an easy tumble into helplessness, into faith. But that was before she saw how close he had come to missing that rope in Sockdolager -- it was sheer luck -- and how close to drowned he had looked when she dragged him out. After that, she had vowed to stay alert.

Where Michaels' depiction of Glen and Bessie, and Glen's father Reith Hyde's persistent search for the lost couple, focuses on the inner workings of the chracters under extreme stress, Dimock sets out to explore many of the rumors surrounding the Hyde's disappearance that have become river-running folklore: Glen flew into a rage and killed Bessie; Bessie killed Glen and lived under a pseudonym to an old age; both were killed by wild animals while attempting to hike out of the Canyon. For the most part, the legends are quashed, and Dimock concludes that neither he, nor anyone else, can say with certainty what happened to the Hydes.

For Michaels, who invented the specifics of their demise, reaching the conclusion of her story was a difficult emotional experience.

"I spent two years of my life trying to invent their inner lives," she said. "I felt enormously respectful of the actual Glen and Bessie who did this audacious thing, and I had also grown terribly close to these people I had gotten to know so well through my own invention. The first time I wrote that scene, I broke down and cried. It was just so sad."

Both authors relied heavily on archival material collected by Otis Marston, a river runner and amateur historian whose papers are housed in the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., Michaels using the Hyde archives as a bare outline of facts to be filled in with her own imaginative treatment, and Dimock using them as a stepping off point for further, more detailed research.

"There was just enough there to give you hints at what might have happened," said Michaels. "What I did was to come up with the motivation and the direction of their actions.

"If it doesn't sound too presumptuous, I became Bessie's spokesperson."

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