Love Above Lava Falls, Getting Married in Grand Canyon

3 Min. Read

Long-time OARS guest Pat Killien has enough river trip stories to fill a book. He’s been on over 15 OARS trips and has had many more adventures. But there’s one occasion that’s really stuck with him. He met his second wife Cyndie after a random conversation about rafting through Grand Canyon. Their relationship came full circle when the two tied the knot above Lava Falls. Here’s how it happened. 

A dory going through Lava Falls in Grand Canyon

How did you two first meet?

My first wife had passed away. I was getting a little lonely. All I wanted was somebody to hike with. And women make better hiking companions for some reason. I was on this group hike at a place called Palouse Falls in Southern Washington, a beautiful deep canyon.

There was this gal I noticed. She was with another lady. I was scouting it a little. We were on a steep place on the trail. And I hear her say to her friend, “If we were on a river trip, there would be a boatman here to hold my hand.” I was nearby and I asked her if she’d been on a river trip. She said, “Yes, I’ve been on the Colorado through Grand Canyon.” 

Well, here’s how I judge people. If they’ve done a one-week motorboat trip or a two-week raft trip in Grand Canyon. She said she’d done a two week trip. I said, “What kind of boat?” She said it was a paddle boat. She’d rowed all the way through. I was impressed and we kept chatting. We agreed to take more hikes together. 

Pat and Cyndie above Grand Canyon

What drew you to Cyndie?

She loves the outdoors. She always wanted to be in the desert and do this kind of stuff. We only hiked for six months. We’d travel and get separate rooms. She’d spend the weekend at my house and sleep in the guest room. And then I decided to change the pattern a little bit. We were on a hike and I kissed her and she said, “What was that for?”

The idea of getting married on the river was not in the cards at all. Her son was working in Germany with his family. She wanted the whole family to get together for the wedding. I was willing to settle for that. We had got engaged in October, but by April or May we still hadn’t decided where we were going to get married. 

Pat and Cyndie in a dory after getting married on a Grand Canyon river trip

How did you end up getting married in Grand Canyon?

We were on a Grand Canyon trip that we had booked months before and Jeffe Aronson was there. I had met him from previous trips. He’s just a great guy. Anyway, I said to him, “You know ship captains marry people. Could you marry us?” He said, ”Sure! I’ve got my credentials.” I looked at Cyndie and said, “What do you think?” She thought about it, but not for very long. We both agreed. 

Grand Canyon wedding above Lava Falls

They did a bang up job. They had a little alter prepared. We walked through crossed oars to get up to the alter and back. Because Jeffe’s Jewish, they had a little canopy over the alter. One of the boatmen braided some rings out of rawhide, so we had rings for each other. We exchanged vows. 

When the wedding was over, we walked under the crossed oars again. It was kind of like they do at military weddings. They threw rice. Down at the beach, our boat had “Just Married” on it. They had a string of empty beer cans hanging from it. We put on our PFDs and got on the boat and took two or three laps around the eddy. 

When we tell people where we got married, people are just blown away. We ran Lava Falls the next day. It was just so appropriate because we met because of a river trip. 

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