Forever, one of us.
1987 - 2022
Celebrating Our Friend
In Our Hearts & Adventures
Three days into the new year we lost one of our own. It was sudden. And though the river keeps flowing, the wound is still raw. Mahan worked on our team for nearly seven years; a river guide, a trainer, a CPR and wilderness medicine instructor, and at times warehouse support. He left behind a fiancée and stepson, his own siblings, and an entire crew of friends and family at Desert Adventures.
We miss him.
When Mahan was hired as a biking tour guide at Desert Adventures, he had just come off an epic 27-day coast-to-coast bike ride across America. He was this skinny young person with stretchy pants and sinewy legs... bouncing around with relentless energy and a big infectious smirk, like he knew some big secret. It wasn't long before he worked his way into guiding river trips; making overnight trips his specialty. He spent many hours fine-tuning his sytem so that every multi-day trip was perfect for his guests. The young folks call it "glamping." Mahan ate it up.
Mahan endured the physical pain of old injuries. During his cycling tour of America, he was struck by a large truck in Missouri and severely injured. The driver fled the scene, leaving Mahan on the side of the road for hours in the dark. When State Troopers discovered him, he was flown to the hospital by helicopter and treated for a broken arm, leg, ribs, and vertebrae. There was an ongoing investigation but the driver was never found.
"Adversity is a misnomer. A better word for it is opportunity. Out of strife I will overcome and rise a stronger, better, wiser person." - Mahan Deeds
As a guide, it didn't take long for Mahan to advance through the ranks, eventually becoming a trainer and instructing lifesaving CPR classes and wilderness medicine. He had a beautifully brilliant glass eye, which he would readily volunteer to take out during mock casualty scenarios. Shocking the unsuspecting student during a head-to-toe assessment was fun. He would laugh about it in jest, but the condition robbed him of his depth perception. His motivation to become a road cyclist was simple: he wasn't able to drive.
None of this mattered to Mahan. His work ethic was second to none. He never complained. Ever. About anything. He was determined to be a skilled guide, a loyal employee and a reliable teammate. He would do anything that was asked of him - trusting his team. Although hiking was difficult for him (because of the eye thing), he fully participated in our staff training events. Even if it meant rappelling off a perfectly good wall, or spelunking through dark tunnels filled with hibernating bats, he knew he could rely on his team.
"Sewing up another person really teaches you some stuff about yourself." - Mahan Deeds
Mahan held a deep affection for the Colorado river and the magic that lurks in Black Canyon's sharp cliffs and narrow slots. The emerald waters are cold and refreshing. They sometimes move swiftly and make a paddler sit up and pay attention. He loved witnessing the change of seasons.
He also liked to slink past the old aggregate plant on Lake Mead. The soft, rhythmic cadence of paddle strokes was soothing. Leaning the hull of his kayak, he would round the Boulder Islands and disappear out of sight. The quiet glassy waters of Lake Mead are a stark contrast to the excitement and chaos that involves launching at the Hoover Dam. Mahan enjoyed them both equally, depending on his mood. Nature was as essential to recharging his spirit as the river water was to hydrating his body. He couldn't live without it.
Over the years, Mahan racked up a cult-like following of repeat guests. His overnight river trips kept people coming back for delicious campfire meals, intimate history lessons, and comradery on the water. He had a way of pulling people in while sharing new perspectives. His outdoor ethics made people consider their own impacts. His carefully planned lessons were packed neatly into a drybag, and stowed in the hatch of his kayak, ready to be pulled out for those teachable moments along the journey. His awareness of the resource and advocacy for its protection remains ingrained in every person who traveled with him. He was a great steward in that respect.
"It is wonderful to have the duty of being on the river the first and last thing every day. I have loved it even in the rain. Sometimes I have loved it most in the rain.” ― Wendell Berry
Grieving and closure are important in life, and can play a role in our mental health. As his river family we need to mourn our loss, and celebrate and laugh at all the quirky and hilarious adventures that were Mahan (and there were many). Mahan would shy away from this attention, but if it helped one person move forward and process grief in a more healthy way, he would likely take one for the team.
We wish to honor the life he so strongly lived, acknowledge the enormity of the struggles he quietly faced, and the courage he showed in the midst of adversity. He was a dedicated student of his craft; always learning, pushing himself to be a better guide, a stronger leader, a more knowledgeable instructor, and an empathetic friend. He was loved and admired by many. He was a kind soul.
So let's celebrate his inappropriate jokes. Let's remember and repeat them once in a while (off the clock, of course). We give thanks to Mahan, for bringing vibrance and energy and bold color into our lives. Let's laugh about his constant giggling and blushing red cheeks as he tried not to blurt out, "That's what she said!" He was a kid in a candy store, and we were happy to give him sugar. So, thank you, Mahan. Thank you for being in our lives, if only for a brief moment in time.
See you at the take-out.
Your D.A. Family
Man Overboard Training - Black Canyon
"Grief Sucks." - Everyone, ever.