(this page - 17 words)
medium version (this page - 900 words)
long version (8,000 words, thumbnail pictures and full pictures)
The Grand Adventure - Short Version (with credit to Matt, paddle boat guide)
The trip was really good, and it was hot. And, yeah, the people were real nice too.
The Grand Adventure - Medium Version
Five years ago, Deb and I had spent a day on the South Rim, totally awed by the scope of the Canyon that pictures don't capture. Later in the trip, Deb stuck her foot in the Colorado River, and opined that she would probably never get back to do it again. Well, she was wrong, and every part of her body got wet many times before this trip was over.
We, along with Chris DeGiovine, had reserved this trip almost 18 months previously through Canyon Expeditions and Explorations - we to celebrate our 25th anniversary, he to celebrate his 50th birthday, and all us to do something that felt dramatic and right to do. So, the month-to-go finally came, then the week-to-go, and finally the day to fly out came. The flight out was a mad scramble to make all the connections (thanks to O'Hare!) but make it we did.
The next morning, the two vans took seventeen brave souls, whom we had met the night before, to Lee's Ferry, where we met our six guides, who advised us on beginning instructions, especially water, sun, water temp, and general day itinerary. And off we set for an adventure of hinted at but yet-to-be-known scope.
The one thing we thought we could depend on would be the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, and for that we were not disappointed. Layers and layers of rocks, stacks and stacks of cliffs, and mixes of colors suggested by the South Rim view awaited us at every corner. Sometimes, the view was narrow, with the cliffs plunging to the river's edge, and we would crane our necks to glimpse at a small piece of the sky. Other times, the view widened and we would see layers of butte, and plateau, and rim.
Along the way, we learned the names of the rock layers, the history behind the river and the dams that make it what it is today, the river running folklore, the stories of the peoples who lived in the canyon centuries ago, the plant ecology, the animals and birds who grace this very wet yet very arid habitat, and a host of other topics.
For two weeks, the rest of the world was forgotten - not a newspaper, cell phone, TV set. And it felt natural from the beginning. Our world was the 23 of us and our surroundings. The average age of the guides was in the mid-30s, each with enough runs down the Colorado or other rivers to call themselves experienced. The 17 rafters came from five or six states, stretching across America, ranging in age from sixteen to early-50's. We would find this group was a smooth, cooperative, forgiving, gentle, and warm bunch of people whose vision was to experience a dream. And experience it we did.
For the most part, and not to minimize it, the trip is a big camping trip, with a stop at a different sand spit or rock ledge every night. For those with camping experience, the camp details were not out of the ordinary, but for Deb and me, who had done little or no camping, it was a different, but welcome, world. We rafters would get out of the boats about 4 PM, unload the rafts' goods, find a camping spot, clean up, eat the dinner the guides had cooked, help clean dishes, hang out with the group till dark (between 8-9), sleep under the stars or in the tent, arise to the call of breakfast, use the box outhouse, help load the boats, and get back into the river for another day.
And the river day followed a typical pattern also. We usually knew what the itinerary was for the day, but that would change depending on the weather. For 14 days and 226 miles, we wound our way down a river controlled by the Glen Canyon Dam. Much of the time was spent rowing or paddling the flat sections, but the anticipation was saved for the several dozen rapids which awaited the guides' skill. A few like Hance or Crystal or Lava commanded enough respect that the guides scouted the rapids before testing them. Others were played carefully, and the lower rated rapids and riffles could be ridden through for the ride.
Lunch came near noontime, consisting of cold cuts sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, food wraps, fruit and dessert. Then, off to more river running we went until camp time.
During the day, usually a break or two or three were provided by a variety of hikes. Some were short, broad pathways, leading to a show of petroglyphs, a shady spot during the middle of the day, or a cooling pool or waterfall to dampen the day's heat. Several others were strenuous, somewhat steep, even long hikes, testing our physical condition, anxiety of heights, or the grip of our feet. These led to ancient peoples' granaries, sheer wall dead-ends or waterfalls, and spectacular vistas of the river or to ridges just beyond.
Filling out our trip were a number of experiences and moments that no brochure or web site can promise, yet, given the right people and right place, which we had, the guides could reasonably hint at. Two weeks after the start, we pulled out at Diamond Point and started our trip back home, fulfilling a dream and experiencing one of America's great trips.