After a late night exploring Vegas’ Neon Museum, the alarm rudely woke us at 0345 in anticipation of the 0445 pick up that would begin our Western River Expeditions rafting adventure. Finally! After 14 months of preparing, waiting, and anticipating…the day had come! I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. Even though I grew up in a sailboat, I’m a terrible swimmer and I know how relentless water can be. I had some butterflies. Daniel was excited! He is way braver than I am.
We hauled our crap downstairs to the hotel lobby, grabbed our sack breakfast, and plunked ourselves down in the middle of the eclectic group of folks who were gathering at this ungodly hour. The air was electric with anticipation, and we all looked at each other in a bit of wonderment, I think. Who are you? Where did you come from? Why did you book this adventure? What do you hope to gain from it? Will we be friends in the end? There’s always ‘that one’ person in a group…will it be you? Or maybe it will be me? (spoiler – it wasn’t either Dan or me.) We ranged in age from 12 to 72, there were some families, some solo travelers, and us.
The shuttle picked us up and 45 short minutes later, deposited us at the Boulder City Airport where we were weighed and distributed onto two different airplanes for the hour and twenty minute flight to Marble Canyon. The flight was enjoyable, the small plane reminiscent of something out of an Indiana Jones movie. During flight, we wore headsets that spewed a commentary about the various places we passed over interspersed with dramatic music. So far so good!
Another van ride from the air strip to our push off point, Lee’s Ferry. Instruction time! How to adjust your life jacket, how to pack your duffle into the dry bags, what to put in your day bag, how to sit in the raft, where to sit in the raft, how to hold on, how NOT to fall off the boat!
The views astounded me, even from the beginning. I bought a waterproof camera to use on the trip and took so many photos that it was dead by 1pm that afternoon. (The same camera met it’s demise on the 2nd day, apparently not quite as ‘waterproof’ as advertised.)
The guides have an easy going, fun way about them. After all the instructions from the morning, I think we were all a bit excited. They diffused the tension with numerous anecdotes about the canyon, banter, and jokes. They are truly exceptional people and we grew quite fond of them.
Rafting the Grand Canyon is something really special. Not only is it a bit pricey, but the National Park Service limits permits to 27,000 people per year. As I gazed up at the huge canyon walls all around me, I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to be there. Around every corner was a view even more astounding than the previous, a rapid that would bump our adrenaline up a notch or two, or a wildlife sighting that reduced our boisterous group to a silence.
Midday brought us 100+ degree temperatures and a lovely lunch spot where we pulled over to a sandy beach for a rest and refuel. We were able to dunk ourselves in the 50 degree Colorado River and stuff our bellies with the elaborate sandwich bar the guides set up for us. Then off we go again! We are beginning to become more comfortable with what would be the new rhythm of life for the week.
Afternoon brought us to an unique spot: Redwall Cavern. Pictures just don’t do it justice! Located at mile 33, the cavern is a vast chamber caused by the pre-dammed Colorado River. Major John Wesley Powell, the first man to explore the Grand Canyon in 1869, thought this cavern could hold 50,000 people! Though this is probably an exaggeration, the cavern is definitely large enough for frisbee play or an epic game of kickball. Check this out……
What a day! We headed downriver a bit farther where we set up camp, learned how to set up our cots, and shared our first meal together. Night one dinner? New York steaks, asparagus, and pecan pie. Life is good.