I opened my groggy eyes and squinted at three layers — fabric, water, rock — and tried to recollect the place I used to be. When my eyes targeted, I acknowledged the top of my blue sleeping bag and past that, the rugged waters of the Colorado River and an immense rock wall that towered above me. Oh sure, my “bed room” was the ground of the Grand Canyon. 

Loads occurred earlier than I opened my eyes to that view. For years, my husband, Dean, had wished to take a multi-day rafting journey on the Colorado River by the Grand Canyon (who knew you would do such a factor?). When he urged it, I had questions: Rafting? For a number of days? Sleeping within the canyon? Positive, the celebrities can be unbelievable, however what about bodily capabilities? Will my arms fall off from all of the rowing? How wild are these rapids?

He referred to as a former coworker who had taken this journey a number of instances. She really useful utilizing Hatch River Expeditions as our clothes shop, and we took her advice. Earlier than I knew it, we had been signed up, peering over packing lists, and I used to be someplace on the spectrum between excited and scared.

Hatch runs journeys April to September in varied configurations. We selected a full week of rafting from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash (188 miles) on motorized rafts. Hatch’s web site promised “intense rapids, nice mountain climbing, historical ruins, caves, waterfalls, and unforgettable swimming spots.” We’d camp within the canyon on sandy seashores or rocky ledges for six nights and be transported out by helicopter on the finish. A memento t-shirt exhibits our route.

Professional Tip: Verify the Risks and Requirements to make certain you meet minimums, together with the bodily skill to climb on and off the raft, stroll on rocky terrain and sandy inclines, carry your private gear (25 kilos max) to and from camp, and tolerate repeated publicity to temperature extremes. You don’t want earlier whitewater expertise or swimming skill. 

Departing the rocky ledge campsite.
Departing The Rocky Ledge Campsite (Photograph Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Getting Underway

On our June 1 departure, we joined 24 co-adventurers to satisfy three guides and embark on two rafts (capability is 16). Earlier than I set foot on the raft, there have been issues I anticipated, and over the course of the journey, they proved true:

  • It’s breathtakingly stunning. There’s nothing like waking up in a sleeping bag (on a cot) on the ground of the Grand Canyon, underneath a cover of stars.
  • The guides knew what they had been doing. I anticipated them to respect the canyon and its mighty waters, to maintain us secure, to excel at historical past, geology, and folklore, and to maintain the odd request, they usually did.
  • The rafts are a marvel of engineering; the method is strong. We carried every thing we would have liked for your complete week both within the underbelly of the raft or piled excessive within the heart, lined by tarps. Seeing firsthand the logistics for gear storage, day and night time baggage, handwashing, dishes — and even backup plans for motor failure — was spectacular.
  • Many palms make gentle work. The guides positioned every thing, however rafters shaped an meeting line to get baggage, gear, cooking tools, and meals on and off the rafts effectively.
  • It’s a less complicated life. No inns, no showers, no bogs. Unplugged. Unscreened. Unparalleled.

In fact, the journey additionally had a number of surprises…

Settling in at camp.
Settling In At Camp (Photograph Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #1: The Folks Who Take This Type Of Journey Are Diverse… And Fascinating

Individuals are all the time greater than what they do, however our journey included each occupation from schoolteachers and an expert chef (may turn out to be useful) to an ER nurse and a threat supervisor (ditto). We had been from eight states (together with Alaska) and ranged in age from 11 to 70-something.

I liked all of the casual conversations on the rafts throughout calm waters and when circling camp chairs for comfortable hour and meals. It’s a singular surroundings: Make-up and pretenses are off, and individuals are simply individuals, with all their marvelous quirks, habits, and concepts.

People on raft wear fake mustaches.
Joan Sherman

Shock #2: The Folks Who Information This Type Of Journey Are Diverse… And Fascinating

As you’d anticipate, the river guides are filled with character. Our lead information was 34 and has been operating journeys since he was 18. The “swamper” (a information in coaching) was 30. He rode on the lead raft and was a “jack of all trades.” The information who piloted the second raft was 36. His raft carried a singular passenger: a big blow-up toucan who joined us for quite a few antics alongside the best way.

One night time at camp, earlier than our nightly briefing on the occasions of the subsequent day, one of many guides requested if we’d like to listen to some poetry. I need to admit I used to be anticipating one thing frivolous or elementary, however he learn Robert Service’s “The Pleasure of Being Poor” with ardour and coronary heart. He handled us to a number of different poems alongside the journey, too. My husband rolled his eyes, however I used to be delighted.

Mirror canyon reflection.
Mirror Canyon Reflection (Photograph Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #3: New Views Round Each Bend

“Seen one, seen ’em all” doesn’t apply within the Grand Canyon. The colour, texture, sample, gentle, striation, water, and rock number of the canyon make it a continuous surprise, and we had time to actually see it. Calm sections of the river introduced excellent mirror photographs of the canyon to the waters. The luxurious turquoise colour of the Little Colorado and roaring Havasu Falls had been a transparent distinction to the remainder of the Colorado River. Cavern exploration, wading and swimming, and guided mountain climbing added selection, too.

BYO Dagwood Sandwiches
BYO Dagwood Sandwiches (Photograph Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #4: Good Meals… And Loads Of It

River guides put on many hats, and meal prep is one among them. Espresso’s on by 5 a.m. (when rafting, you “run with the solar” and take advantage of daylight). Breakfast might be made-to-order eggs, breakfast meat, cereal, fruit. For lunch: build-your-own “Dagwood” sandwiches, easy sides, chips. Dinner started with appetizers and superior to grilled steak, salmon, rooster, carnitas, pasta, salads, baked potatoes, and extra. Dutch oven dessert could be brownies, cheesecake, or pound cake. Filtered water and lemonade or Gatorade (for electrolytes) had been all the time accessible each on the raft and at camp. Snacks included cookies, nuts, chips, fruit. The guides stored a watch on our meals consumption, too; river runners must preserve energy up.

Rough rapids in the canyon.
Rapids (Photograph Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #5: It Was Simpler — And More durable — Than I Anticipated

These are relative phrases, however components of the journey had been straightforward:

  • The raft is motorized, so passengers simply “sit down and maintain on.”
  • Gear is supplied, packing lists are thorough, and meals are ready for you.
  • Mesh baggage tied to the rafts held our pre-ordered beer and wine, chilled at excellent river temp, which tastes exceedingly good after rafting. Exhausting to say you’re roughing it as you’re sipping a chilly beer in camp!

Some issues that weren’t really easy:

  • The temp extremes are difficult. In June, the Colorado River at a cold 40 levels Fahrenheit contrasted dramatically with Phantom Ranch mountain climbing at a sweltering 120 levels. My recommendation? Comply with the packing record and take heed to the guides. After they let you know to get within the river earlier than a hike and dunk your shirt and put it on moist, consider them.
  • TMI, however relieving your self ain’t enjoyable. All liquids go into the river. Extra sophisticated: Solids go into a transportable seat/field factor (technical time period) however worry not — the system for privateness and sanitation throughout such occasions is straightforward and considerably ingenious. 
  • You WILL get moist; you WILL get sandy, and the sand shall be all over the place. ’Nuf mentioned.

Professional Tip: There’s no continually dry spot on the raft. For those who’re adventurous, sit in “the bath” within the entrance of the raft. It takes the total brunt of regardless of the rapids need to dish out. Behind the raft, “the tea room” is a much less splashy choice.

Lesser rapids at the canyon.
Joan Sherman

Shock #6: I Laughed — Exhausting

We rafted by 120+ rapids on our route, together with mild-mannered rapids with enjoyable names like Cleaning soap, Badger Creek, Home Rock, and even The Roaring Twenties. Bigger rapids had been extra “rowdy” (because the guides favored to say): Horn, Granite, Hermit, and Crystal.

Keep in mind whenever you had been a child and also you heard huge stomach laughs that had been contagious? The rapids are unpredictable — some seemed ferocious, they usually had been. Typically, an upcoming fast that seemed harmless may pack a strong deluge. And generally, even in calm water, a rogue wave would hit the raft and catch an unsuspecting sufferer (usually me) off guard. That huge stomach chuckle? It was mine.

Professional Tip: Hatch’s web site is fast to level out that “a Colorado River journey is an lively trip in a wilderness surroundings.” For those who aren’t up for a bodily problem, this most likely isn’t the appropriate journey for you. If you’re, that is one you’ll always remember.

I’ve been to each rims of the Grand Canyon and skilled trails by foot and by mule. But this distinctive, extended vantage level from a raft stunned me. The nuances of colour, the number of sample, texture. The sounds. The nice individuals we traveled with who made us chuckle. A myriad of stars at night time. The delicate method the morning gentle crept into the canyon. It’s filled with surprise and surprises. There’s a purpose this canyon known as grand.

For extra data and suggestions, take a look at all our Grand Canyon protection, together with 10 Key Ranger Tips For Visiting The Grand Canyon and 7 Amazing Canyons To Explore In Arizona After You’ve Seen The Grand Canyon.

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