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 centered, I acknowledged the tip 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. 

Rather a lot occurred earlier than I opened my eyes to that view. For years, my husband, Dean, had needed to take a multi-day rafting journey on the Colorado River by the Grand Canyon (who knew you can do such a factor?). When he advised it, I had questions: Rafting? For a number of days? Sleeping within the canyon? Positive, the celebrities can be unimaginable, however what about bodily features? 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 helpful utilizing Hatch River Expeditions as our clothing store, and we took her suggestion. Earlier than I knew it, we have 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, historic 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: Examine the Risks and Requirements to make sure you meet minimums, together with the bodily means 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 means. 

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

Getting Underway

On our June 1 departure, we joined 24 co-adventurers to fulfill 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, below a cover of stars.
  • The guides knew what they have been doing. I anticipated them to respect the canyon and its mighty waters, to maintain us protected, to excel at historical past, geology, and folklore, and to handle the odd request, they usually did.
  • The rafts are a marvel of engineering; the method is stable. We carried all the pieces we wanted for your complete week both within the underbelly of the raft or piled excessive within the middle, coated 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 fingers make mild work. The guides positioned all the pieces, however rafters shaped an meeting line to get baggage, gear, cooking gear, 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 (Picture Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #1: The Folks Who Take This Variety Of Journey Are Different… And Fascinating

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

I cherished all of the casual conversations on the rafts throughout calm waters and when circling camp chairs for completely happy hour and meals. It’s a novel atmosphere: 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 Variety Of Journey Are Different… And Fascinating

As you’d anticipate, the river guides are stuffed with persona. Our lead information was 34 and has been working 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 novel passenger: a big blow-up toucan who joined us for quite a few antics alongside the way in which.

One night time at camp, earlier than our nightly briefing on the occasions of the following 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 (Picture 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, mild, striation, water, and rock number of the canyon make it a continuing surprise, and we had time to actually see it. Calm sections of the river introduced good mirror photos of the canyon to the waters. The luxurious turquoise coloration of the Little Colorado and roaring Havasu Falls have 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 (Picture Credit score: Joan Sherman)

Shock #4: Good Meals… And A lot Of It

River guides put on many hats, and meal prep is one in all them. Espresso’s on by 5 a.m. (when rafting, you “run with the solar” and take advantage of daylight). Breakfast could possibly 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 is likely to be brownies, cheesecake, or pound cake. Filtered water and lemonade or Gatorade (for electrolytes) have been all the time obtainable each on the raft and at camp. Snacks included cookies, nuts, chips, fruit. The guides stored an eye fixed on our meals consumption, too; river runners have to preserve energy up.

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

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

These are relative phrases, however elements of the journey have 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 good river temp, which tastes exceedingly good after rafting. Laborious to assert 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 hearken to the guides. After they inform you to get within the river earlier than a hike and dunk your shirt and put it on moist, imagine them.
  • TMI, however relieving your self ain’t enjoyable. All liquids go into the river. Extra difficult: Solids go into a transportable seat/field factor (technical time period) however concern not — the system for privateness and sanitation throughout such occasions is easy and considerably ingenious. 
  • You WILL get moist; you WILL get sandy, and the sand shall be all over the place. ’Nuf stated.

Professional Tip: There’s no consistently dry spot on the raft. In the event you’re adventurous, sit in “the bath” within the entrance of the raft. It takes the complete brunt of regardless of the rapids need to dish out. In the back of the raft, “the tea room” is a much less splashy possibility.

Lesser rapids at the canyon.
Joan Sherman

Shock #6: I Laughed — Laborious

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 have been extra “rowdy” (because the guides favored to say): Horn, Granite, Hermit, and Crystal.

Bear in mind once you have been a child and also you heard large stomach laughs that have been contagious? The rapids are unpredictable — some regarded ferocious, they usually have been. Typically, an upcoming fast that regarded harmless may pack a strong deluge. And typically, even in calm water, a rogue wave would hit the raft and catch an unsuspecting sufferer (typically me) off guard. That large stomach chortle? 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 atmosphere.” In the event you aren’t up for a bodily problem, this in all probability 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 shocked me. The nuances of coloration, the number of sample, texture. The sounds. The great individuals we traveled with who made us chortle. A myriad of stars at night time. The refined manner the morning mild crept into the canyon. It’s stuffed with surprise and surprises. There’s a motive this canyon is known as grand.

For extra data and ideas, 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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