My teeth were chattering as another wave splashed over the front of our raft. The ice-cold Colorado River was showing no mercy. It would have been a little more comfortable in the sunlight, but the cavernous walls of the Grand Canyon were keeping us all in the shade. I was soaked to the bone, freezing and loving every minute of it.
My wife Angela and I experienced a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. The adventure took seven days and the theme of the trip was “188 miles of shitin’ in a bucket” as we wound our way along the Colorado River. But it’s not rafting in the typical sense. Our vessel was approximately 30 feet long, held 16 guests, a guide and helper. It also included a small outboard engine, so we didn’t have to paddle. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the lazy man’s rafting. However, to paddle 188 miles would have taken us at least 25 days.
But, make no mistake. This was a true adventure. During a week on the river, we went through 130 sets of rapids and got wet every single day. Depending on your place on the raft, determined how wet you wanted to get. The more casual rafter sat near the back of the boat, enjoyed a glass of juice and the odd vapour of water. The more adventurous straddled one of the two rubber pontoons on either side of the raft and held on like a bucking bronco in a rodeo. But if you wanted to get absolutely soaked, the “bathtub” was available.
Not being of sound mind, I chose the bathtub the very first day. Situated right at the front of the raft, I took my position on the floor while leaning up against a tarp, which covered all of our equipment. The name came from the fact that once you hit a rapid, the waves would crash over top of you and cover you like being in a bathtub.
“Fun,” I thought, until the first ice-cold wave soaked me. My body contorted and a few inappropriate words raced out of my mouth. It would have been tolerable if we were in hot rays of sunshine, but it was a shady day. I began to shiver after a few sets of rapids and I couldn’t stop.
Note to self: stay out of the freakin’ bathtub.
We booked our trip through Hatch River Expeditions. The company's first commercial rafting trip was back in 1934. Our gear consisted of a waterproof day bag, which we kept next to us on the raft. It included rain gear, bathing suit,
suntan lotion, sunglasses and anything needed during the day. Our waterproof night bag was packed away until the end of the day. It included a sleeping bag, cover sheet, toiletries, pillow and all the clothing we brought for the trip. Water and juice was available throughout the day in massive containers. We were also allowed to bring alcohol for a drink at the end of the day. After a hot day on the river, there was nothing like a cold beer immediately after docking and I soon realized that I didn’t bring enough.
Our group ranged in age from 30 to 70 and we quickly came together as a team. Our group included a mother and son from New Zealand, another couple from Canada and the rest from all across United States.
Our guide Ray had rafted the Colorado River for more than 30 years and gave us some quick safety tips. Keep your life jacket on at all times. If you fall out of the raft, either swim to shore or try to make it back to the raft as soon as possible. Surviving in the frigid water for more than a few minutes was not an option.
Good to know Ray!
Rafting in the Grand Canyon also meant being cut off from the outside world. There was no access to cell phones, emails, news or other forms of communication. I was more concerned about a week without my beloved Netflix. However, we did make a stop at a place called Phantom Ranch where postcards could be sent out by pony express or maybe it was mule express.
The trip was amazing. The sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon left me breathless. Every turn of the river brought a new view, a new vision.
The colours and formations were overwhelming and awe-inspiring. At some points, the mighty Colorado River was no more than 30 feet wide and the red rock canyon walls were ominous in their size and power.
Each day also included hikes to waterfalls, caves and rapids that we could swim in. Big horn sheep were everywhere as they effortlessly maneuvered along impossible trails. We passed other rafters paddling their way down the river, along with kayakers and even some brave souls on paddleboards.
However, sleeping under the stars each night was just as much of an adventure.
I’ll share that in my next blog.