A Grand Adventure… Exploring the Grand Canyon by Raft

With Steve at the oars, Peggy and I enter the infamous Lava Rapids on the Colorado River, a perfect ten… that’s 10 as in rapids don’t get any more serious. A few seconds later we disappear under the water. (Photo by Don Green)

Today I begin my series on rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Since it happened a couple of years ago, I am traveling back in time. In fact I kicked off this blog with the trip, some 181 posts ago.

I never finished the series. Other things happened: like having grandbabies born, going to Burning Man, looking for long dead people (otherwise known as ancestors), etc. So I will start with reposting my early stories so everyone can begin, so to speak, on the same page. (Grin)

This series will encompass more than my trip down the river, however. It is meant to be a celebration of the Grand Canyon, possibly the greatest natural wonder in the world. I have been back to the Canyon repeatedly in a time span that dates back over forty years.

Peggy takes a photo looking down into the Grand Canyon. Three feet forward and she will have a thousand feet to learn to fly.

I have wandered the South and North Rim, camped in all of the Rim campgrounds, and stayed at the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. Once I spent Christmas week at Bright Angel Lodge with a view overlooking the Canyon. I’ve been into the Canyon by mule, on foot and helicopter… as well as raft.

Several times I have explored the inner Canyon on weeklong backpack trips. I will feature one in this series.

Our Grand Canyon river adventure started with a phone call. Tom Lovering left an urgent message. I had to immediately stop whatever I was doing (Peggy and my three-year road trip around North America) and climb on-line to sign up for the Grand Canyon Colorado River permit lottery.

Apparently the permits are hard to obtain, somewhat harder than walking out of a casino with a million dollars.

I am immune to Tom’s last minute schemes but the charming Peggy who loves water, loves rivers, and loves sunshine immediately jumped on-line and did the necessary clicking. Early the next morning we received an Email from the National Park Service saying we had won. It took me a lot longer to persuade Tom than it did for the NPS people to inform us.

I am not, by nature, a white water man. I put running rapids right up there with dangling on rock cliffs, playing Kamikaze on ski slopes, and riding the latest death-defying roller coaster at Four Flags.  My approach to outdoor adventure is more in the nature of planned risk taking than thrill seeking. Consequently, I had only been on two real white water rafting trips.

The first was with Tom on the Mokelumne River in California in the 70s. Within five minutes he had dumped us into something known as Dead Man’s Hole. “Paddle!” he screamed. River rats love to give their favorite rapids scary names such as Satan’s Pool and Suicide Bend. They can wax eloquently for hours over the qualities of these death-dealing anomalies. Our detour “was a learning experience,” Tom explained as we emptied the water out of the raft and lungs. “Next time you’ll paddle harder.” Yeah, yeah.

My second white water trip was on the Middle Fork of the American River. This time I was travelling with Mark Dubois, his wife Sharon Negri and a friend, Bonnie Holmes.

Mark, sometimes known as the Gentle Giant, once chained himself to a rock in the bottom of the Stanislaus River to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from flooding the canyon with water. He also co-founded Friends of the River, an organization dedicated to saving the wild rivers of the west.

Our trip was rather mellow up until we came to a large rapid. Mark was having us do such things as close our eyes and lean backwards out of the raft with our hair touching the water so we could ‘listen’ to the river. He’s a spiritual type guy, one with nature. Apparently Nature had rejected me.

“Now, Curt,” he directed as we approached the rapid known as Guaranteed to Drown or some other similar name, “I want you to climb out of the raft and float down it.”

“I know, I know,” I groused as I rolled out of the raft into the icy waters. “It’s a learning experience.”

And that’s how I classify our trip down the Colorado, a learning experience. But I know it will be more. Every time I have visited the Grand Canyon over the years, I have come away with a feeling of awe and reverence. How could a trip through the Canyon’s inner core be any different?

So please join my friends and me over the next few weeks. I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Here I am. They actually let me row. It had something to do with the lack of any nearby rapids.

This is how Jamie, one of our experienced boatmen, handled that section of the river.

Here are some of the folks that travelled with us on our 18 day trip down the Canyon. In this photo they have reversed their life preservers to look like giant diapers and are floating down the beautiful little Colorado River, one of many scenic stops along the way. They are about ten feet away from going over a waterfall.

You will meet some interesting characters on the trip, such as Steve…

And our fearless leader Tom Lovering. Are you brave enough to spend 21 days on the river with this man?

Even this Grand Canyon fish was amazed by our choice of leader.

We had 21 days on the Colorado River and 21 days of incredible scenery. Views such as…

Scenes along the River…

Magnificent cliffs…

Plunging waterfalls…

And beautiful wild flowers.

You will learn how to poop in the woods…

Dance in a line with too much wine…

Take refreshing baths…

And leap from high places.

Join us.

6 comments on “A Grand Adventure… Exploring the Grand Canyon by Raft

  1. Oh my goodness..What can I say but this is spectacular.. I feel as if I have not seen 1/100th of all the beauty this world offers . You have to know how blessed you are to have experienced this amazing trip.. yes, I’m strapping in for the cyber-ride 🙂

    • Blessed is right. Visiting the Canyon… even if it is sitting on one of the Rim’s many overlooks for a couple of hours, is always an experience to be treasured, as I will show in my blog tomorrow.As for the world’s beauty, it is impossible to see it all, but I have always believed it starts in my backyard… wherever it has happened to be. And I am glad you are along for the ride!

    • Couldn’t resist putting it up. (grin) A biologist was running a fish trap on the Little Colorado and showed us his catch.

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