Trip to Grand Canyon

by Claudia Hill

Every January Paul and I map out places we’d like to travel to that upcoming year. We prioritize trips to see our married children who live out of state, a bucket list trip in the Spring and Fall, trips to the cabin with family and friends in the summer, and work trips typically fill in the rest of the months. A Sound of Music trip to Austria and Switzerland was booked for March of 2020. A church history tour to upstate New York with the boys over Spring Break along with stops at Niagara Falls and the Big Apple with tickets to see To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway were also booked. It was the topic of conversation at dinner every night with the boys during the months of January and February. Then March 2020 happened and all our travel plans were canceled. Everyday normal activities such as in person school, work and church were also non-existent from one day to the next. We hunkered down and made the most of our new normal. We held daily morning yoga/ exercise sessions to keep us sane. Tik Tok, online Zoom everything, jigsaw puzzle marathons and movie nights were fully embraced in hopes that things would soon get back to “normal”. Here we are almost a year later still waiting- but wow how we’ve grown in the space of that time. A topic I will expound on further another day.

When our friends called in late July and asked if we were interested in a rare opportunity to see the Grand Canyon by river with only 4 weeks notice we hesitantly jumped at the opportunity! The Grand Canyon was at the bottom of my top 20 bucket list, yet after experiencing it the way we did with Western River Expeditions– it should easily be on everyone’s top three! I still get giddy looking through the pictures and watching the videos. Perhaps it was the combination of desperately wanting to travel and experience life outside of quarantine, or maybe just the thought of experiencing something neither of us knew much about with our dear friends that had us nervously excited. Nonetheless, nothing quite prepared us for the thrill and majesty we experienced running 188 miles via river through the sheer splendor that is The Grand Canyon.

Day 1- Still feeling fresh upon arrival

Western River Expeditions offers several options on the number of days to adventure. We chose the 6 day trip and found it to be the perfect amount of time away from civilization.

We took a 10 passenger airplane from Las Vegas (where we spent the night the day before) to Marble Canyon where we began our epic adventure at Lee’s Ferry. We were allowed one duffle bag per person with a max weight of 20lbs. Even though I was the smallest person on the expedition my bag won heaviest pack award. Better to be over prepared than not, is always my philosophy. We were given a dry bag to stuff our duffle bag into along with a small dry day bag to keep our personal items such as rain gear, snacks, & cameras handy, yet dry during the boat ride. The company provided a tent per couple, sleeping bags, clean sheets, cots, a canteen to keep as a souvenir and delicious, gourmet meals that left us stuffed.

I was told that the temperature of the Grand Canyon mirrored whatever the current temps were of Phoenix, Arizona which was 100% accurate. What I didn’t anticipate was how fridgid the river water would be. Riding via raft for 6 days on the Colorado River with Category 5-10 rapids coming at you almost the entire ride down meant you were going to get wet, drenched even, every day! The raft we travelled on called a JRig had 9 spots on the lower front rubber part where brave souls like Paul and his buddy Nate held on for dear life as rapid after rapid tested there bucking bronco skills. Michelle and I occupied 2 of the 5 spots on the food coolers just above the blue rubber part most of the time. It was the perfect spot to see all the action happening on the rubber seats while not getting the full brunt of the intense rapids. Although we got plenty wet too, I felt a lot safer sitting up high watching the boys get slammed down below.

The trip included a small hike to the turquoise blue tributary called The Little Colorado where we floated on our backs down some mini rapids. The peacefulness and beauty this small detour provided left me awe stuck. We took mini day hikes to splendid waterfalls, wading pools and historical sites. The guides were incredibly knowledgeable on the history and geology of the canyon and provided great insights all along the way. They navigated dangerous spots on the river, prepared amazing dutch oven meals for breakfast and dinner and brought us together like family as we all participated in setting up and taking down camp everyday.

Sleeping under the stars in sometimes extremely uncomfortable heat is no walk in the park. We typically went to bed between 8:30-9pm completely exhausted. The rising sun hitting our faces at about 5:30am everyday woke us to the new day ahead. The baño situation was nothing short of crappy. Out of pure necessity, I adjusted rather quickly. But the moments of silence and reverence, witnessing God’s creation at every turn through 6 days of vastly changing vistas and light made it completely worth it! Going completely off the grid, immersed in glorious mother nature provided a sacred space that can be defined as nothing less than holy.

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