If someone gave you the chance to pack up clothes in a dry bag no larger than a backpack, live on a 37-foot long raft with no connection to the outside world, in 110-degree weather for an entire week, would you say yes? Would you chase adventure running white-water rapids all day, sleeping under the stars at night, cliff jumping, hiking, all in one place? If so, then white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon should be on your bucket list.
This past summer, my extended family and I had the courage to say yes and we headed from separate corners of the United States to Las Vegas where our trip started. Friday morning, we boarded a coach bus, and left our hotel at 4 am to beat the rush to Lees Ferry. With a 5-hour ride through rural Nevada, Arizona, and southern Utah, we soaked up our last drops of screen time, before losing cell service. Arriving at Lees Ferry, Mile 0, around 10 am, we met our guides, Ana and Den, and loaded up our belongings onto “Matkatamiba,” the motor-powered raft that would be home for the next seven days. We started our journey just before 11, with 270 miles before us, the entire span of the Grand Canyon.
For the next week, we experienced something spectacular. Every afternoon our guides would select that evening’s campsite. Forming a human chain, we unloaded clothes, cots, kitchen, and food, before we kids ran off to find the best spot to sleep for the night. After laying down a tarp, and setting up our cots and bedding, we “showered” in the river, while the guides were hard at work preparing dinner. We ate in a circle, sharing family stories and learning from the guides about life inside the canyon. After sundown, we played cards or listened to Den play a few songs on the guitar. Because the canyon reached 110 every day and had hot, dry, “oven winds” at night, we would dunk in the 50-degree river water to cool down before getting a quick night of sleep.
From the time we packed up the camp and hit the river around 9 am until we arrived at our next campsite around 4, it was non-stop thrill and adventure. Major rapids were encountered every day with huge waves, capable of drenching every part of the boat. The three largest: Hermit, Chrystal, and Lava Falls sent wave after wave of water into the boat as we rocked through the chaotic waters. The fun in the canyon didn’t stop there. We found multiple cliff jumping points along the river, as well as many hikes. These hikes in smaller, side canyons would take us to hidden gems such as Elves Chasm and Deer Creek Falls, which we would not have seen from the river. Here we could swim in the colorful pools, soak up the sun, or feast on the many snacks that Ana and Den would bring along with them.
The week sadly came to a close, but the memories that I made will be unforgettable. This trip blew my expectations out of the water and there was never a dull moment. For anyone that has any interest in visiting the Grand Canyon, take the risk as I did, and experience it from below.