What a trip! It’s difficult to put the experience into words. The Canyon isn’t just a pretty backdrop, it’s an inspiring magnificence that surrounds you day and night. The landscape is humbling and generates a sense deep within that there is something much greater than us at work in the world. It’s also very quiet in the Canyon and there are no outside distractions such as work, cell phones or TVs which means that you have no choice but to spend time with yourself. To truly appreciate the trip you must let go of everything that you leave behind at the put-in, something that I think everyone was very happy to do!
We had a great group of sixteen people who have or still do work in the whitewater industry. I think that there were collectively one hundred and ninety seven years of whitewater experience between all of us! So the trip went very smoothly. Our fearless leader was my good friend Kathy Zerkle. We quickly got into the routine of waking up, packing our stuff, eating breakfast, helping to load the boats and setting out on the water by 9 a.m. We would float/paddle until we found a nice beach for lunch and a good hiking spot. Then we’d float/paddle to our camp site where we’d unload the rafts, set up the kitchen and our personal camps. Time moves at a slower pace in the Canyon and I found my inner clock adjusting quickly to nature’s clock. It was hard for me to stay awake much past 8 p.m. some nights!
In general the temperature hovered around 75 degrees during the day and cooled off to very comfortable temps for sleeping at night. There were only a few chilly days. The water was fairly warm so we were able to swim and rinse off quite a bit. We had beautiful clear water for the first week of our trip. The first day that it turned deep brownish/red it felt like we were paddling in paint. The water was challenging to read because everything was brown; there was no “whitewater,” and that made the rapids much more exciting! The level stayed between 8000 and 9000 CFS making the river features more distinguished and making for some great playboating. A lot of people had suggested that I bring a long boat, but I was very happy that I had decided to bring my Crazy 88. There were great waves and holes to surf. In fact, the big wave at the bottom of Lava Falls was really fun to surf and it had eddy access!
I love big water so the rapids were really fun, but I thought that the side hikes were even more spectacular. Most of the hikes were through and around narrow canyons with beautiful, pristine creeks. Actually, the hiking often turned into bouldering and climbing, and a few of us had to resort to a commando crawl underneath one ledge. One of the most memorable hikes was a total of 9 miles up Tapeats Creek to Thunder River, and down to Deer Creek. Hiking in the desert is very hot and dry so the creeks/springs were true oasis.
It was difficult coming back to reality after 18 days of a fantastic river trip, but one of life’s basic lessons is that all things come to an end. The best that I can do is take what I learned and carry it with me. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience such a remarkable place with a group of incredible people. Thanks Kathy!! If I’m lucky I’ll get to do it again!