I have decided that if I go into great detail on every day of the trip, I will end up writing a book! Plus there are many other things going on that I would like to write about. For this post I am going to summarize the trip, and then as I get time and ambition I’ll write more about the highlights.
I and all the other guests quickly adapt to life on the river. A typical day starts with the blowing of the conch shell announcing a fabulous breakfast. During our week on the river we are treated to eggs cooked to order, bagels and lox, and pancakes and sausage. Plus always, cold cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. I am pleased to find I am in no danger of going hungry.
After breakfast is cleaned up we load the boats, clean the beach (making sure we leave only footprints), and after a last groover call, it is back on the water for more serene floats and wild rapids, surrounded by the everchanging geology of the canyon cliffs.
Almost every day includes a hike, and almost every hike includes rock scrambling. I’ve never done rock scrambling before. This is where, using only hands and feet, you climb up and down cliffs that before I would have thought were impassable. When you look closely you find there are small places where you can put a foot, or get a grip with your hand. Often the rocks are hot! Once I grabbed a cactus instead of a rock. Ouch! The guides are great. They are patient and give me plenty of time to find my own way, and only offer advice when I ask. We hike to see amazing waterfalls, rock formations, fossilized shells, and wildlife. Hiking up a narrow creek we walk just a few feet past a young Eagle. Our guides think it is a young golden eagle, but I think it may be a bald eagle. It is holding its wing out, like some birds do when tired, but It does not seem injured and I don’t know why it didn’t fly away. Maybe because the passage was narrow. Maybe because he was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him!
Even though it is mid September, the days are very hot. The water looks inviting, although it is very cold, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. On the second day, I get to ride in the paddle boat. And I get to go swimming.
You can’t see me in this picture. I was sitting in the right front of the raft, and was pushed quite far under the water. It took forever to come up! And when I did, the current had carried me far away from the raft. Later I will write a full post about swimming in the Colorado River. For now, lets just say that that the paddle boat was quickly righted, everyone eventually got pulled out of the water, and the only thing that was lost was my hat.
On the fourth day of our trip, Kent, our trip leader, announces an advanced hike. Only for the truly hard core hiker, it is an all day, 10 mile hike up one side canyon to the rim and back down another side canyon. Some of the guides will stay behind and move the boats. It promises spectacular views and challenging rock scrambling. It also promises to be very long, hard, and hot. At one point he calls the hike a death march. Not being a hard core hiker or rock scrambler, I choose to stay behind with the guides that will be moving the boats. I am surprised to find I am the only one. I have the most amazing day. While the guides are busy with the boats, I find myself all alone on a beautiful beach deep in the Grand Canyon. With plenty of privacy I get a good bath in. Careful not to sunburn the delicate parts, I wash in the very cold river water, than warm up on the sandy beach. Then back to the river, then the beach, you get the idea. That evening I help the guides prepare dinner and greet the intrepid adventurers as they return, hot and tired and dirty, just as the sun is going down. They all had a wonderful time, but now I am the only one without blisters!
Day 6, our last full day in the canyon, we get to stop and visit a working archeological site. We are very lucky to get to see this. It took the group years to get the logistics figured out, and they are only digging for eight days. We arrive when they are almost done. They will remove the artifacts that they find, and then cover the site and return it to it’s natural state. When they are gone you won’t be able to tell they were ever there. Most sites in the Grand Canyon are not excavated. Only when the artifacts are at risk of being lost or damaged, like this site which is subject to flash flooding, do they excavate and remove artifacts.
Day 7 is our very last day. And it is a day I have been dreading. Because we are not doing a full canyon trip, we need to hike out of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. I know I did not prepare well enough for the hike. Although I really don’t have a choice, I am not sure I will be able to carry my backpack, loaded with my clothes and lots of water, and hike the 7.5 miles from Pipe Creek to the South Rim. Needless to say I do hike out. It takes 7 hours and I am exhausted when I reach the top. It is great to walk out of the canyon and see the changing perspectives on the cliffs. I see more wildlife, including an endangered condor. When I finally reach the South Rim I look back and I can’t even see the river. It feels strange to be around so many people. And they are all so clean! I can’t imagine what they think of me. A few ask how far I have hiked and most are stunned that I have come from the river. (I carry a few extra pounds and certainly don’t look the type!)
This picture of the Bright Angel Trail is from Gene Hanson’s website. He has a marvelous “virtual hike” down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel Trail. He is a maniac and did it in one day. He also took hundreds of pictures. It is worth a look!
Back in our hotel that night, hubby and I are tired and sore. The shower feels great! We each order a big dinner and desert from room service. I am pretty sure this is one day I don’t have to worry about how many calories I eat!
I can’t wait to go back to the Grand Canyon. Next time I will do the full river trip. I am looking forward to rafting Crystal Rapid, the largest rapid in the canyon. Hopefully I will be able to stay in the boat!