Rafting down the Grand Canyon was Alan’s suggestion, but I am always up for an adventure. What an adventure it was! We opted for the 5-night, 6-day tour… and that was plenty! We covered the same distance as the 7-day tour, although I believe more side hikes are available for the longer one.
One of our guides offered these words on our last day…
By the 4th night, the 5-night people are saying, “I can do this one more night.” The 6-night folks are saying, “I CAN’T do this for two more nights!”Daniel, our boat captain
Of the 34 guests on this expedition, 32 of them flew to Las Vegas to meet up with our tour. The oldest couple on the tour, 80-years-young Richard and Carol, originated in Marble Canyon where they parked their RV. Richard had done this tour before… but I do believe it took a little more out of him this time! Nevertheless, they were real troopers and everyone, especially their daughter and grandson, really looked out for them.
Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas
Alan and I decided we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get married for the 4th time, this time with Elvis officiating! (Wedding #2 and Wedding #3) So that was the first part of our Las Vegas experience. We think we’ll do a “Where’s Waldo Wedding” every year… why break our run? It was videotaped as well as having the services of an excellent photographer. As you can tell from the photos, it was a lot of fun! (Watch the video if you want to see Elvis in action!)
We had one more day to explore Las Vegas before starting our trip. Alan’s sister Terry was joining us as well. While we awaited Terry’s arrival, we rode the High Roller in Vegas. What a view of the city. We also walked down Fremont Street. I will spare you the photo of the guy wearing a G-string and high platform shoes with his face painted like a KISS bandmember…
Day One of our adventure
We took one last hot shower early Tuesday night and headed to bed. We were staying at a hotel adjacent to the Marriott, where we would meet our tour group at 4:45 AM Wednesday morning. Thus began nearly a week of arising with the sun.
When we entered the Marriott, we encountered over 30 people that we had never laid eyes on before. By the end of the week, we were way past being strangers! Privacy is a bit of a joke on a rugged camping rafting adventure, but more on that later… We were provided a “grab and go” breakfast.
We were bussed from the Marriott to Boulder City Airport about 40 minutes away. While on the bus, nearly everyone identified that there was going to be that person on our trip. This lady showed herself to be operating in her own world early on. Her elderly male companion was equally disconnected. (We found out later that they took the spot of some friends, and they apparently had no idea what they were getting into…) She inquired of the bus driver if we were driving to Boulder, Colorado?
After arriving at the small airport, our bags and our bodies were weighed. We were assigned seats on prop planes. We waited about an hour before boarding the plane for a 40 minute flight to Marble Canyon.
Marble Canyon had a small shop where beverages of all kinds could be purchased. Folks loaded up on soda, wine boxes, and beer. Note, however, that the “beer and wine fridge” was the 50-degree water of the Colorado River. Alan drank semi-warm Coke all week.
We were given large dry bags for our 25-pounds-or-less duffel bags. Each large bag already contained a sleeping bag. We were also provided with a smaller day bag for any items we wanted access to during the day. After loading and tying our bags, we formed a fire line and loaded the raft. That was the first of many fire lines. We had two 37-foot pontoon boats accommodating 4 guides and 34 passengers.
Up to your belly button!
Our briefing outlined some of the principles we would adhere to during the week. Ladies, here is the most interesting requirement… We horsewomen are totally used to squatting in the woods, in a stall, in the back of a horse trailer… BUT, we were given instructions that all urine goes in the river. For the guys, no problem. Put your butt to the crowd and have at it. (I did see one very impressive stream one day!)
For the ladies, we were told we had to be up to our belly buttons in the water. Now mind you, this is 50-degree water. More than once I had trouble getting my body to cooperate. Stephen, our group leader, instructed us to just sit in the water and smile… hence the terminology “Smile break!”
That first night in camp, we were provided with “pee cups”. Those did make it easier to find some “private” place to empty our bladders, but then we were required to dump the fruits of our labor into the river. One gal commented at week’s end,
And there we are, walking by the guys making breakfast, carrying our pee cup like it is a fine glass of Chardonnay…Heather, the camp entertainer
We had a “crapper” for our other duty. Stephen, our group leader, acknowledged that, “Sometimes numbers one and two come together, and we understand that!” We had an enclosed option and a “free standing” option. It was easy to see if the tented toilet was occupied as it was buttoned up. For the open option, a bright orange frisbee sat next to the buckets that served as our wash basin. If the frisbee was there, the crapper was available. If not, it was in use! It was a pretty slick system. Small LED flashers illuminated the way at night.
The heavy metal containers upon which the toilet seat rested were loaded back on to the boats and emptied when the guides returned to our starting point.
Our first day on the river
We were headed down the river by a few minutes after ten. That first day we experienced intermittent clouds. We hit several rapids that day. Rapids are “scored” on the basis of both how rough the ride is and how technical it is for the boatman to manuever. The highest score is technically 10, but there are some “10+” rapids. On our first day, we negotiated several 4-5s and one 7-8. Water level is variable and obviously influences the rating as well. We all thought the 7-8 was quite the deal. Little did we know…
Our first night at camp was at a small beach known as Shinumo Wash. This photo was taken around 6:30 PM as the guys prepared our first awesome dinner meal.
We had the option of sleeping outside on cots, or on cots inside a tent. The one or two couples who were repeating this adventure strongly encouraged us to “sleep under the stars”. However, spitting rain and dark clouds convinced us to set up a tent. Bedtime every night was when the sun went down, around 8:30. We had been up since 4 AM, so we didn’t complain.
The call of “Hot Coffee!” was heard every morning around 4:30 or 5:00, preceeded by a conch shell blast. The coffee was “cowboy coffee”… grounds thrown into a large pot of hot water. We ladled it out and poured it through a filter. Breakfast was always amazing… pancakes or French toast, sausage, bacon, pork chops, fruit, eggs on demand, and even eggs Benedict one morning.
The feature photo was taken while in camp and shows the sun coming up on the river.
Next week, I’ll tell you about our second day on the river. This may be a long series, as there is SO much to tell!