In July of 1994, along with 30 other brave souls, I struck out from the south rim of the Grand Canyon on a ten-mile hike, and into the adventure of a lifetime. After a grueling trek to the very bottom of the Canyon, we embarked on an eight-day raft trip down the Colorado River — a trip that changed my life forever.
The first day and night were very unnerving (for me, anyway). It had been a long time since I'd slept out under the stars, in a wild environment, with a group of total strangers, with lizards and other animalia crawling over me in my sleep. However, over the next eight days, totally isolated from the outside world — as rolling, cere hills gave way to dark, foreboding schist — my apprehension slowly gave way to nirvana. We floated, tumbled, lolled, sang and swam our way past 100 miles of some of the most magnificent topography on Earth. It was hot/cold, dry/wet, and relaxing/demanding — a vacation like none I'd ever had. I was working at play, playing at work.
The rapids were not as "bouncy" as some of the Gold Rush rivers in California, but they provided plenty of thrill. Definitely not for beginners, but absolutely accessible to those at less than expert level. I easily managed the worst the River can give up. However, on the fifth day, I experienced a heart-stopping event. We encountered "swimmer's rapids", those dandy little undulations in the river that are safely above the sharp rocks, but that can spirit you away like a watery flying carpet. I eagerly jumped in. However, my life jacket was not as secure as it should have been, and off it popped. It was a bit dicey for a second as the rapids threatened to carry me off, but as you can see, our hero returned safely.
Folks had told me beforehand that the River tends to control you, to own you — but I didn't see it that way at all. While the River does command respect, it's very possible (and quite soul-nurturing) to find a sublime synchronicity between your own limitations and the River's might. If you understand each other, you'll respect each other. I gained quite a bit of respect for Mother Nature and her forces on that trip. And of course, on a trip like this, there's a lot to learn — about nature, about team spirit, about survival, and of course about yourself.
I'm a better person on many levels because of the trip. I highly recommend it for everyone. If you've never seen the Grand Canyon from the bottom, you've never seen the Grand Canyon — and you're missing out on one of life's greatest treasures.
Here's the official Grand Canyon tourism page: