| Surviving and Lovin' A Wild Ride Down the Grand Canyon's Colorado River
by Donna Corwin
When my friends suggested that we go white water rafting down the Colorado River, I laughed. To me, this crazy idea meant no showers and no comfy beds—well, actually, no beds at all. I wasn’t sure I had the "right stuff" for this kind of adventure. But not being a person who backs down from a challenge, I embarked on one wild ride for six days through the Grand Canyon. Having done my research, I picked the five-star of river companies, Western River Expeditions from Moab, Utah. We packed up our Teva sandals, shorts, bathing suits, sun block and Tilly hats and headed for the river. Forget makeup, hair dryers and golf clubs. I could take one small duffle bag. I made to bring plenty of sunblock and bug spray.
We city slickers embarked from Lee’s Ferry, where we began our more than 200-mile journey through nature’s greatest spiritual environment. We would not see another boat for five days. The 400-million-year old red rocks butted up against the river. Eagles swooped above us, hovering in midair. The drone of the city noise stopped. One moment the river was sleepy and silent, the next, we heard the rushing, wild roar as the rapids plunged and swirled before us, daring us to fall into the abyss of her powerful pull. The jagged sandstone of the Colorado changed with every turn, and my anxiety disappeared, replaced by an almost childish awe of the grandeur before me.
The days on the river were spent on 17-person J-rig, rubber boats similar to a raft but larger and able to run by motor and oars. The gear and food are stored in the center coolers. The "safe" ride is in the back and on the sides of the boat. But for the thrill of your life, sit on the front of the pontoons and hang on tight. The adrenaline rushed through your veins as our guide screamed out, "Suck rubber." We intertwined our legs, grabbed the ropes, put our heads and chests down and took the full force of the powerful rapids as we hit Crystal, only one of three rapids rated a 10 on the Colorado River. (Most rivers are rated 1-5).
Fifty degree water hurled over our heads as we screamed with heart-pounding excitement. The J-rig descended into the swirls of earth and popped up with a gasp. Suddenly, all was silent, and once again the water ebbed. The river curved towards a dark chasm. We drifted for hours until the shadows deepened, and we pulled to shore—exhausted but elated. Each day was comprised of another new adventure whether it be moving through cascading waterfalls, exploring caves, or surrendering ourselves to huge rapids.
Dinner was always amazing. Out of the three coolers emerged steaks, ribs, hamburger, chicken, pasta, baked potatoes, Caesar salad, cole slaw and potato salad. The guides concocted a homemade chocolate cake and cupcakes on the small outdoor stove.
We ate like river gourmets for six days and five nights. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., we were intoxicated with aromas of bacon, eggs, French toast, pancakes and hot coffee. The last night, our guides delighted us with shrimp cocktails and champagne.
The sleeping arrangements were crude at best. I got up close and personal with fellow rafters, and we felt like family by the end of the trip. Any embarrassments quickly disappeared. We could have slept in a tent, but we preferred sleeping in the open under a blanket of stars, and experienced nature as few are privileged to. Only a handful of companies get a permit to navigate the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. Western River’s experienced guides are experts in the history, geology and folklore of the area.
Western River Expeditions delivers the ultimate rafting experience. It was definitely one wild ride!
(Authors Note: For the five-and six-day trips with kids, children must be at least fourteen years old. For those who want a calmer experience and have younger children, opt for the three- or four-day trip which combines an overnight stay at a working cattle ranch. There is still excitement, but more down time to enjoy the scenic beauty, massive cliffs and Big Horn sheep.)
Western River Expeditions
Donna Corwin is a travel, lifestyle, and parenting writer. She has written and published hundreds of travel articles.