Rafting the Grand Canyon
Rafting the Grand Canyon was roughing it and we got to love it.
I took my 15 year old son on the 7-day Grand Canyon rafting trip. We are not roughing it types, but I'd always wanted to raft the Grand Canyon. Our trip leader was Craig Lutke, and he was amazing. Craig has this ability to command 26 people's attention, but also make you feel like you're the only ones on the boat and he's talking just to you.
Life in the canyon was different than we expected. Day 1 was really rough for us. We didn't understand the rigors, the potential risk, the 105 degree heat and winds down there, and the need to just become one with the dirt. Day 1 was also a really long day, from the time we got up at the hotel (4 am) to when we got to bed (9:30 - 10) 37 miles down the river. My son had had it. I told him as he went to bed - things will settle into a cadence down here and you'll love it. I guessed at this, but it turned out to be true.
Day 2 you start to settle into a rhythm right away, and your body adjusts. Up early (5:30 am), on the boat before 7 am. If your trip leader is on it (our captains both were), then an early hike or activity by 8:30 am. These are the highlights of each day (of course the rapids too!). But you meander off into unforeseen canyons with tiny waterfalls and strange rock and cliff formations. The air and water is cooler in these places, and note, they do take athletic rigor to get through. But you can be out of shape like I am, and the guides will help you too. These are not-to-miss activities.
The cadence of the day become two activities, some snack breaks, exciting rapids on the boat, and then back into camp early enough to fire-line off the gear and then some time to bathe (in the 55 degree temperature of the Colorado River) before heading off to dinner and then bed.
The Western guides we had (Lutke, Shad, Kurt, Newtie), they'd worked together for years and so they have a friendship and shorthand that is invaluable, especially when you're navigating rough terrain with inherent risks. These guys also hustle. If you're at the head of your game in whatever occupation you are in (and it's because you put in the 12+ hour days) it's good to know you're with 4 guys who do the same. These guys are no spring chickens, but they're ripped, and they work from 4:45 am to 9:30 p.m. And they love their job every minute of the day.
The food, it's shocking how tasty and fresh everything is. The boat is like this strange clown car that carries more than you would believe, new stuff just continues to pour out of it.
As much as Day 1 was long, the days become shorter by Day 3 or 4. You forget what day it is, and Day 7 soon arrives and you're whisked off.
The canyons are gorgeous. You sit and learn about the rock formations. You learn about the explorers and indigenous peoples of the area. You understand the dangers of this place. And your group, within 72 hours, begins to develop tribal habits. Like you will notice 2 big guys walking on hikes between the 70 year old guy, the weaker protected by the strong. People looking after other people's kids. It's sweet to see it happen naturally.
The rapids are the highlight. There are many smalls. Several mediums. Many larges. And for us, 3 rapids that were extraordinary and a little bit scary and the conversation around the circle that evening at dinner.
Day 7 arrives. We are simultaneously sad to go and ready to go. I had called it 'the trip of a lifetime' to my son for months and it was.
This is a big thanks to the crew. They were caring (kept us safe), knowledgeable (great stories down the river) and it was extraordinary. Thank you Lutke, Shad, Kurt, and Newty.