Suck Rubber We Did
Eight friends who met on an expedition in Antarctica in 2016 reunited to run the Grand Canyon in August, 2017 with Western River Expeditions. For six days, we pitched, plunged, bounced, dove, spun, jerked and crashed through some of the biggest rapids in North America. We glided past some of the greatest scenery on earth as well. Our leaders from Western River Expeditions—R.D., Stephen, Travis, and Emily--took us through the waves with aplomb. R.D. in particular was the Complete Guide--thoroughly competent, knowledgeable, and personable, with a great disposition and sense of humor.
Our guides led us on hikes over boulders, up cliffs and through side canyons of cool pools and stunning waterfalls. They pointed out Shorty Burton’s memorial pie plate, Bert Loper’s historic boat, Nixon’s Rock, families of bighorn sheep, and John Wesley Powell’s abandoned piano, as well as rock layers, side canyons and tributaries as they narrated points of interest and the natural and human history we passed. They whipped up savory meals in the sand where we camped on the beaches. They did it all with assurance and good cheer. They are remarkable people.
We motored on two J-rig pontoon rafts. Our barge held the “Antarctic Eight” as well as other passengers from the U.K. The guides said they’d never had so many aboard from other countries. Our guides will also remember us as the trip with the most people who fell overboard. They claimed no one had been washed off in the rapids for the past two years. Just to shatter their complacency, two of us from the Polar Pioneer went for a swim, as did two women from South Africa from the other raft.
We quickly learned to “Suck rubber!” in the rapids—keep our heads down when we were hurled screaming into the maelstrom. We daredevils in front straddled a pontoon and held onto the ropes like we were on bucking broncos. It was one mighty wet rodeo at times. Yahoo!!
We slept, ate and washed with the ubiquitous fine sand that gets into everything. We joked that when we got home to our own plush beds we’d have grown so used to the rough conditions that we’d need to pour sand in our sheets to sleep. The glittering splendor of the Milky Way gently sliding past the narrow opening of the canyon walls high overhead presented a spectacle that often kept me up for hours at night, dazzled.
One of our gang said it was better than our travels in Antarctica and another said it was the greatest adventure of her life. We want to do it again!