The Grand Canyon

Some journeys sit patiently on the bucket list. You never really know when the opportunity might strike but when that knock comes to your door it’s important to say yes.
Two days into our new year, which we had plans of slowing down, and saving money we did just the opposite. There were two emergency open spots on a winter expedition down the Grand Canyon we could not ignore.
The thought of pushing myself outside my comfort zone, and kicking the year off by rowing 226 miles down the Colorado over the course of 17 days sounded right up my alley. Once the trip became real Adren and I became a bit nervous, my island queen has only ever experienced a few riffles on a river, and while I can row an Oar rig pretty well, most of my experience on one would take place on calmer waters, seeking out hungry trout instead of massive drops and wave trains. Living outside is no problem for us, but the forecast for snow in flagstaff and thoughts of taking a swim in 30 degree weather had us wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.
But things work out when you say yes. We couldn’t have been partnered with a more awesome group to take this one with. Capable folks, with loads of experience on the water. A leader with a calmness about him that made you feel confidence in what you were about to embark on.
I’ve stood at the bottom of many big mountains, when climbing something you can almost always turn around. But once we took off at Lee’s ferry that morning we were committed. The only way out once you are in the Canyon would be a long hike out to a potentially closed national park filled with snow. Or a Helicopter rescue. That one definitely wasn’t in the budget.
We’d split up into work teams to manage the day to day duties, hit the water and slowly start getting to know each other. Boats off the bank by 9, row through whatever the hell river would throw at us and try and make our next camp an hour or two before nightfall. Exhilarating.
If we weren’t cooking dinner, we’d scramble up the canyon at any chance we got to stretch our legs and explore the massive wilderness we had found ourselves in. Traveling through sacred native places, and a few billion years worth of rock was powerful. Although the cold , and wet would sometimes be realllly tough. The trade off was we had this place ALL to ourselves, for winter doesn’t allow motors and commercial trips.
5:30 wake up calls, BRRR. There wasn’t enough hot coffee in the world to make me want to hop in that (wet) dry suit that smelled like yesterday’s funk. But doing something hard every morning makes you stronger. This trip definitely made us tougher.
It was fascinating to see the desert asleep for winter, it was so incredibly quiet and those night skies were oh so clear. In the mornings you would watch the sun climb up the opposing wall, praying it would crest and give you warmth sooner than later.
The skies turned grey at one point and set the tone for what would be some of the scarier , testing times for us. For the most part we were acing the river, clean lines had us feeling strong. The battle would take a turn once we reached Hance rapid. We had a good line but the river had other plans, flipping our 18 foot boat in an instant. Adren, Tanner and I took a pretty scary swim. Tanner unfortunately was injured pretty bad on a rock. The bruises on his body were something, we still aren’t sure if he broke something. The swim felt like an eternity in that icy water , at times you can’t see over the next wave. Our safety crews sprung into action and before you knew it our raft was upright again. The knots in our stomachs would take some time to unwind, one of our members clothing and sleep gear got wet too. One layer of my dry bags failed too, thank god I double bagged my photo gear.
I do think this moment brought us closer though, We looked out for each other more, loaning hugs, dry clothes and support to one another that night. We would take turns rotating and letting the ones with the most experience on the oars take on the beasts that excelled class 6. Our crew would paint our toenails and faces, arming ourselves with tutus, Hawaiian shirts , glitter and whatever other ridiculous things we could get our hands on.
I intersected paths in the canyon I had walked before, in a different time of life. Time out here made me see how much I’ve changed from back then. I realized I guess I’ve let my canyon walls get a little too high, it felt good to really connect with some of the folks on this trip. It’s time to say yes more, is something I’ll definitely be taking with me from this one.

I left the canyon beat up, sore, and tired but oh so proud. Proud of my incredible partner. Proud of myself. I never really understood the gravity of a grand canyon expedition, photo’s may give an idea but I think to know it, you’ll have to just answer that knock when it comes to your door.

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