Over a year ago I was invited to join a group on a 7-day whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. It’s kinda pricey, so I talked it over with Lisa, who was not interested in a remote trip of that length, and decided to accept. The trip through the canyon began on Wednesday, June 8th, 2016. I’m not totally sure how to cover a 7-day trip in a blog, so we’ll just see how this goes.
Right up front, I will mention a few things. First, as you may have noticed in other blog posts I have a GoPro and used it extensively on this trip. No surprises there. I’m not embedding the videos here, but instead will just point you to my Youtube channel. You can watch any number of videos (6 at the time of this writing) with the heading of Colorado River – Grand Canyon.
Second, there are lots of ways to do a trip through the Grand Canyon; G-rafts, J-Rafts, paddling or riding, kayaks and who knows what else. Our trip was planned by a couple of long-time canoe/kayak guys from Indiana. I took note of the other types of boats on the river and have to say that the Western River Expeditions J-raft is a nice way to go, and possibly the best way to go, if you have a variety of interests by the people on the trip. The J-raft has three riding sections on the raft. Up front, we called it “riding the bull”, you’re right there with the water hitting you with plenty of force and if you watch one of the videos where I’m in the cooler-box section you can see how wild the ride can be up there. So, the section behind the front nine, is the cooler-box section. The seats are basically the boat’s food coolers. These seats provide a great view of what’s coming and provides the entertainment of watching the people in front get hammered by the rapids. Unlike the front, where I did lose my grip once or twice, I never felt like I was going to fall off from up there. And, finally, there is the “princess deck”. This is right behind the cooler-box seats. You can lay down on these padded seating areas, and when going through the rapids, even the highest-rated rapids, it was quite comfortable and safe-feeling.
Unlike the G-raft where everyone sits sideways to the waves and faces one side of the canyon or the other, you can ride facing forward on the J-raft.
What about paddling? These J-rafts and also the G-rafts have small outboard motors so, is that cheating? I’ve done whitewater rafting trips in Colorado, like Big Horn Canyon and the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River and for half-day trips, paddling is just fine. What about paddling a 7-day trip? Well, it must be doable, though one of my co-workers who did the 7-day paddling trip said he was ready to be done at the end. Also, in a paddle-raft on a 7-day trip the distance traveled, and therefore the amount of the canyon you see, is half the amount you’d see on a motorized boat. Our trip was 187 miles. If you do the 7-day paddle trip you have a 7-hour hike out of the canyon at Phantom Ranch or a hike in at Phantom Ranch. At the end of the Western River Expeditions trip you fly out on a helicopter to the Bar 10 ranch and then take a plane back to Marble Canyon or to other destinations. So, kudos to Carey and Pat who chose Western River Expeditions, as it was a good choice from my perspective. If I ever go back, I would consider going with a rafting group but instead riding in a kayak.
There are no bathrooms along the river, so what do you do with 14+ people’s needs on a 7-day rafting trip? I thought we were going to use Wag bags, but instead it works like this . . . pee in the river. You don’t need to drop your drawers or anything. It’s hot when you’re off the river, so, you wade into the cold river up to your waist and just go. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it as it goes against everything I’ve done or been told to do since I got out of diapers, but it was easier than I thought. After the first day, there was little hesitation by anyone. Solid waste was a little different. They had some sort of aluminum box with handles and a toilet seat. Actually, two of them. One was in a tent and the other was in a room with a view . . . .
I preferred the room with a view.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is prepared by the guides. We traveled with another raft and crew. Overall there were 28 rafters and 4 guides. It sounds like a lot, especially to a remote backcountry backpacker like me, but I found it quite acceptable.
They cooked most breakfasts; eggs, English muffins, pancakes, French toast, fresh fruit, orange juice, etc. and . . . cowboy coffee. Lunches were served on a sandy beach in the middle of the day, and were typically sandwiches, or some sort of salad-like dish like chicken curry salad on a rather durable tortilla/pita bread (not sure exactly what those are but I need to get some). Dinners we things like steaks or grilled fish with appetizers and desserts. Most of us were mildly concerned we were going to gain weight on this trip!
To prevent passing around any bacteria or viruses, as seems to be somewhat common on cruises these days, they had hand washing stations. Before even approaching the food tables, everyone was to wash their hands and sanitize them, and again if you went back for seconds. There was always a lot of food.
The Guides – At the end of the trip you’re asked to take a survey about the trip and guides. I thought about it during the drive home. Corey (Cappy), Skinny, Johnny and Shad were about as good as I could ever hope any guides to be. Seriously. Great attitudes, always helpful, knowledgeable, skilled, serious when necessary, and so on. I thought and thought, but eventually commented that I couldn’t think of anything else they could do to improve. They’ve got this trip down. This trip went as smoothly as trips I planned myself, such as the Green River Labyrinth Canyon trip or the Green River Canyonlands Trip . They were great.
Well, that’s the generalities of the trip. Next up are some trip details on the river and the canyon.
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