I wanted to do something big for my 50th birthday. I figured rafting for nine days, down one of the biggest, deepest canyons in the world would do it. It has been something I’ve always wanted to do and this seemed to be the perfect occasion.
We were lucky to get spots on an AZRA all-paddle rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, traveling 136 miles over my birthday week. One of the first, and most important things we then did was organize beer and wine for the trip. We pre-ordered the maximum amount, (obviously) and AZRA would then pack it all into the raft before we embarked so we didn’t have to carry it in. I liked this rafting company already.
We started packing our stuff months before, but it didn’t take long. It turns out that you don’t need much in the desert, we had limited on space on the raft and we had to hike in anything we wanted to take down The Bright Angel Trail. We packed a lot of cotton clothing, as it keeps you cooler when soaked in river water; and it was all about keeping cool. This was odd for me; I’m used to packing polypropylene for camping trips.
The night before the big trip, we arrived on the touristy south rim of the Canyon, and headed to the trip orientation. They outlined the basics of the trip and gave us some necessary equipment; 2 dry bags, snacks, electrolytes, a coffee cup and a pee cup. Yeah, we had to pack a plastic cup in case we had to pee in the night to then dump in the river in the morning. Interesting, all pee was to go in the river, but you didn’t want to risk being swept away in the night!
We talked about the next morning’s hike down the legendary Bright Angel Trail and that it was a grueling 8 miles that drops 4300 feet and that it would be stupid hot. The guides stressed how difficult this hike would be and so to beat the heat we would start out at 4:15am! Noooo.
But oh yes! Our alarm went off and it was just starting to brighten in the east as we headed over the rim. We were just able to make out the trail at first but as we slowly made our way down, the Canyon revealed itself in all its glory as the sky gradually brightened. Shadowy outlines gave way to brilliant red walls as the sun rose higher.
We were lucky though; A light cloud cover kept the sun at bay and the heat down;
to a manageable 95 degrees! We had a quick snack under the trees of Indian Garden and then sweated our way around the steep corkscrew section of the trail. After 6 hours, we finally reached the powerful Colorado River, dumped our packs, soaked our feet and scrambled for shade.
After a few more hours, everyone was assembled and we loaded up our boats, pushed off and caught the current; we were off. Finally, this was it.
I hadn’t known exactly what to expect; 9 days rafting, totally off the grid, camping deep in the Grand Canyon with a bunch of strangers. But what I did know now – It was going to be epic.