White Water Rafting Adventure
One fall when my husband, Bill and I were in our mid-fifties, friends who had done a lot of research on White Water rafting down the Colorado, asked us to join them in this adventure. The company bus brought us from Las Vegas to Lee’s Ferry, just below Lake Powell. Two guides and the cook, wife of one of the guides, was the crew. As we arrived, they were loading two pontoon boats with provisions to last six days, two big ice chests with meat and vegetables, another chest with more supplies, ground sheets and our water proof duffle bags in which we had stowed our belongings. As this was the last trip of the season, there were only 25 of us, 3 young men, a fellow about 75 and the rest somewhere around our age so there was lots of space to choose where wanted to sit.
We put on our wet suits and the essential life jackets and found a good spot to enjoy the ride. We floated down the river to the rock formations of the Grand Canyon, the lower layers formed millions of years ago. The guides told us about the geology of the canyon, the Indigenous people who had lived there many years ago and the many different plants along the river bank, as well as stories of previous trips. We were also going through rapids, some just little swells in the river, some over bigger rocks which would cause the spray to fly up around us then the big ones where we would be covered with spray and have to hang on to avoid being washed overboard.
We docked early the first night. The crew had been making these trips for a few years so knew where the best camping spots were. The first thing off was the porta-potty, shared by all, and hopefully partially hidden behind a bush or rock, then the ice chests and the other supplies, the ground sheets followed by our duffle bags. Everyone helped with the unloading then we could claim a spot in the sand to put our duffle bags where we would spend the night. Supper was a BBQ steak, potatoes and vegetables cooked on the propane stove with fruit and cookies. We sat around a fire with logs brought with us and sang and listened to stories told by the guides with some of the group adding theirs, then to bed, trying to pick out the different star groups, before drifting off to sleep.
We were called at 7 and after a hearty breakfast, helped pack the boat and pick up trash. Then we would find our place on the raft, enjoying floating down the river, driven by the swift current, with more rapids of varying strengths. About mid morning the boats pulled into a shallow spot and we would get off to stretch our legs and hike to some special rock formation or Indian ruins then back to the boats until lunch, back on shore. The cook would set out sandwich making salad and fruit. By mid afternoon we would dock again hiking to another interesting spot. By 5 o clock, they would find another good camping spot where we would spend the night. Supper varied but always with a hot meat dish and vegetables. Baths were quick dips close to shore in chilly water.
We had been told to never swim in the river because of the strong current. The 75 year old man had been a swimmer all his life and didn’t see why he couldn’t swim here. He soon found that he couldn’t swim against the current. One of the guides rescued him, using a small boat they always carried. He was almost a mile downstream when they caught up with him. That was a lesson to all of us.
The river had been a lovely blue green but when we came to the mouth of the Little Colorado, the muddy water flowing from that turned the whole river brown. There had just been rain further up in the mountains and there was a good flow. The crew told us we could float down this river so many of us climbed over the bank and slid down the river, an exciting mud slide. My white shirt was never white again.
The weather had been beautiful but on the third night, toward morning, a thunderstorm, with lots of lightening and heavy rain woke us up. Bill and Marsh usually found a place by rocks with sand underneath where we could shelter in case of rain so we and our belongings were partially protected but most liked to sleep by bushes or trees and their things were soaked. They placed their clothes and sleeping bags over rocks to dry in the hot sun, then we explored that part of the beach. That was a short day on the river. The next day on our afternoon break, the guides stopped at a huge cave, a natural amphitheatre, that was open in front and could have held 300 or 400 hundred people. It had been used for a Hollywood film once.
From the time we started our trip, we had heard about the Lava Falls where rocks from an extinct volcano partially blocked the river. The river had to be at a certain height for the boats to even get through. The crew docked the boats just above the Falls and climbed up on the rocks to see the best path to get through them. All along our trip, canoeists and kayakers zipped past us but here they were up on the rocks as well, figuring out the best path for them. Our companion boat chose its course and made it through with many screams and laughter. Then it was our turn. We got wet and hung on for dear life but we made it through, too. The canoeists and kayakers had a wonderful time, finding a way up through calmer waters then enjoying the rush going through the rapids, time and time again.
Day six came and about mid-morning, the current wasn’t as strong and they had to start the motors. We had reached Lake Mead. Lunch was served on the boats and by 3 o’clock, we were helping unload the boats. Our big adventure was over except for exchanging addresses and saying goodbye to our new friends.