Fresh off my first Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon in several years, I am readjusting to life in the “real world.” The 10-day, one boat, motorized charter with Arizona Raft Adventures was organized by the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute, for which I am the director.
Geology was the primary focus, a topic most capably presented by the one and only Wayne Ranney. Though the crew as well as the dozen clients from across the country all pitched in to make this a comprehensive learning experience—both about the natural world, and each other.
In a whirlwind of impressions and memories from the trip, a few stand out:
- Waking each day to the Orion constellation cartwheeling into view above the darkened cliffs;
- watching a tarantula dipping himself into the Colorado River at Silver Grotto beach;
- making a sporting ascent of the mammoth rockslide choking Carbon Canyon en route to the incomparable views afforded by the Chuar Valley;
- listening to a Navajo flute performance in an near-vacant Redwall Cavern;
- weathering a microburst at Phantom Ranch whose gale force winds flung dime-sized raindrops sideways; bearing witness to the graveyard silence in the slot canyon of Blacktail, pierced by a perfectly-timed trill of a canyon wren;
- bathing in the forgiving mist of Deer Creek Falls after a sweaty climb to and from the serpentine narrows above;
- walking around the notorious Lava Falls rapids to photograph our boat slicing through it, and also realizing that negotiating the tortured volcanic rock in flip flops was possibly the more dangerous course;
- enjoying the nightly laughter of trip mates drifting across the sandy beaches as they communed with the canyon and one another.
These vignettes will remain with me forever, and beckon me back time and time again in order to gain a better understanding of this chasm which Major John Wesley Powell famously called the “Great Unknown.”