We rose early to beat the sun out of our hot, rocky camp.
Quickly the shadow on the canyon wall morphed into bright red glowing rocks. The sun was on the move and coming our way.
As I meandered down to the breakfast table I was greeted not by our usual banana nut pancakes or french toast, but instead with a vat of oatmeal and a tray of cantaloupe. (Have I mentioned how I detest cantaloupe?)
Our guides weren’t fooling around.
They wanted us out of there.
And, we soon were. Our boats were loaded and ready to go at 6:42 AM, a small record for our morning crew.
We hiked back into the canyon and couldn’t believe our eyes. The water was turquoise. REALLY TURQUOISE. It’s reflection off the white washed rock made it even more intense.
We were awe-struck by the beauty. The large walls of canyon dipping down into the deep turquoise waters. It felt like we walked into a movie, or a fairytale, or at least Disneyland.
We stopped to take photos, everywhere we turned was something magical and TURQUOISE. Everything was blue-green.
As we hiked up and around the path, criss-crossing over the creek, we lost contact with the group ahead of us. So we waited for the group coming up behind.
No big deal to us, we were loving the scenery all around.
Finally, a guide appeared with the last people in our group and told us we had hurry up if we wanted to make it up to the top of the hike.
We asked what was up there, at the top of the hike, and he replied, “Just more of this, just another waterfall.”
Our guides told us over and over that morning we could play in the water all day, and choose any spot on the hike to stop and enjoy the water. So with this last confirmation, we decided to set up camp and hop in the water — it was calling to us! We wanted to play!
And, we did, digging into the calcium phosphate mud lining the river beds and making body paint. Kyle, Courtney and I tested out the stuff and it indeed sticks!
It was the perfect opportunity for me to wear my battle-cry, my mantra, my mandate that kept me jumping off boats and scooting behind waterfalls and not running away screaming bloody murder from scorpions and spiders.
I asked Courtney to write on my arm.
My canyon tattoo – FEARLESS!
Then, all of sudden, we lost the boys. Justin and Andy were nowhere to be seen. They were walking the turquoise waters of the river and we lost them.
We called out their names.
Nothing but an echo returned.
From behind the brush we heard something move. All we could see was a pair of eyes starring back. Emerging from the trees it was Justin and Andy, except they looked like odd sea creatures covered in white.
Then, Andy jumped on a rock. Perched up above, he looked like an giant insect waiting to pounce his prey.
They both brought body paint to life, covered from their head to torso.
Good thing the calcium phosphate washes off easily because we tested out its efficacy for facials. A little drying for the skin, but, hey, it was all we had!
As Courtney and relaxed on our rock I felt something on my thigh. I looked down and saw a tiny brown-green frog trying to crawl up my shorts.
“Eeeeeek!” I shrieked.
And, then it ran over to Courtney and tried to jump up her bikini bottoms too. Justin came over and rescued the little creature, who seemed right at home as he hopped up his shoulder, then climbed up his beard and finally rested on Justin’s head.
The hours rolled on and we were out of things to do. So we napped and talked and walked around waiting for our party to return.
When they did, we were definitely bummed.
Our exuberant tribe came bubbling out of the trail with tales of splendor. We kept hearing the phrase, “the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen,” and “olympic-sized pools,” and “jumping off rocks and waterfalls.”
That’s not what we were told. We looked at each other in shock. We were told the hike led to “just another waterfall,” the same as the rest of the river.
This didn’t sound like just another waterfall.
And, it wasn’t.
According to their photos….
It was big.
It was beautiful…
And, we missed it all.
We were more than bummed and disappointed. We felt fooled. We felt lied to.
If there is one thing I have learned from being in the canyon, it is this: Do what the guides do — not what they say. It’s probably a good rule of thumb in any survival setting.
But, the trip must go on.
We did have a great time, we enjoyed the turquoise water, and now, at least seven of us have a reason to go back. There is waterfall waiting to be seen.
That night in camp, we rediscovered the age old wisdom our mothers taught us, so very long ago:
The french braid train.
As night fell, the canyon grew dark.
There’s something so wonderful about rising with the sun and setting with the darkness. Without watches and cell phones and ipods there were really only three times to track in the canyon: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One comes with sunrise, the other with the high heat of the day and the latter folds you into bed. And, it was time to turn in.
As we entered our little camping area, Brad looked up at me with headlamp shining into my face and said, “I just found a scorpion in my shoe, you should check you stuff.”
My mind reeled. It was pitch-black, the only light to be seen was with our headlamps and those scorpions could be anywhere. And, I certainly didn’t want to stick my hand in my bag to find out if any baby scorpions were playing house in my toothpaste.
So, I did what any girl in her right mind would do — I went to bed without brushing my teeth.
As we settled into our sleeping bags, Justin’s headlamp shone so brightly it lit the canyon wall across the river. So, he made bunny ears with the shadow of his fingers and it seemed to hop across the entire canyon wall.
We giggled with roaring laughter and then he turned off his headlamp and we said goodnight.
Just then, across the canyon, a light turned on and somebody else made a dog.
Justin turned his headlamp back on and made a bird.
They countered with another bird.
Justin made a snake.
They made a dog.
Justin made a squid. (I don’t know how, but believe me, it looked like a squid).
They made a bird and then waved goodnight.
Justin waved a final doggy goodnight back and then all the headlamps were off.
As we settled into slumber, I thought to myself:
Isn’t it amazing what we can do to entertain ourselves…
Even without a TV, computer or the internet.