The Grand Canyon is large, you could say.
Way down inside its walls, a great sense overcame me. One that I cannot describe. It’s like a window into the churning of the Earth, at times so breathtakingly large, it made me, my daily frets, my silly worries, and everything else in this world, feel increasingly small.
It was our last ride with whitewater.
Before the day went long and the fun took hold, Keith led us on a hike to an ancient overhang on the rocky cliffs to show us something special.
We learned about the native residents of this land. Before it was a sportsman’s adventure paradise, back to when it supported the livelihood of native men, women and children.
Some of the drawings are easily deciphered, others just look like tribal markings. Under a stone, Keith lifted out the remnants of ancient pottery and we passed it around to each other.
Just like touching a history book.
And, it made me wonder, is this the KitchenAid of old?
Even more so, it makes me wonder what all our belongings will look like in a few thousand years. iPads? Earbuds? The common variety garden hose? Who knows what will stick around to confuse and inspire tribes passing through a millions years from now.
But, we are here, right now.
So it was back to the river, to turn on the fun!
Our boat, being manned by Justin and Uncle “Spike” set out to do what no other boat had attempted — start a water fight with every other boat. Not only did we go all out and hit every boat with a water-guns, we borrowed buckets from our baggage boat (thanks Kate!) and conducted a full-on sneak attack.
Our guide, Meredith, got in on the act and stole Tom’s Mexican wrestling mask. We were on the war path and it was better than war paint. Soon enough, we became everyone else’s soaking wet target.
After some mighty-mighty water wars, we were on to the big stuff — riding the BULL.
The bull is just what you think it might be… riding on the front of the boat holding on with one hand keeping the other hand in the air. Even I rode the bull, and let me tell you, there is nothing as exciting as seeing the rapid from the top of the boat just before it collapses over you.
And, we have one on video. This is Kyle’s ride:
Late in the afternoon, after all the fun seemed to be over, we found ourselves with another big rapid and a rescue. As we came out of a Rapid 232, our last fearless ride on the river, we found a couple, one man and one woman, stranded in the eddy below.
He was riding atop an overturned boat.
She was solo in a kayak circling him. There was no way the two could turn their boat back from being belly-up. And, there was no land left in the narrow gorge to step out and get some footing.
We circled our boats and corralled theirs. Like bumper cars moving down the river, one of our boats made it close enough to push them into an eddy.
The belly-up boat missed.
So, down to the next eddy we paddled, while corralling the upside-down black bottomed boat all the way.
Another eddy was in sight.
Finally, Travis, manning a baggage boat, hooked on and muscled the ship ashore.
Ropes came out. Our guides went to work as if they had seen this a zillion times. Everyone jumped on land and lined up to do their part in the pulling rescue.
Except for me.
I stayed in the boat to take photos. (Hey, somebody had to record this!)
With a few heavy heaves the boat turned on its side and then landed on its back, with tied-down coolers and equipment bouncing after.
The couple looked relieved and a bit shaken.
With that valiant rescue as a grand finale, we bid them adieu and jumped in our boats to head to camp.
Our very last night of camp in the aptly named Separation Canyon.
And, our very first experience with cold beer, shipped in from Outdoors Unlimited on a motor boat to soothe us before our final destination.
We deflated the boats.
And set up for our last night of poaching camping spots.
And, then it was time to let loose and play for a bit before we said goodbye to the guides who would be leaving that night.
We were a group of 32.
Some of us related by blood, some of us newly welcomed to this family called Davis, and some of us strangers sent down to guide and navigate everyone through the wild waters of the Colorado.
But, somewhere along the way, it seemed as if the granite walls of this desolate canyon pulled us all together — molded us into one pod of people working together, playing together, and looking out for each other.
As I watched our guides precisely pack up their belongings and gingerly unload their boats, I realized something:
Some of us are made to spend our time on the job, with a desk, in an office, with clients, with patients, with spirits in restaurants, with paper and pen, among the city lights.
And, some of us are made to be on the water, paddling our way through life in a boat — in one of the biggest, deepest, grandest of canyons I have ever seen — just to give some of us the ride of our lives, and teach others of us that we are fearless.
As we waved goodbye to our guides, “The Chain” from Fleetwood Mac blared from the stereo on their boat as it motored up and away, downstream.
They left singing, dancing and waving goodbye back to us. All of sudden Dave realized and remarked:
“We now have no paddles, no boats and no beers.”
To which we determined the only reasonable thing left to do was sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island, sleep under the stars for one final night…
And, wait for the jet boat to arrive in the morning.