The Grand Canyon sparks ideas of a vast expanse going on as far as the eye can see, barren, dry and lacking mercy in a harsh environment; yet blessed with incredible vistas and chameleon colours, which change with the rise and fall of the sun.
On previous visits to the mighty Grand Canyon I patrolled the rim trails from high above peering down with amazement, and followed the snaking trails down into the canyon which only 5% of its millions of annual visitors ever experience. Even flying over the canyon in a five person helicopter illustrates what an amazing path the Colorado River has etched over some 17 billion years.
Apart from the obvious and breath-taking magnificence the canyon offers to everyone who gazes upon it, there is also a rich bio system which hosts a vast array of flora, fauna, bird species and geological wonders. The deeper I looked with each sequential visit, the more secrets and amazement the canyon unveiled.
So having followed the trails from the rim, hiked down into the canyon and flown high overhead I decided to venture deep into the belly of the canyon and raft the Colorado River. My goal was to gauge in some small way what John Wesley Powell and his team experienced in 1869.
We set off from the desert neon city of Las Vegas for Lees Ferry, leaving behind the comforts of home and Wi-Fi/mobile reception for the next eight days. With two boats of 10 people, our motley crew of intrepid travellers set off from the beginning of the Grand Canyon, down the Colorado River with the aim of travelling the entire length of the canyon.
Unlike John Wesley Powell and his crew, we were travelling with stocks of delicious cuisine, enough ice for the duration, inflatable rafts and guides who knew the river like the back of their hand.
Being in close proximity for eight days facilitated easy group bonding and name learning and conversations flowed easily. Within days it felt as though we had been together for months and friendships were formed with people who I am still in contact with now.
Each raft has three sections: the front for the brave hearted where we sat on cushions taking the full impact of the rapids with frequent Colorado River showers; the middle section with a raised viewing platform and occasional showers, and ‘The Cadillac’ near the back where we could enjoy views with minimal impact from the rapids and only a light dusting of spray. Each place in the raft offered a unique visual and group experience and a new friendship was formed on a daily basis as people changed places.
Each day without fail the scenery which surrounded us and towered above, can only be described in one word…EPIC. I would need to be a novelist to describe the raw, unaffected 365 degree beauty on offer all day. One memory imprinted on my mind forever was during a hike on one of the trails, when we stopped for shelter to wait for the rain shower to pass beside a magnificent slot canyon. The result from the build-up of water was hundreds of channelled waterfalls cascading over the mountain top, sliding down the canyon walls. It felt as though we were in Pandora, completely isolated and without noise, whilst Bald Eagles soared!
Due to the heat at night, it was preferable to cool off with a nice breeze by sleeping outside of the tent on a camp stretcher, under a blanket of stars like I’ve never seen before. The relaxing feeling of listening to the flowing water splashing off of the rocks as shooting stars fly overhead at night is awesome, as is waking up as the sun rises over the canyon, filtering the rocks with colour hues which transform in brilliance, slowly burning off the morning mist.
My favourite morning routine was a refreshing swim as bacon sizzled and brewing coffee filled the air, teamed with towering mountains which cascade all around and complete silence and peace.
Although I could talk about this trip for a long time, the entire experience was more than I expected. The camping was comfortable, food was 5 star (guides baked cakes and bread for dinner), river guides detailed our daily viewing, the scenery was mind-blowing, rapids were exciting and the group helped make this a wonderful experience.
If you are considering this experience don’t delay! For more information about this tour and what to expect check out our tours below.