Updated: Apr 24, 2021
An oversized sun hat adorned the tip of one of our propellor blades as I walked up to the plane. The presence of this proudly placed hat snapped me to attention and brought a rush of buzzy excitement about what was to come. Four of us were poised to climb aboard for the flight from Bend to Flagstaff where we would rendezvous with twelve other like-minded souls and embark upon a 17-day rafting trip, covering some 225 miles from Lees Ferry below Lake Powell, through the Grand Canyon to our terminus at Diamond Creek. No motorized craft, no cell service, just 16 eager friends, 7 rafts, and enough food and beverages to sustain us throughout.
We departed Bend with the rising sun kissing our left wingtip. A beautiful morning for flying emerged as we set a course southeast through the Great Basin, passing the snow-capped Steens, Trout Creek, and Ruby Mountains. Soon, our crew of four flyers began to anticipate our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, excitedly recalling past encounters with this wonder of the world and clamoring to grab a view of the Colorado River’s winding green water, which we would soon call home. “What do you say we hang out down there for a couple of weeks?” Brian queried as we finally glimpsed the river. The rest of us all shouted some variation of “Heck, yeah!”, bringing our collective excitement to a new peak.
After our wheels softly touch blacktop in Flagstaff we met up with our fellow rafters. Our group, hailing from Oregon, Colorado, and Montana, was a mish-mash of veterans of Grand Canyon rafting trips past and those of us new to this adventure. We all fell into a rhythm, people from all walks leaving the stress and hard edges that come with our day-to-day existence for a blissful simplicity. We floated beneath two thousand-foot high walls of orange sandstone, gazing up from our rafts to the point where the rock gave way to the brilliant, cloudless sky. We scrambled up side creeks and through limestone slot canyons and hiked to Anasazi ruins and pictographs on precipices high above the river. We camped on white-sand beaches the size of football fields, cooked and ate dutch oven brownies, and listened to our guitar-strumming friend as the campfire crackled and the desert nights bathed us in a million stars.
Of course, there we moments of excitement and tension within our melodic existence. We would tie up the boats above the largest rapids and scramble down the shore until we could find a vantage point from which we could admire and decipher the beauty of these frothy pieces of whitewater which garnered names like Zoroaster, Bedrock, and Lava Falls. Discussions about the appropriate path around rocks and through waves would follow and finally, with an appropriate dose of butterflies, we would row our boats safely through the rapid, celebrating on the other side with hoots, hollers, and high fives.
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