The Grand Canyon

I first fell in love with Arizona in 1966, when my grandfather took me on a six week adventure in his Alaskan camper atop his newly rigged out pickup, in every state west of the Rockies for my high school graduation present. I was ruined for life.

It was on that trip that I had my first taste of the Grand Canyon, shortly after I had already become infatuated with Flagstaff some 80 miles to the south. There was so much to see that summer that it was hard to get it all into perspective. It’s all a long story, (which will be in that book, one of these days!).

But skipping all the details – I found myself living in Flagstaff in 1971, but for only a short time, and again in 1975 when I moved out this time on my own terms. It was then that the seeds of the dream were planted. While trying to make a living with whatever I could scare up in the little mountain wonderland that was Flag in the 70’s, (excepting the hostess position at Denny’s, which I just couldn’t stomach), I was taking classes at the Museum of Northern Arizona, one of which was the geology of the Grand Canyon. (Here I must insert that at one time I was a geology major, with the firm intention of becoming a Park Ranger and actually working at such fantastical places as the Grand Canyon, or other equally amazing wonders which would be at my beck and call, but that’s still part of the book). One of the aspects of that course I took was the culminating adventure of a raft trip down the Grand Canyon, for which I was going to have to ask for a week or more off from my drab job. Screwing up my courage, I addressed the situation with my boss, and for reasons altogether unrelated to such a request, and having nothing to do with my job performance, I found myself fired. So much for my raft trip. And for the record, I’ve not been fired from a job before or since, but I’ve sure quit a few.

Plan B did not find fulfillment until the fall of 2006, certainly a long birthing process for any dream, but fulfillment nonetheless. There had been many visits to the canyon, and finally the chance to put my toe in the mighty Colorado River the year before, but that raft trip had to wait a long time. But I did it – I crossed off a seminal “Things To Do Before I Die” on my life list. I rafted The Grand. Ten days on the river, nights sleeping under the stars, and a reality so magnificent that it made it damn near impossible to return to whatever passes as everyday life.

Beside the granaries at Nankoweap, an 800 foot hike up from the Colorado.

It was the best gift I ever gave myself. I’d waited 30 years to fulfill one of my grandest dreams, and I made it happen. To make it even better, the adventure was accomplished as a part of a photographic workshop, so it was geared to us photographer types, with ample stops to hike and seek out the magic places. 226 miles of sublime experience, and I am forever hooked on the river, and that wondrous canyon. It was worth the wait, and then in 2010, I did it again!

The first trip was in Fall, the second in Spring. The second time through I rode a lot in the oar boats, which was an entirely different experience. Going through Lava is the test, but many of the rapids will give you just about equal thrills. I don’t know if I’ll do it again. There are so many adventures to be had, and the clock is ticking. But I urge you to make the trip if you have the inkling. It’s an old cliche that “it’s a life changing experience.” This time the cliche is Truth. Go. Get wet. Have yourself a time.

Bailing out after coming through Lava Rapids.