Day One

August 26 - Thursday

5 AM
On the bus at the hotel

We've loaded our stuff on the bus and now we're sitting on it. The real start of the trip? No - still not yet. It started yesterday morning when Ali took me to the San Jose airport. My plane was on time and I was traveling light - all carry-on. Everything fit in my big travel backpack. Dad met me at the Las Vegas airport at my gate and we went down to get his bags. It was much warmer here than the Bay Area - it is hot actually. We were finally picked up by the La Quinta on Paradise Road and checked in. We were …

6:45 AM
On the bus driving from Las Vegas

The driver turned off the lights before and it was too dark to write. Now the sun's up and I've taken a nap. I decided to put my contacts in and keep them in ad they were pretty dry.

But once I could get my eyes open, I saw that we were in a very pretty canyon as we drove. The rising sun made for beautiful colors. And it seemed very deep. But it is no tourist attraction. What will the Canyon be like? I don't think I can even imagine it at this point.

To continue from before…

We got back from the casinos by 8 PM for the Intro meeting with the river tour company. Pretty short description and gave us our waterproof bags, an ammo can for daily stuff, and a coffee mug. He really emphasized the coffee mug - "Don't lose it!" We got to see who else would be on our boat and who wouldn't. I think we're on the older boat. Younger people have chartered the only other one leaving with us. Our guide will be Bear, with swamper George. We also met Mike and Noreen, from Atlanta - other rafters.

Dad and I managed to get our stuff packed into the bags. I had an easier time than him. Who knows what we'll really need? We called Walt and I talked to him and I gave Ali a call and then we got to bed around 10:30.

Getting up at 4 AM wasn't fun. I got a long shower and got dressed and before I knew it we were on the bus.

Now we're in Utah in some nice desert mesa scenery and it's time to eat the cheesecake we brought home from the Cheesecake Factory last night.

9:45 AM
On the bus

We're in wooded mountains now, just after our last purchasing stop, a little shop to buy a fishing license, a few toiletries, postcards, some snacks.

We've met Bear, our future guide. A teacher from SoCal. Nice and friendly. About 5'9" 240 or so. He looks strong, but not athletic.

I've read the Intro to the Geology of the Grand Canyon book and have a good feel for how the Canyon formed now.

Now we're back in brush-and-rock scenery, heading back down out of the forest. About 30 minutes to go, I just heard. We just dropped down into a big valley - very wide with large cliffs on the sides. The sky is crystal-clear.

There will be much to learn on the trip, and there are many unknowns to answer. Maybe I'll answer them as we go along, or at the end…

  1. Will this be fun?
  2. Will this be life-changing?
  3. Will Dad and I get along OK?
  4. How big will the rapids be?
  5. Will it ever be boring?
  6. Is it worth the money?
  7. Will we like the guide?
  8. Will we like the other rafters?
  9. Will we like the food and get enough to eat?
  10. Did we bring too much?
  11. Did we forget anything?
  12. Did we not know to bring something important?
  13. Will Mom be able to do this in the future?
  14. Will it be hot or cold?
  15. How wet will we be?
  16. Will we sleep well?
  17. Will I be able to appreciate the scenery fully?
  18. Will I keep this journal well?
  19. What new things will I learn?
    About the world?
    About the Canyon?
    About people?
    About Dad?
    About myself?
  20. Would I do it again?

We're getting close.

First stop - Lee's Ferry. Then - Marble Canyon.

12:45 PM
After lunch

Nice sandwich lunch, taken on the left bank just upstream from the pair of Navajo bridges. The sky is crystal-clear. Lee's Ferry was neat - a small path hugged the left bank where past travelers continued the land journey. Bear gave us a short talk as we pushed off - I was in the front - before we hit the first rapids. We got a little wet - not much. The canyon soon closed around us after the open space (relatively) of Lee's Ferry. Now the walls go up about 400 ft. (Picture of the raft before we all got on.)

Mike and Noreen - Atlanta
Delta pilot and flight attendant

Gary and Kathy - Atlanta
Delta pilot

Ray and Rita - Atlanta

So far, so good. Everyone has been nice and outgoing - trying to meet people and make conversation (except the Germans, understandably)

4:30 PM
1st Camp Stop
Picture from this campsite & my sketch

Much to write, really, but not sure how much time. I'm lying on my belly, on top of a very small rocky knoll that will be our first sleeping spot. I just took a picture on my outdoor camera with Dad in the bottom right corner. The light on the cliffs down river is nice now and will probably only get better.

The other couples (four married from Atlanta, two guys from Germany) have found spots around also. Some of the women are complaining, unfortunately, about the no-tent, odd-potty, rocky-ground, little-privacy situation. It's definitely not posh. Maybe one would expect more for paying $1700 each. But one shouldn't expect more considering the impact that would cause.

But let's talk about the rapids. They were fun AND COLD. I did spend some time shivering afterwards. Let me refer to my map and give the rundown.

First, though, I need to say that the binding on the map book I checked out came off pretty quickly - it was not waterproof, and the map was much more useful in my hand than in my box.

(Some pictures by Dad on this first day: starting into the canyon, a butte downstream, entering some small rapids, entering some larger rapids)

Mile 8 - Badger Creek - the first real rapids gave us a taste of what was to come. A good wall of water soaked all of us in front. The water was so cold. But being in the sun dried us out pretty quickly. (Here I am, pretty wet.)
Mile 11 - Soap Creek also got us pretty good. I wish more of a description was possible. After it we saw the rock where the Brown Inscription was written in 1889 to mark F. M. Brown's death.
Mile 14 - Sheer Wall Rapid
Mile 17 - House Rock Rapid

(We stopped around Mile 19, just above North Canyon Rapid)

Sheer Wall wasn't anything special, but House Rock was the toughest of the day. We first watched another company's boat (with two women guides) go and get some serious vertical motion, and then we went through. We took a few solid walls first and then towards the end hit a big wall that lifted me off my seat and pushed me backward. Two hands were needed, and I was a little unprepared. It did soak the "Cadillac Seats" also.

(Some more pictures by Dad: view of the raft's now-experienced occupants, the canyon gets deeper, the sun starts to set)

We also saw some bighorn sheep on the riverbank and took some pictures - I don't think I've been so close to those beautiful horns in the wild before.

Kathy and Gary sat up front with Dad and me, as well as the two German guys who took turns being up front. By the end, only Dad and I were in the very front. Dad needed to get Gary's rain jacket put over him to stop shivering for a while.

Now dinner is being prepared. Dad has started a hike to take a picture from downstream back to our landing. A chartered trip would be nice, I think. I'd like to share this with more people. It's very nice to have Dad here to share things with. It's important to have other people there - to help you see things and find things, to tell to look over at something and get that recognition and justification (what's Ali's word for this? (Editor's note: validation) ) that you're there and then, later, to remember with them.

Dad's taking a while on his hike. And it may be time for me to try out the potty system. It's now 5:20 PM.