ADVENTURE: Winning the rafting lottery! |

ADVENTURE: Winning the rafting lottery!

Sharon Sullivan
Pete Atkinson rows vigorously while his wife, Monica, hangs on tight while going through Upset Rapid in Grand Canyon National Park. Atkinson was able to straighten out the 15-foot raft, coming out of the rapid upright.
Photos by Lee Gelatt Photography | Free Press

Boats capsized on four different occasions during a recent 18-day river trip through the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River runs fast and cold. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of those who rowed or were passengers on the Sept. 10-27 river trip through one of the world’s greatest wonders.

On seven oar rafts and two kayaks, 16 people traveled 226 miles, putting in at Lee’s Ferry, downstream from Page, Ariz., and taking out at Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

Grand Junction photographer Lee Gelatt captured not only some of the excitement and beauty of the trip, he also secured the highly competitive park service permit. He has applied each year since 2008. He was notified in February of last year that he had won the lottery for a September 2013 trip.

Despite days of hard rowing in order to meet their final destination by the take-out date, and the time it takes doing camp chores, cooking and rigging of the boats, the group made a point to stop along the way and hike into various side canyons such as Tapeats Creek, Deer Creek and Matkatamiba Canyon.

“You’re really down in the heart of the beauty of the Grand Canyon,” during those side canyon hikes, Gelatt said.

Monica and Pete Atkinson, owners of Whitewater West in Grand Junction, hung a sign on their door that said “Gone Boating” and closed their shop for three weeks so they could go.

The “absolute serenity; the quiet if you choose; being away from the workaday world” was how Monica Atkinson described the trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon.

“For others it’s the excitement of the rapids. For me it’s the only time when I can really leave everything behind. You’re not bombarded with radio, TV or people’s cell phones.”

Gelatt’s 21-year old daughter, Amy Gelatt, who’s grown up accompanying her parents on river trips and has rowed nearby Westwater Canyon, took charge of the oars in Grand Canyon for her first time, rowing the entire course.

“They’re huge rapids; they’re challenging,” her father said. “She’s quite accomplished.”

Also impressive were the other young adults, said Gelatt, including Matt Clark, Logan Hartle and Riley Gelatt, all Fruita Monument High School graduates, who paddled kayaks through whitewater rapids and assisted with rescuing people whose boats flipped, landing them in the water.

Exciting and fun, yes! However, floating the Colorado through Grand Canyon is not for the fearful.

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