A water girl’s adventure: The Grand Canyon | PostIndependent.com

A water girl’s adventure: The Grand Canyon

Andrea Palm-Porter
Special to the Post Independent

I’ve been a water girl since I can remember. Growing up living on the Wisconsin River, during the summer I lived in my swimsuit, on a boat or outside. I remember asking my mom if I could go to a summer camp and she told me “you live as if you were at a summer camp.” She was right.

Naturally, when I moved to Colorado I was drawn to the outdoors and of course rafting. Over the years, I experienced rafting on bigger water and different rivers. The love of the excitement, the force of water, nature and being outdoors filled my soul. One lesson the water has taught me is to not fight it and to go with the flow. That’s a lesson that can easily be adapted to almost every aspect of your life, so when the stars aligned, I took that lesson to the Grand Canyon in April.

I was invited on private, expedition-style trip with 15 other people. The plan was to have seven rafts and two kayakers. Despite knowing only one other person in the group, I jumped at the so-called once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Approximately 30,000 boaters get the privilege of seeing the Grand Canyon from the water each year. The 280 miles, from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry, takes you into its spell immediately with its breathtaking views, landscape, geology, history, folklore, secrets and adventure.

There was a bit of anxiousness leaving, although once on the river it was clear that the decision to be there was now a choice and at that point there was nothing to worry about, as to what you left outside the canyon. The switch flipped and I was instantly present with everything and everyone.

The sound of the canyon wren is one that still sticks with me. It was like a baby laughing from deep in its belly. The smell of desert and the water, the silence, the moonlight and sunlight all contributed to a wondrousness.

Day three was a stop at Redwall Cavern to play Frisbee and then on to Buck Farm for a hike down a side canyon and private concert by two of the musicians on the trip. A lesson of letting go and just being was clear as I saw a butterfly drinking out of a small pool of water in Buck Farm Canyon. The echo within the side canyon from the music will forever be in my heart.

At this point on the trip, each day turned into the best day ever and I couldn’t figure out how that was happening. I kept saying “this is the best day ever” and then the next day trumped it. I realized I didn’t need to know and that I just needed to experience it.

All the side hikes were magical — the Pueblo Womb, the Little C turquoise waters, Elves Chasm, Havasu Falls, Fern Glen, Deer Creek and the Thrones Room. All the rapids were big. Even the small rapids (Class 2 or 3) where big rapids compared with our area. The 6-plus and up were something to be reckoned with.

The Grand Canyon uses a 1-10 rapid scale. We were lucky, as everyone on the trip made it out alive. We had two rafts flip (one in Granite and another in Crystal) and one wet exit from a kayaker. We also had a helicopter evacuation after Bedrock Rapid that resulted in a broken oar and a few broken ribs with internal injuries.

The group dynamics were beyond impressive. I believe knowing the type of trip we were all on and what was at risk created a safe and trusting environment immediately. There was an instant bond and everyone was there to contribute and do whatever was needed at any given time.

What’s interesting was my perception of time. It didn’t matter what time it was or what day it was during the trip. You woke up when it was light and you went to sleep when it was dark. When you wanted to know what day it was, someone would call out “it’s day 7.” Days were noted by the number of days you’ve been on the water. This reminded me of a mantra I’ve told myself for years “there is plenty of time,” there was and will always be.

There was some essential gear that I found necessary outside the recommended Grand Canyon Packing List. My EnerPlex solar panel charger for the camera, iPod, GoPro and any other electronic device. And you quickly figure out the lighter-weight gear you can have the better, based on all the lugging of gear in and out of the boat each day. I was thankful for my 1.9-pound Helinox Chair One camp chair and 2-pound, 6-ounce Boot Jack sleeping bag from Big Agnes in Steamboat.

Re-entry back into civilization after being on the river and a trip of this caliber was interesting. At take-out it was a rainy mudfest, so the breakdown of all the equipment and goodbyes were fairly quick. The drive out through the Joshua Trees was another gesture of beauty, and then hitting the highways, traffic lights, and a convenience store were telltale signs the journey was over. Even though the adventure was over, the lessons learned, the new friendships, new experiences and new discoveries will last a lifetime. If you were to ask me to do it again, the answer would be a very clear yes.

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