As I was getting ready for my second Grand Canyon river trip, I admit that I wasn’t that excited about it. I didn’t actually admit those feelings to anybody except my husband Andrew. I knew that people would not be impressed with my negativity toward what most paddlers consider the trip of a lifetime. I know it sounds crazy, but I was in a space where I was resisting getting away — totally away from cell phones, websites and emails. In the past I’ve felt overwhelmed running my own small business feeling that if I’m not on it then everything will fall apart. Feeling as though what I’m doing is so important! I was on email up until the shuttle came to pick us up in Flagstaff and we had cell service most of the way to the put in. When I finally turned everything off and put my computer and cell phone away I decided that I wasn’t going to think or worry about work for the rest of the trip and, of course, it turned out that this trip was exactly what I needed!
When you’re in the Canyon you’re wedged in between walls of stone beings that have been around for billions of years. It’s as if they hold you in the present moment. There’s no space for thoughts about your other life to enter the depths of those walls. The instant you start down the river there is no other moment but the present and the people that you’re sharing the present with. I would wake up every morning to majestic, ancient beauty and stillness that immediately inspired feelings of gratitude and wellbeing. It’s so easy to feel joyful and peaceful in a beautiful, inspiring place like the Canyon.
After waking up I would roll out my yoga mat to practice and meditate. The view made entering into stillness easy and natural. On the days that I was paddling my kayak through flatwater I would paddle out ahead of the rafts, stop, close my eyes and listen. I could hear every little riffle of water magnified. That was usually when I saw the best wildlife too. A few times I floated up to unsuspecting bighorn sheep and other animals hanging out by the side of the river. When I was still like that I would notice little details about the birds, lizards, insects and water that surrounded me. I couldn’t think about the outside world if I tried — there was too much interesting stuff going on all around me.
One morning while I was packing up our camp site I flicked a good sized black spider off of my drybag. I kept an eye on it while I was putting other stuff away to make sure that it wasn’t going to make a run back to my bag. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that a lizard was checking out the spider. As I watched, the lizard pounced on the spider, chomped it in its mouth and ran up the cliff wall with it. It’s pretty cool to be so relaxed, still and in the moment that you notice this kind of interaction in the animal kingdom. I learned a lot by being still, listening and watching — from my yoga mat, my kayak, the raft and on hikes.
On the white water side the trip was really fun. I kayaked on all of the days with big rapids and spent most other days in Andrew’s raft. He rowed the whole river deciding to trade in his kayak on this trip for an 18 ft raft weighing 2000 -3000 pounds! There were only two of us paddling kayaks on the trip. On some days I was the only kayaker and I would go down before the rafts. The rapids on the Canyon aren’t hard, but they are big and they can be intimidating when you’re the only one in a kayak. I love big water so I had a blast running through the big waves. Lava is definitely the most challenging rapid. It was at one of it’s most difficult levels the day we ran it, and it was really brown. The brown water makes reading the water more difficult because you can’t really see the white water — everything looks meaner. As I was going down the meat of the rapid I got pushed under by a huge crashing wave. I remember asking myself: ‘Am I upside down or just underwater?’ It was a cool feeling because I wasn’t upside down, but the water had pushed me under right side up. When the water released me I came flying out of the water, still upright doing kind of a stern stall. It was really cool. Andrew said that I was down for a 2 count. Everyone else was still scouting the rapid when I went so they saw me disappear from up above.
The rapids are great, but the side canyons are my favorite places to play. One of the best features of the Canyon are the multitude of crystal clear creeks with waterfalls that flow into the main Colorado. Some of the hikes are long and tough while others are short and sweet. I love the feeling of standing under waterfalls, filling my water bottle up at the mouth of a beautiful spring or making ‘butt dams’ for shoe races down small side creeks. I saw a few pristine water sources that give me hope that the Earth still has a chance to survive and thrive. We are so blessed to have natural places like the Canyon that are protected and appreciated.
As we were traveling down the river I felt I was a part of a small tribe. In our case there were 16 of us and it was a fantastic group of people of all ages and backgrounds. The youngest was in their early twenties and the oldest was in their sixties. I really love being part of a small community that is interdependent. Everyone treats each other with compassion knowing that the success of the group depends on the attitude and actions of each individual. There were no egos on this trip and I am very grateful for that. In a world where a lot of people don’t even know their neighbors it’s refreshing to pitch in to make the community work — setting up and taking down camp, cooking, eating together, playing together, helping each other out with lines in rapids and so on. Our body rythms adjusted to the natural light. We were all in bed by 8 p.m. most nights and waking with the light at 6 a.m. Everything flowed nicely and simply.
The trip reminded me of some of the important things in my life: joy, play, beauty, the present moment, community, simplicity, awareness, stillness and compassion. The biggest and best reminder for me was that it’s ok to take time off and not worry about it. While I was gone everything was taken care of — nothing fell apart, everything was o.k. There may have been glitches with my website and I may have accidentally deleted my entire inbox when I got back, but I was amazed at how this didn’t bother me. It really doesn’t matter. I came back from the trip with a deeper knowing that when I do what brings me joy everything is taken care of and I attract more joyful things into my life. I read an Oprah magazine on the plane on the way home in which she says: “The one thing I know for sure is that what’s best for me is already on its way.” After this Canyon trip I know that this is true for me too.
Below is a photo gallery of our trip: