My parents very generously gave my brother and his wife, my husband and myself, and themselves a 4-day Grand Canyon trip with Western River Expeditions as our Christmas 2010 gift. We were finally able to schedule it for mid-September and it was amazing! Here’s what happened:
Saturday – Monday morning:
We all flew in to Las Vegas (my first time!), got together for meals and some sight-seeing and gambling, then went to the trip meeting spot on the South end of the strip around 11 am on Monday.
Took a small bus from the Desert Rose Hotel in Vegas to a small airport to take a very small aircraft to a ranch on the Grand Canyon rim in Arizona. (ie: the airplane was so small that we each got weighed as well as our luggage - you were allowed a 20 lb. bag – and we got seated by weight). Took the 45 minute flight with views of the strip, Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon too the ranch landing strip made of pebbles, where we were picked-up by “Garth,” the ranch manager in another small bus. It was a short 5-minute ride to the ranch from there! We grabbed lunch, got our sleeping assignments (we slept in a covered wagon), and had our orientation. Then we went horseback riding, saw some of the wildlife that inhabit the area, and went on a two-hour ATV ride to the edge of the rim. We made it back in time for dinner (with some of their hand-raised, organic beef), showers, and their evening “Cowboy Show” (singing, dancing, story- and joke-telling), before the generator was shut-off at 10 pm with lights out! (They use solar-power since they are 80 miles from the closest town with electricity.)
Up at 7am for breakfast, skeet shooting, and a quick helicopter ride in to the Grand Canyon! It was a beautiful flight (well, I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with choppers…) out over the rim and straight down to the river. The pilot dropped us off and picked-up passengers who had rafted the first 7-days of the Colorado River. It was very clear they had done this many times before!! After everyone from the ranch had been delivered riverside, we met our guides Ben & Parker and had a brief raft orientation. Then we took off for our first set of rapids! We quickly learned that those of us that sit up front are going to get soaked (see the video I posted HERE), and on some of the bigger rapids, even those in the back would get a little wet! We stopped for lunch and then dinner & camping – the stars were unbelievable and they cooked WONDERFUL meals! We were shocked!
I crashed early (around 7pm) the night before, so I was up and ready to go when the sun came up! We packed-up camp and got back on the raft for our first rapids of the day! Unfortunately, it was rainy and cloudy for a lot of the morning in to the early afternoon, so it was actually a bit chilly! We all had our rain gear on for the rapids and some (like me) had shivers for a lot of the morning – I was cold! We stopped for a hike to see some very old hand painted figures, then another trek up in to the Travertine Grotto. (A lot of us took “showers” in the warmer, cleaner water and then magically the sun came out to dry us off quickly! It was invigorating and just what I needed!) All the time, hitting rapids in-between. My husband, my brother, and his wife rode up front a lot - not surprisingly - but I was really proud of my parents who both took a few of the rapids head first! Then we stopped for dinner and camp again that evening – they made surf n’ turf (steaks & rainbow trout) plus a freshly baked chocolate cake for desert – truly impressive!
Our last rapids on the Colorado River were in the morning! After the delicious chocolate-chip pancakes we all had engorged ourselves on and the sun shining down for the first time during rapids, we were really excited to hit some of the biggest. But after that, it was two hours of motoring down through still waters due to the silt build-up over the rocks on the bottom of the river. Our amazing trip was coming to an end. We said goodbye to our guides and were picked-up by a speedboat to travel the last bit of the River (and part of Lake Mead) to coach buses. We stopped in a small Arizona town to pick-up our bag lunches at a deli and took the 2-hour ride back to the hotel in Vegas. We were all ready to shower and pass-out! Which, is pretty much exactly what we all did. It was a trip I will NEVER forget!
Friday – Saturday:
We got together for meals and gambling again (we actually all left winners, which is unbelievable to me!), and also my Aunt & Uncle were there to visit with us, before we all took our flights home on Saturday.
I still can’t believe how much we did in that short amount of time…and how I will never forget a single moment of it! Thank you Mom & Dad (and thank you Western River Expeditions!)
PS: I thought you might enjoy seeing our camp toilet (below)...you should have seen the views!