Grand Times on the Grand Canyon with SWA

Oh, damn, perfect conditions and we forgot the water skis!  An amazingly calm morning in the heart of Marble Canyon.
Small World Adventures just got off the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, and we couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

The Crew chilling out below Vasey’s Paradise.  From left to right: Eric, Oliver, Ina, Thomas, Rudi, Rae, Guy, Darcy, Valentine, Dave, Paula, Nina (Ursula is off to the right doing her own thang)!

Our amazing group was comprised of all kinds of fun and interesting characters; all super nice people and all willing to pull their weight (and more) around camp. 

Sunset over camp below the Roaring 20’s.  Yet another sweet, sandy beach to kick back on for the evening.

We had a crew of 8 from Austria, 2 from Montana, 1 from L.A., 1 from D.C., 1 from Norway and 1 from Colorado.  Needless to say, we were a diverse group who came together to help each other celebrate the trip of a lifetime!

Brad, Ursula and Ina taking advantage of the shade after hiking up the steep trail to the granaries at Nankoweep

It’s hard to put down in words what a 225 mile trip through the Canyon is all about.  It’s an unforgettable experience that I’m sure changed each and every one of us (yes, even those who have been down many times) in some way.

Sue enjoys the calm before the storm

For me, the most special part of a journey down the G.C. is just getting away from it all.  14 days without a cell phone, without a computer, without newspapers, Television, Facebook, etc…is just pretty damn awesome in my opinion!
 The family that drinks gas-powered Margaritas together, stays together!  Ursula and her 3 kids–Ina, Paula and Valentine enjoying life and each other at the camp below Lava Falls.

On all of Don and my other travels with a kayak, I constantly feel the need to “check in” and so we spend countless hours looking for internet cafes, or places where our phones work all so I can read a few emails, write some blogs, and post some crap on Facebook!

Eric, Sue, Rae and Nina enjoy a tranquil morning with awesome sights like Vasey’s Paradise and Redwall Cavern 

It is certainly liberating to be “stuck” at the bottom of the Big Ditch with no hope whatsoever of getting online.  I love it!  All the stress of office work just melts away as we shove off from Lee’s Ferry. 
Even though the light sucks in this photo, I love it!  Rudi leads his sons–Oliver and Thomas–through their 2nd lap of Hermit.  Rudi is looking good, Oliver is catching big air off the top wave, and Thomas is grinning big as he drops in behind his big bro.

By the time we’ve hit House Rock rapid I’ve forgotten all about emails, blogs and Facebook.  And, by the time we are in the middle of Lava Falls, I can’t even remember that anythingexists beyond the Grand Canyon. 
Valentine and Paula move in for a closer look at the “Desert Varnish”

It’s a great exercise in letting go, disconnecting and truly just living for the moment.  This is pretty easy to do when life is simplified such that it is on the G.C.—eat, kayak, eat, kayak, hike, eat, sleep, wake up, repeat. 
Thomas is not afraid to dive head first into a cool “douche” in 3 Springs  

The act of disengaging with the cyber world also creates the opportunity to ENGAGE with your fellow humanoids.  It allows us to sit down and have real conversations with people when we aren’t distracted by incoming text messages, or the TV on the background. 
Arrrrrg.  Beware of Jay the pirate

It’s amazing the things you can learn about people (including yourself) when you just kick back and listen to someone!

Dave definitely claiming the best; and BY FAR the longest surf of the day.  And, he did it without a paddle to boot.  Well, someone had to show those youngsters in their playboats what was up!

I think for many people on the trip, this whole concept of being cut off from the rest of society was a new feeling—or at least being cut off for 14 days straight.  But everyone dealt with it extremely well. 

Getting up close and personal with Deer Creek Falls.  Once they got their GoPro situated, the Austrian boys dove right in for the UBER DOUCHE directly under the falls
It wasn’t until the last day of the trip as reality was starting to creep back into the minds of the paddlers that I heard few comments like, “I wonder what’s happening in the outside world.” And, “I wonder how many emails I’ll have waiting when I get back to the office.”

Don feeling at peace since he’s forgotten to worry about whether he has more friends than Larry on Facebook
The ability to forget all this and just focus on the canyon is a gift that I don’t think any of us appreciated fully enough until we got back to our “real lives.”

Eric telling Ina to stop trying to eat the Great Pumpkin
Now, not everyone may have enjoyed being cut off as much as I did, but I know the trip was immeasurably special for every one of us in some way.

Dan and the gang enjoying the views from the Havasu trail

For some running the huge whitewater was a highlight.  A few people told me that they’d never run anything THAT BIG before in their lives and likely wouldn’t again.  What an amazing feeling to battle the seemingly endless breaking wave trains in the Roaring 20’s, ride the humongous waves at Hermit, or punch the formidable lateral at Lava! 

Party time!  Jay entertains “the kids” while Sue and Katrina kick back and enjoy an icy cold margarita!

For others, seeing the Canyon’s geology was the highlight.  The ever-morphing but always impressive shape of the canyon kept us captivated throughout our days.  One great thing about the trip is that the canyon itself is constantly changing.  No 2 days look alike as you move through Sandstones, Limestones, Shales, Granites, Basalts and much more. 

Best Trip Leader ever–Larry!  Best Baggage Boatman ever–Dan!  Best New Kayaker ever–Katrina!
Just before Lava Falls, boaters can start to see evidence of a massive lava flow that poured over the canyon rim filling gullies, capping rocks and crossing the river.  In places, it looks as if the lava were literally frozen still in a split second as it now stands suspended in mid-cascade down the canyon walls. 

Lunch time kayaking lessons.  Guy teaching Katrina everything there is to know about the wet exit
As John Wesley Powell wrote in his journal at the part of the canyon—“What a Conflict of Fire and Water it must have been!”  Day dreaming about the forces of nature at work to create the landscape we now float through is a worthy reason to do the G.C. in and of itself!

Oliver admiring contrasts as Havasu Creek joins the main river
And for some, the highlight of the trip was pulling into any one of the perfect sandy beaches that we called home each night.  Once the rafts were unloaded, people could set their minds to relaxing alongside the river and waiting for Jay’s “Supper time” call, wondering what kind of magnificent food he and Don cooked up tonight? 

Perfect place for a bow stall!
I know a few of us loved throwing away our watches and just living by the sun.  Get up when it gets light, go to bed shortly after it gets dark.  And, yes, I’m only 34 years old, but I fricking LOVE going to be at 7:45pm!
And while I know that Valentine, Ina, Paula, Thomas and Oliver didn’t necessarily love the whole “live by the natural cycle of the day” thing, I do believe the highlight for them was Jay’s “chain saw blender,” or being able to share such a special trip with their families.  

Nina and the “Devil Boat” make their way through President Harding Rapid
For Jay, the highlight (besides impressing everyone with his blender) was probably the fact that everyone started to call their solar showers “douche bags.”  Not really as bad at is sounds, it all came about because they learned that “douche” means shower in Norwegian.  So, from that moment onward, Jay had the pleasure of yelling each day, “Get your damn douche bags off my raft!”

Eric, Paula, Oliver, Rae, Ursula, Dave, Nina and Darcy gather around Larry’s raft to hear about the Marble Canyon Dam Site.  But, thanks to David Brower and the Sierra Club, Marble Canyon ain’t no lake!

Each of us has different reasons for loving the canyon and for fighting not to loose our wonderful memories from this trip. The Grand Canyon will impress upon us for many years to come, and we are all thankful for that!

I can’t wait until the next time I can watch the sunset on the Grand
Now, the SWA crew is heading back to Ecuador to begin the next adventure.  See you south of the equator!

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