Sunday, July 08: Grand Canyon: Rafting
The spray is darned cold!
Our room was perfectly situated to avoid train noise. It was in the middle of the side away from the tracks. Particularly with the A/C on, we couldn’t really hear the trains at all.
Today was woefully disorganized, but it worked out well in the end. We were told to be ready at 7:00. This was tight, as breakfast begins at 6:30 only. So we got up at 6, skipped showers, and were waiting for breakfast to open.
It seems that Indian time runs a bit slower than clock time. Breakfast opened around 6:35 to 6:40. We ate quickly, went up to our rooms, got our stuff, and we were down and ready by about 7:02.
And we waited.
I had thought that we were supposed to be down and ready to go at 7. It turns out that we were supposed to be down ready to go at 8, and down and *start to get ready to go* at 7. Even so, we didn’t get on the bus and leave until after 8:30.
The take out point is near the “skywalk”, the cantilevered glass-bottom walkway out over the canyon. When we had arranged the raft ride, we had asked about doing the skywalk also, and we were told that it wasn’t possible. But this morning we found that it was quite possible, and that half the group was doing it! We were told to tell them so that we could get on an earlier flight out and have time to do it.
We had about an hour bus ride (in an old school bus) down to the river. One of the guys asked if she ever got flat tires on the dirt road, and the driver said never.
It was forecast to be 113 down in the gorge (it was only 100 and some change on the rim), so I was worried about being too hot. So I wore just my swim suit and a tee shirt. We brought our rain jackets, but we put them in the dry bag.
The rafts are essentially a steel box attached to two pontoons. So the front wall, between the pontoons, is vertical. I think this was scientifically designed to throw the maximum amount of water into the raft.
Because of the speed imparted by the motor, when we hit the first tiny set of rapids (almost immediately), it was like someone threw a couple of buckets of water in my face. (Later on, when we got to big rapids, it was like someone threw a trashcan of water on top of me.) The water in the Colorado is about 50 degrees, so it was cold.
The first blast was refreshing, but after that it got increasingly cold. I was seated second on the side, so I didn’t get as much as the first guy, but I got plenty. At one point, the woman across from me said, “The water is going up my nose and out my ears!”
In the stretches between rapids, I would just begin to dry out and warm up when we would hit the next one and I would get another soaking.
A short way down, we stopped to get off where a side creek flowed in. We did a little hiking, some climbing on a rope/wood ladder, up to a slot canyon with a nifty waterfall. This water was much warmer than the Colorado. On the way out we could have “rappelled” down the waterfall (which was at an angle rather than vertical) rather than climbing down the ladder. I didn’t know this until after I had climbed down the ladder, however, and I didn’t want to bother going back up just to go down. We also had an option (which I did take) to slide down about a four foot slide into a small pool.
After that it was back down the rapids. Michael had a large grin on his face most of the way, although he (as well as I) was getting rather chilled by lunch.
Lunch was basically cold sandwiches, chips, and a soda. Some people ate theirs on the boat, while some of us went onto a small beach to eat.
The second half of the trip was “flat water”, so I didn’t bother digging out my raincoat. This was a bit of a mistake, however, as there was just enough spray off the front of the pontoons as we motored along (we had to cover 40 miles) to keep us totally damp (and which made it hard to look ahead without getting your glasses yucked up).
I think I would have enjoyed both parts of the raft trip with my raincoat on.
Near the end, we put in at a small beach, where some of the people swam out to a small part of the rocks that you could climb, and then jump into the water. The theory was that it would take an hour or two to helicopter everyone out, and that it was more fun to spend the time at the beach rather than baking in the sun.
The take out point was actually a floating dock and a gangway to a flat area, where there was a small shelter and the helicopter landing pads.
We were the last boat in, and our driver skipped the first dock and went down stream to a second one. We started leaving the boat, but they suddenly called us back. It seems we were supposed to be at the first one. So we motored back up, and got off there.
(It seems that the rafts go another two hours down the river to where there is access by vehicles.)
The helicopter site was total confusion. There was one guy, who seemed to not really care about the clients weighing people. One woman jokingly tried to cover the scale reading so that no one else could see how much she weighed. So the guy ended up reading it out loud. Not very professional at all.
One married couple was put on two different flights. One of them wanted to change with another person of similar weight so that they could be together, and they were told that it couldn’t be done. We told them that we were hoping to do the skywalk, but we still ended up being on about the second to last flight. All in all, it was very confusing and poorly organized.
Things got better up on the rim, however. We told our bus driver what we wanted, and she helped ferry us through the buying of the tickets. They she drove us and the other family from our raft over to the skywalk itself. We were given an hour there, but we actually were done in 40-50 minutes. I guess everyone else ended up killing time at the touristy area waiting for us. (Interestingly one of the buildings there was *inflated*. You entered through a revolving door so there was never a direct opening from inside to outside, and your ears popped as the pressure inside was higher than outside.)
I had thought that the skywalk was all glass, but it is really two steel “horseshoes”, with a glass panel between. More unnervingly, there is a rope saying “do not cross” keeping people outside from getting too close to the cliff. Apparently people disregarded that, so they eventually took it down. So you could (and people did) step over this foot-wide crack and then to the edge of a several hundred foot vertical drop. People were getting scarily close to the edge, although apparently no one had fallen yet.
It is interesting what bothers people. The crack in the rock, and the 3/4 inch gap between glass panels bothered Amy, but the height itself did not. In my case, I wasn’t bothered by the crack at all, and I wasn’t bothered by walking on the glass floor or looking through the crack, but I found it very unnerving to look over the sides. Go figure. The other wife that was with us was even more afraid of heights than I was, because she mostly stayed on the “horseshoe” and avoided the panels themselves.
Afterwards, we got some ice-cream. I had to use my credit card, because I hadn’t brought my wallet. (In hindsight, I should have brought my wallet and put my fanny pack in the ammo box.)
We then got bussed back to the main area. While they were loading the rest of the group, we checked out the rafting pictures. You couldn’t really identify most of us, so we didn’t get any. We did, however, get a pair bottles of water (one for Mike and one for Amy), which was a good thing.
Then we got on the bus and headed back.
It was a different bus and driver than we expected. It turns out that the normal bus/driver got a flat tire (apparently jinxed from the comment that guy had made) and had then been side-swiped by a car on a curve. So this was an alternate bus. It had A/C, but it didn’t work that well, so it was fairly warm in the bus. It was a 2-1/2 hour ride back, and Michael was amazing patient.
Back at Peach Springs, our first priority was dinner, then I took a shower. The room had not been made up, and there was a note from housekeeping to check in at the main desk. Amy did so, and they had no clue. So we went to bed.