I’m a world traveler, yet very much the suburbanite. I live only 10 miles from New York City in densely populated northern New Jersey.
I’m a hiker but NOT a camper. I’ve gone on tons of day hikes on the East Coast, Mid-West, Rockies, Alps and Alaska. However, I’ve only camped once in my life and it was car camping. Thus, my experience with “roughin’ it” was non-existent.
I’ve hauled my kids around the world on family vacations, yet I still travel heavy for some reason and take way too many toiletries with me when I travel.
And I’m NOT a fan of roller coasters and water flume rides, which are man-made versions of river rapids.
In light of the above confessions, how in the world did I survive a week camping IN the Grand Canyon and white water rafting on the mighty Colorado River this past summer?
The First 24 hours
Truthfully, I didn’t fare too well the first 24 hours of my Grand Canyon Expeditions’ week-long rafting/camping trip last summer.
First, there were the quick yet intense storms on day #1 and #2 which hit while we were on the rafts in the Colorado River. This was certainly not what I expected since I associated the Grand Canyon in the summer with non-stop heat and sunshine.
Then there was the realization that the Colorado River water is cold! This meant that bathing was a quick affair on the banks of the river only on hot days. Luckily, my annual family vacations at Cape Cod prepared me somewhat for chilly water.
Lastly, as a middle-aged suburbanite, I was not used to reposing in a sleeping bag for a week. Admittedly, when I woke up achy on day #2, I wondered, “What was I thinking coming on this trip?”
My Rapid Transformation
However, Mother Nature had other more positive things in mind for me, my nine-year-old son Ethan and 13-year-old niece Lindsay since the rhythm of river life soon captivated us and worked its magic. Overnight, I went from being a high-energy business owner and single mother of two who is used to the fast pace of the New York metro area, to someone who relished sitting on the edge of the raft for hours and watching the magnificent scenery go by.
The rhythm of river life also flowed over to camp life. Each evening, I looked forward to playing cards with the teens in our group and my son while the Grand Canyon Expeditions crew cooked another delicious dinner. The meals themselves were also something we all looked forward to.
Surprisingly, I quickly released my attachment to living my life by the clock. I instead learned an important lesson: how to “be” in the present moment. While this is usually not easy for Type A personalities like myself, it happened to me overnight while in the Grand Canyon.
Another factor key to my transformation from trepidation to affirmation was the fact that there was no electronic communication possible for the entire week. Wow: NO cell phone, NO computer, NO email! At first it made me a bit uneasy, but after a day of being enraptured by the constant salubrious sound of the Colorado River, I easily let go of my usual need to communicate with the outside world and embraced the here and now.
Mother Nature Trumps All
But the biggest reason I was able to undergo a metamorphosis from highly doubting that I’d actually enjoy this trip to ACTUALLY ENJOYING THIS trip was the amazing natural beauty that surrounded me night and day. From endless views of overlapping canyon walls in various hues of brown and orange to hidden gems such as the many waterfalls we hiked to, I was mesmerized by my surroundings after only 24 hours in the Canyon. I sometimes pinched myself and would say, “I really am in the Grand Canyon! This is not just a dream!” The restorative nature of the river along with the Shangri La-like waterfalls was as impactful as the mighty Canyon walls.
After my unease the first night, I actually looked forward to awakening at 3 a.m. (my inner clock was on East Coast time most of the trip). For it was then I could peek out of my tent and feel the stillness of our camp and see the sky filled with more stars than I’ve ever seen. And as an added seductress, there was a full moon during our trip! Some nights the moon was visible through a mere crack in the Canyon wall while other evenings I’d only see moon shadow high atop the Canyon.
As if in symphony, sea, sky and rock unwittingly worked their charm. I easily got hooked on the beauty of the place and that connection far outweighed my initial concerns regarding corporal needs. Because of the vastness of the Canyon, any concerns I had on the trip or at home, seemed insignificant when compared to the ancient rock walls that surrounded me.
Would I do it again?
Yes, yes, yes! I’ve become the biggest fan of Grand Canyon Expeditions since our adventure. Here’s why:
- Despite many a great cruise in the idyllic Greek Isles and Alaskan glaciers, I’ve never been “wowed” by my natural surroundings as much as I was during our river rafting trip. There’s a big difference between “seeing” scenery when one travels versus “being a part” of one’s surroundings. I truly felt that I was one with the grandeur of the Canyon since I was privileged to spend an entire week IN the Grand Canyon. Most folks get to view it from above briefly, yet we instead explored its nooks and crannies.
- Prior to this trip, I was used to exploring waterways via mammoth cruise ships that accommodate 4,000 passengers. However, due to the rapid recent growth of cruise ships and their focus on the hotel and entertainment aspects of cruising, I missed the connection between sea, sky and earth. I certainly got my fill of that beautiful connection with the natural forces of water, sky and earth pulling me towards them on our Grand Canyon Expeditions family vacation.
- I felt a deep sense of peace throughout my journey. Actually, the adjustment back to my high-paced life in the concrete jungle was far more difficult AFTER my Grand Canyon Expeditions trip than was the first 24 hours of the trip when I wondered what I’d gotten myself and the kids in to.
The bottom line is that these positive experiences far out-weighed my attachment to my usual comfortable bed, dry clothes and attention to hygiene.
Although I’m sitting back in my suburban office only 10 miles from New York City as I write this, whenever I view photos from our Grand Canyon family vacation I still say to myself:
“Wow, I can’t believe I was actually IN the Grand Canyon for a week! It almost seems like it was a dream. A REALLY good dream!”