Grand Canyon Expeditions GCEX Main 1 Comment

By Luisa

You’ve arrived!

After careful preparation for your Grand Canyon Expeditions’ (GCEX) adventure you and your family are finally river rafting down the mighty Colorado River amidst awe-inspiring Grand Canyon scenery. Ahh…the trip preparation WAS totally worth it!

But what’s expected of you and your family once you are river runnin’ by day and camping on the shores of the Colorado River by night?

Rafting Rules

Aboard GCEX’s rafts, your guides are similar to a captain of a ship. They navigate, they educate, and what they say goes. This makes them sound stern – which is quite far from the truth. Our guides were Art and “Beav”; they were masters at navigating the river. Once aboard the rafts, it was clear to all of us that the Colorado River and its rapids need to be respected. Thus, all guests – even my son Ethan who was the youngest (9 years old) in our group – heeded all instructions from Art and Beav. These varied from “Rapid ahead; please sit down. All those in front, sit toboggan style and hold on” to “make sure your life vest is buckled” every time we shoved off from shore. Simple instructions but definitely worth listening too!

When we weren’t runnin’ a rapid, we were free to relax on the rafts. Snacks were handed out mid-morning and mid-afternoon and there was always plenty of drinking water available to keep us hydrated. Hydration is a must since the sun and wind can de-hydrate you easily especially children. My son Ethan was not drinking enough water in the beginning of the trip and he was feeling sluggish and nauseous. I mentioned this to Art and he made me wake up
Ethan to drink copious amounts of water. By next morning, Ethan was his usually perky self. So while Art was our river guide, he also doubled as trip medic and tripled as chef! His multi-faceted talents never ceased to amaze us and as a parent, I felt very secure knowing he was in charge.

Duffel Lines

Ok, this was NOT everyone’s favorite part of the trip! But I have to admit there was a sense of team work every time we docked on a new beach for the night and formed a duffel bag line. Art and Beav would ask us to line up facing each other in a line that stretched from the raft to up the beach. As the guides and assistants handed off our personal duffel bags, ammo boxes (metal, waterproof boxes for valuables) and sleeping duffel bags, the duffel line expedited off-loading and finding our equipment to set up camp.

I was amazed that the many teens in our group jumped right in and never complained about having to be a part of the duffel line. Maybe there was no “baditude” because it was such a unique thing for them to do AND they could stand by their buddies on the duffel line if desired. My son Ethan’s strength surprised me as he joined right in each time. I think it made him feel good about himself that he was old enough to be a part of the “team.”

Tent Time

Teamwork is necessary for setting up your tent too. The tents are easy to assemble – even for someone like myself and my son who’d never pitched a tent before. However, securing the long tent poles into the ground are a bit challenging to do on your own. Since there were three of us in our party, I encouraged Ethan and my teen niece Lindsay to assist some of our new-found single friends in setting up their tents.

If you prefer to have a star-filled sky as your wallpaper, then there is no need to set up a tent. However, many in our party did set up their tent even if they slept outside. This way, they had a private place to get dressed and a just-in-case spot if we were surprised by rain storms during the night.

I didn’t let the kids sleep in too much in the morning because I was a bit neurotic about making sure we had our tents, duffel bags, and ammo boxes packed up in time to load them onto the raft for the daily morning departure from our beach campsite. Since I was a newbie at pitching tents and camping as a whole, I admittedly over-compensated so that my fellow campers would not know this was a new experience for me!


Meals were always looked forward to on our trip. The third hat that Art and Beav wore was that of amazing chefs. From hot, griddle breakfasts to lovely on-the-run lunches and ethnic dinners, the food was beyond plentiful. I’ve been on dozens of cruises where food is always sumptuous. I never, ever expected this to be the case when traveling by a river raft that is a fraction the size of a cruise ship!

Some of my favorites were: amazing grilled steaks; Mexican night with ALL the fixin’s; and Thai peanut wraps. I have extensive food allergies yet I never had a problem with meals during our GCEX trip. (The following article is helpful for those with special dietary needs: Be advised though, you have to alert the head office at least a month prior to your departure if there are special foods you need them to stock for you.

Leisure Time

As a divorced parent, I don’t know what “leisure time” means when I’m back home! That said, I so relished our leisure time on our GCEX river rafting trip because it truly was totally relaxing. There was nowhere to go….nothing that had to be done…no chasing kids around a hectic theme or water park like on other family vacations.

Instead there was simple and enjoyable camaraderie where all ages mixed. I can’t remember the last time I played cards with my son nightly, as I did on that trip. Actually since we so enjoyed playing cards together with our new friends, Ethan and I now play cards a lot more at home than before the trip. That said, make sure you bring a deck of cards with you because they are compact and provide hours of family fun. If you have any other small games, they might be worth bringing too.

Art brought along bocce ball for the kids and teens, which they enjoyed. He also brought simple water sprayers which were used to keep us wet when it got too hot on the raft. However, my son found another use for them: one day he and another girl hid in the canyons of a short hike. As we completed the hike, they surprised us with a cascade of water. On that hot July day, it was welcomed for sure!

It’s funny to think of how different our lifestyle was for that one week last summer. While it took about a day to get used to the routine, now that I am sitting hours on end at my computer amidst chilly weather, there is nothing more that I’d like to do than enjoy the camaraderie of my family and friends on our Grand Canyon Expeditions adventure. Throw in the sound of the rush of the Colorado River and soaking in nature’s most spectacular creation — the Grand Canyon – and it makes for quite the “happy camper!”




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