Run­ning the canyon’s rapids

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - Travel@wash­

Our read­ers share tales of their ram­blings around the world.

Who: Su­san Belford of Po­tomac, Md., (the author) and friends Noreen Marcus and Jay Sushel­sky of Chevy Chase; Akemi Mae­gawa and Ryszard Pluta of Bethesda; and Bar­bara Marcus of Den­ver.

Where, when, why: In May, we ran the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in wooden dories. We signed up with Oars (Out­doors Ad­ven­ture River Spe­cial­ists) a year and a half be­fore the trip. Our tour group in­cluded 16 adren­a­line-seek­ing ad­ven­tur­ers from the United States and Canada, and four river guides who pad­dled our boats through the rag­ing rapids. The Oars crew also in­cluded four oars­men who skill­fully nav­i­gated our huge rafts through the rapids while car­ry­ing the en­tire group’s food, tents, mats, sup­plies and gear. Our ex­pe­di­tion group launched at Lee’s Ferry, two hours north of Flagstaff, and trav­eled 84 miles down the Colorado River through the Canyon.

High­lights and high points: Our senses were con­tin­u­ously stim­u­lated as we trav­eled through a suc­ces­sion of rapids. We clung to our dory as 50-de­gree waves smacked us in the face, caus­ing our boat to vig­or­ously ca­reen through nar­row pas­sages. As we sped through rif­fles, rapids and other va­ri­eties of tur­bu­lence, our crew skill­fully guided the boat and kept it in an up­right po­si­tion.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion or dis­con­nect: While we rafted down the Colorado, our river guide An­dre told us about the other guides and oars­men. He told me that one of them, Jackson, was orig­i­nally from Jackson, Wyo. My son also hap­pens to live in Jackson and has a son named Jackson. When we tied up for lunch, I ap­proached him and in­tro­duced my­self. “Matt told me a year ago that he named your grand­son af­ter me,” he said. What a small world!

Big­gest laugh or cry: At the con­flu­ence of the Lit­tle Colorado and Colorado rivers, our guide told us to don our life jack­ets — a not un­usual re­quest un­til we were shown how to put them on. We wore them in a di­a­per-like fash­ion, tied around our waists with our legs through the arm­holes. Wear­ing our new gear, we learned how to ride the rapids. (The Lit­tle Colorado was a gor­geous turquoise blue and much warmer than the icy Colorado.) Each of us jumped in, one by one, and were swept down the river on our backs. What an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride!

How un­ex­pected: I was amazed how many times dur­ing the trip I had to dig deep in­side my­self to over­come a chal­lenge and con­quer my fears. I climbed higher and hiked more than I ever thought pos­si­ble, scur­ry­ing up and down rocks and hik­ing al­most 10 miles to­tally up­hill to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from Phan­tom Ranch. I was also sur­prised by how much I ac­tu­ally loved the camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. At night when we crawled into our sleep­ing bags, I gazed up at the sight of mil­lions of stars with­out city lights, and saw real shoot­ing stars in the sky.

Fa­vorite me­mento or mem­ory: The most im­por­tant in­sight I had is that we are just a speck of dust in his­tory when you com­pare how short our lives are — and how unim­por­tant our wor­ries are — in com­par­i­son to the age of the mag­nif­i­cent rock for­ma­tions of the Grand Canyon. We are so for­tu­nate to have the health and abil­ity to hike, camp and en­joy God’s nat­u­ral beauty in all its glory.

To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­ and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite pho­tos.



TOP: The author’s view af­ter a hike — al­most 10 miles up­hill — from Phan­tom Ranch to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. ABOVE: From left, Noreen Marcus, Bar­bara Marcus, Jay Sushel­sky, Akemi Mae­gawa, Ryszard Pluta and the author.

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