Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Living the Dream, Day 1 – Rafting Grand Canyon

It had been, after all, a twist of someone else’s fate that my adventurous friend and I were even able to go this year. We were finally on our way to Flagstaff AZ, on the first day of our 2015 excellent adventure. We would be rafting down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. We would run the full canyon in a surprisingly quiet motorized raft, 226 blissfully geologic miles from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek, over eight days and seven nights. Let the stratigraphy begin!
View from Navajo Bridge -  we would be on that river the next day
 (click on any pic to enlargenate)
I had been dreaming and researching raft companies for what seems like half my lifetime, and finally located a suitable outfitter in November of last year. I needed a trip that fit between the end-of-spring-semester of my teaching job and the first day of summer rangering at Yellowstone. With barely three weeks available, it would be a tight fit. The kindly voice on the phone at Arizona Raft Adventures (no particular promo, they just had the best dates) had several suggestions.

“I can put you and your friend on a wait list for the May 6, 2015 trip. Let’s also put you on a wait list for 2016. And while we’re at it, let’s just wait list you for 2017, too.

2017? Seriously? There is no way I can think that far ahead. I didn’t even know what I would be having for lunch that day. However, the kindly reassuring voice said that she felt there would be some cancellations on the May 2015 date of my choice. She advised us to hang in there. It turned out we did not have to hang anywhere for longer than a couple of weeks. As Jimmy Fallon might say on his Friday night segment, diving his pen arcfully towards a note card: “Thank you, persons who cancelled, for allowing me to put my life in the hands of interestingly grizzled yet utterly professional river guides for eight days.”  Key cheesy tinkling piano music.

The old bridge across the Colorado River is now a pedestrian walkway 
On the drive south to Flagstaff we crossed the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge and stopped to ponder the river, entrenched within the walls of Permian-age Coconino Sandstone cliffs. Tomorrow we would be down on that river, looking up.

Just north of town is Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument where we stopped to mosey along the Lava Flow trail. This part of northern Arizona has a history of volcanic activity going back six million years. Sunset Crater cinder cone is one of more than 600 volcanic hills and mountains in the Flagstaff volcanic field, and is a remnant of the most recent eruption that occurred between 1040 and 1100. We saved exploring the ruins of nearby Wupatki for another day.

Taking our time on the Lava Flow trail

The cinder cone of Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater on our early spring day
That evening at the hotel, Kris and I plopped ourselves into folding chairs in a cramped meeting room with 21 complete strangers who apparently would become our bffs by the end of the trip. Orientation instructions were reviewed and tents and sleeping bags distributed. Last-minute river items were available for purchase (like I hadn’t brought enough personal items to sink the Titanic?). We stuffed the rest of our worldly belongings into two well-worn dry bags of dubious seaworthiness and got ready to roll at 6am the next morning. 

Day 2: On the river!

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