Capturing the Grand Canyon's Grandeur by Raft and on Film
A motley crew out for adventure charge America's largest white water on a 27-day rafting trip of a lifetime
It was a crew of legends, of dirtbags and doctors assembled from across the west. Everyone ready for a 27 day float down the largest white water in America. A mixed group to say the least. We had slack-liners, climbers, and raft guides. There was even a lawyer. Though there surely wasn’t any law down there.
Twenty-seven days is a long time away from civilization. Long enough to forget politics, ambient warmth, and your manners. Just long enough to miss a proper toilet. Long enough to laugh at the outside world. To laugh at all the cell phones and all the 50+ hour work weeks and all the people that have no ambition to see the beauty we were surrounded by.
But it is also a long time to entertain yourself. Especially at the bottom of one of the deepest canyons in the world. Rising up sometimes over 2,000 feet, and only two rafts wide at the narrowest point, the place is dark. The Canyon is so deep some days the sun can’t fight its way to the bottom. The walls reflecting the chill that permeated our dry suits.
"It was an adventure of epic proportion. Bucket list goals were carved away with a machete."
We found ways to enjoy the hard times. Complaints were met with a curt, “Life is pain.” The cold couldn’t compete with our dance moves. And the darkness wasn’t ready for our LED string lights that worked just as well as a jump rope.
Still, unabashed by our attempts to thwart it, the cold fought to stifle our excitement. At night anything wet would freeze. Cam straps and socks had to be soaked to become malleable again. Full and forgotten dish buckets carried an inch of ice and coffee only stayed warm for a matter of minutes.
Even though the weather was cold our crew of champions couldn’t be stopped. When we got to Redwall Cavern, mile 33.1, we immediately got our toys out. James, the crew leader, headed off with Matt to rig the slackline. The rest of us threw frisbees, fished, or just sat and drank beer.
Seeing the slackline spanning the width of the cave challenged the adventurous among us. A challenge to see what else was possible. A challenge to test our ingenuity and explorative spirits. A challenge to go bigger.
It wasn’t until over a week later when we got to Bass Crossing that we got to work rigging the highline. With Austin standing on a cliff at one side of the river. James, Matt, and Mikey grabbed the other end of the slackline and paddled our ten foot adventure raft to the other side, scrambled to the top, and rigged one of the more exciting anchors I have seen.
From that point on everyone watched an incredible show of acrobatic skill. The line was walked one way then back. With and without pants. It was walked until sunset and then again at sunrise. Each step took concentration and balance, the line swaying back and forth high above the mighty Colorado. Most likely the first of its kind.
It was an adventure of epic proportion. Bucket list goals were carved away with a machete. I, for one, had always hoped to float the grand. Having just a year of rafting experience I had still heard my fair share of Grand Canyon stories. I had heard of Hermit and Lava Falls. Warned of House Rock and Hance Rapid.
Never did I think I would row it in a raft. But on day zero when I was assigned my boat, along with ammo cans stuffed with food, a cooler full of lettuce and squash, and a back hatch full of beer, I knew that I wouldn’t have it any other way. What could go wrong? We were a crew of legends after all.
"27 days is a long time away from civilization. Just long enough to miss a proper toilet, and to laugh at the outside world."