River to Rim

Trip Start Jul 03, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, July 10, 2009

We are fitted for life jackets and told to get on a school bus that will take us to the Colorado River. I look around at our guides for the day who are responsible for not letting me drown and if I add up a guestimate of all of their ages, I get 35. Joe and I note that Ian, who will be our guide for the day, is fast asleep on the bus looking pretty haggard. We later discover that all of our guides "live" in the parking lot of the adventure center and sneak into various hotels for free continental breakfasts… After a safety talk we get in our raft with a lovely couple named Neal and Jo and get ready to battle the rapids.

I am terrified and I can see in Joe's eyes that he is terrified for me. The safety talk about how to deal with a boat flipping, getting caught in a rapid, etc. has made me a little more than nervous. Ian assures us that he has had very few accidents and we are on our way. We hit the first series of rapids, fun, but not too intense, until I look to my right and Joe is missing. He has fallen off the raft. After a moment of panic on his face, we all have a laugh at his expense and pull him in by the lifejacket. The rest of the trip was really fun although we did have to rescue some swimmers whose raft had flipped. Ian knew that I was a little nervous and at one point tried to dump me in…but I was ready.

Just as I had forgotten about the youth and immaturity of our guides we got back on the bus. One of the guides yelled “did you guys have fun?” We all responded with a resounding “YES.” He then asked, “Do you love the rapids?” We all responded with another resounding “YES” to which he responded by taking a huge cooler of ice water and dumping it all over us on the school bus. Sigh.

It was Friday, which now apparently means the day that I get a headache and puke so I went back to our lovely La Quinta Inn to recover from my mild heat stroke while Joe went rappelling. This desert heat is no joke. I will now give the blog over to Joe to talk about rappelling.

Rappelling was both awesome and terrifying. My left arm has a five-inch bruise from where I messed up my technique mid-descent, but, that experience included, it was an unforgettable few hours. Ian, myself, and two lovely Canadian folks started the trip with a one-mile hike through brutally hot terrain – up and over giant wind-smoothed rocks, through sand-filled washes, and around poison ivy bushes. After a few minutes of training on the equipment, and I find myself balanced on the edge of a 90-foot cliff, attached to a rope no thicker than my pinky. Ian tells me to get into the locked position—in other words, lean back away from the canyon wall over the abyss. Right. As I assume the position, I’m amazed that I paid for this privilege of endangering my life. I tiptoe back. One step, two, three, and I’m over the edge basically walking my way down the wall. 90 feet later, my hand is burning and my feet land in a two-foot “puddle” of water. A short walk, and another rappel, but this one is 120 feet, with no rock ledge to push off (I’m literally hanging completely free in midair). Oh, and this one is just anchored to a juniper bush.  Overall, the whole experience was a good mix of exhilaration and terror—in other words, nearly perfect.
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