Wednesday, December 23, 2015

So, How Was the Trip?


It's been about a week and a half since we returned from our 23-day whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. 

Ever have one of those vacations that when you return, you need a vacation to recover? That's pretty much how I felt. I was ready to get off the river by the end of the trip-- but I wasn't ready to return to work, traffic, being around tons of people, blogging, social media, etc. I didn't touch Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for a full day after returning to an area with cell service {Gasp! Crazy, right?} and this is the first time I logged into the blog since we've been back. Page views and social shares seemed so irrelevant after this trip. 

I journaled every day while in the canyon with high hopes of providing you with a detailed rundown of our day-to-day happenings. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be sharing about my trip that way. 

I have a few major themes and events I plan to share about our adventure. I hope to give you a small glimpse into how amazing it was to spend 23 days in the Grand Canyon.


So, How Was the Trip?

The Grand Canyon. A magnificent and terrifying place. A place where the river is both serene and demanding of respect. Wild, beautiful and powerful all in one. 

After being in the wilderness for 23 days everyone wants to know-- 'How was the trip?'

I began reflecting on how I would respond to that question during the last few days on the river. 

The easy answer, and one I gave when I didn't feel like being drug into a long conversation or when I truly didn't think the person would understand, was 'It was amazing.' End of story. 

The real answer is SO much more complicated than that. I would love to outline for you our day-to-day happenings, a mile-by-mile account of the Colorado River, a play-by-play of every major rapid. But that would be somewhat meaningless. 

It's not that I don't think you would enjoy the stories. I'm sure you would smile, laugh, cringe, and ask tons of questions. You would genuinely be interested and entertained by our tales from the river. But without the first-hand experience of traveling through the canyon, it would be akin to trying to understand someone else's 'inside joke'. 

The 280 miles of the Colorado River from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry must be seen and experienced for yourself. If you are ever presented with the opportunity-- go. Just go. 

To borrow a phrase from a new friend-- 'Always put in'. Things will either work out or they won't, but you'll always regret not doing the thing you were unsure of.

Before leaving on this expedition I told everyone that there was no way to go on a trip like this and not return different in some way. This trip seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A roller coaster of emotions leading up to it. Part of me still can't believe we actually pulled it off.

This adventure, in many ways, can be compared to running a marathon. You find your limits then learn to push past them. 

So what were some big takeaways? What did I learn about life and myself? How am I different after spending 23 days in the Grand Canyon? 

In no particular order!

. The biggest 'How am I different?'-- Nick and I are engaged! Nick proposed at Granite Park Camp on Day 16 of the trip. I'm pretty sure he wanted to do it earlier on a nicer hike, but there was always someone around. We didn't tell anyone while we were on the trip. If any of you are reading this-- sorry! Parents Evan first :)



. Having to survive for 23 days on only what you packed was interesting. You forget something, rip something or lose something, there's no hoping in a car to make a run to your closest Walmart. You learn what you really need to survive. Nick and I flew to Arizona so we were limited to what we could take on the airplane {1 checked bag less than 50 lb and two small carry ons}. I spent a lot of time stressing before the trip about how to fit everything I needed for 23 days in the bags. Once we were on the river I found out what I truly needed, what was frivolous and what I would bring if I ever did this trip again {Stay tuned-- more on this in a future post!}. 

. Everything is more difficult on a trip like this. Most of the time I didn't even want to change my clothes because it involved taking everything out of my huge dry bag, then repacking it once I got what I needed. This was not a leisurely vacation. It was physically demanding in all aspects. Every day required rigging and derigging boats, set-up and tear-down of camp and camp kitchen, prepping and cooking three meals, set-up and tear-down of the Groover {where we pooped!}, carrying heavy gear through sand and ankle to knee deep water. Plus hikes and exploring. A private Grand Canyon trip is not for the weak or weak of heart. 

. The fear of not knowing what an experience will be like is generally worse than the experience itself. I had a pretty bad swim at Bedrock Rapid {Stay tuned-- more on this in a future post!}. After the shock and adrenaline wore off I realized that my swim wasn't the worst ever, and that I was in a relatively controlled environment. Someone could see me at all times and we had safety kayakers. It was worse not knowing what it would be like to be thrown out of the raft and take a swim in the Grand Canyon.



. Being sensitive to, and respectful of, different perspectives was key to a successful trip. Most of our group hardly knew each other at the onset. Some hadn't met at all before arriving in Flagstaff. We all came from very different backgrounds and life experiences. It was fun and interesting getting to know everyone and learning their different perspectives.



. Every day is an adventure. There were some designated trails from the river, but there were also a lot of 'let's go hike up that stream bed or side canyon' moments. So much to explore in the Grand Canyon from the river and we barely scratched the surface of it. That's a lesson that we can apply to everyday life-- why not wander off the beaten path more often? 



. Zero anxiety the entire trip! I'm not referring to general every day anxieties that everyone experiences. I'm referring to the physically sick, slightly debilitating anxiety that I've been plagued with off and on for the past several years. If you've known me during a stage in my life when my anxiety was bad, you'll understand how big of a deal this is.

. It's great to step outside of your comfort zone, but it's important to know when you've had enough. It's also ok to say 'no'. This came into play a lot for me with hikes that involved climbing {free climbing and with ropes} or narrow ledges. I'm afraid of heights. I slowly overcame my fears and 'I can't do that' attitude, and by the middle of the trip was climbing up and over things I would have hesitated with at the start of the trip. I did miss out on a few really cool sections of hikes though because they were beyond what I felt my current skill level was {even after stepping out of the comfort zone} and I didn't want to get hurt. One evac was enough.



. We're all on the same team. Trust is crucial. We didn't all get along perfectly the entire trip. We'd be living in a dream world if we thought that would happen. But we were all focused on the same goal-- to safely travel 280 miles through the Grand Canyon and have fun along the way.

. Floating on a raft in the middle of the Colorado River looking up at the walls of the Grand Canyon makes you feel so small. We spent a lot of time discussing life, priorities and future adventures. It's nice to have nice things. But you know what? It's even nicer to be able to leave for 3+ weeks on an adventure and not really bat an eye at the cost. It would be much more difficult to do those sorts of things if you are constantly buying designer, high-end, name brand fill-in-the-blank. Laugh at our $30 used sofa from the Habitat for Humanity Restore, the fact that Nick will always make his own lemonade with tap water/lemon/sugar when we go out to eat, or that up until a few months ago I drove an old hand-me-down '97 Dodge Neon that I had for 8 years. Priorities. I'll choose life experience and building memories any day.




Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing bits and pieces of our trip with all of you. 

For now I leave you with this quote from John Wesley Powell, who in 1869 with a crew of 9 people and 4 wooden boats, made the pioneering journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.




"Here's a glimpse into @amanda__maureen's #GrandCanyon #whitewater #adventure!"
            
Your turn! Have you ever been on a long wilderness adventure? How did it change you?

♥AK