steep canyon walls and along its heart-stopping precipices, our guides showing
us Native American rock paintings and
sacred Paiute places that have remained
undisturbed for hundreds of years. We’ve
showered under waterfalls and watched
peregrine falcons and ravens overhead,
mule deer and big-horn rams skittering
across impossible ledges and inclines.
Every evening, we’ve pulled our rafts
ashore, pitched our tents along the river,
and hung our kit out to dry. Then we
gathered around the campfire to eat ravenously, talk, and sing the night away,
before tucking into cozy sleeping bags.
Sometimes we slept outside, sometimes
in our tents, but always staring up in awe
at a bazillion brilliant stars splashed across
velvet blackness, no human-made ambi-
ent light shrouding the view.
Our guides were passionate and deeply knowledgeable about the Colorado
and Grand Canyon, regaling us with
astonishing stories about its geology
and human history; its intrepid trailblazers riding a then-unknown river on
wood dories; its Native American people
who’ve lived here for generations, and
their customs and reverence for their
canyon home; and its champions, the
conservationists and politicians who’ve
worked hand in hand over the years to
preserve it for future generations.
To us, these guides – Kelsey, Jocelyn,
Kiki, Larry, Sam – were the cool-
est people on the planet. They could
read the water to know what’s lurking
underneath. They could scan the rocks
and tell you how many millions of
years old they were, what this sediment
meant, and which tribes lived where
– all the while navigating topsy-turvy
rubber boats with their great oars. I
mean, Kelsey dove in one day and
caught a fish with her bare hands!
Oh my God, here she comes,” says a paddler. Kelsey bolts down the canyon wall, jumps into the raft, and we push off. She preps
us on the approach, and it begins.
“Right forward! Right forward!” she
commands, meaning only the three paddlers on the starboard side paddle in
unison, which makes us turn left. “Now,
ALL paddle forward, all forward!” The
water is speeding up like a conveyor belt.
Far left: Our team
waits while Kelsey
scouts the river. Left:
Every day we hiked
into the canyon for
Above: A guide
navigates the rapids.
Right: Douglas is a
happy camper. Far
right: Trip leader
Sam, a filmmaker,
has been guiding
since the ’90s; his
wife, Jocelyn, is a
guide and water-rights lawyer.