“Big day! Big day! Big Day!” I’ve heard that a lot of times in my life, and it’s usually when I’m with Heath and we’re waking up to do something potentially amazing, or scary. There really is nothing like that feeling of waking up in a hotel room full of your friends and realizing “today is the day.” Today is going to be a day where the one thing it’s guaranteed not to be is boring.
Before you launch you meet with a ranger one more time to go over the protocols of the canyon. Most of it is basic, and a lot of it is super helpful. How to take care of your waste, what to do in an emergency, where to camp, things like that. I never would have thought they’d require you to piss straight into the river, but they do. So everyone in Arizona, Nevada and California….we whizzed in your water, your welcome. I did notice once though that while he was saying something about how everybody wears quick dry clothes nowadays, his eyes slowly swept over all of our pants and you just watched him try and ignore the fact that we were all wearing jeans and cotton pants. Then, it was over. he wished us well and recommended we use the last flushing toilet for 16 days and that was it.
When we paddled away from land and were officially on our own, it felt so fucking rad. I have this obsession with isolation, and I could feel what I’d been waiting for…nothing. No one around, no stores, no roads, nothing. It was crisp and sunny and this was going to be amazing. I could hear Timmy’s voice in my head, “Look around man! Do you see where you are?”
The boats had been split up into teams. Heath and Ben in the Black Pearl, and me and John in the Zambezi. We had a few rapids to do today, but for almost the whole day they’d be small ones. In the Grand Canyon they rate the rapids 1-10 as opposed to 1-5 like the rest of the world. The first order of business, a rapid with a 2 rating. No big deal. That’s practically nothing right? We decided to forgo our drysuits and just run the rapid without looking at it.
Note: A dry suit is a sealed suit that keeps water almost 100% out. You wear warm insulated clothes underneath, then you put the dry suit on that has rubber seals on your neck and your wrists. The feet are like pajama onesies. Since the water is frigid, the dry suits are a must.
So here we go, first rapid, John’s driving. “Alright John, book says everything’s cool, just avoid the rock.”
“John. You see the rock?” The boat seemed like it was a magnet and we were getting sucked into it. “John! The rock man!” “DO YOU SEE THE ROCK!” “Dude, we’re sideways! FUUUCK!”
And there you go, first try and we got to learn right off the bat what a pour over was. The water poured our 2000 lb boat over the rock and slammed us down onto another rock hidden below. It was so much more violent that I’d anticipated and it was the strangest feeling realizing we weren’t moving anymore. “We’re stuck. Holy shit we’re stuck.” Not once in all the youtube videos and websites that we’d read had they once mentioned what to do when you boat is perched up on a rock. I tried the oars, we tried jumping up and down, but nothing seemed to work. I bet we weren’t even up there for a minute and I had crystal clear visions of being rescued five miles into the trip, how embarrassing. I just thought “We are so stupid! Why would we think we could do this? Why is John standing on my hand?”
We decided that jerking the boat in unison was the way, and after a while the boat finally released. Totally out of breathe and in total disbelief, we floated away from the smallest, stupidest rapid on the Colorado River. “How long do you think we were on that rock?” I asked. “I don’t know, maybe 4 minutes. All I know is that it was long enough for me to give up.”
Fun times. Wait until you see the video from later in the day when John hits the ejector seat and is the first one to go swimming at House Rock Rapid.