Fran & Dan Take on the Grand Canyon
A few summers ago we sent our co-workers, Daniel and Francesca, on a Grand Canyon 1-Day Rafting Adventure. Neither had been on the Colorado River, so they left R&O with a blank canvas of expectations and a spirit full of excitement.
Since a truly great experience is always digested differently from one person to the next, we asked them each to keep a journal noting the most memorable moments of their day. Whether you prefer a story that paints a picture or an informative analysis of the day’s agenda, you’ll learn a little bit of everything from our special adventure duo.
Enjoy this “He Said, She Said” perspective of Dan and Fran’s 1-Day Grand Canyon rafting expedition!
The Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, AZ
We arrived at the Lodge the night before our river trip, and checked into our hotel room in Peach Springs, Arizona. In such a rural area, I was a little surprised to arrive to a nice and cozy lodge such as this one. It’s clear that the Hualapai have put a lot of time and effort into tourism! The Hualapai Lodge is the equal of any hotel I’ve stayed at in terms of comfort and amenities.
The Lodge’s restaurant is also very good! There was a lot of variety to the menu, and everything I had was great. I especially liked the Frybread Bananas Foster dessert, although I could have used five more people to help me eat it.
The Bus Ride to the River
We were up and at it early the next morning, eager and excited to take the bus ride to the river and begin our day of whitewater rafting in the Canyon.
The bus ride was truly a warp back in time. When we entered the large white bus, my nostrils filled with the tingy smell of dust and pleather. Immediately I had a flashback to grade school walking down the aisle, my backpack grazing the edge of each seat. Once seated, my gaze immediately wandered towards the window.
As we descended down the old river creek bed, I could feel the intensity of every bump build as the views of the side canyon grew more spectacular. Without hesitation I immediately pulled my window down and dangled my camera out to capture a picture.
A pit stop was made just short of Diamond Creek, allowing for quick photos to capture the rising sun reflect off the canyon walls. Once we reached DC, my heart pounded more intensely than the bumps on the ride. We had arrived!
After a quick restroom break (via portables) we were handed life vests as a day bag floated around collecting our groups’ belongings. Once settled into our seats on the raft, our guide, Dugan, offered a quick debriefing of safety protocol should anything go south during the trip.
We were ready to set sail!
A Day on the River Begins
The first half of the day was definitely the most exciting. Once we got off the bus, all the rafts and guides were laid out and ready to sort us into our groups. Our raft included a great mix of ages and backgrounds, from 10 years old to late 50’s. Our guide, Dugan, was very friendly and knew a lot about the geography of the Canyon. He wasn’t afraid to crack jokes, either.
The first rapid was colder than I had expected. I had decided to pack away my rain gear because the air was so warm, but that first big splash was definitely a great wake-up call. I love the pacing, because between each rapid there was a little bit of time to dry out and get ready for the next!
Paradise found at Travertine Grotto
After hitting a few heavy and hard class 6 rapids we docked for our much anticipated hike to Travertine Falls. While exiting the raft, I smiled as my wet and cold feet landed on the warm, glistening sand. We had arrived at a beach! Instantly I climbed a nearby boulder to gain a better view of not only the river, but the Canyon surrounding us. The sun was now at a toasty 10 o’clock, starting to warm my completely drenched bathing suit. I took my board shorts off to let them air dry on a nearby rock. It was also there we decided to take a quick photo before embarking on our enchanting trek to the waterfall. Feeling silly, my fingers made a pair of bunny ears behind Dan’s head as one of our newly made boat friends snapped a photo.
Like a well-orchestrated play, the guides immediately climbed up boulders arranging themselves in placements throughout the water stream trail leading to the hidden falls further ahead. Each group immediately followed suit forming a singular line as we begun the hike up a 3 story incline of boulders complete with a rope pulley and 2 wooden ladders (receiving assistance along the way from our guides, of course). From each boulder sparkled random sections of limestone radiating warmth beneath my almost dried sandals. My excitement grew as mini waterfall after waterfall trickled to my side, and the sound of the grand finale waterfall began increasing in the back ground.
Once reaching the mouth of the grotto, I expected to now have full view of the waterfall but was instead greeted with a beautiful crystal clear stream that extended at least 30 feet. I asked where were the falls, as a guide chuckled and pointed towards the back. The grotto itself was huge, at least 2 stories high. I paused to take in this breathtaking space, taking note of the vibrant patches of moss scattered across the stream, before making my way further in towards the fall.
The moment I rounded the corner, I was finally greeted with this absolutely breathtaking waterfall. I sprinted towards the Travertine waterfall just as a Hualapai photographer finished taking photos of a young family. I could hear the loud clap of the water hitting against the rocks as sunlight illuminated the surrounding walls of the grotto. My gaze became magnetically drawn to this healing water, my ears hypnotized by the sound. The water was crisp and cold, yet felt refreshing on my skin. Dan and I quickly posed for a photo as the cold trickled down our back. I stood still for a moment allowing my body to fully submerge under the fall, hoping to absorb its healing qualities.
We started on our way down the grotto, but the fun wasn’t over. The guides encouraged us to take a water slide route down the first boulder. The second descent was made by use of ladder, ending with a rock repel down the last and final boulder via the sturdy rope pulley.
Once back on the river, I gazed back towards the Grotto in awe, feeling blessed for having experienced this magical waterfall. I then looked down to notice I was missing my shorts!
Time to eat!
Lunch was really good! At least for me, food always tastes better when you’ve been doing something exciting or demanding just before. The guides packed us really big deli sandwiches, along with condiments and all sorts of snacks. There were chips, grapes, lots of different soft drinks, and lots of other snack foods for the taking. Dugan offered us all sorts of cookies, sunflower seeds, and trail mix throughout the afternoon as well.
A Calm, Smooth Afternoon
After lunch, it was back to the rafts for the second half of our journey. The remainder of this trip was smooth flat water for a solid two hours before reaching our take out point at Quarter Master. By now my swimsuit and sandals were completely dry and I sadly yearned for more rapids to cool me down.
This however, was the perfect opportunity to capture side canyon pictures. Our guide made a few stops along the way circling our raft while pointing out geological and historical sights and rock formations. Dan and I decided to kick our feet up off the side of the boat and take in the views of this beautiful canyon. Dan was so relaxed he ended up falling asleep!
While glancing at the 2 o’clock sun radiating off the canyon walls I asked Dugan if there were any places downstream to take a swim. His face lite up as he gave a brief thumbs up. A few minutes later we pulled off at a beach and I now had an opportunity to swim in the river.
The End of the Line
After floating through the canyon with the afternoon sun and the gentle water lulling me into a light sleep, I woke to the sounds of the group stirring around in the boat. When I opened my eyes, I could see that we were approaching the end of the line at Quartmaster Canyon. Here we would exit the rafts and depart the Canyon, being transported by helicopter back to the rim above.
It was amazing to see the helicopter fly over as we pulled up to the docks. The guides gave us some very efficient sign language and got us on our helicopter in only five minutes or so.
For me, the helicopter ride was a bit nerve wracking. I’d never ridden in one before, and it’s a very different feel from a plane, even one of similar size. It did offer some gorgeous views of the river and steep scenery, and it was really humbling to see how small the Skywalk looked compared to the rest of Grand Canyon.
Checking out the Skywalk
Once departing the helicopter, we were quickly taken via shuttle to the Grand Canyon West entrance to explore the Skywalk. Walking into the building you had a slight feeling of being in an amusement park. There was a large open room full of lockers crowding by the moment with tourists rushing to store their belongings. Prior to stepping foot on the skywalk itself you were given booties to cover your shoes. This is to help preserve and maintain the glass structure. Several professional photographers scattered across the skywalk offering photos and making placement and angle suggestions to create epic shots. The views from the Skywalk were no doubt breathtaking, but the views I experienced throughout the day INSIDE the Canyon… were incomparable.
Reflection of the day
Although the day had an abundance of amazing and memorable moments, my favorite part was Travertine Falls. This place truly had magic in it, and I left the falls feeling rejuvenated and enlightened. Finding a hidden oasis in the midst of the dry, Canyon desert was like stumbling upon a land out of fairytales.
As a whole, this experience gave me a greater appreciation and respect for the Canyon, and an admiration for the guides who were educational, passionate, and willing to share their insights to make it a truly memorable trip. The journey was the perfect balance of nerves and excitement, with the last and final feeling of accomplishment. When someone asks me if this is an adventure worth taking, I will tell them JUST DO IT! It’s an experience you will never forget.
Being a part of the Rivers & Oceans family and having the opportunity to take this trip has really given me hands-on insight to speak confidently on this expedition to our clients and share the excitement and thrill that I experienced on the journey myself. I feel confident knowing I can lead people onto an amazing journey that takes just one day. There were so many aspects that made this trip the ultimate adventure.
My favorite part of the day, like Francesca’s, was Travertine Grotto. I loved the way it suddenly changed from a rocky, rough creek bed, into a gorgeous, cool cavern. The water inside smelled amazing, and it was interesting how the water moving over the cavern floor had formed a smooth gravel bottom. The advice I would give to other people thinking of doing this expedition is be open to new experiences! It’s really easy when you’re traveling to fall into a set itinerary and a mentality that doesn’t let you live in the moment. Take each portion of the journey, each surprise or unexpected development, and try to view it as a new adventure of its own.
Are you Ready to Take Your Turn on The Grand Canyon 1-Day Rafting Adventure?
For more information on this trip, visit our Grand Canyon 1-Day Rafting page and get on your way today!
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