Thoughts from the Grand Canyon

grand canyon

Spending seven days completely disconnected rafting the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River elicited a strange reaction within me. When our motorized raft pushed off from our starting point at Lee’s Ferry on Monday morning, I admit to having mixed feelings. I had a lot going on in my life, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy and appreciate the experience.

And yet, as with many of travel experiences, I not only had fun but thoroughly enjoyed my trip. As is often the case when I travel for seven days, early on, the trip progressed at an achingly slow pace, and then it sped by too fast. Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the natural history and cultural significance of this impressive natural wonder, and the people I traveled with were awesome company on the trip. We had a couple days of unpleasant weather on the river, but we powered through and did our best to turn negative experiences into awesome stories.

During my time on the Colorado river, I kept notes of the fleeting thoughts that passed through my mind. Among them…


  • How will this align with other experiences in my life? Adventurous yet glamp-like as the Inca Trail? As hardcore as Burning Man?
  • I struggle to decide what goes in my accessible day bag. Hopefully that decision becomes easier as the week goes on.
  • I closed my eyes on the raft today and all I could hear was the low hum of the motor and the gentle “swish, swish” of the water bumping up against the boat.
  • I put my rain jacket hood over my head and looked backward to avoid getting water in my eyes. The anxiety of waves was measured by the looks in the eyes of the people sitting behind me.
  • I chose not to set up a tent and instead will simply sleep under the stars. I was worried about the sand, but it’s only sand. It would be a shame to shield myself from such a pristine environment.
  • Tonight, clouds in the sky so the stars and moon are dim. The river rushes past. It’s loud but consistent and soothing. A cricket chirps to my right. Bats. Gnats. Soft sand between my toes. Warm air. Surprisingly warm considering how cold the water is.


  • In the morning, canyon birds whistle and our guide mimics the sound as the early sounds of the kitchen come alive.
  • The wind picks up and I realize my big challenge for the week will be dealing with my contacts. My hands are sandy, the contacts are sandy, the contact bottle is sandy.
  • We passed by a group of self-propelled rafters and I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be. For every paddle forward, you’d be pushed back half a stroke. The rapids would be bigger, the wet wetter. It would be a trip of grit and determination.
  • Many people have tried to dam the river to create a water source for this part of the country, but Lake Mead is a failure so I don’t imagine any of these would fare better. Water is so incredibly controversial.
  • The blowing sand is exhausting me, and I can’t believe it’s only day two.


  • Up before coffee call, contacts easier to put in. Am I getting the hang of this?
  • The views from Unkar Delta – as they have been throughout the canyon despite the variations in rock and geological formations – are awe-inspiring and humbling.
  • This is such an incredible natural feature, and I’ve seen so little of it up to this point in my life. I am but an itty-bitty part of this world, and this grand traverse of the canyon is a good reminder of how I fit in to the larger world.
  • After a trip like this, it will be hard to return to artificial noises and overtly man-made features.
  • We passed through the Phantom Ranch area today and saw hikers crossing the bridges. It was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined and now I’m more eager to hike to the bottom of the canyon.
  • Today brought on a different kind of exhaustion. Today was wet and hard and cold. I set up my camp then set up a tent as it was starting to rain, and I just felt beat. I’m hoping a good night’s sleep and a promised easier day tomorrow will help me hit the reset button.


  • Awesome weather does amazing things for human morale. Sunshine and a break in the wind. People are chatting, happy, eager to get back on the river after a cold, wet, long day.
  • Sky is clear, sun shining off the red rock of the canyon walls. Rushing water provides a consistent soundtrack of white noise.
  • Where is the closest Starbucks? Camp coffee is okay, but it’s missing a little something.
  • So many incredible waterfalls. So much impressive force. So big I had problems taking pictures of the whole thing.
  • So happy. Today was a good day. It’s a bummer it took so long to reach this point.


  • Waking up on ‘rock, sweet rock,’ the rock ledge where I set up my cot.
  • Sighted bighorn sheep. You know it’s a good trip when you see bighorn sheep.
  • The change in geology is stunning and surprising. What I’ve seen from the rim is nothing compared to what I’m seeing in the canyon.
  • Walking along Havasu Creek. The water is light blue and milky. It looks like the thermal pools in Yellowstone.
  • Camp at Lower National, right by National Canyon. It’s a huge sandy beach. I found a little patch of grass to call my own.


  • We scouted Lava Falls, which is rated a ’10’ on the Grand Canyon scale. I know the guides are looking for new rocks, changes in water and unexpected obstructions, but I found Lava Falls to be a little underwhelming.
  • Time, weather and erosion have changed this canyon. Rocks fall randomly and geological phenomena continue to alter the river’s course. On the river, you go with the flow. Things change. You have to be flexible and adapt. Without the ability and willingness to be flexible and adaptable it’s hard to really enjoy all the river has to offer.
  • The wind picked up again. We had such crummy weather early in the trip that it almost seemed appropriate to end our last day in blistering wind that made our eyes hurt and skin burn.
  • It’s that moment. That moment when ‘this, too, shall pass.’ Like Burning Man, the Cook Islands and the Galapagos Islands, I want to continue to live my memories but must return to the real world.

Curious about what I packed for my Grand Canyon rafting trip? Yep, I wrote about that.

I was given the opportunity to raft the Grand Canyon thanks to Arizona River Runners, but all opinions are my own.

4 Responses to “Thoughts from the Grand Canyon”

  1. Selma

    Sounds like the break I need in my life right now … Grand Canyon, here I come! 🙂

    • JoAnna

      Book your trip now! There’s often a long waiting list!

  2. Stevo Grubor

    The Grand Canyon is simply spectacular! We were not expecting that much, but the massive landscape is breathtaking. It is a photography buffs ultimate subject. The colors of the rocks and bluffs are everchanging with the weather conditions. The park is well-maintained and lodges and buildings fit the setting.
    Worth the hike and time to get there from Las Vegas. We are so glad to check it off our bucket list.

    • JoAnna

      The Grand Canyon is absolutely spectacular. I never tire of it.


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