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If you every have the opportunity to go on a private rafting trip down the Grand Canyon you should try your best to drop everything and go. Spending 18 days floating through one of the most magnificent canyons on the planet with a small community of people is truly an amazing experience. You can see geological time pass by in the canyon walls, the bluest water in the Little Colorado, waterfalls and slot canyons, and the ruins and graineries of the Ancient Puebloans.
The Grand Canyon is the ultimate river trip, and so far this has been one of my favorite rafting trips. A journey down the Grand Canyon with a group of people that you have so much in common, just based on wanting to share the same river experience, is truly indescribable. The canyon is incredible, I could spend hours just floating in my kayak staring upward. The fun and laughter that we all shared will last a lifetime, and I miss sleeping in the sand or on a boat and waking up to the same faces.

My journey to the center of the earth actually began in January this year when I decided I would commit to taking a month away from home and school to go on a private trip down the Grand. I was hesitant to accept the invite because I just had one little thing to get done before the launch date…..I had to finish my Ph.D. I managed to defend my dissertation four days before I left and celebrating on the Grand Canyon was one of the best ways to end 5 years of work. We had a full trip with 16 people, six 18-foot oar rigs, so we were not short on space, and two kayakers. I paddled my rockstar M, and I was very happy to be in a playboat. Quite a few people told me that my boat was too small for the Grand, but if you are used to paddling big water, the Grand Canyon is no problem (really easy) in a playboat. We had low flows (7,000-13,000 cfs) so the play waves were few are far between, but the rapids were still big and fun. My two favorite rapids were Horn Creek and Upset. I actually got to row one of the 18-foot oar rigs through Upset, it was awesome, and much more nerve-racking than kayaking.

The river and the rapids are amazing, but they are not the only attraction. The hiking in the Canyon is also unbelievable. One of my favorite experiences on the trip was the hike from Thunder River up and over Surprise Valley to Deer Creek. The Thunder River to Deer Creek hike was in total about 8 miles, and required that our group of hikers were dropped off and then picked up by the rafts downstream. The hike began at the mouth of Tapeats Creek, and then made a strenuous climb up to the confluence with the Thunder River. The route continued to gain elevation until we got to the source of the Thunder River, where a spring erupts straight out of the side of the canyon wall. From Thunder River the route goes up and over Surprise Valley, which was probably one of my favorite vistas on the river. Surprise Valley is a small plateau you have to cross to before the descent into the Deer Creek Basin. Like the Thunder River, Deer Creek also comes cascading straight out of the side of the canyon wall, then the creek continues down into a narrow, and very deep slot canyon with a ~70 foot waterfall cresting over the cliff back down to the Colorado River.
After we were picked up from our long hike, we camped at ponchos kitchen just down stream from Deer Creek. It is a huge sandy beach with an overhanging wall and perfect for a party. This group was prepared for parties, and it was Cynco de Mayo. We had a pinjata (and a sand mat to collect all the micro trash), costumes, and plenty of tequila. With some help, I bouldered up the overhanging wall and jammed a monkey fist into one of the cracks to hang the pinjata. Cynco de Mayo was the best way to end a spectacular day of hiking. This was more than about kayaking, kayaking was just a HUGE bonus, it was about sharing the river and exploring a desert biome with a group of people who love the river as much as I do, and laugh and work hard as a team all at the same time.