This 2015 rafting season marks my fifth year with Grand Canyon Whitewater; I go on at least two river trips every season, I read all the feedback forms our guests submit and I read all the trip logs our guides complete. I also camp and hike in the canyon throughout the year, including in the late Fall and Winter. So I thought I had a pretty good handle on the things that can happen, particularly in terms of unusual weather activity, on a Colorado River whitewater trip. But, as she always does when someone starts feeling a little cocky, Grand Canyon just taught me another lesson in humility.
I just returned from an 8-day motorized trip. I picked this particular trip because I figured I was due to treat myself to some of the nicest weather you might find in Grand Canyon. Typically, late May is sunny, with clear, beautiful skies and highs in the mid-90s. You might get a late Spring shower that will sprinkle on you and cool you off on an afternoon hike. Overnight lows are usually in the mid-60s — perfect weather for sleeping outside under the stars and moon. I almost skipped the lightweight fleece jacket and rain pants our packing list suggests but, at the last second, tossed them in my duffel bag, assuming I’d never pull them out.
And then we got hit with the coldest, longest-lasting rainstorm I’ve ever seen in the canyon. It was overcast and cold for at least some part of every single day we were on the river. We didn’t see the sun for 6 days straight. We drank hot water throughout the day to warm up. The guides prepared soup for us in the middle of the afternoon (I didn’t even know they packed soup on the trips). We made camp one day at 10 a.m. because it was too cold to continue rafting on the river.
It was still a wonderful, beautiful, fantastic river trip, because I was on it with a group of wonderful, beautiful, fantastic people, and we were all in it together. Grand Canyon river trips have a way of bringing like-minded people together and helping you appreciate things that matter in life: good friends (new or old), warm soup, and the easy joy that comes from cleansing your soul in one of the most stunning and awe-inspiring places I’ve been lucky enough to think I know.
So what did I learn on this river trip? That the only certainty on a Colorado River trip is what you bring to it. I highly recommend bringing an open heart and an adventurous spirit. And long pants, just in case.