On the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the canyons of the Colorado River, what a great time it was to introduce my ten-year old grandson to another world!
If you are willing to give up on luxurious man-made accommodations, for me, there is nothing like a whitewater rafting trip, especially through the desert canyons of the American West. It’s a vacation that pulls together everything in a single bundle that one would want in a trip, when you just want to escape from the daily grind of life. Consider:
- No contact with the outside world (AKA – no cell service!)
- Opportunity to truly become one with nature
- Physical exercise
- Thrills, while knowing that you and those you are with are safe
- Rest and relaxation
- Great food and spirits
- Sharing a bonding experience with friends, family … and/or even like-minded strangers
Of course, with such a statement, I know that I am very much in the minority. Some may prefer a skiing trip in the Swiss Alps, a golf outing in Scotland, hunting bear in Alaska or jumping out of airplanes. Others would rather be lounging on a cruise ship, yacht or the beaches of a five-star hotel on a remote tropical island sipping piña coladas all day.
While I enjoy a variety of vacation options just about anywhere in the world, this type of river trip is, so to speak – my heaven. And then share such an experience with a close friend or family member … well … awesome!
Over the last ten plus years of writing this blog, I have often taken a break from topics that focus on the world of real estate and popped in (among other things) a rafting experience. I’ve pontificated about getting absorbed in Desolation Canyon on Utah’s Green River, fighting the crystal-blue rapids of the Futaleufú River in Patagonia and the Colorado’s River’s 277-mile-long run through Arizona’s Grand Canyon – the world’s ultimate abyss.
This year, I offered to my ten-year old grandson, Colten, the opportunity to share a week with me in southern Utah to travel a portion of the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, where one of my historical heroes – John Wesley Powell — ventured with a small band of men just over 150 years ago on a 700 mile 11 month exploratory geological expedition for the US government.
My “hands-down” preferred outfitter is OARS, with whom I have traveled for over 30 years. An amazing and very professional company from top to bottom that describes this canyon adventure as offering:
… stunning scenery, multiple days of easy floating, and one day of paddling through wild, Class III-IV whitewater. Add to that hiking … and fascinating geology and you have a whitewater rafting adventure in Utah suitable for the whole gang. Explore Canyonlands National Park made famous by the John Wesley Powell expedition of 1869 and get a taste of the wild wet waters of the Colorado River from a paddle raft.
For Colten, this would be a trip like he’s never experienced. Even at his young age, he has been very fortunate to travel to beaches on both coasts, amusement parks and into the heart of a few big cities. But this close-in suburban boy had only heard about the waters that run through desert canyons … and frankly never really paid much attention to the stories that his Pop-Pop had shared.
As much as this little adventure was to be a unique travel experience, it really was an opportunity for Ol’ Pop and Colten to bond a bit … and that we did!
At first, the clinging was more out of hesitation, but as the week of excitement evolved, the young man acclimated to the ways of the river and the hikes to the high plateaus of the National Park. It surely didn’t hurt that there were two other ten-year olds (a boy and girl) and a couple of teenagers travelling with family. By the end of the river excursion, they were trading addresses and gave pledges to all that they’d stay in touch … forever!?!
Not unlike my trek through Desolation last year, I brought along all the necessary tools to whittle out faces on walking sticks and primitive bow and arrows.
Sleeping out under a night sky that is unpolluted from made-man light offered my young camper an opportunity to stare up under Mother Nature’s canopy of bright lights of satellites, shooting stars and the glittering lights of planets and stars of solar systems light years away. Without a doubt, this alone is the one experience I truly love sharing with my fellow travelers.
But what about those rapids?
As noted above, Cataract offers one incredible day of 31 Class III up to an occasional V that seem to never cease!
For Pop, it was the seven-person paddle raft – six paddlers and a guide to steer the inflatable rubber craft. Taking a front left lead paddler position, I always want to be one of the two idiots that are hit by the first waive … nothing better! With my left foot planted in a floor cup, I hang my rear-end over the edge of the raft and paddle at a consistent pace digging deep into the water … whether it’s there or not! Without a doubt, the two lead paddlers are destined to struggle with the high water to retain their designated position in the raft! Wow, what a battle, and what a thrill!
Meanwhile, grandson Colten and the other kids hang on to the larger and more stable vessel known as the Shredder. Made from two inflatable pontoons on both sides, it is framed by heavy metal tubes and carries a 150 hp outboard motor. With all the camping supplies, food and gear for the entire outing, this “cataraft” with our trusty guide Addie piloting was able to conquer Cataract’s rapids safely while giving the kids the experience of their lifetimes!
Later I had to know how he and the other kids fared through the rapids, Colten exclaimed, “More fun than all the rides at Disney and Kings Dominion combined!!” I guess that’s a thumbs up!
There’s no better way for this guy in his 70th year to attempt to retain the feeling of youthfulness without doing something “really” idiotic! … and to have one of my grandkids tag along and see him express his natural youthfulness … Wow!
So, as our journey came to its end, I asked Colten what was the one thing that he learned about his grandfather on this trip? His answer: “Well, Pop … umm … hmmm … well, you’re pretty chatty with strangers!”
Now, is that bonding or what!?!
Plans for the summer of 2020 are already being made by my two granddaughters, as they want their turn on the river!
Do I hear the ghost to the one-armed John Wesley Powell calling me to the Gates of Lodore on the Green River through Dinosaur National Park in northeastern Utah … just another section of his 1869 journey?
May be so … I pray for good health and good luck!
Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland, has been an active member of the Frederick community for over four decades. He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012. He currently serves as chairman of the board of Frederick Mutual Insurance Company. Established in 1843, it is one of the longest enduring businesses in Frederick County.