Henderson, NV to Boulder City, NV to Marble Canyon, AZ, to Lees Ferry
Mile 0 – 25-ish
We packed up and met in the hotel lobby at 4:30 am. As a family we breathed a sigh of relief that we officially made it to the trip healthy and ready to go. We were to be greeted by our bus that would take us on a 25 min drive to the airport in Boulder City. We met up with the rest of our group there and started to get to know them. We were a group of 25 in total and we’d get to know these awesome people in the coming days. One group we already knew because we saw them out at dinner the night before. They named themselves the “Ragin’ Floaters” and they wore matching shirt on the first day. They were a group of 11 – two brothers and their families with adult children in their 20’s, and they turned out to be so much fun!
We boarded a flight to Marble Canyon, AZ in a 10-seater plane. The view was awesome – Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the canyon and the Colorado River. Katie and Nathan never missed an opportunity to grab some sleep! The landing into Marble Canyon was awesome as we hugged the canyon wall on the turn and then descended on onto a small runway.
We landed in Marble Canyon and met our guides: Brie – a guide for 19 years, Zach – 15 years, Kelly – a client turned volunteer in her first season, and Marcus – a 2nd year guide preparing to lead his own trip next. Zach, Brie and Marcus were all from Flagstaff and Kelly was from Anchorage, AK. We walked from the air strip across the street to the Chevron station which seemed so randomly placed here out in the middle of the canyon, next to the Marble Canyon Lodge. We had a brief orientation which included some info on how to pack your gear, an explanation of the outdoor toilet (including a demo of how much TP to use: “don’t make a shit mit” as she demo’d, wrapping TP around her hand), and LOTS of encouragement to stock up on booze. “You might not have enough so we suggest you buy more”, was the guidance. From there we boarded 2 large vans with our gear on the roof, and took a short drive to Lees Ferry, Mile 0 of the Colorado River. There would be 2 rafts of our group – each held 14 people + 2 guides.
It was HOT. The sun was out and we were baking. Katie was already feeling faint. We were already wading in the water and dunking our hats trying to stay cool. We packed our gear in dry bags and got on the raft. Katie and I went for long sleeves and pants which turned out to be a great choice. The cold water and wet clothes cooled us and kept us from getting burned. We enjoyed our first rapids, the beautiful canyon and blue skies. The water was clear and beautiful and green at times. This would be notable later when the color of the river would change dramatically.
That evening we pulled into our first camp. It had started to storm so we picked a spot up against the rock, hoping to get some protection. We set up 3 tents – Tim and I, Katie and Ben, Nathan and Ryan. Let’s just say… it was chaos. We were figuring everything out for the first time as it was starting to rain. Ultimately, we were good teams, got all the tents up, cots put together, and our gear stashed. We had salmon for dinner and it was amazing. They had warned us about fire ants. As it happened, I got bit by one and so did Katie. My toe throbbed all night and I made a mental note – wear shoes in camp, always.
Headed to sleep on our cots in the tents. Though the camping spot did protect us from rain, it gave us almost no breeze and so the tent was a hot box. We had sleeping bags and a sheet, all of which I slept on top of. Ryan slept outside and I thought he was onto something with that idea. Day 1, in the books!