Fortunately, we didn’t have to wake up as early for our rafting trip as we did for the previous day’s canyoneering trip. I walked to the reception tent and poured a cup of their strongest coffee to bring back for Alyssa. Not long after, we were in the car and driving back through town towards Red River Adventures.
We found a spot to park rushed to check in and size up our life vests. Or to be correct, Personal floatation devices,” since the term “life preserver” means that the vest would have to save our lives. Minutes later, we were on a bus headed upriver towards our embarkation point.
While most of the guides unloaded the rafts and prepared them for the day’s trek, one of them gave us a safety briefing that focused on common sense and active involvement in a rescue. She then gave out the raft assignments, and a moment afterward John held our raft in place while we were climbed aboard.
As we began to float away from our launch point at Hittle Bottom, John introduced himself to us and asked the other five in our raft to do the same. He then explained a few of the paddling instructions we’d be given, since today’s adventure would involve a lot of teamwork.
We soon approached our first rapid, and drove straight for it. Compared to the motorized pontoon I had taken through the canyon, the our slower speeds caused for less impact with each crest, but the smaller size of the boat caused it to pitch up and down more with each wave.
Too quickly, we were through to flat water, and passing by Sorrel Ranch, a luxury resort and restaurant that Forbes Travel Guide rated at 4 stars. Before long, after another rapid or two, we saw our first takeout, where we’d beach our rafts and go ashore for lunch. I remembered the meal we were given during my rafting trip through the Grand Canyon the year before, and was expecting the same type of premade sandwich and small bag of chips. Instead, after a few minutes of waiting for them, we were invited up to a table that was arrayed with wraps, hummus, cold cuts, cheeses, lettuce and tomatoes, and avocado for us to make our own lunches with, putting as much or as little of the toppings as we felt.
Lunch over, we were back in our rafts and continuing onwards, passing by another ranch, once owned by the original Marlboro Man, and frequented by John Wayne. From another raft, I heard a young girl ask “who’s John Wayne,” and I felt old.
Ahead, John spotted a large eddy and told us he thought we could surf it. After asking our thoughts and listening to us tell him we wanted to try, he maneuvered us towards it while calling for us to paddle. It’s unclear whether we entered it wrong, or if it was more violent than appeared, but one side of our raft was sucked under, flipping us over and into the water. I felt a sharp pain as something hit my forehead. I reached up, feeling the boat above me and swam backwards trying to get from under it. Seconds later, I surfaced and grabbed onto the raft’s chicken line while making sure I wasn’t obstructing any of the others from surfacing around me. I couldn’t see Alyssa and, for a moment, thought she was still beneath the boat. As I prepared to dive under to find her, she surfaced beside me.
John told us to back away from the raft, and then climbed onto the underside of the boat, now above the water. He leaned back and pulled the boat upright. I swam towards it, and started to pull myself in, when he grabbed my vest to help pull me up. Once inside the boat, I crossed to help those on the other side of the boat in, a part of me feeling as though I was in one of the Air Force’s water survival courses.
All inside the boat, we floated on, occasionally paddling to pull us towards one side of the river or another. I felt my head and, seeing blood on my fingers, tried to clean it by occasionally dipping my hand into the water and wiping it across my forehead. My attempt at discretion failed and soon others had seen my wound and were beginning to comment.
A few minutes later, we had reached the takeout and disembarked. Having been the last raft to arrive, I tried to avoid the others and, with Alyssa in tow, make my way up to one of the restrooms nearby. Inside, I handed her the small, waterproof first-aid kit I had kept in my hydration bag, and she rummaged through it looking for a bandage and some cleaning wipes. Finding them, she cleaned and covered the cut.
After returning to our tent, we showered, changed, and headed out once more. Despite these being full-day adventures, they ended early enough that we were able to still experience the sights of Moab afterwards.
This evening, after browsing through a rock and fossil store owned by a local paleontologist, Alyssa and I drove north of town to head into Canyonlands National Park, via the Island in the Sky road. This route would’ve connected to the Shafer Trail that I attempted to ride the year prior, before damaging my bike in a fall. We stopped for a moment where the trail met up with the road we were on. It was an impressive view, but the road promised a greater one. Ahead was a place called “Grand View Point Overlook,” and with a name like that, it created a lot of wonder.
We arrived at the overlook as the sun set, leaving just enough light to make out the outlines of the canyon below us. Having only seen a small section of the Grand Canyon from above to compare this with, the view before us seemed even grander. Darkness quickly fell around us, so we headed back to the car, and drove back to our tent. For the most part our trip was now over, returning home being the only thing remaining.