What is it like going on a Grand Canyon rafting trip with your kids or grandkids?
We can say from lots of experience seeing families on a river trip that it truly is life-changing for all involved. Our guides love having families on their trips, and the effects of the river trip itself on the family are immense. The families are able to reconnect in ways they may have struggled doing in the past, and they leave the trip closer than they were going into it. Kids can truly be kids on a Grand Canyon rafting trip; they can swim, shoot water guns, paddle, hike, play in the mud, play games in camp, etc. And the best part is they’re truly unplugged from the world; from devices and TV to homework and the constant nagging society puts on our kids.
But these are just our words! One of our orientation hosts has taken her granddaughter on a river trip twice with us now, and we asked if she’d be willing to share her experience. She was thrilled to do so, and was able to get her granddaughter to help her, which re-sparked their excitement from their river trip adventures. Read Helen Ranney, and her granddaughter Micaela’s experiences on a Grand Canyon rafting trip!
A trip down the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River with your granddaughter (we went twice!) is a gift of memories that keeps on giving long after you finally get the sand out of your stuff!
by Helen Ranney, with help reliving all the memories and telling the story from Micaela
My granddaughter, Micaela, is in many ways a typical teenager. She has soccer, more soccer, is a junior in high school and has a fun-filled social calendar that keeps her busy. I wanted to talk to her before I wrote this blog for AzRA, as I had an idea of how she felt. But now that a year and a half had gone by I wanted to really know if her time on the river was still in her heart. I am so glad I did! It was fun to watch her as she reflected on her memories and the feelings that came back to her.
In 2019, I asked Micaela to come on an upper Grand Canyon river trip with me in the summer of 2020. Without even hesitating, she said YES! At the time, she was heading into eighth grade and had only camped a few times with her family. Funny, she didn’t ask me anything about camping, how she would use the toilet or what she would eat. Hmmmm…
What prompted me to bring my granddaughter?
Bringing Micaela on the river with me was in some small way, an opportunity for me to honor my parents. My folks took my brother and I on many adventures around the continental US, Hawaii and around Europe. Most of the time I am sure we were “pills.” Who wants to take a couple of young kids on an adventure – especially outdoors? My folks did. They always took us to new and exciting places. We were lucky kids.
Several years ago, Dad and I went on an AzRA 10-day motor trip with my husband, Wayne, and a group of people who became family after the trip ended. We had my dad for 10 days without the distraction of the outside world – it was a glorious and memorable experience that will remain in my heart forever. Could Micaela feel the same after our time on the river?
As you all know in 2020, Covid happened. Micaela’s end of eighth grade was horrible. Even worse, she was on a school bus in November of 2019 that struck and killed one of her classmates. Traumatizing her and her fellow students beyond anything we can imagine. This river trip had to happen. It just had to. And thankfully it did.
At first, when we left Lees Ferry, I got worried.
You should have seen her face as we pulled away. All of the sudden she realized what she got herself into – riding in an 18-foot raft on a river with rapids (she does not do roller coasters) with people she did not know. And then when we got to camp, I told her we were sleeping outside. Yes, outside with no tent. To say she looked shocked is an understatement…but she slept well! She loved looking up at the stars for the first time in her young life! She also enjoyed the pancakes and hot chocolate we had for breakfast that first morning. It was like having her own personal restaurant. Micaela was going to be okay.
But of course, Micaela LOVED the river!
And she loved the rapids! She got to be a kid. A kid that did not need to worry about what she was wearing or how she looked. A kid that found joy in the little things. A kid who did not have access to anything that connected her to the outside world – she did not miss that! There was a new-found sense of adventure that she shared with others who were experiencing the Canyon in a more intimate way – on a river trip! Micaela and our group played in the sand. They had huge belly laughs as their feet got stuck while they were standing in the shallow river bank – that entertained them for hours! Many times Micaela shouted with joy as she used water guns, paddles, and buckets to soak us as we floated downriver.
Micaela loved Elves Chasm! Our group was the only one there (this never happens!), so when the others went on a hike above, some of us stayed below. After jumping many times into the pool of water, Micaela sat inside the cave like area behind the waterfall and sang. It was beautiful.
Someone brought a soccer ball on the trip, every afternoon at camp a small group of folks would kick the ball in the air to each other. On our day at Stone Creek there was some sort of baseball/soccer/volleyball type game that everyone on the trip played. What fun!
Hiking was not something Micaela liked to do at home but she enjoyed all of the hikes that we did. Even when we hiked out from our first trip (in the middle of July) and especially when we hiked in for our second trip (again in the middle of July). She was soooo excited to be going back on the river! Micaela felt like she had never left, she was going home.
On our last full day upstream from Diamond Creek, the river was muddy, like milk chocolate muddy, Micaela jumped in the river (after checking with our guide, Lis) and the next thing you knew, about half of our group was in the river with her! It was pure joy on their faces! The river did that. Micaela did that. Being on the river allowed Micaela to just be a happy human with other happy humans. This was what I had hoped for…these kind of memories that will forever be in Micaela’s heart.
It was good to sit down with Micaela as we remembered our time on the river. I loved seeing Micaela’s face light up as she remembered these moments. She was just a kid, at peace, with a joyful smile on her face. Once again, we had no distractions, we had no where else to be, no phones pinging, just the wonderful memories of being together – just us and the River.
Micaela’s mom, Sarah, sent me this note when we got back from our second trip: “Dear Mom, I am so grateful for the investment you made in Micaela. She needed that. She can see how big the world is and how much joy is out there and how much joy she brings to others through these types of experiences. It was a big deal last year but even bigger this time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”