This month we were inspired by the Valentine’s Day holiday to share some of our own Grand Canyon love stories, including those of Glen and Bessie Hyde and AzRA guest and friend Charles Flynn. Today our three-part series comes to a close with a true fairytale written by another one of AzRA’s alumni!
Grand Canyon Wedding
by Melissa Jewell
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when my sister, Corinna, and I started down the Bright Angel Trail so early on that June morning in 2012. I had never been on a trip like this before, and I certainly wasn’t thinking of finding love as we struggled down the Devil’s Corkscrew in the blistering midday heat. When we finally arrived at the cool relief of the Colorado river some 4,380 feet below our starting point, we were greeted with a cold drink, lunch, and the friendly faces of the group we’d be joining. This was day six of their 14 day trip and day one of our nine day trip. I didn’t know it yet, but it was also the beginning of an adventure that would last a lifetime. Everyone in the group was open and welcoming to the five of us that joined the trip that day. Particularly interesting to me was the cute guy, traveling alone, who informed me right away that he had been wearing the same shirt for four days. Back off ladies, he’s all mine!!
One of the best things about being on the river is the sky at night. I have never seen so many stars, and so bright. While stargazing together one night, I realized that this might be a mutual crush. We continued to spend as much time together over the week that remained; dreading the inevitable end to the trip; and since he was from Colorado and I was from Georgia, what that end would mean. Towards the end of the trip, some of the older men suggested to Jamie that we should close the distance between us as quickly as possible because long distance relationships can be hard. I was getting the same advice from some of the women. Long distance relationship?! Everyone else seemed to see it. Maybe this COULD be more than a vacation fling. This notion became more of a reality in Flagstaff when he told me he definitely wanted to see me again and we began planning our next trip. We spent 4th of July weekend in Zion National Park and began flying back and forth every other weekend to see each other. An agonizingly long four months after meeting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Jamie moved to Atlanta, and what started as a love connection on the Colorado River would alter the course of our lives forever.
We were already talking about getting married six months after meeting. Hey, when you know, you know. However, we hadn’t really talked specifics yet. We did know one thing for certain; since AzRA and the magical Colorado River played such a pivotal role in our meeting, we decided that we needed to go back and experience the trip from start to finish as a couple. When I called Kim to book the trip, she jokingly said, “Do you guys want to get married on the trip?”, and we both had a good chuckle. When I shared this story with Jamie that night at dinner, he said, “Is that actually possible?”. Another call to Kim and we found out that it indeed was possible. Wow…I guess we have a wedding plan. Three guides, Jim, Bev, and Neil from the prior year ended up joining our trip. Some were already scheduled, some specifically requested it upon finding out that we would be getting married on the trip. My mom, my sister, and my daughter also joined us. Jim, the lead guide from the prior year, honored us by getting licensed in the state of Arizona and officiating our Grand Canyon wedding for us.
What a wedding it was! On May 9th we stopped at Blacktail Canyon for a short hike and to enjoy the unbeatable acoustics in this peaceful box canyon. By fortuitous chance, one of the assistants on the trip, Emily, was a wedding singer from San Francisco and treated us all with some beautiful songs. Most of us were already back on the rafts with life jackets on when Jamie mentioned to Bev, the lead guide, that he really liked the energy of this place. She said, “Well, should we have the wedding here?”. And just like that, we were getting married in a few hours. After a “planning session” with the guides, and a couple of shots of tequila, everything was set. I had an hour and a half to get ready and then it was time to start. I cannot say enough about how amazing it was to share our wedding with these new friends. All of the passengers and guides on the trip were so happy for us and genuinely wanted to make our Grand Canyon wedding special. A bouquet was made for me of what plants and flowers grow in such a unique environment. Everyone was thrilled to take pictures and be a part of the ceremony. The guides made us a wedding cake, complete with a cake topper that they brought. There was even champagne! They thought of everything.
The most special part to me was the ceremony itself. Emily sang “Hallelujah”, as I walked down the “isle”. Bev read “The Invitation” by Oriah, which still makes me cry. Jim shared some memories from the year before, as well as some readings from river books, and offered words of insight, well wishes, and encouragement. It is so hard to believe that this was the first Grand Canyon wedding that Jim officiated. I knew that getting married on the river would be special, simply for the sentimental aspects of it. I could not have guessed it would be as amazing as it was. Everything was so easy and so wonderful and so special; far beyond my happiest dreams. We had the most amazing and unforgettable wedding anyone could ever ask for and AzRA and the Colorado river were right at the center of it.
We have now been married nearly two years and are currently living the dream in San Francisco.