The trip was planned.
Dad would take Tommy to the Canyon in 2015. Dad had gone before and was excited to share the adventure with Tommy.
You see, getting the chance to raft The Mighty Colorado River is one you don't pass up as it doesn't come around often. I cannot say when my first thought happened....but I remember thinking.
I NEED to go. Tommy and I SHOULD go.
I think I mentioned it first to Chris, then to Mom and finally got the nerve to suggest it to Tommy. I knew he would not be sure if I was serious or not. I was. We started brainstorming the idea and asked the trip coordinator if it was even possible. Dad was a rafter. He was an oarsmen. He knew the ins and outs of a trip like this, where we, well....we didn't.
It was the holidays of 2014 when we made our final plans.
Shuttles. Plane rides. Departures. Arrivals.
This WAS real.
Grand Canyon-South Rim
I distinctly recall stepping off our final shuttle. You could smell the pines. You could feel the crisp air. You could FEEL the energy of the canyon. As we got settled to our room we headed out to get our first glimpse. It was nothing short of EPIC. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and tried to tie up all loose ends as we prepared to be 'off the grid' for 10 full days.
If you remember, the timing of the trip turned out to be interesting.
We would rendezvous with the group on Friday, March 13th. What would have been Dad's 58th birthday. Mom would be home alone on this day without the ability to contact us. We would meet the group at a point on the trip where we would immediately hit 3 very large rapids. As we spotted them after our long hike into the Canyon it was clear they were ready to hit the water. We fumbled through putting on dry suits, battened down our gear and set off for an adventure like no other. As Tommy was stationed to another boat and I climbed aboard mine, I suddenly felt like a young girl again.
Lump in throat.
No Mommy or Daddy to run to or Brother or Husband to comfort me.
I was riding off into a class 7 rapid....I was looking for Dad.
It was the oddest thing.
My brain knew he wasn't there, yet, I searched each boat.
I tried hard to hide the cracking of my voice as my nerves were intense.
I can barely describe to you the sound of an approaching rapid on the Canyon. It was like a jet engine. You could see water bubbling up and hear the water on its journey down the boulders, rocks and terrain. It makes your heart skip a beat. Both Tommy and I ended up the day successfully, staying in our boats.
As we pulled into our camp on Day 1, we were humbled and unsure what the next 9 days would hold.
Deer Creek Falls
As the sun set on March 13th, we had a small urn to set sail on the Canyon and we snuck off from the group for a moment to grant Dad's wishes to be returned to one of the many amazing places he visited.
"Sail on the Canyon and up to the stars" - John Denver
The trip was full of laughs, tears, stories, camp fires, hard work, hikes and bonding.
I would have never imagined myself making this trip, yet I am SO glad I did.
It was tough to be away for so long, but it had me, mentally, in a good place with our loss.
Vagabond lifestyle as we took down and set up camp each morning and evening.
First morning waking on the Canyon
If the chance came up again, I think I would jump right on that plane and set sail on the Canyon.
It's hard to put in to words the sights, the sounds and the utter peacefullness.
I know for me, and I am sure for Tommy, it was a trip we will not soon forget.
One where we got to be alone but together in our grief in a setting that really put a smile on our faces envisioning Dad somewhere smiling that oh so perfect smile from ear to ear.