Hilde Schweitzer 12/06/2018 | Posted in rivers, Trip Reports, Trips, Whitewater
We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sail into the mystic
If ever there were a song written about a trip on the Grand Canyon, Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic represents that for me.
It’s nearly impossible to condense 15 days of adventure and emotion on the Grand Canyon into a few paragraphs but I will try.
Every other year since 2008 Tony Lunt, who is EJ’s partner at Jackson Kayak, has chartered a trip down the river with Outdoors Unlimited Grand Canyon Rafting to celebrate life. The first trip ten years ago was dedicated to his 50th year on earth and this one, in 2018, celebrates his 60th.
Tony is a conundrum. He lives in Arizona which is a state not known for it’s whitewater opportunities. He is a cattle rancher as well as a kayaker/rafter. He boats an average of once a year—in a good year. He is one of the strongest proponents of environmental ranching I have ever known and walks the walk on his ranch in Arizona and other properties that he has invested in; an example being the Diamond Cross Ranch, a 100,000 acre ranch in Montana that is managed to be ecologically sustainable in perpetuity. He is one of the most physically and mentally strong people I know. He is also one of the most generous.
Hark, now hear the sailers cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
A lot has happened in those 10 years since the first trip. Tony’s sons, 14 and 18 on that trip, are now grown men with lives and careers of their own. They have blossomed into expert kayakers who now lead me down the rapids and look out for others. All of us have aged 10 years and some of us are accompanied by the aches and pains that could easily be used as excuses not to try something new but that hasn’t slowed down Tony in the least.
Tony, who took a playboat down the river on that first trip, chose a different challenge for this one. Although in past years he rowed more and more on each trip, he set the lofty goal of rowing his own custom painted Arizona raft the entire 240 plus miles for this one—solo.
It’s not easy rowing a loaded boat down the Grand Canyon for anyone. The days are long, the boat is heavy and unwieldy, the rapids are puzzles whose solutions are constantly changing midstream just when you think you have it all figured out. The elements play havoc with your mind. Two days of 50 knot winds (verified) are enough to make even the strongest rower cry uncle. The heat is incessant and you are constantly fighting a losing battle of hydration, focus, blisters and sore muscles. The options of chucking it in, calling in a replacement, asking for a do-over are not on the table when you row your own boat.
When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it
I would be lying if I said I did not have some doubts about the outcome of this endeavor but as the trip progressed, as I watched Tony gain confidence and skill, it became apparent that not only was he going to succeed, but he was also morphing into a truly competent guide on the river. Not to say that mistakes were not made, but with each mistake came a lesson that got tucked away to be used on another day. He got bolder, stronger, more confident in his runs and by the time we got to Lava, hands down the most difficult rapid on the river, he chose his line and came out victorious.
We started out a group of 26 unique and separate individuals each with their own reason for being there but day by day we coalesced into a river family, a tribe of people stronger together than apart. The Grand Canyon has been known to change lives and this trip was no different. Tony Trips RULE! Congratulations, Tony you are an inspiration! Welcome to the Grand Canyon River Guide tribe!
And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float
Into the mystic
Best Grand Canyon River Company: Outdoors Unlimited Grand Canyon Raft Trips
Best Grand Canyon Photography: William (Where’s Bill) Lesch