Three generations take to the Colorado River for an inspiring trip through the Grand Canyon.

by Kimberly Brown Seely
Photographs by Justin Bailie

Reprinted with permission from Virtuoso Life

Life is short, and the Grand Canyon is long, which makes it ideal for family bonding. But five minutes into our 12-day trip through the canyon, my husband, Jeff, is worried. “Are you sure we need to be down here for two weeks?”

rafting2We’ve just pushed off down the Colorado River in a 17-foot dory with our two sons: 18-year-old Sam and his brother, James, 16. Our superfit guide, Kerstin, manning the oars, is explaining how dories differ from rafts: As passengers, we’ll need to shift our weight with a quick high-side “punch,” willing the boats up and over each big wave. For now, though, we’re bobbing over mud-brown riffles, and it’s hot – 104 degrees.

We are here because I’ve been casually plotting for about 33 years to transport my clan to the ancientness of the Grand Canyon. My outdoorsy parents took my sister and me down the river in the 1970s, and the experience evidently made such a lasting impression I’ve wanted to bring my own family ever since. We’ve waited so long for this reunion, in fact, we’ve decided to splurge and do it the way one-armed Civil War vet John Wesley Powell did – not in rubber rafts, but in these beautiful, graceful dory boats.

To make the trip even more epic, I’ve invited my 71-year-old father to come along (Mom’s adventure style these days leans more toward Oberoi and Aman).

Soon we hear our first rapid, Badger, rated 4 to 6 on the canyon’s scale of 1 to 10, rumbling downstream. Staring, we see the river come to an edge and – whoosh! – apparently vanish. Kerstin, whom everybody calls KJ, stands for a good look, and I give a wave to my dad, up ahead. He looks pumped. He grins just as his dory is seized by the current and abruptly disappears over Badger’s lip.

Our turn. “Sit straight!” KJ commands. We slide neatly down the rapid’s middle, while holes and haystacks explode all around. A wave rises up like a hand and hits me flat in the chest. Cold!

“This is sick!” the boys yell, officially baptized and actually impressed. Thank god, I breathe to myself. They’re in for the trip of a lifetime and just beginning to get it. Click here to read the article.

VIRTUOSO LIFE’S WHITE-WATER WISH LIST
Classic river trips around the world.

Touch the Southwest can arrange for classic 15- or 18-day wooden dory trips down the Colorado, giving guests an opportunity to dip their toes in the same historic rapids that John Wesley Powell first explored in the late 1860s. The company’s connections in the re­gion also include a river trip that’s accompanied by a string quartet float­ing alongside guests in their own raft. Prices and departure dates vary.

In addition to a remote 600-acre location in the Four Corners area, clean design that plays up the surrounding vistas, and all the usual Aman trappings and service, Utah’s new 40-suite Amangiri resort offers a taste of the river life with half-day excursions down a placid pre-Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry. Doubles from $600, including breakfast and one lunch for two. Rafting trip extra.

Oregon’s Rogue River provides a classic North American wild ride, as evidenced on Abercrombie & Kents six-day excursion. Tackle the river’s exhilarating Class IV rapids, hike the surrounding countryside, visit a historic ranch, and sleep under the stars. Departures: Private departures through 2010; from $11,650.

During Alpine Ad­ventures’ five-day white-water tour of Costa Rica, rafters ply the Reventazón and Pacuare rivers, passing monkeys and color­ful birds and ranging through Class III and IV rapids by day, camping in riverside bungalows by night. Departures: Any day through 2010; from $910 per person for parties of four.

Travelers on Fiji get­aways with Pleasant Holidays can experi­ence the power of the Navua River during a daylong rafting excur­sion through jungle and past cascading waterfalls, with stops for lunch and a dip in the river. Depar­tures: Any day through December 24, 2009, and from January 14 through March 31, 2010; from $1,689, including round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, accommoda­tions, and rafting.

Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for more information. If you don’t have a Virtuoso travel advisor, click here.