SUU Outdoors has always offered spring break adventures to students, but this year they accomplished their most “Grand” excursion yet.
Most students don’t have a spare $1800-$2500 to spend during the week-long hiatus. This is the average cost outfitters charge for a 5-day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, but with SUU Outdoors, a small group of students spent three days on the river for only $150.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had students lining up as early as 7 a.m. outside SUU Outdoors Basecamp to sign up for the trip on Mar. 8-10.
Departing campus at 4 a.m. on Friday, Mar. 8, the group traveled to Peach Springs, Arizona. There they met with local shuttle drivers who drove them an additional two hours north to the Diamond Creek Boat Launch around three in the afternoon.
The 15-member expedition was treated to about 8-10 rapids, mostly class II and III on an international classification scale of I-V, which measurement takes into consideration technicality, obstacles, and wave size. The Grand Canyon actually has its own classification scale, rating from 1-10, with 1 being flat water and 10 being the equivalent to a class V.
The group enjoyed mostly sunny weather in the mid-60s, and several short stops along the way. They explored springs trickling down from adjoining gneiss slot canyons. Students also learned the history of General John Wesley Powell’s first expedition down the Colorado river.
Due to the volume of snow and rain received during the winter, the river was flowing much higher and faster than in past years of drought.
The river was so fast, in fact, that the first camping spot was accidentally passed by. The most difficult rapids of the three-day section, including Killer Fang Falls, were also navigated without notice.
Assisting as trip leaders and guides, Jake Manning and Kelly Goonan, assistant professors of outdoor recreation, were observably surprised after realizing that they had hit the hardest rapids so quickly.
Levi Pendleton, the coordinator of SUU Outdoors and primary rafting guide, organized the first Grand Canyon trip for his senior capstone project while he attended SUU seven years ago.
According to Pendleton, planning for this trip has taken years of refining logistics. Two to three months in advance, he had to apply for permits, receive permission to access the river by the indian reservation, plan meals and structures.
“This is definitely a part of our bigger, badder, radder trip series where we go a little bit further, we’re a little bit more adventurous,” Pendleton said. “We don’t do too many river trips of this type, it requires more time, money, effort, and skill set.”
Though the water was cold, the students braved the rapids in rain gear, some even donning wetsuits, but giggling in excitement the entire 54-mile trip.
“It was like a roller coaster with no rails and no seatbelt, and we could’ve died, but we didn’t!” Paige Hansen, a freshman studying political science, said with a laugh.
Senior Executive Apprentice Guide, Trevor Tegtmeier, had several suggestions for future rafters.
“Bring more cheese,” he claimed. “The longer the paddles are the better. Rocks get in your way–do not think they are your friends. Bring more hacky sacks; also bring a frisbee.”
Tegtmeier, a junior studying outdoor recreation, parks and tourism, works at SUU Outdoors and embodied the spirit of the trip: laughter, fun, enthusiasm, and excitement.
The expedition hit the majority of whitewater within the first two days along the stretch of the Colorado between Diamond Creek and at Pearce Ferry in Lake Mead. In the afternoon of the second day, the three rafts were strapped together and floated down the water, powered by a small 4-stroke outboard motor.
Being treated to one of world’s greatest natural wonders is just another perk of attending the “Most Outdoorsy School in the Nation.”
Story By: Reyce Knutson
Photos Provided By: Reyce Knutson