Grand Canyon Rafting August, 2019 – Photography by Sheryl Dawson
Grand Canyon Rafting Story:
Journey into Scientific & Spiritual Truth
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Isaiah 40:22
Having returned from a Grand Canyon rafting trip with Canyon Ministries, I am eager to share that it was more than I could have hoped for. Our hosts Bill Barrick and Nate Loper did a superb job in teaching and ministry. The planning and provisions through Arizona River Runners were excellent and proceeded without a hitch. Learning about the alignment of the Grand Canyon formation with the Biblical Flood story was educational and enlightening. Rather than “supposition”, the teaching is based on scientific and geological facts.
If you consider that early “wisdom” believed the world was flat, it is not so hard to realize that scientific theories and explanations today also can be misguided. Fascinating that Isaiah had the science of our globe right 2100 years before Galileo! The teaching was clearly a highlight of the journey, but there was so much more to enjoy.
Fascinating that Isaiah had the science of our globe right 2100 years before Galileo!
The teaching was clearly a highlight of the journey, but there was so much more to enjoy.
The community of people who came together from many walks of life and work, generations and even global locations to experience the canyon together was really remarkable — a microcosm of the church united through Christ in the canyon journey. The indescribable beauty of the multi-colored and layered canyon walls against a brilliant sky, the refreshing flow of the river and rapids contrasted with the canyon summer heat, the stunning night sky with brilliant stars and from our perspective deep in the canyon the eerie moon glow rising late in the night were all enthralling scenes. I did not think about business, or electronics, or news, or anything beyond the experience in which we were immersed even for a moment!
Planning the Adventure
Since only 21,000 people a year can experience the rafting trip regulated by the National Park, one must plan a year or more in advance to schedule the trip. My husband Ken and I had always said we would love to raft the Grand Canyon, yet never seemed to be able to plan ahead. Last year having moved to Flagstaff, I decided while still able, I should commit to the trip! I reached out to family and friends to see if someone may like to join me but turned up empty so scheduled solo. There was just one seat left on the Canyon Ministries tours so I quickly reserved it thinking, surely this was meant for me!
About a month in advance the rafting company contracted by the ministry began to prepare us for the journey with a great outline and list of items to take in a small duffle bag. Never having done an outdoors overnight adventure, I carefully followed the advice. Since photography is one of my passions, I decided last minute to buy a waterproof camera in addition to my iPhone protected in a waterproof case – I was glad I did as in rolling rapids, pictures were far easier to take with my new camera.
Getting to Our Destination
Living in Flagstaff, I flew to Las Vegas via Phoenix and stayed the first night at the Desert Rose Resort where the rooms are comfy and large. The next morning, I met the tour guides from Canyon Ministries and 25 adventurers all of whom would become well acquainted throughout the journey.
Then we loaded the bus for the airport where we flew in two small planes over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam headed for the Grand Canyon about a 45-minute flight. We landed on a small remote desert runaway and in an ol’ rickety bus we were hauled to Bar-10 Ranch in the remote Arizona Strip.
After horseback riding, dinner and 4-wheeling for those interested, the Bar-10 young staff put on an entertaining outdoor music and dance show before we bunked down for the night.
Into the Canyon
Early the next morning after our last real shower for the journey and breakfast, we headed to the helicopter pad for the 9-mile flight into the Whitmore Wash canyon to meet up with the rafting company at river mile 187.5. There we placed our gear into waterproof bags, loaded up two rafts, donned our life jackets and headed downriver.
First Day on the River
Perhaps the interpretation was influenced by the archeologist’s world view; Nate inquired of a Zuni artist about their tradition who shared that Zunis believe in a Creator who formed animals and man from the earth as distinct species and that man was endowed with a unique life and wisdom apart from other creatures. Zunis are very private about their religious beliefs and traditions due to persecution.
With a few easy rapids we motored the Colorado stopping for an interesting hike along the shore to learn about some Zuni and Paiute pictographs. One of the raft guides shared his experience with an archeology group who described the pictographs we were viewing as representing the ancient Indians’ belief of their origin. The interpretation was that they came from the river as simple organisms and evolved into man eventually to rise to the top of the cliffs; interesting that this naturalistic view is not unlike Darwin’s!
We then beached for lunch at a beautiful spot. The canyon walls are endlessly intriguing, picture-perfect wherever you looked.
After a seemingly short but invigorating day, we camped by rapids at River Mile 209.8 on Sunday. We learned to put up our cots for the night and no one bothered with tents as it was stifling hot and the night sky proved to be a far grander canopy!
During our time of learning while dinner was prepared, Bill shared about the canyon formation as the judgment of God and His provision for restoration through Christ who bore the crushing weight of the sin of the world. He referenced Job 12:7-10 and Isaiah 53:5 for the scripture lesson – spiritual food for thought for a memorable day.
After a great fajita dinner, we washed in the murky river and prepared for the quickly setting sun. Despite the oppressive heat even throughout the night, with all the activity of the day sleep came readily. As the stars appeared in the black canyon sky, the brilliance of the constellations punctuated by shooting stars was breathtaking. I could not help but whisk back tears of joy to experience God’s amazing universe from a mile down in the Grand Canyon. During the night I awoke to an iridescent glow that made me wonder, “is it morning already?” As I looked around at the large circular glow above the canyon wall the moon began to peek out from behind the towering wall – checking my watch it was 3:45. Though a mere half-moon it was stunning in brightness and I could not take my eyes off it. Softly whispering my favorite hymn, The Love of God, I fell into a peaceful slumber:
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky. O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When I reawakened to the light of the morning sun, the moon was far distant, tiny by comparison to its early morning canyon rising. The perspective of the sky from a mile down in the canyon is profoundly unique as the walls of the canyon narrow one’s view while the dark wilderness promotes a seemingly infinite view into the universe. After dressing, washing again in the river, packing up our gear, enjoying coffee/tea during a short ministry time about the Genesis creation account, and consuming a hearty breakfast, by the time the sun rose over the canyon wall we were ready for day two on the river.