“What are our options,” I asked Mark, “if I don’t want to run this?” We were on the shore scouting Granite Rapid in the Grand Canyon – the largest rapid I’d ever considered running. Our timing put us there at fairly high water, and it looked like nothing but pure hydraulic chaos. Huge lateral waves dumped right into crashing holes which could easily flip my fully-loaded boat if I’d hit them even slightly wrong. We’d already run several very large rapids that day, and mentally I was tired.
Mark, Dean and I talked about our options and then took some time to pray about it. We began seeing another line on the left side of the rapid, one we had originally dismissed as being too risky. It would require us to hit a narrow passage between two pour-overs right at the top, but the rest of the line would be much more straightforward. I still didn’t want to run it, but was encouraged by the words of my brothers try. “You’re loved by Christ and you’re here for a reason,” Dean told me, “God wouldn’t bring you down here to harm you!” “You have the skills to run this,” Mark added, “and besides, I don’t want to have to come back up here to row your boat!” OK, let’s do this.
As we walked back to our boats above Granite Rapid, I was thinking about my experience running Hance, the first Class 8 rapid in the canyon which we ran the day before. The Colorado river drops 33 vertical feet over boulders carried in by gigantic flash-floods, making huge holes and crashing hydraulic waves in this long rapid. We had decided to enter right of center, then move left below some large rocks to run the smaller waves on that side. We entered where we had planned, but the current was pushing us much harder to the right than we anticipated. Suddenly my raft was up on its side and I was falling. I was sure the boat was flipping, and began thinking about what a rough swim this was going to be, especially if I came up under the boat.
And then I was back upright. I wasn’t sure how, but there wasn’t time to think about that. I had just enough time get my oar back in and make a couple of strokes to straighten the boat before hitting a monstrous wave. And another one. And several more. It felt like I was dreaming when I got out of the rapid upright! “I’m sure it isn’t in an angel’s normal job description,” I wrote in my journal, “but I’m pretty sure one pushed my boat back over in Hance this morning!”
A few minutes later we were back in our boats having just pushed off from the shore. I was nervous to run Granite, but I was overwhelmed with peace and the feeling of Christ’s love. He pushed my boat upright yesterday when I should have flipped; I can trust him again today. It was as if Jesus was sitting there in the boat with me saying, “I’ve got your back kid. Now let’s run this thing!”
And run it we did! Something changed for me that day. We still had more than half of our 226 miles and many big rapids remaining, but the same peace was with me for the rest of the trip. I even found myself singing worship songs while rowing through class 5 rapids, which is amazing until you hit a wave and get a mouthful of muddy water! I’m still processing all the ways God worked in my life through the 16 days we spent in the Grand Canyon. It was an awesome time spent with 6 other Godly men, and God worked in many ways in each of our lives. We’re so thankful for each person who was praying for us during this amazing adventure!