Grand Cove Canyon
Guest Rave by Cameron McMillan, Photos by Cameron and Everett
The anticipation of it all was next level on this trip. My first
Grand trip was scheduled in January but life had a different
plan for me. The same weekend as my trip, I ended up fighting
for my life in emergency surgery instead. Surprise!
That was nearly a year ago and this trip represented coming full
circle with it all and having my fitness back after losing so
With the Grand, you are going to pay the piper. Some feel all
the hard work isn’t worth it but to me each step represented
entering into something so wild and remote and each step
represented a further step away during that scary time…..
and onto my trip report….
The drive in is on a 60 mile long dirt road. There has been no
rain or snow so the road is just messy. We caravanned and each
had to keep a big distance to stay out of the dust storms
created by our tires on that very dry road.
(sidebar: can we all collectively do a rain dance tomorrow at
10am MST…maybe we can get this winter going…whose with me
The first piper to be paid was a brutally cold 13 degree night
at camp on the rim. Burr. Waking up in the dark and super cold
to get a first light start…man that takes bravery right there.
Oy. Least fun morning poop of my life in that cold. Just sayin.
The hike in was wonderful. The views of the area and the Grand
Canyon with each step. The Esplanade is a special place. I
enjoyed it very much even though our packs were heavy and BULKY.
(sidebar 2: These packs are next level and you must go to the
minimum in comfort. Not only do you need canyoneering gear but
your backpacking gear AND rafting gear…lifejacket, paddles and
a raft plus your cold water gear. Extra supplies in case you
have unexpected nights.)
Dropping in the canyon was spectacular. What was to be in front
of us? I didn’t know. I just knew we had the right amount of
rope and we were up for the challenge. What’s incredible about
canyoneering in the Grand is being able to drop into all the
layers that make the Grand. You get to know each layer…its
drops, its downclimbs, its boulders and you are challenged with
As we kept dropping, each layer was as stunning as the last. Our
first night at camp was at a confluence between the Redwall and
Muav. We cooked our meals, looked at the stars and were treated
to an all night serenade by an owl in canyon. For real? This my
life I kept thinking, we all did.
(sidebar 3: Cassy brought in fresh veggies and crazy stuff to
make the most incredible Thai Noodles with peanut sauce. It was
incredibly epic and delish!)
The next day we finished the canyon with one rappel after
another. An important note\ about the Grand…rappelling with a
heavy pack is one thing but most of these rappels have awkward
starts and go free hanging. Belay please!
We made great time both days and walked to the mouth of Cove
where it meets the Colorado River well before noon. I knew my
next big challenge was ahead…the packraft. Oy.
I walked to the river and realized the river was a lot more well
active than I imagined in my head. Eddys everywhere, ripples,
waves and moving fast. Welp, I gulped and said here goes
nothing. After getting everything in a dry sack, our rafts blown
up…it was go time. We said our goodbyes to Wayne and Melissa
who climbed out the Red Slide instead of our route. It was time
I watched Cassy paddle through an eddy and taken into the
current in this tiny tiny canyoneering pool toy. I followed
behind her and as soon as the current snapped me forward…..I
saw several 3 foot waves right in front of me…and I thought
“oh sh*t” and realized here goes nothing. Luckily, I made it
safely past those first set of ripples and sighed knowing
okay…yeah I can do this….I got this.
Paddling a packraft is different than any paddling I have done
in whitewater before. Keeping your boat forward is basically
your only job and it requires a lot of paddling and being very
active…all the while you have water coming into your boat. Its
doable but be ready to paddle your butt off in the ripples!
The end of the paddle was flat water, we linked legs and sat
back and just let the current take us to camp all together.
These are the moments your soul sets on fire. Being with
incredible human beings, doing something so incredible in the
most incredible place on earth. Is this real life?
We got to camp right where the notoriously hard climb out would
be the next morning. I decided not to focus on that but just
enjoy camp. The roaring sounds of Lava Falls rapids (the hardest
rapid in the Grand) put us to sleep, was our noisemaker all
night and woke us up in the morning.
What a night. We crawled into our bags early and got cozy while
gazing at the stars. Simplicity. Bliss.
We all woke early and got packed to hit that scramble out, my
last and final challenge. I think its 1.5 miles and 2,500 feet
of lava rock and cactus to climb out. We put our noses down and
got out in incredible time…we emerged from the FINAL hill out
to my beautiful truck waiting right there with beers and string
Grand Canyon, thank you for your safe passage and letting us
marvel in your majestic wild and expansive views and experience
what an adventure it is to explore your layers, your canyons,
…until we meet again my new friend….