GRAND CANYON, AZ - Boy Scouts from Berkeley Heights have just returned from the trip of a lifetime -- running rapids on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Along the way a series of fortunate coincidences made the trip even more memorable.
The group of 16 Scouts aged 14 to 17 from Troop 368 of Berkeley Heights, along with five adult leaders, had been preparing for this High Adventure expedition for over a year. From fund-raising to preparatory hiking to weather-hazard training to whitewater training, these Scouts lived up to their motto: “Be Prepared.”
The first fortunate coincidence was a heatwave. With temperatures over 110 degrees in the Phoenix and Las Vegas areas, air conditioners were cranked to the max, demanding massive power from the hydro-electric generators in Glen Canyon Dam. This generated massive daily water releases from the dam, creating surges of water which the Scout’s rode through the rapids.
Guides from outfitters Tour West expertly navigated the expedition’s two large “J-rig” pontoon rafts through 68 separate rapids that ranked up to class 10 in intensity (most rivers go only to class 5). Some rapids dropped over 30 feet, sending waves breaking clear over the boats, dousing Scouts with icy water at 50 degrees – a bracing contrast to the oven-like air temperatures.
The second coincidence was that the trip coincided with a late-rising moon and the combination of the Delta Aquarid and the beginning of the Perseid meteor showers. Scouts spent nights sleeping under stars so clear it felt as if they boys were floating in space, as they watched shooting stars cross the Milky Way. Bizarrely the trip also coincided with the fiery breakup of a Chinese Long March 7 rocket which some Scouts spotted and thought was another shooting star breaking up in the atmosphere. Only later did they discover it was a disintegrating rocket.
The expedition was far more than a cruise down the river, as the group hiked several slot-canyons to green oases hidden between walls of red rock, explored a tunnel excavated in the 1960s for a 3rd Dam on the Colorado, and even hiked at night to see centuries-old petroglyphs. The Boy Scouts also encountered ancient Puebloan Indian settlements, complete with house foundations and pottery shards. In a week packed full of adventure the Scouts floated down a stretch of the Little Colorado River, bathed in the turquoise waters of Havasu Creek, played football in Redwall Cavern, and cooled-off in several waterfalls. At one point several Scouts even became stuck in quicksand, so other Scouts and leaders had to dig them out. It took over half an hour to free one Scout!
The adventure began before they even set foot on the water, as Scouts visited an asteroid impact crater (Meteor Crater), got up close and personal with some “jumping cacti” and explored dinosaur footprints preserved in rock near Tuba City. Before leaving the area, they boys enjoyed a competition-quality BBQ lunch, toured the inside of Hoover Dam, and visited Las Vegas where they stopped at the famous pawn shop featured in the Pawn Stars hit TV show.
Along the way the young men of Boy Scout Troop 368 made memories to last a lifetime.