Take Control Of Your Life: Rowing The Grand Canyon Part 5


Beaver Falls On The Grand Canyon, proving the great the outcome if you take control of your life
Beaver Falls On The Colorado River

Give Me The Fish (GMTF): People naturally only plan for their own wants and needs. If you want a say in how your life turns out, stop being a bi-stander.  Take control of your life and make decisions based on your needs. It’s ok to ruffle a few feathers in the process.

 “We have to turn back,” Anna said as we hiked down the trail. She was a little upset because we’d already blown our dedicated time hack to turn around. And, in her defense, I was hiking unfairly fast, especially with her being half my size.

“You can”, I tell her, “but I am going to make it to the falls”.

“They might start looking for us” She replied.

“Maybe, but I doubt it. At most, we will be an hour or two late and there is only one direction we could’ve went. It won’t need to be much of a search party”, I sarcastically tell her. As I say this, I know she’s right to a certain degree. But I’ll be damned if I miss seeing these falls.

“Look, I told them last night I wanted to see the falls. Today, they saw me arrive late after I helped the other raft. And, the guys saying we only have a couple of hours are the same guys who have been here before and don’t care. People always boss other people around to shape the world to their needs. You have to look out for yourself and take control of your life. This is likely the only chance either of us will ever have to see these falls. It’s worth pissing a couple of people off in the process.”

There Is Always A Catch

We are in the middle of a hike in Havasu Canyon. This canyon joins the Colorado River around mile 157 on our kayaking trip down the Grand Canyon. Our destination is Beaver Falls, one of the many beautiful falls that lead up to the famous “Havasu Falls”. Unfortunately, Havasu itself is not reachable in a day hike from the river, and you have to get a special permit to hike to it from elsewhere. So, our goal is reaching Beaver Falls. The first of the major waterfalls that lead to Havasu.

I am stoked to see the falls. The trip had been talking about how cool this place is for the last week or so. The night before we had hashed out a game plan to get access to the discrete side canyon that makes up the falls, Havasu Canyon. The problem lay in where it sits. The entrance sits right at the top of a rapid with pretty fast-moving water.

The guys that had done this trip before had warned us all day about how hard it was to reach the smaller canyon.  If the canyon was missed by one person, we would all have to miss it. For safety reasons, we could not afford to be split up.  

If You Are Going To Take Control Of Your Life, You Need To Adapt

That morning, we had arrived on-site and game planned our way to make it into the canyon. The opening only measured two rafts wide (we had 4 rafts and 9 kayaks on the water). We all started barely scraping in, when one of the oarsmen, Ron, made a minor error and he and his 1,800-pound oar rig flashed by, shooting past the canyon and into the rapid below.

Havasu Canyon
Havasu Canyon is a tight fit. At this point you anchor your boat to the wall and then swim in.

Selfishly, my first thought was “Dammit, I need to see these falls”. I tossed my bow-line to a fellow kayaker and yelled for him to tie it off as I climbed up the closest ridgeline (a 50-foot scramble). I raced down the canyon wall to see where the raft went.

As I got farther downriver I started losing hope about seeing the historic falls. Just as I’m considering giving up, I see a figure trying to tie off a raft.

Thank God, it’s Ron.

I stop in wonder for a moment. This yoked old man managed to stop his raft mid-rapid and jump on to the shore. He is litterally twice my age and I’m not sure if I could have done that.

After the awe wore off, I ran over and helped him tie off.

By the time we finished and hiked back up, we had already lost 45 minutes and the group had only wanted to see the entire area for a couple of hours, tops. I didn’t know it yet, but it’s at least 4 miles to the falls.

Better To Ask Forgiveness Than Permission

The group was chilling in the pools formed by the unnaturally light blue water. None of them seemed to care that Ron almost didn’t make it. I debate for a moment and decide I’m going to the falls anyway. Knowing that I would probably blow the timeline, and also knowing the merits of, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, I head down the creek towards the falls. Besides, I feel like I’m entitled to the full 2 hours I was promised.

Havasu Canyon Pools
Start of the hike down Havasu Canyon.

As I started down the trail, one of the girls in the group decided to tag along. I’m not sure if she realized how late we were going to be, but after about 45 minutes of fast walking (it’s slow going with the overgrown trails and loose sand), she is begging to turn back. And, I’m adamantly refusing. After 20 minutes past the time that should have been our turn around point, I bitterly cave to her demands. 

As I do this, I know I’m letting somebody else dictate my life.

When You Don’t Take Control Of Your Life, You Face The Consequences On Your Own

I can’t believe I’m not going to see these falls. I’m also pissed because there is no way we would have made it regardless. I was told a couple of miles tops and we had been walking fast for 45 minutes or so. From our turn around point, we can see about 3/4’s of a mile down, but still, I can’t see any sign of the falls.

Along Havasu Canyon
I may have taken a wrong turn on the way to the falls. Dead end.

I try to console myself with the sky blue creek and the smaller falls that we passed during the hike. It’s still beautiful. But, my sense of mission failure is slowly turning what should have been a trip of a lifetime into a bitter experience. On the way back, after about a half-mile, we run into a member of the group who decided to start hiking up as well. Presumably, after he saw us head down the trail.

I talk to him for a moment, and he said he was going to be late too and wanted to keep hiking. At that, I immediately regret my decision to turn around. I let someone else take control of my life and violated my own values in the process.

This is straight karma.

Take Control of Your Life, You Don’t Have To Bend To The Will Of Others

Being humbly reminded of my values by Dean, for my own sake  I had to get Beaver Falls. I tell Anna that I have to go on my own if I’m going to make it. She started to argue. But, I wasn’t willing to compromise, I already did that once.

Before I head off, I evaluate the situation I’m in. My camelback is already half empty. We probably backtracked a half-mile, so I probably now have 2.5 miles to go to the falls and then the 4 miles back. Not to mention how long the group is going to be waiting for us.

Trail to Beaver Falls, Havasu Canyon
Trail to Beaver Falls in Havasu Canyon

I realize I’m going to have to run. I tighten my sandals and take off running. The bushes, trees, and rocks blur by as I run. Slowing down only for the rock scrambles every 150 yards or so and for the dozen times I have to cross the creek ( it’s probably about 50 feet across at the widest and waist-high at the deepest).

I don’t actually know what I’m looking for, I’m just really hoping I’ll recognize it when I see it. My arms and legs are bleeding as I get scraped up by all of the overgrowths. My breath is burning as I keep pushing on, but it only takes looking at my watch to give me the motivation to keep going. This will be the only chance I will ever get to see this, being uncomfortable is well worth the reward.

Is This Real Life?

Reaching Beaver Falls and Proving that you can accomplish your goals, just take control of your life
Me reaching Beaver Falls. By being able to take control of your life, you will be rewarded. The universe helps those that help themselves.

Soon, I start hearing the crashing of water as I race along the glistening stream.

I break out of the clearing and I’m immediately dumbstruck by the sight before me. The water is literally Crayola marker blue. The pool below the falls is about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, maybe more and it’s ringed by its own mini canyon.

On one side there are beautiful caves that beg to be explored, and the falls are topped with an impenetrable looking jungle above it.

I’m pretty sure I just found paradise. I collapse on the small cliff edge and start giggling with happiness, and yes, I mean giggle.

It’s definitely a combination of dopamine from the run, happiness from mission accomplishment, exhaustion from pushing myself, and the sensory overload of how stunning this place is. There is no way pictures could ever do this place justice. After I lay there for a minute, I roll off the bank of the creek and into the water. I welcome the coolness as it flows around me. I keep thinking to myself that this is my reward for sticking to my values. When you take control of your life, the world rewards you.

I swim over to the falls and climb up to peer into the jungle.

It looks so lush and green. Everything here begs to be explored. But, I look at the time.

I’m already an hour and a half late and I have 4 miles togo. I’m also almost out of water.

It’s Good To Take Control Of Your Life, But You Have To Know Your Limits

Regretfully, but knowing it’s the right choice, I start heading back.  

When I reach the guy who was following behind me I walk with him for a minute and then he has a good idea. “How about you run back and tell the group we’re all safe?” Smart thinking. I start jogging again. He had the same slight look of bitterness on his face that I had earlier. The face of mission failure. I quietly think, “That could have been me”.

When you don’t take control of your life, your bare the emotional cxonsequences, no one else. Just you.

I eventually get back to the group. Saying the group is livid upon my arrival is probably an understatement. The yelling ensues. They are outraged at having made them wait. I didn’t really argue back.

They had a right to be upset. I didn’t tell them about my plan. But I also didn’t feel guilty about making them wait.

I was able to make the hike only because I kept my mouth shut.

If I had said something, they would have admanetly refused.

So, after one failed attempt to explain myself, I just take it. I awkwardly wait for the other two members of the group to come back. No one is talking.

By the time the other two show up, everyone has already burned up their anger on me, so everyone silently packs up to head out. As we pull out into the river, one of the group members sheepishly asks, “How was it? Can I see the pictures?”, I grin and happily tell him “It was amazing, hell yeah you can see the pictures!”

The Right Choice Is Always Made When You Take Control Of Youur Life

While I didn’t enjoy upsetting the group. I’m also not going to sacrifice my wants in the world. Everyone has to look out for themselves. The world doesn’t do it for you. The only solution is to take control of your life and stop being a bi-stander.

The two guys behind me didn’t make it. One because of their fitness, but the other, because they listened to the group and didn’t have the courage to head out on his own. He had an additional 45 minutes that he didn’t take advantage of.

I was lucky. I had a second chance and the ability to make up for failing my values. Not only did I reinforce my beliefs on always ensuring you take control of your life, whether that be physically or mentally. But I also was able to see an amazing piece of the world that I will be able to forever hold onto.

Take control of your life and you will be astounded at how many opportunities in the world open up and how much better your life becomes.

*Technically this occurred about 22 miles before the previous article about Lava Falls, but who’s counting.