My trip began at 5 oâ€™clock a.m., one hung-over morning after partaking in too much of everything nice. I roused my roommate from his stupor and reminded himÂ
that he had made a solemn oath that he would be my â€œgo-to guyâ€ in the morning. He later told me that on his way home from dropping me off at the Rec Cen, heâ€™d stopped at IV Market and guzzled two large bottles of Gatorade before getting back in the car.
I was going on a trip to the Grand Canyon for five days and six nights of my spring break, ignoring the temptation to spend the time chasing tail in Mexico like most of our fellow gauchos.Â
The trip, which was coordinated by the UCSB Adventure Program, cost me about $230. This may sound steep for camping, but it really was a steal. The price included breakfast and dinner for a week, transportation hundreds of miles across the country, and permits for backcountry trails, which can be a real hassle to get a hold of.Â
Alcohol and drugs were considered contraband on the trip, but the cash saved by traveling with the group made it too good to pass up. By the end of the trip weâ€™d all decided it would very simple to, say, bring along a J and small bottle of Visine to make those stars shine a little brighter.Â
Anyhow, there I was at five in the morning, my 61-pound backpack at my feet, struggling to cram all the essentials for survival into the pack without freaking out. I had never been backpacking before, but neither had most of the people with me, so I figured my odds of survival were rather high.Â
I was ecstatic about the idea of having all the things necessary for survival on my own back. I had food, clothing and shelter that I could take with me nearly anywhere in the world; it gave me a real sense of power and excitement.
On the way the way there, I alternated conversations with a variety of characters. There was a girl who used to babysit kids in Amsterdam (who later turned out to be annoying), a guy studying abroad from Australia, a mechanic and a teacher who were recent UCSB alumni, two dudes from Thousand Oaks, and two physics grad students from the East Coast who would spin poi for our entertainment at night.Â
After the long drive, we arrived at the rim of the canyon in the depths of darkness. We set up our tents and tried to get some sleep before our seven-mile descent towards the Colorado River the next morning.Â
There was god damned snow on the ground.Â I must admit I had one quick â€œWhat the fuck am I doing here?â€ the moment I woke up after the first freezing night, dreading to get out of my sleeping bag. Ten minutes later, I was dressed and standing in the sun, eager to get going.Â
At the head of the trail we posed for a group photo before we began to slide down icy trails. The canyon is actually not so much a hole in the earth, but a formationÂ of towering rock walls thrust up from the ground. At the rim, the elevation is actually somewhere in the vicinity of 9,000 feet.
We descended down icy trails, which quickly melted with the rising sun and our falling bodies. Seven miles we plunged into the heart of wonder to stand, before nightfall, in the shallows of the Colorado, gazing up at spires of rock. The environment was suddenly lush and green near the river, standing in stark contrast with the dusty trails.Â It gave you the feeling of have being transported into another world. On our way down, we saw a condor and some ragged looking deer on the banks of the river.
For the rest of the week, we hiked around the canyonâ€™s trails, following various creeks.Â Hiking in the shadows of canyon walls was like standing at the foot of an ancient cathedral. You could almost see the stained glass on the faces of the walls, carved in by millions of years of weathering.Â
We spent our nights gazing at the infinite number of stars, pointing out the constellations or playing cards by the light of a lamp. Itâ€™s remarkable how close people can become when they spend their days living together in nature, without phones, televisions, and laptops to distract them from one another.Â
Warm in my sleeping bag, I was awoken by the call of nature early in the morning.Â My eyes were suddenly flooded with light from the full moon that had finally risen above the walls of the canyon to rain an eerie white light into its depths. The light overflowed over the top of the distant rim of the canyon, on which I could see the snow line riddled with pines that cast shadows from the moonlight.Â Overwhelmed by the feeling of being on another planet under fluorescent lights, I couldnâ€™t fall back asleep; I just sat and stared, awestruck.Â
Of course, it wasnâ€™t all a glorious adventure. The days were long, hot, and tiresome; we carried more than 50 pounds on our backs. Meals were looked forward to not only as a means to fill our stomachs, but also to lighten our packs. The Australianâ€™s troubles were worsened by the sale-rack boots heâ€™d purchased for the trip. His feet began collecting blisters day one, and were soon completely covered with open sores. Despite the pain, he persevered, leading us the last four miles as we climbed out of the canyon.
We stopped at a pizza parlor before departing, where the owner rewarded our efforts with a free pint for my buddy Paul.Â Seizing the moment with Paul in the restroom and our group leaders outside, we quickly drank his beer and disposed of the evidence.Â You can take the kids out of IV but you canâ€™t take the IV out of the kids. Paul was much dismayed, but forgave us before we crossed the state line.
In my opinion, the Adventure Program is the best resource this school has to offer, aside from a few noteworthy professors. Each quarter it offers hiking and backpacking trips to destinations including Yosemite, Santa Cruz Island, Big Sur and Havasu, to name a few. Itâ€™s a great opportunity to try new things and meet new people; I made friends that Iâ€™m still close with to this day.
Donâ€™t let the allure of beer pong with the neighbors deter you from stepping outside the bubble that is IV. Go somewhere. Do something. Whether itâ€™s with the Adventure Program or not, take the chance to try something new, and Iâ€™ll bet you wonâ€™t regret it.Â