The “12 Aha’s of STRETCH” in the Grand COVID Canyon
We just returned from our 2022 STRETCH Expedition: The Grand Canyon (July 6 – 21). 227 miles and 163 rapids. Hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, and a few bouts of COVID. These were the things that STRETCHed us to our limits. It was an adventure, but none of us were alone. We tackled every challenge as a group, met some new friends, and made some memories that will last a lifetime.
It was great to get back to our annual STRETCH Expedition—after a two-year COVID hiatus—having done one every year since 1999. As I reflect on the past couple weeks, here are my 12 “Ahas.”
Keep stretching in all you do,
The 12 Aha’s of STRETCH 2022
- “Sturdy, but elderly group.”
21 participants, representing six states from around the country (CA, OR, MI, CO, WI, MN), ages 30 – 78. 9 women, 12 men. We worked well together, laughed a lot, held up well, except….
3 guides, and 7 teammates got COVID during the course of the STRETCH. In hindsight, should we or the outfitter have required “testing” the morning before we got on the water? For most folks, COVID was a nuisance, but we had a couple guides who were very sick, and at one point we explored a medical evacuation by helicopter.
- “14 nights sleeping under the stars.”
Truly, a special experience. I never put up a tent, and other than on occasional light drizzle and/or lightning storm, the evenings were beautiful. Stars. Full moon. Spectacular.
- “Nigh Nigh.”
We’d go to bed every night at 8:30 p.m., dead tired, and get up at 4:30 a.m. Early to bed, early to rise, which helped us get into some of the camps earlier in the day, rather than paddling against the frequent late-afternoon winds.
- “Crisp, clear communications.”
I was in the paddle boat, with Lenny (who was pinch-hitting as a paddle boat guide due to COVID issues), and I was impressed by his crisp/clear directions when we were in the big rapids. Loud, unambiguous, crisp, clear. And we worked our way through each of those rapids beautifully.
- “One of the simple pleasures of life.”
When we hit our takeout point, 227 miles into the adventure, they had a cooler of cold water. After drinking warm water (and lots of it) for 14 days, that cup of ice-cold water was magical.
- “Digital detox.”
We were unplugged for 14 days. No cellphones. No laptops. No e-mail. No texts. Pure magic. (Some folks used their phones for photos, and I was amazed by the quality of photos coming from the i-phones.)
- “The heat.”
As one of the guides said, “If you’re hot, you’re stupid.” Jump in the water. Pour water on you. While the rest of the country was dealing with heat, so too were we. 100–112 degree temperatures in the canyon.
- “The first-ever STRETCH song.”
Samantha and Kristin wrote the lyrics and music to the first-ever STRETCH song, entitled “Grand COVID Canyon”. Fun, funny, hilarious, with some nice “special effects”. Kudos SBH and KJ.
- “Poop in a box.”
The so-called Groover. In an effort to leave no trace, and preserve the Canyon for many generations to come, all fecal matter is carried out of the canyon. The Groover gets its name from old-time-ammo-boxes that would leave grooves in your behind. Improved technology, and comfort, today.
- “Three types of boats.”
Each day, we had the option of choosing a dory (oarsman, with 3-4 passengers), raft (with six paddlers from our team, and a guide), and oar boat (with oarsman, and 2- 4 passengers). Each experience was different, but I found the opportunities to have 1-on-1 conversations, or small group conversations—on all kinds of topics—to be truly special.
- “The power of laughter.”
14 days. Big heat. Big whitewater. COVID. Sand, sweat, red ants, diarrhea, toelio (an interesting foot fungus), our team had it all. Somehow, we were able to find the humor in all of it, laughed it off, and had a stretchtacular time in the process.
Images from the Trip:
Coming Soon: STRETCH 2023 – Namibia
If you’d like to learn more about STRETCH Expedition please reach out to Kristin Jonason (Consultant/Songwriter) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes