Mission accomplished. My 15 year old son and I had a memorable trip that was full of adventure and an unbelievable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
First, my son and I drove from Las Vegas to Peach Springs. This does a lot to set expectations. As soon as you pass Hoover Dam, you realize that you really are in a rustic part of America. Please do not expect an all expenses paid resort and casino. If this helps you visualize this, there is no casino on this reservation and as near as I can tell, this trip is the main economic driver for the town.
We spent the night at the Hualapai Resort which is the equivalent of a Motel 6 with a diner. We arrived around 4PM, so we took a little tour of Peach Springs. There is a Cavern tour there and not much else. I brough a couple of cameras, so we spent the rest of day photographing Arizona.
At the resort, we had a couple of clean beds, a decent meal, and checked email from the two public computers in the lobby. I have a Blackberry, but the reception was 1 bar at the most. We woke up the next day ready for a lot of fun. I was surprised however to see two air-conditioned tour buses pull in from Las Vegas. I suspect that going from a tour bus to a yellow school bus would be somewhat of a letdown. However, if you spend the night beforehand, you will have few, if any, letdown issues that are expressed in some of these reviews. Frankly, the yellow school bus fits in with the overall ambiance of the reservation.
The trip itself had plenty of rapids and a remarkable period of dead silence. I was expecting white water all the way through. Not so. The calm part of the river really allowed time to see just how beautiful the canyon really is from the bottom looking up. If it weren't for the slow part, I'm sure we would have focused solely on hanging onto the raft.
You will be able to bring a few goods with you as long as they fit into a small container. I managed to get 2 Nikon cameras in the bag with long lenses. Yes, it was a risk, but I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone unless you are prepared to ruin a good camera. The way it saw it, I'd much rather have great pictures and have to get a new camera than the alternatives.
The helicopter ride was great. We landed right in front a gift shop on the canyon rim. So, after a 40 minute wait or so, our yellow school bus arrived to take us back to the resort. We were back at the resort around 7PM. Given the traffic around Hoover Dam, there is absolutely no way to get back to Las Vegas to catch a 9PM flight.
My son was exhausted which is normally hard to do.
The best way to think of this is that you are taking a trip to rural America. Although it's 2 hours away from Las Vegas, it's about 20 years behind the times. Enjoy it. With nothing else to do, my son and I had our best conversations ever.
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