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  • Writer's pictureGear Hut

Instagram vs Reality

Adventure Pro Malia gives us insight into what happens behind all of the smiley photos you get blasted with after someone goes on a trip. Read on for a summary of her summer trip down the Colorado River.

"Grand Canyon Survival Trip"

(As a preface, this was a private, whitewater rafting trip with my family and three other families. My parents, as well as many others on this trip, used to be professional guides. This was a bucket list trip, and the only thing I can say is that it was truly a surreal experience.)

Over 1 year before put-in date (Put-in is June 6, 2021):

  • Gets permit! Dreams come true!

May 1, 2021:

  • Mom breaks both arms :(

May 2, 2021:

  • Dream trip potentially cancelled

May 4, 2021:

  • Mom sees orthopedic surgeon and is not as broken as we thought

  • Trip still on!!


  • Going through every piece of river gear we own

  • Wrapping all alcohol bottles with immense amounts of duct tape

  • Watching (or maybe not…) orientation videos including food, bathroom, rowing, hiking, camping, rigging, and packing situations.

  • Flying to Salt Lake City only to drive home with my sister for 8 hours (just two days before our 11-hour drive to Flagstaff)

  • Getting bright pedicures

And most importantly

  • Packing the night before the trip in a crazy rush with zero organization implemented (at least in my case)


June 4, 2021

  • We drive 11 hours to Flagstaff, AZ

  • Already sick of my sister’s music choices

  • Ate too much candy

June 5, 2021 (Day Zero)

  • We load up our gear, say goodbye to nice beds and bathrooms, and drive to put-in

  • Time to rig boats (for several hours)

  • Hey, let’s float 500 yards down river, pull over, and camp for the night!


  • This is the group (reference picture)

    • 4 families of 4

    • Sixteen people

    • Oldest “kid” was 20 (me, my sister, and our friend Ethan)

    • Youngest kid was 7? (I could be wrong, don’t factcheck me here)

    • And many adults!

  • We all have varying river experience ranging from almost zero to professional

  • And yes, this was a private trip, so it was just us and people we knew! We got to choose our group and wait 20 years for a permit, but hey definitely worth it!


To summarize the things that are most exciting/disaster-y:

My family gets the kitchen boat (aka heaviest boat), which also happens to be the sweep boat (aka first aid boat) = HEAVY RAFT

Blisters sprout approximately day 2

Lots of spoiled vegetables and going off-menu because of food issues

Lead boat flips in Crystal Rapid, gets stuck in a rock garden, finally floats down to an eddy and we flip it back over

  • Broke both oar locks in the process

  • We only had two extra ones

  • Let’s hope no one else breaks any oar locks

Oh hey! A heat wave (120 degrees in the Canyon), and it barely cools off at night.

I now must wear socks with my Chaco’s and soak my feet in betadine every night because the blisters are so bad.

We have another flip!

  • Bedrock Rapid

  • Kinda scary

  • I ran safety for this one, the stress was real

We run dangerously low on ice…

  • Cue begging the motor rigs for ice every time we see one

  • The cute seven-year-old (waving a broken paddle with “GOT ICE?” written on it) had the most success

  • The ice crisis was real

Heatstroke round one here we go

I get my period - beware PMS-ing Malia

  • Also, there is a whole other mess associated with being a female (a bleeding one) in the wilderness

  • I would be happy to educate on the period struggles (and Leah would too).

We all adjust to drinking warm water. What is ice? Oh right, we ran out.

We survive lava rapid (a class 9!!! And the last big rapid of the river), make it to tequila beach, and breathe a sigh of relief. We are almost done.

Second to last day – my dad says “thank goodness no one got really hurt on this trip”

  • Note: do not EVER say that until we are back to the hotel

  • We still had two days to go

  • Cue “Little Bastard”

Little Bastard rapid is a read and run rapid, avoid the hole, you will be okay.

  • I am napping

  • My sister is reading and chatting with my mom about Little Bastard rapid, which should be coming up anytime

  • Oops there goes Dad right into the hole…

And now we are surfing a very large, heavy raft in a very brutal hole

  • My mom yells “HIGHSIDE” and grabs me, I am awake now

  • My sister has already fallen out of the boat – is now swimming the rapid holding her book above her head to attempt to save it

    • I notice my book is no longer in my hand (sacrificed to the river gods), but I am still holding gummy bears

    • Never mind, the gummy bears had to go we were spinning too violently, and I had to highside

  • Oops there goes Mom she is swimming the rapid (please remember the two broken arms)

  • Dad and I are in the boat – we are doing great!

    • We truly do claim the father-daughter duo award when it comes to surfing holes

    • Seriously, ask anyone who has seen us in Chili Bar

  • And we make it out of the hole, promptly launching me out of the raft, swirling around under it until I pop up

  • And now I am swimming

    • But it was a good thing in the end because I managed to rescue my dad’s Chaco’s and a dry bag as I swam

Here we go with the heatstroke again

And a day later we float on down to take out.

This was truly a wild trip, there is so much more to it, but these were the highlights… but wait, we are not done!

YAY! We made it to take out! We are free and we survived!

NOPE NEVER MIND – the river gods were not done with us…

  • Flat Tire

  • Skids off road

  • Tire is gone, pieces everywhere, melted asphalt

  • Only women and children in the van (but yes, we are more than capable)

  • Only one person has cell service to call the rest of the group for help

Okay, and now we have made it back to the hotel and gotten our gear unloaded. We can call family and friends for the first time in three weeks, sleep in a real bed, take a real shower, and use a real toilet.

Truly the trip of a lifetime.

-Adventure Pro Malia


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