Anywhere you go in the world, if you have the right perspective, you will find something you like,” says author and geologist Wayne Ranney. It’s dawn, and day three of Exclusive Resorts’ Grand Canyon Experience. A hazy orange hue settles over The Rim, which towers nearly 3,500 feet above us. The scent of huevos rancheros, cooked by our Colorado River + Trail Expeditions river guides (and surprisingly skilled chefs), lingers, while nearby sagebrush demands attention, too. Our band of nearly 30 river runners — a group that within just 72 hours has become closely bonded—is huddled around a map, our new morning ritual.

We’re leaving our second campsite, Lava Chuar Canyon, at river mile 66, after having slept under the stars the previous eve. We’re about to embark from a locale that most of us will never return to in this lifetime, but one that has forever etched individual memories of nature staging one of her most brilliant shows—shooting stars, the swoosh of flying bats, and a sunrise that seemingly suspends time. In a nutshell, we’re being reminded that Mother Nature is indeed in charge, considering we’re standing on, and about to raft through, rock that is a billion years old.

To have a chance to completely disconnect, with these views, and this amazing, powerful, full-of-energy place, and the four of us being together - that's the best part. 
Alvaro Rodriguez ,Member Since 2005

Ranney, who’s run the Grand 85 times, begins each morning, post group “duffle shuffle”—preparation for the two power boats that snake the day’s whitewater run—with such aforementioned words of wisdom, in addition to an expert preview of the day’s anticipated geological wonders. By now, we’ve found our river rhythm. Our group has settled in with each other—a mix of curious Type A travelers, for the most part, including families from LA, Mexico, San Francisco, the East Coast, and several kids, mostly early teens. We’re bankers, lawyers, photographers, film producers, entrepreneurs, architects, housewives, and more. Yet, here, the Grand imposes a level playing field, a commonality defined by the rush of the Colorado River, the respectful demands of group camping, and by the anticipated adrenaline-boost found with every raging rapid. Here, we’re all just merely passersby.

And most all come to acknowledge this, even if stubbornly, throughout the week’s adventure. The ladies have come to terms with “The Groover” (the “outdoor adventure toilet,” coined with a wink by our guides). We’re forced to truly unplug — no constant text or email pings or video games for the kids can interrupt us from living in the moment. In just two days we’ve run several famous rapids. We’ve bumped, screamed, and marveled through nine layers of rock, some of which, as Ranney explains, is 1.75 billion years old. Given such staggering statistics, this stark, soothing, and, at times, uncomfortable environment is a whopping reminder of our place on the planet. The Grand Canyon does that to you. And if you’re lucky, as we come to find out, a few of its secrets will be experienced along this 187-river-mile journey.

On this particular day we’re traveling to river mile 110. We’ll cross a fault that made the canyon 1,000 feet deeper at that particular spot. We’re traversing into the heart of the canyon, so far into this thick, wild artery that The Rim will no longer be visible from our floating headquarters. The day prior we ran Georgie’s Rapid, a big, wallop of a wave that’s just a tease of what’s to come as far as huge whitewater. “Georgie,” we learn, from our guide, Ben, is a Canyon legend, the first woman canyon runner to operate a commercial enterprise, and a rowdy rough-and-tumble daredevil with a penchant for young male guides who could be spied gunning the river in a leopard print one-piece. As the week unfolds, our guides — John, Ben, and McKenna — recount other Canyon legends as we navigate a river steeped in discovery and surprise.

Alvaro and I talked about the fact that we wanted to give them education and experiences, and that’s what we’ve tried to do for the past 14 years.
Marcela Rodriguez ,Member Since 2005

Exclusive Resorts Members of 11 years, the Mexico City-based Rodriguez family—Alvaro, Marcela Cortina, and twin 14-year-old sons Mateo and Lucas—have, prior to this trip, only experienced the Grand Canyon from above, while traveling on one of the Club’s Airstream Adventures. Having booked this Grand Canyon river trip a year prior, they’ve been anxiously awaiting discovering the Grand’s “heart,” as Lucas so poignantly explains. “From up top you can only see the heart of the Canyon,” he says. “From down here, you can see basically everything—all the elements, all the layers of rock.” Alvaro, a venture capitalist, and Marcela, an acclaimed architect, have been traveling with the boys since they were little. “Alvaro and I talked about the fact that we wanted to give them education and experiences, and that’s what we’ve tried to do for the past 14 years,” Marcela explains at one of our lunch sites, post group yoga session. The excitement from this family of four is palpable, and though certainly they arrived a close-knit clan, throughout the week their respect for each other, their willingness to always contribute to the group, and the boys’ bonding with other children, is a blessing to behold. Alvaro explains, “Putting a group together is one of the things that ER does really well. Our first experience like this was in the Galapagos a few years ago. The fact that you’re able to go on these trips with travel companions that you have something in common with, you go with a group of people that are great to be with.”

As the week unfolds, and we travel deeper into the heart of the Canyon, the Rodriguez family discovers a trip defined by education, memories-in-the-making, and ultimately, as easily witnessed, a family bond further carved by the mesmerizing slot canyons, nerve-rattling whitewater, and serene starscapes— all gifts of the Grand. “You can think of trips like this as an adventure, as a family experience, as an experience of beauty, of the environment,” adds Alvaro. “But you seldom think of a trip like this as an educational experience. With Wayne, it’s become a learning experience, an education. "I know a thousand times more than I knew just a week ago about geology. Same for the kids.” Herewith, the Rodriguez family recounts some of their—and the group’s—most precious memories and adventures.