Colorado River “Baptism”
As the sun was rising on a new day, I stepped out of the motorhome with my cup of coffee and thought how different from Florida it was to experience the daily temperature swings here on the high desert of Colorado. We arrived in Grand Junction yesterday and planned to spend about a week with friends at their place. The temperature was 95 yesterday and last night dipped to the low 60’s. We slept with the motorhome windows open and listened to the coyotes singing and playing not too far away as we fell off to sleep.
Our friends are passionate about dogs and currently have a Champion Mini Bull Terrier among others. Their estate is set up beautifully for the obsession. They have 5 acres and it’s well thought out for the dogs with perfectly fenced dog runs attached to an outbuilding housing the kennels that are heated and air-conditioned. There is also another outbuilding which is a nice large shop where they keep outdoor equipment and store their RV and another relatives motorhome out of the weather. We backed our motorhome up to the shop and connected our 30 amp power and voila, set up for the week. Their house is very tastefully done with a nice patio and grilling area where we sat for half the night while enjoying drinks and talking about our past adventures and what we wanted to do while visiting them. One of the cool features of their house is a very large home theater that is decorated with vintage movie posters and a rolling popcorn cart. They shared that they were hoping to sell out in Colorado and relocate to Florida to escape the harsh winters.
In addition to being dog people, our friends are sportsman and enjoy hunting and being outdoors. They told us they’d like to take us up to their hunting camp for a day to show us the mountains. We also decided that we would go White Water Rafting during our visit. They knew a place that offered rafting excursions on the Colorado River and did a great job. So the next day we worked out the schedule, made our reservations and then did some grilling and enjoyed a movie in that awesome home theater with comfy theater seating and a surround sound system to rival a “live” Kid Rock concert.
The following morning found us packing our backpacks for our rafting adventure. We were going out with the Rock Gardens Rafting Company in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. They have a nice selection of packages and we chose to do the Double Shoshone (pronounced show-show-nee) package for the “Adventure Seeker”. The more typical package is all day and takes you through the adrenaline filled Shoshone rapids including the sections of Class 3 and 4 rapids called “Baptism”, “Tuttle’s Tumble”, “The Wall”, “Tombstone” and “Man Eater” rapids with a long section of lazy river making for a full day excursion. The Double Shoshone package does all of the rapids mentioned, but instead of then doing the lazy river section, the bus and trailer picked you up after all the rapids and transports you back to the start of the rapids to do it again!
We arrived and got checked in, complete with a “surviving the rapids” safety talk and getting fitted with our life vests and helmets, wetsuits and special “footies” for those who wanted them, which are shoes made of wetsuit material to help with a good footing grip in the rafts, and off we went. We loaded into school buses pulling trailers with our rafts and gear. It was only a short ride to our departure point on the river and we unloaded the gear and got paired up into our rafts.
Our raft guide was a very personable gal originally from Michigan who came to Colorado for the adventure. She was about 5′ 8″ and very athletic and toned. Our raft was just the four of us and our guide. As we discussed where we were going to sit in the raft, our guide gave our final instructions for paddling commands, what to do if we were thrown from the raft and what to do if the raft flipped. WHAT? If the raft FLIPPED? It was at that moment that the reality of the situation hit me. She told us that if you’re thrown from the raft you become a “swimmer” and you don’t want to become a “swimmer”. “So hold on, pay attention and do what your asked and do it immediately” she instructed. Oh My, what have I gotten into?
As our raft left the shore and started down the Colorado, I was experiencing a pretty elevated level of anxiety but it wasn’t long before I didn’t have time to think about that. As we rounded the bend in the river the water turned white and we moved into our first rapids. The two gals were up front and the guys were positioned behind with the guide in the rear of the raft. As we moved into the first rapids the boat heaved up and then dove down in a swift move to bury in with a wall of water coming over the raft and soaking us to the bone. COLD! The water temperature was 54 degrees and took your breath away. If it wasn’t all happening so fast I would have had time to think about the cold water but no sooner than the drenching water hit us that the raft thrust forward at seemingly a 90 degree up angle and we did it again, and again and with our guide shouting “backwater on the left”, “paddle hard on the right” as she used her long oars to steer and guide us through the first rapids.
Making it through the first rapids was exhilarating and I relaxed a bit thinking “I can do this”. We had about a 5 minute break and, uh oh, here we go again. This stretch was more aggressive and at one point the nose of the raft grabbed a rock and spun us around in a 360 degree spin and as I looked forward, the raft ahead of us had a “swimmer”. Their guide became laser focused to maneuver the raft along side and retrieve her after she popped over a couple of boulders covered with the raging and rushing water. As we emerged out of this section of rapids our guide congratulated us and said “that sure went better than last time”. I had to ask and she told us that last time she flipped the raft in that section.
So on and on we went through the various sections of the Colorado with peaceful and laid-back names like “Man Eater” and “Baptism”. After the first few rapids my attitude changed and it was on! What a rush, we were having a blast and so it went for about two hours.
I had found my “Rocky Mountain High” running the rapids of the Colorado River.
After a couple hours we reached a quiet section of river and our guide steered us into shore to our designated portage point so we could pull the raft out to load on the trailer. Carrying our raft up to the trailer, traversing what seemed a hundred steps up to the road from the river below with just 5 of us was a challenge and I felt the need to call a trainer to bring me the oxygen bottle. By the time we rode the bus back to the beginning, all was well and time to battle the river, again.
This time we swapped seating positions and the guys were up front. Now knowing what to expect, the second half of our experience rafting the river was an even more exciting “assault on anything resembling sanity”. We made it through the day without becoming “swimmers” and all stayed in our raft, right side up. As we completed the second trip we headed back to the rafting basecamp and enjoyed some drinks and food in their outdoor bar called the No Name Bar and Grill. I felt both accomplished and beat up. It was a very athletic, fast paced and adrenaline injected day. The double Shoshone was the right choice for us and after learning to manage the fear and anxiety, this turned out to be such an awesome rush that it just might top of the list of outrageously fun experiences for the summer.
The ride back to Grand Junction was a little more quiet than normal, considering the marathon we just experienced. Everyone had the smile on their face, you know the one; accomplishment with a dash of “I just cheated death and won”. I thought that tomorrow would be pretty interesting to see how much mobility I would still possess because right now I’m feeling pretty old.