Ok, so Ned Beaty and Burt Reynolds were not along with me on my adventure today but I was having mixed feelings about today's adventure. First off, my kid got sick last night and could not go with. Second, I am not fond of cold water. Third, I felt like a third (really a 7th) wheel to the party of people that I was taking this adventure with. I had only met them 36 hours before and as nice as they were to include me in their raft trip, I still felt like the weird stranger. However, I was trying to live by the motto to "Do one thing a day that scares you".
I was fearful of leaving a sick kid with friends only to have him continue to be sick or to have him miraculously recover and be a dorky 12 year-old who annoyed the snot out of them. I was fearful, but excited of the white water rafting trip. I have never done anything like this and it sounded like fun, but I really do not like cold water. I was also fearful of being thrown in with a nice group of strangers. I do my best to be conversational and witty, but I am a bit of an introvert. Call it only child syndrome. I like to be alone at times and I like to be quiet. I tend to take the back seat and blend into the background but I don't do it well because someone will pipe up and say, "Hey, haven't you eaten anything yet??? Did we leave enough for you?".
So, I packed my gear bag with dry clothes and shoes and dressed for the wet day ahead of me and boarded the Magic School Bus to Arkansas Valley Adventures for their 8:30 am Cat 3 raft expedition. As the drive took me back past Fremont Pass in the other direction from which I rode it yesterday, I was in awe of how much climbing on the bike I had done. I got to see Historic Downtown Leadville, CO this time and a whole lot of Fourteeners or mountain peaks over 14,000 ft. above sea level.
Once at AVA, waivers needed to be signed so that if I died on this expedition they would not be held accountable. As I was waiting for our raft guides to give us directions I saw one of the most amazing things that I have seen. Hummingbirds! Lots of hummingbirds! I have only seen two other hummingbirds apart from today and they were guests in my backyard after Hurricane Ike. I always felt that the strange winds of the hurricane had blown them there much like poor seagulls are blown hundreds of mile inland trying to weather the storm. There were 8 or 9 feeders and they each had 4-5 hummingbirds swarming around them and chattering to each other. They swooped and dodged over and around my head. It was truly an amazing experience.
Our guides got everyone into wetsuits, splash jackets, and personal floatation devices. I had dressed properly so all I got was a PFD and a helmet. We were given instructions on which bus to board and we were off to the launch site.
On the ride we had a quick safety briefing by a guide named Kyle or "Big Country". "Big Country" was tall, tan, lean, and ripped. He had the long hair and beard to throw off any teenage girls that might want to ride on his team. I was put on a raft with JConn or Jason. He was tall, tan, lean, and ripped as well. He was our bus driver and told us that he was asked to help out as well as getting us there but to take a team down the river. He assured us that he had watched the instructional video and gotten some good advice from the other guides and he hoped that we would not flip the raft. His act of not knowing much did not last long. I got the hint that JConn was looked up to by the other guides and later found out that he had 10 years experience as a river guide and had been a guide for AVA for over 9 years.
Me, looking apprehensive about this whole thing.
So that I do not make your eyes glaze over, JConn was a great river guide. He engaged the kids on the raft and talked to them about school and how their summer was going. He gave great geological information about all the rocks and features of the river we were seeing. He let the kids take a quick dip in the chilly river. He was also a good sport when one of the other rafts bumped us into a rock and he fell out of the raft. JConn was given a round of applause by the other river guides because he would be buying them all beer later that night.
The section of the Arkansas River we were on was 9-10 miles long and had Cat. 1, 2, 3, and 3+ rapids on it. This section is also the most traveled section of white water rapids in the world. Approximately 1.5 million people go down this section each season from May to September. Yes, I got wet. Yes, It was chilly. Yes, I dressed appropriately. Yes, I had an awesome time. I would definitely do this again.
Cat. 1 section of the river...
Oooo....Cat. 2 section of the river...
Entering the Cat. 3 section and getting ready to go over those rocks...
More Cat. 3 rapids. This area is called the "7 Steps" and it was a lot of fun...
And the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had after the raft trip was one of the best ones I have had in a long time!
Hopefully the rain that has blown in will stop before tomorrow for more adventures.