A short recap of a Colorado summer

I know It’s been awhile since my last post; apologies to my followers! But in the time I’ve been absent from this blog I’ve been working on another one for Glenwood Adventure Company, where I currently work as a raft guide. You can check out those posts here or view them under “Other Work” in the menu above.

You may have noticed the new appearance of my blog site, as well as its new name. I figured since I have come this far with my posts and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, I should get a new name and domain that’s a bit easier to remember. I’m still in the process of working out the kinks but, as always, I’m extremely grateful to have your support in following this blog!

For the next few posts I’ll dive into small recaps of what’s been packed into my Colorado summer already, starting with a visit back in late June from my two most favorite people in the world, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly six months.

“Hey mom! So I’ve got some good news and bad news…. bad news is we’re rafting Shoshone today, but the good news is we’re rafting Shoshone!”

My mom’s expression, which had been smiling just a moment before, suddenly turned to stone.

“We’re doing what??”

My beloved mother, who was visiting with my dad and had never before been rafting, expected the relaxing class I-II rapid trip down a section on the Roaring Fork River. I assured her days leading up to it that it was more of the kind of trip you’d call a “float,” with rapids barely above “thrilling” now that the water level has been dropping.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I told her. “Don’t worry so much about it.”

When I show up to work the day they’re scheduled to go on my trip, my boss casually passes by saying, “By the way Jenn, water level dropped tremendously overnight—we’re rafting the Colorado. Hope your mom won’t mind class III’s and IV’s.”

Rapid classes are determined by the difficulty of a section of river, including the danger and technicality of the rocks and the way rafts respond to particular rapids. Class I is nothing more than a ripple in fast-moving water, class II are small- to medium-sized waves and easily avoidable rocks. Class III requires more maneuvering, larger rocks/waves, and is considered “intermediate.”
Class IV is defined as “intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water” (link) and is for advanced rafters. Class V rapids are considered expert and consist of things like undercut rock, narrow chutes, extreme drops, etc., and then class VI (the highest) is basically “unraftable,” or only for those daring enough to risk their lives.

The Shoshone rapids on the Colorado River are a pretty solid class III section, though at the high water level back in June, class IV rapids existed. With giant rocks, refractor waves and a suck-hole to dodge, it’s a completely different game from the leisurely Roaring Fork run, and could only be run commercially once it reached a certain water level. We weren’t planning on training on the rapids for another couple of weeks, but with that rapid drop overnight (no pun intended), we had our sudden window of opportunity. Customers did have the option to jump on the trip downstream of the rapids where the water mellowed out for the remainder of the trip, and this option was expressed several times to my parents. But with a stone smile, vacant expression and dad’s encouragement, mom decided she couldn’t be the only one in the group opting out.

At the put-in, where all the rafts were brought down the ramp and groups herded around their guides for a brief recap on safety, I stared down the river as swift waves slammed into banks and collided with other rapids. It was hard to imagine the water was even more intimidating just the day before. I hoped mom wasn’t looking too hard.

Dad, on the other hand, was fired up and eagerly volunteered to sit at the front. Mom and two other couples piled in behind him, with myself and another guide sitting in the back. Since this was technically my first day on Shoshone with customers and I hadn’t yet been trained on the line through the rapids, we had an “ego” guide—a more experienced rafter who would run the first 20 minutes of rapids before letting me take over for the remainder of the trip. For the rest of the week I would spend nearly all day running those 20 minutes with the other raft rookies, doing loops of “Shoshone bombs” until we could run the line in our sleep. But, in the meantime, I got to experience whitewater rafting about the same way as guests would—surrendering control to someone else and having little idea of what’s up ahead.

At the last part of the major rapids, my ego guide handed me back the reins.  I’m not sure mom breathed once through the whole ordeal, but I’m sure proud of her for going anyway.

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The expressions on my parent’s faces! (I’m in the back, Mom is right in front of me, Dad is in black shirt in very front)

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For the next hour and a half we cruised leisurely through towering Glenwood Canyon, hitting class II rapids and banking along the shore to swim, play water games and see just how many guides we could pull in the water (my score for being pulled in is shamefully very high).

It was also the first—and probably last—time I’ve ever seen my dad do a flip off a boat. We had a contest to see who had the better flip: me or him. I am equally rueful and proud that it was him, even though I had been practicing for a few weeks….

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The energy of escaping the real world for just a few hours was palpable, and, as I often do, I forgot I was actually on the clock working.

Since that last week in June I’ve continued to raft both the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers with the Shoshone rapids, and every day the water level drops more, exposing more rocks and causing us to constantly be on guard. In fact, just two weeks after I learned the high water line through Shoshone, the water dropped so much that we had to  learn almost an entirely new line for the low water runs so we wouldn’t run through boulder fields. I’m loving the challenge each day brings, but am missing the high, fast, crazy water already.

I’ll expand more on rafting later, or you can read more in my blogs for Glenwood Adventure Company. But I can’t skip over the rest of my parents’ visit, not when we hiked in one of the most beautiful areas of Colorado I’ve seen yet:

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Before the rains interrupted a near two-week long dry spell, my parents and I headed up to Maroon Bells in Aspen to check out what is said to be the most photographed peaks of Colorado (link). It was a trip I had been waiting to do since arriving here. In every angle and every turn the scenery was outstanding. Deep blue, mirrored lakes reflected perfect images of the 14,000-foot peaks that loomed over them. White-barked Aspen trees and colorful wildflowers scattered throughout the valley. Green slopes ran into marshy countryside, making it the perfect sport for moose and bear. As stunning as it is, you can bet it attracts a butt-load of tourists, yet it still felt absolutely secluded from the haste of the outside world. Still, next time I’d like to come back to camp and be one of the first to see a sunrise climb behind that postcard-perfect panorama.

There are three trails you can hike while visiting here, with the longest being about seven miles roundtrip. Sparkling Crater Lake is a popular spot to hike to, but with the day fading and my parents still feeling the effects of the altitude, we opted for the shorter Maroon Lake Scenic Trail (1.5 miles one way). It was just enough to have 400 photos taken on our cameras as we followed footbridges over gorgeous cascades and paths through purple Columbine and yellow Mules Ear.

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I am extremely grateful to have had a visit from these two and to experience more of Colorado with family. Though their stay was short, I’ve already decided I’m staying here for the fall (can’t miss the the gold Aspen trees) and since I know they’re reading this, they have no choice but to come back  😉

I’ve got more summer shenanigans coming up so be sure to check back here soon—and follow me on Instagram to see the latest! @thewandering1_

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Thanks again my awesome readers; venture on ☮

 


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