“Forward”….“Baa”aack, Baaack…“Right side, forward, left side back.”
Those are rafting commands, and they are music to my ears. Each year I try to go rafting, and yesterday couldn’t have been a more perfect day to take to the river. With crystal blue skies, a few cotton puff clouds and 70 degree weather, I knew it would be a great trip. But the best part was the river was really flowing. I mean fast, like super-duper fast, as in 1,600 cubic feet per second fast! I knew I was in for a real treat. Yahoo!
Our adventure began at Paragon/Bootdoctors in the Mountain Village. We signed waivers, piled into the van and drove to the inlet just West of Telluride. Next came time to suit up as the water we were about to enter was cold. How could it not be? It was snow only yesterday.
Full length wet suits, booties, helmets and rain parkas were disbursed by smiley river guides named Spoon, Jimbo and Bob. After came a quick safety lesson to make sure everyone knew how to paddle, and what to do in an emergency. Luckily, on our trip, everyone remained right side up in the boat. Once everyone was in full on safety mode, it was time to get in the raft!
Someone in our group remarked that it was moving 50% faster than the previous day due to the stretch of warm weather we were experiencing. And boy it was. Within the first few seconds we were swirling, paddling, going over rapids, dipping, delving and having a marvelous time. When riding over crashing waves, the frigid water would give us a quick douse but it didn’t have a chance to keep us cold. We were soon on to the next obstacle, paddling around rocks, logs, and sagebrush and a class IV rapid!
With the most adventurous part of the trip complete, we settled in to a more manageable float where the river widened and the waters calmed. At this time, our guide, Bob, would offer up tidbits about how the cliffs were formed from early ocean beds, what materials were mined during the boom times, and how the Utes ran off the first settlers. An amateur historian, Bob also happens to own the operation and has been leading rafting trips down the San Miguel for 20 years. He is also quite knowledgeable about the fauna and flora of the area and pointed out the fliting Water Ouzel, a medium sized gray bird which dips down into the water to feed on aquatic insects. His keen eye even showed us a nest under one of the bridges we passed under.
As our adventure came to an end, we exited the river just passed Placerville and dined on chips and salsa and a fistful of grapes. The guides quickly placed the rafts on the trailer and we headed back to the Mountain Village savoring our experience and thinking about the next time we would ride those rapids!