The River Wild…ish

Beginning a new day rafting the Colorado River - Grand CanyonOur pre-rafting preparation consists of blowing up a boat while getting an instructional talk by a highly qualified guide. It focuses on safety tips, reactions to possible (and various) accidents that can occur, and avoiding mistakes that can lead to either injuries or a watery death.

The danger of mutilation begins within the ostensibly safe confines of the raft. Holding a paddle incorrectly can lead to a broken nose, lost teeth and black eyes. There is the highly possible, even likely event of going unwillingly into the water. And since collision with a massive rock often causes one to fly into the water, the water you fall into will probably not be deep, placid or free of rocks the size of buffalo. A rafter can get stuck under the raft. He can find himself sliding along a shallow rapid with only his hands, knees and genitals to help negotiate his rocky traverse. He can get a foot lodged into a crevice of the river bed, which explains the carved in stone rule: Don’t stand up in shallow rapids. And, in a scenario I have seen in a worse case scenario book, he can get trapped under a downed tree in the middle of the river. I recall the pictures in the book, however, I notice with alarm, not the advice.

The advice given is at once helpful, pragmatic and reasonable. But this doesn’t dissuade me from leaping into a dozen fantasies which begin with me in a raft and end with me somehow on fire, with a paddle shoved in my ass or under a tree being eaten by an imaginary beast called the Crockabeaver. There is one raft and six people today, including three off-duty guides, me and two Popkeys. We maneuver the raft down a steep hill onto the launch and then slide down the hill on our butts. Great, I think, we are not even in the water and I’ve already almost died.

The most comforting part of white water rafting is putting the boat in the water.

The Blue River in Colorado consists of class 2 and 3 rapids, which in layman terms means that you will probably live, but, you know, shit happens. Large rocks loom in the middle of the river like partially submerged dinosaurs and our guide proves incredibly talented in getting us around them with little problem. Still, in my paranoid mind it’s the rocks you don’t see that get you most, and I stare into the water for them as though someone has hidden a baked turkey beneath the surface. The talented guides and the quiet water leads to a perfect day on the river paddling along, drinking beer and watching for animals. We see two golden eagles, two moose and a bald eagle. Bald eagles make it clear with their slow, unhurried movements that they are the Sean Connery of the back country. The Crockabeaver never makes his appearance, but our guide does tell his tale ala campfire stories involving a hook, a car, and a very lucky couple who luckily escape before they could get lucky.

Despite the river’s overall quietude, two of our guides end up in the river; one when we hit a rock while he was fishing and the other when his paddling momentum vaults him out. My terrific fantasies of watery dismemberment never come to fruition, but we do have a few exciting moments pinned against rocks and a few thrills going over tricky drops that look scary in hindsight as we scoot away.

Nick Popkey and I decide that on a day of rafting it is almost a shame not to fall in the water, so we jump in and swim for a few minutes.

Also, it was a good place to pee. Though that was not in the instructional talk.

  1. #1 by Andy on August 13, 2012 - 7:47 pm

    I believe I once heard a dirty joke about the Crockabeaver…

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on August 14, 2012 - 5:12 pm

      I believe you once told a dirty joke about a Crockabeaver.

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