Category Archives: Water Sports

Why I Love Whitewater Rafting

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The raft meanders down the river, passing through sections that are both relatively calm, and sections that are quite rough.

In the calmer sections, the smell of the trees adjacent to the river bed activates memories in the brain, of other outdoor adventures. In these sections, the people in the boat laugh at ridiculous anecdotes, point out the unique natural features around them, and congratulate one another on navigating the raft through the most recent set of obstacles. The group camaraderie is alive, as we enjoy each other’s company.

In the rougher sections, the raft jolts, left and right, up and down, and spins around. It even occasionally spins in a full 360-degree circle due to water currents, eddies and rocks. Around every turn is a genuine feeling of adventure, the element of surprise, and even some level of danger. The water, the people, and the raft, are all in motion.

I love whitewater rafting because…

It is outdoors.

It is social.

It requires teamwork.

There is physical activity involved.

The canyons and valleys the rivers wind through are often breathtaking!

It is a fast-paced event. It is impossible to feel stagnant inside the raft.

It is one of the few activities left in this world that requires we separate from our phones and other portable devices.

It is wild, raw, and unpredictable. Yet, there is some degree of control, as we paddle, steer the boat, brace for impact of all kinds, and look out for one another in the roughest sections.

It feels like life when it is being operated correctly. Not over idealized, yet full of “life”. Surprises are expected, and responded to in a healthy manner with a smile. And, people are constantly improving in both skill and character.

Flooding on the Arkansas River

RoyalGorgeRaftingRowdyCelebrating my half birthday with Whitewater Rafting has become somewhat of a tradition for me, even though this is only the second year that I have organized such a trip.  And, this year’s trip was a doozy!

Mid June is typically prime-time for rafting in Colorado, as a combination of snowmelt from the mountains and periodic spring thunderstorms create the faster moving waters that adventurers seek.  This year, however, an unusually rainy May across Central Colorado created rapids on the Arkansas not seen in a generation.  According to our raft guide, this is the highest the water had ever been on June 20th, and the highest the water had been since 1995!  And, of course, the river reached what is referred to as “flood stage” the day before the trip.

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Even the calmer parts of the trip were quite rapid.  The trip we signed up for was Performance Tours’ Royal Gorge half day trip.  With the speed that we were moving downstream, we covered the 10 mile distance in a little over an hour.  As is the case with nearly every commercial rafting outfitter, we began our trip on somewhat calmer waters so we could figure out our paddling rhythm and review some commands prior to tackling the bigger rapids.  Last weekend on the Arkansas, this was about as calm as it got.

It was not long before we were fully in rapids, ones that would be considered class 3 and 4.  The raft frequently bounced up and down during this entire middle section of the journey.  The roughest stretch came about 2/3 of the way into the trip.  It was a section of rapids that the instructor said some consider class 5, which is the highest rating navigable.  Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky here.  In this section of rapids, our raft was quickly flung to the right bank of the river by a powerful burst of water.  The raft tipped sideways, dumping all six occupants (including the raft guide) into the rapidly moving river.

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I did not even believe it was happening at the time.  On these rafting trips, many people look out the bus window, at the rapids they are about to take on, with a feeling of terror.  I had always believed I could conquer anything, as, well, for some reason rafting just never really scared me.  I just handle the bumps, lean in when necessary, and enjoy the ride!  But this time, we were all really going down.  Before I knew it, I was directly underneath the raft for what felt like an extended period of time (but in reality was only about 3 seconds).  Getting out from under the raft, and being able to pick my head up out of the water and breath was quite the relief.  It was an even bigger relief when I was able reach out and grab the paddle that our rafting guide extended towards us to pull us to shore.  And, although only three of us were able to grab onto that paddle, all five of us got out of the river with little to no injury.  After recovering my breath after all the water I swallowed while taking the unplanned dip into the river, all five of us got back on the raft and finished the trip.  It was quite the experience, one that the rafting guides told me, makes you “a pro”.

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Perhaps the craziest aspect of the rafting experience was having the trip all to ourselves.  Almost every whitewater rafting trip one will take on, particularly on a popular river during a popular time of the year, is shared with strangers, basically, whoever also booked this particular trip at this particular time.  However, on this particular tour, perhaps due to sheer luck, or perhaps due to people canceling their trips due to the enhanced danger, my group of 16 ended up having the trip all to ourselves, which made the back and forth banter between the three boats on the trip interesting.

The one real drawback to having the water levels as high as they were was that it prevented us from physically rafting through Royal Gorge, which could not be entered (by raft) safely under these conditions.

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It would have been amazing to actually traverse right through this gorge on a raft.  And, on a calmer year, or in a calmer part of this year (say, August), it will be possible.  But, since I really wanted to see Royal Gorge, after the rafting trip, we picked up and drove the four miles to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

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This park offers a variety of crazy ways to get across this gorge, from the red gondola, to zip lining across, to simply walking across the bridge.  Unfortunately, walking across the bridge costs $23.  Any of the other activities would surely add to that price.  None of us really thought it was worth it to pay $23 just to walk across the bridge, but looking around, we saw plenty of people on that bridge.  I would probably rather experience this gorge by paying only slightly more money for the scenic railway, or by rafting through it on a calmer weekend.

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For free, we were still able to get on a short trail in the parking lot, to a nice over look.  It is really quite an amazing place, almost reminiscent of the large canyons one will find farther west, at places like Glenwood, Moab, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

The craziest thing about the remainder of my Saturday was how little I had been “shaken up” by the entire experience.  Rather than being scared, and not wanting to continue (or ever go rafting again), my first instinct was to want to re-do the trip, and get it right this time (i.e. handle the rapids correctly).  If there is one thing I can take from this entire experience, it is the importance of being resilient, and taking experiences like this in stride.  If anything, I was far more upset about how much it costs to walk over the bridge ($23) than about falling out of the raft.  Hopefully this means I am still young and resilient, and not that I am actually crazy.

A Bizarre Memorial Day Weekend in Wyoming

IMG_3445It is hard for me to really describe a place like Glendo Reservoir in East Central Wyoming.  It feels like this place is a complete contradiction of itself.    It is in Wyoming, a mountainous State with the second highest mean elevation in the country, at 6700 feet.  Yet, this reservoir sits at a paltry 4635 feet, lower than many of the larger cities of the Rocky Mountain region.  Unlike many of the other popular destinations in Wyoming, no mountains can be seen from here.

In fact, like many lakes here in the West, this particular lake is a Reservoir, meaning it is manmade and does not naturally exist.  Glendo’s average annual precipitation is roughly 14 inches per year, which is about what one can expect anywhere on the high plains just East of the Rocky Mountains.  Lakes like this one, and the even higher profile Lake McConaughy in Western Nebraska, exist only because of hydrological dams created in the 20th Century.  To anyone not thinking about the creation of these dams and the reason for them, lakes like these appear completely out of place for a section of the country that is quite dry.  The pioneers who followed the famed Oregon Trail during the westward expansion period of the 19th Century followed this very river westward through what is now Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming.  They would have seen none of these manmade lakes that now serve as popular weekend destinations for boating and fishing enthusiasts with few other places in the region to go.

In a way, this place does not even feel like it is in Wyoming at all.  When most of us think of Wyoming, or any other Rocky Mountain State, we think of destinations that are either in the mountains, or within view of the mountains.  Most Americans understand that there is much flatter terrain in the Eastern portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.  However, these places are dry grasslands with abundant cattle ranches and oil fields, not the kind of place one would think to bring a boat, jet skis, kayaks, and fishing poles.

IMG_3425 IMG_3427Camping at Glendo Reservoir is already a bizarre experience.  Making the experience even more bizarre was the bizarre weather.  May had already been quite wet, with rainfall totals prior to Memorial Day Weekend more than double the monthly average for nearly all of Colorado, as well as the Southern half of Wyoming.  As a result, Glendo Reservoir was roughly 94% full prior to the weekend.  All over the lake, images like these were common, with trees that typically stand on dry land temporarily underwater.  The air was far more humid, and the skies were far more cloudy than is typically the case in Eastern Wyoming.

IMG_3428 IMG_3438The cool, damp overcast weather reminded me of the Midwest as a whole, as the entire region is prone to be damp and cloudy at times.  The size of the lake, however, reminded me specifically of Wisconsin, where I would frequently spend weekends on lakes roughly this size.  Bringing boats up to the lake on summer weekends is a major part of the culture there.  And, the sand dunes and trails that surrounded the lake reminded me of some of the dunes I would typically encounter on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Indiana and Michigan.  At times, it felt impossible to even remember that I was actually in Wyoming, and not in the Midwest.

After a fairly cold night of camping, we were able to have some fun on Saturday.  After a damp, foggy start, the skies gradually cleared throughout the morning hours, and temperatures reached comfortable levels.  During this time period, we were able to do some hiking on the sandy trails around the lake, hang out at the beach (another concept that seems foreign to the state of Wyoming), and even do some kayaking.  The water was quite cold, as the Lake is fed from the North Platte River whose origins are pretty high in elevation.

The rain did not start up again until 4 P.M., which was later than some forecasts had indicated.  Unfortunately, however, once the rain started, it came down quite heavy.  In fact, it actually ended up cutting the trip short, as, well, camping in the rain can be a less than enjoyable experience at times.  However, it was not the rainfall that pounded us in the afternoon and early evening hours that made me decide to leave Glendo behind on Saturday.  It was the expectation that the rain would continue throughout most of the day on Sunday that pushed me to leave, as enduring the evening of cold, wet weather huddled inside a tent would not produce a reward.  Those who decided to press on with the trip and stay at the campground confirmed that the rain was still falling Sunday morning.

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I could be disappointed in only getting one day at the lake this weekend.  But, unfortunately, that is part of the reality of taking part in outdoor activities as a whole.  People can make all the plans they want, but, in the end, Mother Nature really does not give a shit about whatever plans have been made.  The Earth, the sun, the air, and wildlife move about in a manner that we cannot truly control.  The best thing we can do is be prepared for it, both in the sense of remaining safe in adverse conditions, and in a way that allows us to use our most precious resource of all, our time, in a more optimal manner.

Thus, I decided to head back to Denver (home), where prospects for Monday, the final day of Memorial Day weekend, appeared better.  The decision proved to be the right one, as Monday morning was pleasant, and it did not rain until after 4 P.M.  I was able to get a solid bike ride in well before the onset of rain.

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Life is full of unexpected experiences.  Nobody expects it to rain nearly every day in this part of the country, creating lakes where they typically don’t exist.  I did not expect to encounter a lake in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Wyoming or Western Nebraska.  And, people are often surprised that some of the people they meet like certain food, or genres of music that do not match their upbringing.  But, these anomalous experiences do happen, and happen quite frequently.  When we make expectations in life, we need to account for, and prepare for, uncertainty.

Saint John; Virgin Islands

Saint John Island is one of the most remote places within the United States.  A part of the United States Virgin Islands territory, it’s year-round population is a meager 4200 people.  It can only be accessed via ferry or boat.  For mainlanders, Saint John can be accessed by a 20 minute ferry ride, after a half hour cab ride from the airport on nearby Saint Thomas.  The flying time to Saint Thomas is listed as roughly three hours from the nearest major airport in the mainland; Miami, Florida.  Therefore, the minimum travel time for any mainlander is four hours.  For most, the journey is much longer.

I spent my time on Saint John primarily in two places; Cruz Bay, which is the main population center on the island, and Caneel Bay, a resort about ten minutes farther up the coast of the island.

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Cruz Bay is where the ferry from Saint Thomas first arrives.  It is the first place any visitor to this island sees.  It is Saint John’s front door, it’s first impression.  And it doesn’t disappoint.  The ocean here is as stunning and picturesque as anywhere I could possibly imagine.  In fact, even at some of the best kept lakes in the United States, I have never seen water this magically blue.

Upon arrival to Cruz Bay on the ferry, one immediately sees a plethora of tourist accommodations.  To the left is the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center.  In front are the beaches, boats and restaurants.

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A tourist that walks up the road straight in front of them (road names are not obvious here) will encounter a road lined with bars and restaurants that obviously cater to those not from the Islands.  Walking along this street in the evening, rather than traditional Caribbean music, one will hear the likes of Jimmy Buffet, modern American pop, and a surprising amount of Country-Western music.  And, a vast majority of the proprietors and patrons of any of these restaurants are obviously tourists or those who moved here from the mainland to work tourism related jobs.

Most of the residents of this island are black (or Afro-Caribbean).  Although this did not really surprise me, I still wonder how this came to be, as I had never really been taught about the history of the Caribbean Islands beyond the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the subsequent voyages to the “New World” that the news of this voyage inspired.

However, when I look around me, and take a couple of trips to less touristy parts of the Island, where one can see a better representation of how those native to Saint John live, I can’t help but have the present rather than the past on my mind.

How do the lives of those that live here year round differ from our own?

How do they feel about being a part of the United States?  And, more specifically, how do they feel about their status as a U.S. territory (and not a state)?  We commonly hear about issues regarding Puerto Rico’s similar status, and the razor thin margin between those who support and those who oppose statehood.  But, we never really hear much about the U.S. Virgin Islands’ status and how it impacts the people here.

Most importantly, how do they feel about us, and our presence here?  Do they debate the economic impact of tourism vs. the cultural disruption that it causes?  Do they ponder the fact that within the mainland part of the U.S., we have places like Catalina, Key West and South Padre, places where many of us could theoretically get a similar experience without invading their island?

Ultimately, are they fighting for their identities, their culture, or are they enjoying the economic benefit of our presence, as well as their association with the United States of America?   When we think of the Caribbean, we often think of pop icons, including Bob Marley, but also more recent pop icons from the region, such as Daddy Yankee and Sean Kingston.  The music produced by these artists take us to the pristine tropical oceans of the Caribbean, if nowhere else but in our minds.

However, it is these pop icons that appear to represent the dichotomy of the possible responses that seem plausible given the current situation of those that live in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Marley, from his lyrics, considered himself part of a struggle for the culture and identity of himself and his people.  But modern pop stars like Kingston appear to be simply enjoying the economic benefit of their stardom, much of which comes from the U.S. and the western world that Marley rallies against.

Although there is a lot more to any one person’s life that what we witness through the media, Kingston and Co. do appear to be thoroughly enjoying their lives.

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After multiple nights of partying, I lay exhausted on Scott Beach, the finest beach on Caneel Bay resort.  I watch the boaters and snorkelers go by.  Some even tell me that it was here, in the clear waters of the Caribbean, that they had one of the best snorkeling experiences of their lives.  They did so by being willing to visit a place a little bit out of the way, a place where the people, the culture, and the way of life are different than their own.

That is when it occurred to me that the world is full of people who are different from me.  The world is full of people who look different, act different, have different customs, beliefs, values, and different ways of understanding the world.  We can either learn to live with different types of people, and try to relate to them as best as we can, or we can accept the limitations that go along with confining ourselves to people with sufficient similarities to ourselves.

In practice, we all implore somewhat of a combination of the two strategies; accepting some differences but trying to stay away from others.  However, there are some that believe that in an increasingly connected world, the future belongs to those that can bridge the gap between different cultures.  I am not sure if I inherently believe that the ability to bridge cultural gaps is a prerequisite for success in the 21st Century, as many people have built fortunes designing products that largely cater to one segment of society.  However, when I watch people enjoy Saint John Island, and watch videos by Kingston and other similar artists, I see firsthand the benefits of being able to relate to those with different backgrounds and ways than my own.

Sort of Leaving the Country

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I never had any specific plans to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I had always been aware of their existence, and their Puerto Rico like murky status as part of the United States.  And, every time I saw images like this one, showing the magnificently clear water of the Caribbean, the plethora of activities that are available, and the obviously phenomenal weather, it had always seemed like a magnificent place to go.  However, for some reason, I just never made any specific plans to make a trip here.  Maybe it was the knowledge that it would be a fairly expensive trip that kept me away.  But, more likely, it was the plethora of other pursuits, other destinations, and other activities that are constantly circulating around my head.

This is why, when it comes to travel as well as general life activities, it is sometimes best to follow the lead of others.  If I were to only take part in the activities that I had personally selected to be a part of, and only gone to the places I had decided on my own I wished to go, I would have missed out on hundreds of great experiences over the past couple of decades.  I would never have learned activities like water skiing, or camping.  I would have never discovered some of my favorite foods, like chicken wings, or Thai food.  And, I would have never attended some interesting events, like rodeos, plays, and some interesting comedy shows.  I would essentially be a completely different person than who I am today.

Following the lead of others, I was brought to the Virgin Islands to attend a destination wedding.  After nearly an entire day of travel, I arrived at a destination that is not quite American, yet not quite foreign.

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The U.S. Virgin Islands is considered a part of the United States.  All of the signs read in English.  There is no talk of any foreign currency.  And, more than half of St. John Island is a part of a U.S. National Park.  Yet, there are some major differences between how things work and operate in the U.S. Virgin Islands vs. the mainland.  The first, most glaring difference that greets any tourist when they arrive on either of the Islands is the fact that cars drive on the left side of the road.  For some reason, I figured this would be the case in the British Virgin Islands, but not the U.S. islands, as we drive on the right in our country.

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Other major differences that become obvious right away include the taxis, which are sized and shaped quite differently than anywhere in the U.S., even tropical places like California or Florida.  As opposed to basically being cars for hire, taxis here are high profile vans with several rows of seating, built to accommodate roughly a dozen people if need be.  Their fare structure is also different.  Most rides are a flat, destination dependent, per person fee, regardless of the size of the party.  In the mainland, fees are mostly destination dependent, with the cost difference between transporting a single passenger, and several passengers differing by only a couple of dollars.

Also, a large majority of the streets here lack sidewalks, or any other type of pedestrian accommodation.  Walking around Saint John Island, I mainly had to figure out a way to maneuver around structures, both natural and man-made, and live with the traffic being so close to me.

Walking in close proximity to vehicles driving on the opposite side of the road that one is accustomed to, along with significantly different mannerisms, and the extremely thick accents of the natives, would be enough to make an extremely sheltered person freaked out.  For me, I felt only partially outside of my comfort zone.  It was really unclassifiable.  It was as if I was walking some kind of fine line, or living on the “edge”, as people used to say.  I was neither completely out of my element, nor reverting to the familiar.  I was neither “outside the box”, nor “inside the box”.  Maybe I was on the top of the box?

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Fittingly, my new activity for the weekend was snorkeling in the Caribbean.  Like my experience in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a whole, this activity took me part of the way out of my comfort zone, but not completely.  I have swam, water skied, and jet skied before.  I have plenty of experience with water activities.  The main challenge snorkeling presented to me, as a first timer, was mastering the breathing.  I’d say it was also mastering the use of the flippers, but I most certainly did not master those.  I still moved around quite inefficiently.  However, once I was able to overcome my high elevation instincts to try to breath through my nose, and open my mouth wider to take in more oxygen while engaging in physical activity, I was able to breathe properly, and truly enjoy the activity.

It is said that the Caribbean is one of the best places to snorkel due to it’s clarity.  I was able to see some coral reefs, and moving fish.  Those the dove deeper down, either by scuba diving, or holding their breath, were able to see some turtles, a lobster, and view the coral much more closely.  Although I chose not to go too far down, I still saw underneath the Ocean for the first time ever, and was glad that I went part of the way outside my comfort zone, in both visiting the Virgin Islands, and snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Whitewater Rafting on the Poudre

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One of many things that makes June a phenomenal month, is that it is typically the best month of the year for whitewater rafting in Colorado.  Snowmelt from the higher mountain peaks combine with fairly frequent thunderstorms to create higher water levels and faster rapids along many of Colorado’s rivers.  And, while sometimes river flows associated with the spring snowmelt peak a bit earlier in the season, by mid-June somewhat warmer air and water temperatures makes for a more pleasant experience.

After weeks of training for, and then subsequently riding the Denver Century Ride on the June 14th, I figured that the following weekend, June 21st, would be an ideal time for some whitewater rafting.  Colorado offers a lot of great places to raft.  I hope to try as many of them as possible.  Based on the time constraints of all the people involved in this trip, as well as the quality of trips offered, I opted for rafting in Poudre Canyon, just to the west of Fort Collins, Colorado.  Here, along the Poudre River (technically Cache la Poudre River), average June streamflows produce many sections of class 3 and class 4 rapids.  Sometimes, higher water produces even rougher waters.  And, had we opted to raft a bit earlier in the season (late May/ early June), higher water would have actually prevented us from doing part of the journey we did on Saturday due to safety concerns.

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Friday night we camped at a place called Kelly Flats, slightly farther up the river from where our whitewater adventure would occur the following morning.  Because of how long the days are in June, we were able to work a full day on Friday, and still make it up the campground in time to set up our tents before it got dark.  YAY June!  Seriously, if I could find a way to not sleep for the entirety of June, and make up for it by sleeping extra hours in a lamer month, like December, I would do so in a heartbeat.

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Saturday’s rafting trip was a half day trip called “The Plunge”, through an outfitter called Mountain Whitewater Descents.  This is considered one of the more intense trips.  But, hey, go big or go home.

For this trip, we met at 8 A.M. to discuss safety, expectations, and technique.  There have been stories in the news about people getting seriously injured, or even killed, on this river this year.  Going with a guided tour like this one all but eliminates this risk.

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Then we get our equipment, wet suits, jackets, helmets, etc., and ride in a big school bus for about half an hour to our starting point.  Arriving a bit after 9, the trip itself, as in time in the raft on the river runs for 2.5 to 3 hours.

I do not have any pictures of my group rafting.  I did not feel like taking the risk of bringing either a camera or my phone onto the raft where they would probably fall out into the river.  Pictures and videos are taken of every group by Mountain Whitewater Descents.  And, while I found the trip itself to be more than worth the $70 per person we paid, obtaining the pictures of our group’s excursion ended up costing more money than I wanted to spend.  So, I selected a couple of pictures from Mountain Whitewater Descent’s photo gallery to capture the essence of the experience.

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The trip starts with a mile or so of easy rapids.  This is so that the group in the raft can get into a paddling rhythm, and get aquanited with the guide and her commands.  After the warm-up part, when we started into the rougher rapids (first class 3 and then class 4), I felt that our group had gotten into a really good rhythm while paddling.  The video we saw after the trip revealed to me that we were actually quite out of synch.

Still, I really enjoyed the group that I got to raft with on Saturday.  My group consisted of 10 people.  With each raft holding 8 people (including the guide), our group was split in two, with 5 members of our group being joined by two other people.  Of course, with two boats belonging to the same group, it is common for water wars, as pictured above, to break out between the boats during downtime.  The two young ladies that ended up riding with us in our raft were very good sports about not only our crazy discussions along the way, but ending up in the “crossfire” of our “water wars”.  Additionally, I felt like our guide did a wonderful job, and would definitely recommend this trip to anybody.

The oddest aspect of this excursion for me was that I was never scared.  NEVER.  NOT AT ALL.  And, our rafting guide told me that Saturday’s rapids were amongst the most intense rapids that they would legally be permitted to enter as a commercial recreation business.  I really just felt exhilarated.  I felt, well, alive.  And, this made me think of the oddest thing- billboards.

Right around the time we first figured out that we would be moving to Colorado, billboards like this one starting popping up around Chicago.  These billboards are designed to get tourists to come to Colorado, with “Come to Life” being the slogan.

Suddenly this became the only State tourism slogan that made sense to me.  I have seen a lot of state tourism slogans.

Some of them are nearly completely nonsensical.

Pure Michigan; What does that even mean?  Do I want something to be pure?  What makes Michigan Pure?

Great Faces, Great Places, South Dakota; I don’t even think Mount Rushmore is South Dakota’s best attribute.

Some of them don’t deliver what they promise.

Wisconsin, You’re Among Friends; Wisconsin has been a non-stop political fight for a decade or so.  And if you are in Madison, they are not friendly about it.

New Jersey and You, Perfect Together; If you think the odor of landfills and refineries, a strange combination of old money suburbs and random ghettos, and the desire to go to any extent possible to avoid making a left hand turn is my ideal match, then I have an expletive for you.

But, Colorado’s slogan, “Come to Life”, which originally sounded like complete nonsense to me, suddenly made sense, as the opportunities provided by Colorado simply made me feel alive.

 

 

Horsetooth Reservoir; A Great Place for Water Sports, and Your Dog

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About ten minutes west of the town of Fort Collins, Colorado sits the Horsetooth Reservoir, a six and a half mile long, but fairly narrow lake at the edge of the foothills.  It was created in 1949 when the Bureau of Reclamation put up four dams in the area, as part of a larger project called the Colorado-Big Thompson project.  The intention of the project is to stabilize the supply of drinking water for the cities along the Front Range from Fort Collins down to Pueblo.  They do this by diverting water from the Western Slope (on the other side of the Continental Divide) to the Eastern Slope.  Thus, they effectively take water that would have flowed down the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean via the Gulf of California.  It is interesting that some people here complain that the Hoover Dam takes significant amounts of water out of the Colorado River when we here on the Front Range in Colorado are also benefiting from water taken from the very same river.

Similar to places like Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the creation of a lake, originally intended as a reservoir to stabilize the supply of drinking water, ended up serving a secondary purpose; providing a spot for water recreation.  In the West, and especially in the Southwest, naturally occurring lakes are fairly rare.  They tend to be smaller and at higher altitudes than their Midwest counterparts.  The naturally occurring lakes I can remember seeing in Colorado are lakes like Fern Lake and Lawn Lake up over 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park.  With these lakes tougher to get to and smaller, these reservoirs have become a focal point for boating and other water related recreation areas in the region.

Yesterday was a perfect day along Colorado’s Front Range.  Temperatures topped out in the upper 80s to near 90 in most places from Fort Collins to Denver, and no thunderstorms occurred, not even in the foothills.  Afternoon thunderstorms typically occur in the region at this time of year, but yesterday all of the storms occurred West of the Continental Divide.  I guess that is good news for recreation enthusiasts in the populated part of the state of Colorado, but days like yesterday probably illustrate why it was necessary to divert water resources from Colorado’s Western slope to Colorado’s Eastern slope.

Yesterday I got the rare opportunity to join with a few people for some jet skiing on the Horsetooth Reservoir.  I do not own my own jet ski, and I haven’t ridden one for over five years.  But, I remember it being quite fun, and I knew there was no chance of storms in the forecast.  So, it ended up being a nearly perfect activity for a day like yesterday.  Also, since we traveled a significant distance away from Denver, and went on a Wednesday, there was significantly more open space then there would have had we gone to a place near town like Cherry Creek Reservoir on a weekend day.

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Naturally, I got too carried away with the activity to think to get any pictures of myself on the jet skis.  I only got pictures of others.  This should be a testament to just how enjoyable the activity is.

As an added bonus, I got to bring my Siberian Husky; Juno.  Being a cold weather dog, she naturally wanted to get into the water as quickly as possible.  However, being a non-water dog, she spent a large part of the day just on shore, in the shade, periodically going into the water.  She still seemed to have a lot of fun here, in fact, enough to get her completely worn out.  If my husky enjoyed the experience this much, I can only imagine how enjoyable it would be for a retriever to come here for the day.

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The water temperature here yesterday was perfect!  It was in that range where the water is cool enough to feel refreshing, but warm enough that it was comfortable to get in from the very beginning.  This contrasts with some pools I have gone in earlier this summer where the water felt quite cold at the beginning, before gradually getting used to it.  I was concerned that the water here would be even colder than that, but it wasn’t!

Overall, Horsetooth Reservoir was worth the $7 entry fee.  I am not sure how much more crowded it is on the weekends.  However, given the fact that this year’s weather in Colorado appears to have been fairly typical, I would expect most years to feature water temperatures in the same general range as yesterday’s, making Horsetooth Reservoir a wonderful place to go for both water sports, and dogs.