Tag Archives: Cache La Poudre

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.

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.