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Western Colorado: A Rafting Guide’s Experience

July 26, 2021

By Kyra F.

Near the beginning of the program, we headed out from Salida to the Arkansas River to go on a 3-day rafting trip. We arrived at an outpost to meet our rafting guides and took off on the water at about 11 am. Each boat had four kids plus one rafting guide. Danny (our raft guide) was knowledgeable about the river flow and currents and how the weather affected the water level. He knew what was possible to raft in low waters and what was dangerous in high water levels. Danny let each of us take turns guiding the boat. We learned about the different paddle techniques and how each tiny turn you make has an impact on the rest of the boat’s direction. Danny goes out on the water almost every day. He takes people out on rapids graded from class one to five. The grade is basically determined by river speed, the number of maneuvers the boat has to make, the difficulty of those maneuvers, and the consequences of failing the maneuvers. And on those class five rapids, you have to know exactly what you are doing or else there is a high chance you will end up swimming.

On the very first day of rafting, we traveled about 16 miles on the river. We stopped for lunch at a nice park and had some delicious sandwiches. After lunch, we got a little rained on, but we were already wet so it didn’t cause much harm. Something I didn’t know about Colorado was how moody the weather is. Our Project Director, Ellie, often uses the saying “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait 5 minutes.” Anyways, we got to camp around six o’clock, had some pasta for dinner, then stargazed. You could see millions of stars and constellations so bright that each time you looked at them they looked brighter. The next day was pretty similar, we had breakfast and then left for the river. Our favorite part of the river was Zoomity Floomity where we paddled through a sequence of several epic drops. The total we rafted the next day was about 12 miles and that’s when I got to guide the boat. It was very fun and a little stressful because of the number of times I bumped into rocks, but overall it was a really cool experience. I got to learn about how forward strokes and backward strokes turn the boat in different ways. We learned how the water color changed after it rained, and was a lot darker because the sediment at the bottom of the river was roused. In addition to the rain, it was very sunny so it was definitely the wrong time to forget your sunblock. That night we camped back at the outpost, which was very pretty. We had some yummy pasta with pesto, along with angel food cake with strawberries and s’mores. Overall the rafting experience was something irreplaceable and a great bonding experience between everyone in the rafts and the raft guides. It was inspiring to see all of the raft guides so passionate about their job and their connection to nature.

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