I just returned from 3 days of camping and rafting 31miles of beautiful high water whitewater. For me, this is the start of summer. The first time back camping. The first river trip. I love it so dearly. There is something so simply marvelously and wonderful of it all. I love the simplicity. I feel so in touch with me. And it forces me to be a little bit afraid and uncertain.
That is part of the beauty in rafting. The uncertainty. The moments where you feel both nervous and exhilarated, but know that at the end of the day, the river makes her own story and you are just grateful to be a small part of it. I had been waiting years to be able to raft the 10mi stretch of the North Fork of the American. Years. Just to be in this canyon was at treat. To be on an absolutely free flowing river. A wild and scenic river. The water color was this gorgeous aquamarine. Clear and crystal like – so untouched by people. Pure snowmelt. The canyon had this mystery like to me. Maybe because so few people have been in this spot. I love being in awe. And when you can share these moments with people who appreciate it all just as much, it just enhances the moment and the magic. Untamed. Undamed. Magnificent in all her glory.
Our first big rapid was Slaughter’s Sluice, about 5min into the trip. River was at 2000cfs. And it was here that I found this river was no joke. It was like a mini cherry creek. Beautiful technical whitewater at its finest. Quite intimidating. We came around the river out of Slaughter’s right into the top of Chamberlain Falls, and saw 7 little heads in the water, and an upside down raft being surfed over on river left. But Chamberlain Falls deserves every little bit of talk that it gets. It is a delight clearly when run beautifully, but we could also see the other side of this rapid floating right in front of us. All we well.
The next big class IV+ rapid was Bogus Thunder. Of which I tried to pay a little more attention to what was happening around me. But I got popped/launched across the boat, and ended up half in the water across the raft, face first. To be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an unwanted, unpredicted swim. But here I was, face completely in the water. And I thought I was going out – I was sliding further in for sure. And in my mind, I had already accepted it. I had already formulated my plan, knew I was swimming, and had gone into self-rescue calm mind mode. But while you can never underestimate the river, you should never underestimate your friend – who had gripped her arm around my waist, and that gave me the little bit of leverage I needed to get myself back into the raft. I know we are all always between swims, but I was quite grateful to have avoided that one. But I got close, and it was yet another reminder of the power and strength of the river. That she has the final say. But it’s always nice to know that when things heat up, my mind goes into a calm take action mode. It’s something I have come to count on. My reactions on the water. My instincts. I have grown to trust them.
Staircase rapid was the last big one of the day, and it was simply marvelous. We paddled. We hit whitewater. It was long and pushy. And I loved it.
The rest of the day brought a riverside lunch. A beautiful class II/III stretch of whitewater. A magnificent canyon. Mini trickle waterfalls. Lots of good company and laughter. Always a good day on the water.
Dinner and drinks outside with live music. A sound sleep in a cozy tent to the sound of the river rushing by. These are the moments that I live for and that fill me up. The river is my place. I don’t have cell service. I can’t check emails. I don’t get texts. I don’t know what major things happened in the world. And I can’t share the current moment with anyone other than the people I’m with.
And what a treat to be able to run the entire 21 miles of the south fork American the next day at 6000cfs. I’ve never seen such waves on this river. The haystacks were just waves rolling off the sides of the gorge, going on and on and on. The hills were still plenty green. And I barely recognized troublemaker. The entry into meatgrinder was my first clue of the difference of the high water. That and chili bar hole was no where to be found. Somewhere under the river to be found later this season. Satan’s to me looked like Satan’s Cesspool of memory, but perhaps just bigger and stronger. Full of power, but familiar. Styled through it. Joy. Paddle high fives.
Love you river. Thank you for allowing me to come back and experience your magic season after season after season. Until next time.