With a Paddle

A nervous rafter gets up close and personal with the Colorado River.

The over-thirty crowd loves to complain that members of the younger generation have no clue what's happening in the world — but when one of the junior contingent actually pays attention to the news, there can be hell to pay.

I learned this lesson after my wife, Deb, and I decided to take our family rafting on the Colorado River. We were certain that our spawn — Nick, eighteen, and his twin sisters, Ellie and Lora, fourteen — would be excited to take part in this outing, which we planned as part of a week's vacation on the Western Slope, where Deb's family has a cabin. In the end, Nick and Ellie reacted pretty much as we'd anticipated, but Lora was another story. She'd seen a report about a Boulder resident who'd died in early June after tumbling from a raft during a guided trip through Clear Creek's whitewater rapids; the prospect of following his lead didn't sound like a recipe for big laughs to her. Although she was probably joking when she asked why we wanted to kill her, her voice had enough edge in it to make me wonder.

In an attempt to assuage Lora's fears, Deb contacted Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs (one of the area's oldest rafting operations, with 32 years in the business) and booked us on a half-day trip described as "excellent for all experience levels," including novices like us. Nevertheless, Lora was as nervous as a needle hater at a tattoo parlor as we rode in a bus from the rendezvous spot at Glenwood's Hotel Colorado, 526 Pine Street, to the launch site — and her fears only escalated when she got her first look at the Shoshone rapids, which were running at a speedier-than-usual clip thanks to a wet spring.

Our guide was Wendy, a four-year Blue Sky veteran who would help us navigate the rapids before handing over the pilot's chair to Tucker, a relative newbie charged with accompanying us during the more placid stretches. But despite Wendy's experience, Lora was still several kinds of horrified as the five of us, joined by three other tourists, paddled into the madly percolating froth. Had director Rob Zombie heard the scream she unleashed the first time the raft dove into a mini-chasm and waves smacked us from all sides, she would have been a cinch for a plum role in his upcoming remake of Halloween.

After that, though, Lora's terror was quickly transformed to glee, and the grin stayed on her face even as we faced rapids with names such as "Tombstone" and "Man-Eater." (Ellie suggested Blue Sky change the name of the latter to "Peace," to lessen everyone's anxiety level.) She joined Ellie and Nick in splashing wars against those in neighboring rafts, and after Tucker took over from Wendy, she willingly slipped into the wet stuff to cool off from the blazing heat. The last several miles of the journey were generally rapid-free, and while Lora enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of Glenwood Canyon, and was thoroughly engaged in the stories Tucker told us as we lazily drifted through a gorgeous summer day, I had a sense she would have preferred facing Man-Eater again.

Sounds like lot more fun than watching TV news.

The half-day trip with Blue Sky Adventures embarks four times per day during the summer, beginning at 8:45 a.m. Costs are $45 for adults and $35 for youth age fifteen and under. A wide variety of other journeys are available, geared for rafters of all abilities. For more information, call 877-945-6605 or surf to www.blueskyadventure.com.

 
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