June 30,2013: I Swam the Arkansas River
|Me...navigating around rocks and through white water|
I will declare the name of my journey "Survival and Swimming". The great tips given to me on how not to panic and where to place my feet after a spill (not in between rocks) came in handy. More handy than I would have liked.
For the record, Garrett did not push me to go faster. I am guessing that he saw the look of panic on my face throughout the day and he was good with my chosen speed. Speed on the river, I quickly learned, was more driven by the beast of the river than by me and my paddles.
Our day began with a long drive to the river with kayak companions, Kevin and Gary. Both had their own duckies and were skilled adventurers. Kevin had just returned from a three week Grand Canyon rafting trip in his inflatable kayak. Gary was an outdoors-man as well; speaking of canoeing and fishing like I would of walking and talking. It was clear that I was the odd (wo)man out.
After a bit of anxiety climbing into the river rapids for our initial launch, I quickly found the duckie to be more sturdy than anticipated. Bonus. But then I found the paddles to be less navigable than anticipated. I soon hit nearly every rock in front of me as my companions seamlessly navigated around them; all while barreling down the river rapids.
I forged ahead enjoying the beauty of the Rockies and river. My unpaid guides were patient and very helpful to their novice sidekick. I did watch the large rafts filled with people paddle by in unison; remembering how much easier these were to navigate as a team. I now know that the guide shouting instruction did most of the hard work.
I did have three spills into the Arkansas which were followed with unanticipated swims and hikes. Many can say they rafted the Arkansas, few can say they swam it. I did both. The wet suit that was questionably hot in the beginning became a Godsend by the end. My companions tell me the temp of the river was 48 degrees. I believe them.
The end of our river ride was a welcomed site. I felt both the satisfaction and relief in completing this challenging, but aesthetically beautiful adventure. I was tired, both physically and mentally. But the feeling of accomplishment for an adventurer-want-to-be was bliss. I did it.
Our long ride home included a stop for some great BBQ (like any great adventurer would partake) and conversation from my companions on their other past outdoor adventures. I heard about days ice fishing in tents, deaths in snow avalanches, frightful mountain climbs, river rafts thrown upside down, and African safaris. Although I did hear about new items for my bucket list, I was also grateful that the stories that resulted in death were shared after our adventure. A new Girl Scout badge has been earned...