June 30,2013: I Swam the Arkansas River

Me...navigating around rocks and through white water
Well, I did it. I kayaked down the Arkansas. And I did it all by myself; in my solo duckie with the help of a set of connected paddles (and some great kayak companions).

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.

The skill in maneuvering around rocks and the directional challenges of paddle usage was more than I anticipated. I had never before used oars or paddles, so the technique of paddle left to go right and paddle right to go left was foreign to me. And not an innate wiring in my accounting brain.

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...  












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