Low-water Run of the Yampa River, Part 5: The Art of Floating

Dear Reader,

Once we got on the water (John and I each in an inflatable kayak and Cliff and Chayse running the raft) everything changed; the morning’s chaos washed away.

The joy of floating

The Joy of Floating

We were floating. Self-contained. At one with the river and the currents and the breeze.

Rocks and boulders slid beneath the shimmering water. Grasses swayed along the bank.

We heard the smack of a beaver tail. Saw the flight of a heron.

We moved slowly, and yet kept our eyes flashing left to right, up river and down, scanning for the shallows, for the rocks that might hold us up, and for the river’s v-shaped ripples showing us the deepest way.

Me, enjoying my kayak

But what a joy it was to be on a river. To feel current. To run rapids. To have something other than me moving my boat in the direction I wanted to go. I thought of Miss Pink, the sea kayak I’d just recently paddled almost 500 miles on the sea, mostly under my own steam, and sent her a silent salute.

Fresh water too, was nice to dip my hands into. To pour over my head. To splash on my face.

Freeing a raft off the rocks

Getting Stuck

Right away we had some hangups. And had to push and pull a few rafts off of rocks to set them free.

At times in my kayak, I had to back paddle, or shift my weight, or lift my kayak and myself both, by using my hands to push us off the small rocks along the bottom.

Only if those all failed, would I then step out of my kayak, grab its lead rope and pull it behind me into deeper waters, the whole time hoping the river wouldn’t get much lower than this.

A male Rocky Mountain Sheep

Animals and Activities

Over the following days, we heard the thwacks of two male mountain sheep head-butting each other. And around another corner, we saw female sheep and their young, lapping at the water’s edge, while a large imposing male stood guard over the river.

We hiked to see petroglyphs and pictographs and a cave. And later, Rowan’s girlfriend Em climbed hand and foot holds called mokey steps, carved hundreds of years ago into a sheer wall by the Ancient Puebloans. When we came to it, we positioned ourselves for photo ops under the majestic Tiger Wall.

Rowan, Lisa and Roger under Tiger Wall

Dealing with Obstacles

The sun beat down, which was no surprise since it was late June in the desert. Our paddle strokes kept us going straight in the lazily flowing water, and past obstacles.

But the wind picked up one day in the afternoon and made the slow-going, even slower, at times stopping the rafts dead in their tracks.

And when we came to rapids, we grouped up, all stayed together, and watched each raft and kayak go, one-by-one, safely through.

[Part 5: The Art of Camping, is coming next.]

Running Big Joe Rapid

We are alive.

We are healthy.

We are adventurers.

Cheers,

Susana

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