The Day the Colorado tried to Swallow Us

I hate words like “serene.” It feels more flaccid than placid. It’s a lot like most leaders, having an air of importance but lacking all and any real substance. It feels ok on the surface, but you feel like things are about to go south. For a reader, words like serene are an indication that either the writer doesn’t care or is too unskilled to know that the word is just no good. For a writer, there is just a taste of it working with a feeling that it’s not quite what you wanted to say. They are cliché. And no one likes a cliché, whether they are a leader or a word.

Serene describes the Colorado River perfectly as we set out on our afternoon Booze Cruise. But then again, so does tranquil.

The above image depicts the part of our plan that went perfectly. 

We had already pedaled and worn ourselves out. We had the boats and the sun was blazing, what could be better than a little Booze Cruise on the river? Yea, we couldn’t think of anything either. We loaded everything up and Stuart drove us a couple miles up river to our put in spot. We should have heeded Stormrunner’s warnings as it was in fact pouring as we pulled up to the river, but like the rest of the day, we waited a few minutes and the weather was once again perfect. A little rain wasn’t going to keep us off the river.

The river pulled us away from the bank. For how smooth the river was, it was suprising quick moving. We didn’t need to paddle much and it was a matter of minutes before the beers were popped and we had our feet up on the deck. Other than the occasional corrective paddle, things were simple and we were being dragged directly toward our camp. We reveled in having ditched the crowds and found a spot that was just ours for the moment. The weather continued to be slightly temperamental, with a spit of rain here and there and thunder in the distance.

My left hand is clasped around a small tamarisk branch. It’s all I can do to keep a hold of said plant. My right hand has Mama Bear’s boat clutched and clamped against mine. I can’t see much as the rain, hail and wind are blurring my vision. The wind is ripping up stream creating 4 foot whitecaps and pushing us back up stream. The only thing I can hear is the roaring tempest and my wife crying and saying her good byes to me. The only thing I knew to do was hold on and reassure her that we weren’t going to die.

Heather was just up river from us. From my vantage point, it appeared that she had grasped a small root and was in the same predicament as I, desperately trying to keep a hold of the plant. Kenny had been attached, but was too much wait for her to hold them both. He let go and was push another 15 feet up river. Yes, you read that correctly. The wind was blowing so hard there were 4 foot white caps sending us back up the Colorado river. 

Our Booze Cruise had turned from perfect to “Oh my god, we might not get out of this” in about 45 seconds. The wind came up and seconds later the waves hit us. The only thing we could do  is try and control our boats as the wind push us up river and to the side. Every paddle stroke was a risk. The wind was pushing the boat the opposite direction as the river, dipping a paddle in lodged it against the raft and would start to drag it under. Once we hit the shore, which was a couple foot ledge and then covered in bushes, the only thing we could do was hold on.

The first plan was to do what you do in Utah when you don’t like the weather, giggle a little and see if it changes in a few minutes. When the few minutes turned into 10, then 20 and the sky and wind looked like they were intent and insuring that we were not leaving that river, we waited a little longer. The deciding factor was Heather’s face. I couldn’t hear her very well, but the look of fear on her face and the root she was holding on told me that she was saying that she wasn’t sure how much longer she could hold on. 

We needed to get out of the river.

 We had two obstacles impeding our escape. First the bank was covered in bush and sat about 2 feet above the river on average. Our boats were going 2 feet above the bank and then dramatically dropping down 2 feet below. Not exactly a stable platform. The second was the fact that our boats only way about 5 pounds. We could drop into the river, but the chances of losing said boats were pretty high. All it would’ve taken is a split second of the wind catching the edge and they would be gone.


I continued to hold on to my trusty branch. We passed our paddles onto the shore and lodged them into the bushes as best we could. While I tried to keep things as stable as possible, Mama Bear crawled over me and onto the bank. She was unable to stand up due to the bushes, but we were able to pass her boat to her which she quickly deflated to try and keep it from disappearing. She then helped me out of my boat while not losing it as I clawed my way up the bank. We were now out of the water, or at least out of the river as it was still pouring. I began attending to our boats and gear. KB army crawled under the bushed the 10-15 feet back to Heather, pulling her up and out of the river. The between the 2 of them, they were able to rescue Kenny.


We packed up, as best we could in the tiny space we had, the boats and pushed our way through the bushes. We were right next to the road. The next obstacle was to get back to camp. We were all soaking wet and freezing with no cell reception. We put out our thumbs and began walking. Apparently, there were only ‘Mericans passing us because no one stopped. After about 15 minutes, the text went through to Stuart and then we were able to get enough reception for a call. And he saved our sorry asses. Thanks Stuart.


If the Alliance learned anything from this experience it is that the Colorado should never be described as serene. That and Mama Bear can army crawl like a mofo in freezing temps, soaking wet and wearing a sun dress.


P. L .And R.


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