The wind continues to beat against us as we make our way down the Colorado River. Only Dave’s strenuous effort at the oars keeps us from floating up stream. “Go that way,” I suggest and point down the river.
The group pulls in at a tiny beach in hopes our mini-hurricane will die down. It doesn’t.
Dave develops blisters and I develop guilt. A manly-man would offer to take over at the oars.
An option floats by. Dave’s niece, Megan Stalheim, is also one of our boatmen. Don Green, a retired Probate Judge out of Martinez, California, is sitting opposite her and pushing on the oars while she pulls. It inspires me. I join the push-pull brigade.
As tough as the day is, the beauty of the River and the Canyon make our efforts worthwhile. Peggy points out a strange, creature-like rock formation and we admire a family of ducks.
Word passes back to us that Tom wants to scout Badger Rapids. In Boatman terminology this means figuring out the best way to get through without flipping. Badger isn’t a particularly big rapid for the Colorado, but it is our first. We are allowed to be nervous.
There is good news included in the message. We will stop for the night at Jackass Camp just below the rapids. We’ve only gone 8 miles, some 3 ½ miles from our original destination, but we are eager to escape the wind.
Dave is a cautious boatman. He takes his time to study Badger Rapids from shore and then stands up in his raft for a second opinion as the river sucks us in. Time runs out. Icy waves splash over the boat and soak us. Our hands grasp the safety lines with a death grip as we are tossed about like leaves in a storm drain. Mere seconds become an eternity. And then it is over.
“Quick, Curt, I need your help,” Dave shouts. We have come out of the rapids on the opposite side of the river from the camp. The powerful current is pushing us down river. If we don’t get across we will be camping by ourselves. Adrenaline pumping, I jump up and push the oars with all my strength while Dave pulls. Ever so slowly the boat makes its way to camp.
“Chirp, chirp, chirp-chirp-chirp.” It’s dark out and some damn bird is cheerfully discussing its wormy breakfast. I roll over and groan, desperately wanting to go back to sleep. We can’t, however. It’s five AM, time to rise and shine, time to pack up, time to scarf down breakfast, time to hit the river.
“It is not five AM,” Tom argues. It is five AM in California. Arizona refuses to go on Daylight Savings time. This irritates Tom. It is really six.
As we have learned, and I might add, learned well, we are not on a ‘float and bloat’ trip. Adventure awaits us. There are cliffs to climb, waterfalls to leap off, raging side streams to ford, rapids to survive, and miles of river to row. Boredom is not an option.