Our first full day of vacation! Today is exciting because it will be most of our first time whitewater rafting. We were to be in Kremmling, about 45 miles away, by 8:30 for our half day whitewater rafting adventure. So we set an alarm for 6:30, which was fine with everybody considering we were all in bed early the night before, got dressed, had breakfast at the cafeteria, and headed west on 40 to the bustling metropolis of Kremmling via Granby. Fortunately for Jenny, we quickly passed a Starbucks at a City Market in Granby so she was able to feed her addiction while in deep rural Colorado.
At around 8:20 or so, we found Mad Adventures on the other side of the McElroy Airfield in Kremmling, our hosts and guides for the morning. We were among about 30 other people who were all embarking on the half and full day beginner rafting adventure. At 8:30, the head guide gathered us all around for a briefing of what to expect for the day. It didn’t take long to realize that the guides are chosen as much for their ability to raft as their ability to talk to and entertain people. Many a bad joke was spoken to us at the briefing and throughout the day.
The briefing taught us about what to do in the unlikely event that we would fall out of the raft, which is to get on your back, point your toes, and look down river until somebody rescues you. We also went over what to expect for the day, which was to be a pretty relaxing float while occasionally encountering some class 2 and class 3 rapids. As it was explained, class 1 is just running water, class 2 is a bit of chop, and class 3 is some rocks showing. Class 5 and 6 are the really nasty ones, but our trip wouldn’t see anything too bad. In fact, it was rated as acceptable for four year olds, which was good because we had one of those!
After our briefing, we got into swimming suits, got geared up with life jackets and paddles, and piled into the 1990’s vintage school bus which would ferry us the 10 or so miles to the public access launch to the Colorado River where we would do our rafting. While traveling to the launch, our guides ragaled us with some local history and interesting topics. One such topic was that we were traveling through the second largest ranch in Colorado, some 22,000 acres (or maybe 220,000 acres, I can’t recall) which was owned by one of the richest men in the country, whose name, I believe, was Paul Jones, an investment banker from the East Coast. Not sure how he ended up owning a ranch in Kremmling, but as the guides would tell it, he had paid for the airport to have its runway extended so his private jet could land there, and that he and his wife were required by their insurance agency to travel in seperate private jets because they were too valuable to travel together.
At the launch, the guides, much like Sherpas, got all our gear ready and loaded into the river. After another safety briefing, we were split into boats with 10 rowers and a guide in each. We were paired up with a group of folks vacationing from Kansas who had twin 10 year old boys and a friend, along with the mother of the twin boys and her fiancee. They manned the left, or port side of the raft while the Gradys manned the right, or starboard side. (Seriously, nobody ever called it that, but it makes me feel more like a waterman.)
Our guide’s name was Nirmal, a Sri Lankan native with long black hair and a crazy long black beard. He had a very slight accent but was very easy to understand and had so many bad jokes that I was at once impressed and depressed at how good his dad joke game was at such a young age. One of my early favorites he told was, “what do you call a deer with one eye?” “No idear.” Wha, Wha…
Nirmal, who also liked to be referred to as “Captain”, was basically like a more talented captain of the Disney Jungle Cruise Ride. He definitely had a schtick that was engaging and fun and he had an easy way with the passengers. During the safety briefing we were told there was no video allowed. I’m pretty sure that’s because these outfits rely as much on their customer service and their patter as they do on the actual act of rafting. The interaction with and entertainment of the passengers is probably entirely the differentiating factor between them and other guide outfits, so they wanted to protect theirs. I was impressed.
The float took us about 2.5 hours, during which time we encountered a few areas with some rapids that got our hearts going. We also encountered a number of quiet areas where the guides would play games with the kids on the boat. One game was raft rodeo where the kids would stand on the front of the raft holding a rope while the paddlers would spin the raft around until they fell into the water. Quin tried it twice, but never even made it long enough for us to start counting time. One of the kids in our boat made it as much as 3 seconds. Nirmal also allowed Quinton to take on the role of raft guide where he would bark out orders and steer the craft, which was terrifying.
One of the highlights of the trip was when we saw a pair of bald eagles sitting in trees along the rocks of the canyon. To be honest, though, it did make me think even more of the Jungle Cruise Ride seeing those Eagles. I half expected to see them move robotically to some unseen cue. The other main highlight of the ride was when we stopped at a place where people could jump off of some rocks into the water. One of the rocks was 25 feet high! None of us did it, but a lot of people did.
By the time we were done, we were tired from being outside so long, but not so much from paddling, which we did very sparingly. Nirmal proved to be a very adept raftsmen, and accomplished in his own right. We learned that he had been rafting, canyoneering, and other such outdoor adventure type jobs for 6 years, some of which were in Nepal in the rivers of the Himalayas. We also learned that he attended college near Asheville, NC, and that next year he intended to travel to either Japan, Austria, or Costa Rica to get a rafting gig. In fact, the only reason he was in Colorado this summer was because he didn’t get all the visa paperwork completed in time, so he settled.
We got out of the water, watched the guides pack up the boats, and got back on the bus for the trip back to town. By then we were all getting pretty hungry, so once we got back to home base, handed in our equipment, and gave Nirmal a tip, we headed back to Granby and got some lunch at a local cafe, which was pretty decent if unspectacular.
After lunch it was back to our hotel style room for some rest! Being outside and paddling and going since that early in the morning had us all pretty pooped out, so we relaxed in the room until around 3:30 when we had to get ready for our afternoon adventure, ziplining!
The Forest Zipline was about a half mile away from our room, so we opted to drive there. Once there, we had to fill out waivers in the shadow of an 8 by 4 foot platform that stood 35 feet in the air. That was where we were going to start our zipline adventure. There were about 10 people in line to zipline at the 4:00 session, so we all got our harnesses on and waited at the bottom while they shuttled people up, they ziplined out over the forest for about 200 feet, then they climbed down on a large 12 foot ladder on the other end.
They allowed four people at a time up on the platform, including the employee who was in charge of transferring the caribiners from one tether to the other. Once you started climbing the 40 foot ladder to the platform, you were attached to some rope for your safety, which made me VERY happy. Climbing the rickety ladder might have been the scariest part about the whole experience, as you can see for yourself in the picture below.
Once at the top of the platform, we were strapped to the platform itself while we waited for the people in front of us to jump off the platform. At one point, Ethan, Quinton, and I were all at the top of the platform at the same time. The girl that was strapping people to the various wires was very comfortable with heights and even swung out over the edge of the platform once she saw how nervous I was up there. Turns out she is a rock climber so this is a way to make some money while still doing things that she likes to do.
I actually ended up going first even though I was the second of us on the platform. The girl at the top transferred me from being attached to the platform to being attached to the zipline. Then I basically sat back on the harness, and let go. It was scary, but not quite as scary as climbing that damn ladder! Quinton went next, then Ethan. There wasn’t much in the way of drama there, other than it was a lot of fun and pretty cool. Definitely something we would all do again.
After ziplining, Jenny and Mireille went back to the room to get ready for bed while Ethan, Quinton and I went back to the game room to get some more foosball in. We walked to the rec center while Jenny and Mireille drove back to the room. On our walk, we saw two fawns walking very near us, which was interesting to see, but coming from Wisconsin, it was a little less than exciting. We were honestly hoping to see a mountain lion or a moose or a bear, but I suppose at least we saw some wildlife…
We didn’t play too much foosball before we headed back to the room. Jenny and I went out into a driving rain to pick up some pizza for anbody that was hungry again after our late lunch. We ate pizza and cheese curds in the room before laying down and pretty much passing out by 8:00. Everybody. Again. Colorado is hard…
To Be Continued…