Finally the day had arrived. Nine friends with three oar rigs were getting the chance to run the 18 mile stretch of West Water Canyon after two years of not drawing a permit. We arrived at the put in just after dark. Once the tents were set up, we got a fire going and all shared our excitement for the coming days over a fine box of pinot noir. Time for bed. With the sunrise, came sounds of deflating sleeping pads and tent zippers in motion. A quick stoke of the fire and our jimmy dean breakfast sammy's would soon be ready to fuel us for the morning.
Breakdown camp. Boats ready. Spirits high. Time to go...not quite yet. Matt had received the email granting our permit, but failed to read the instructions of printing and presenting to the ranger upon launch.
Enter Norm. Norm, the Park Ranger, was a man of the river. Tall, solid build with sun soaked skin and a stern, yet care free demeanor. After an hour of back and forth, we were able to complete the necessary paperwork and were ready to go. Launch. Day one on the river was filled with mellow rapids, friendly banter and endless sunshine and blue skies as we floated under the red rock cliffs.
We pulled the boats to shore and set up camp just past Miners Cabin. With the kitchen in place, Amanda and I began the slow development of flavors in our fajita burritos while the others worked on getting the fire started and pouring drinks.
We all sat by the fire eating, drinking and laughing. There were other places we could be, but no place we'd rather be for that moment. We tucked into our sleeping bags under the open sky and dreamed about what tomorrow would bring.
The morning brought another beautiful day and we began with what would become a staple in our camping meals, english muffins, peanut butter and bananas. Breakdown camp. Boats ready. Launch. Day two started with some small rapids, but would develop throughout the day to several class III and culminate with a class IV called Skull Rapid. Flawless. The team worked the river with precision, Little Dolores, Marble Canyon, Big Hummer, Stair Case, Funnel Falls, all executed by the book. Next up, Skull Rapid.
We had all prepared, watching videos, reading reports and studying the map. Our boat led. Enter left, float right, hard left. Matt navigated our boat through the rapid just as we had planned. Well done. Mike was up next and got through without a problem. Two boats down only one to go. Jake entered the rapid and immediately began heading right. It was over before it began. We watched as Jake's rig was swallowed by the river, stood up and flipped over. "Get the throw bags!" "Does anyone see them?" Our two boats sat helplessly in an eddy downriver. After what felt like 10 minutes, i'm sure it was 20-30 seconds, we saw Jake and Charity appear on top of the water as they floated down the choppy waters towards our boats. Safety. We retrieved our teammates and their gear. The three boats and their crew sat in the calm eddy as nerves eased and confidences slowly began to return.
Launch. All three boats managed to make it through the last two class III rapids without peril. Calm. We did it. A few miles of rowing on flat water, despite a strong headwind, and we were at the take out. Breakdown boats. Pack vehicles. As we sat around the fire that night at the same site which the adventure had began, we reminisced about our time on the river and all began throwing out ideas for our next adventure together.