Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado

Today was our last big hoorah before heading home.  Scott had scheduled us on a half-day rafting trip in Browns Canyon down the Colorado’s Arkansas River.  We would be hitting mostly class two rapids with a few class three rapids thrown in.  Ashlee was ecstatic; Emilee was terrified!  We had a one-hour drive to get to the rafting company, and we saw some beautiful scenery along the way.  We were also so high in elevation (over 11,000 feet) that we saw the tree line pretty clearly.  The tree line is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing.  Beyond the tree line, they are unable to grow because of inappropriate environmental conditions – usually cold temperatures or lack of moisture.

The bottom half of the mountain looks like it is
shadowed by clouds, but it's actually darker from the trees.
The top half of the mountain is bare because of the tree line.

Another view of the tree line.

We spotted this odd-looking building on our way to rafting.
It is actually a facility where they mine for molybdenum, 
chemical symbol Mo, a silvery
white soft metal with one of the highest melting points of all pure elements
used to make high-strength, high-temperature steels.
How's that for a bit of science trivia?

An old school-house we spotted along the way.
Because we had a one-hour drive from our hotel to the rafting company, we headed out early in case we got lost... or wnated to sight-see along the way.  We saw a sign for the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, so we decided to check it out.  After all, it is a "National" hatchery.  I've never seen so many fish in one place.  Made me want to grab a fishing pole... I feel certain I could have caught something here!

Cutthroat Trout

More Cutthroat Trout

Rainbow Trout
We found one more pullout on the way and stopped to take some pictures.  Seems that this was a stagecoach depot back in the olden days.  Here is a picture showing the cost of catching a stagecoach from one town to the next.  Seems kind of expensive to me!

We decided to eat our picnic lunch here as well.

We arrived at the rafting company at the designated time, grabbed our life jackets and helmets, and loaded up in the shuttle to head to the loading location.  When we arrived, our guide went over some safety information… basically, what we need to do if we ended up in the water.  That scared Emilee even more.  Then he told us to pick our seats.  We were in a group with one other couple, and we told them to choose their seats and we would fill in the rest.  They said the girls would have more fun in the front, so they let the girls grab the front two seats – Ashlee loaded up front left, Emilee was front right, Scott was middle right, and I was back right.  Emilee wanted Daddy behind her in case she started to sail out of the boat so he could grab onto her.  We then loaded up in the raft and headed down the Arkansas River.

On our way to the raft drop-off location

Suited up and ready to go

Starting down the Arkansas River
As we started out in the water, our guide then went over what we needed to know about paddling.  We started off in some pretty tame water, but it wasn’t long before we hit some good rapids.  The girls got soaked in the front, and the rest of us got some good, cold splashes.  Ashlee was grinning from ear to ear; Emilee was not!

Ashlee was all smiles throughout the entire adventure.

Emilee was terrified!

We floated on further down the river hitting rapids here and there, having a great time, and getting pretty soaked.  Just before we got to the halfway point, we hit the biggest rapid of the day.  It was fabulous!  And nobody got flipped out of the boat!  Just as we passed through this rapid, it was time to pull over to the shore for a snack/water break.  By this time, the sun had gone behind the clouds, we were soaked, and Ashlee and Emilee were shaking like leaves.  Fortunately, the guide had brought along some splash jackets, so he pulled those out for the girls and then set up our snack – cheese & crackers, huge chocolate chip cookies, and water.  We scarfed down our snacks while watching other rafts shoot through the biggest rapid.

Notice how Emilee is leaning toward the middle of the raft?

Still leaning in!

Looking back up the river at the class three rapid we just went through
Watching others navigate the rapids

Ashlee is ready to get back in. Emilee is happy to be out.

Who's the dork in the helmet?

Suited back up and ready for the second half!
We finished up our snack, and then it was time to load back up.  Emilee wanted no part in getting back in the raft.  She would have walked back to the car if she could have!  She decided she wanted to sit between me and Daddy, so she and Scott traded seats, and Scott took the front (thank goodness!).  As soon as we got back into the raft, we hit another class 3 rapid, and Scott got drenched.  It was great!  Ashlee was in heaven, and it was the first time Emilee had smiled since the rafting trip started.  We spent the next hour floating down the river with some pretty consistent rapids.

Scott and Ashlee in the front - they got drenched!

Emilee is still leaning in!

 Finally got some smiles out of her.
She was much more comfortable being behind Daddy
where she couldn't see the rapids that were coming up ahead.

When we arrived at the take-out place, we unloaded the raft, loaded back into the shuttle for the return trip back to the rafting company, and wrapped up in our dry towels to keep warm.  On our way back we got some great views of some of the mountains called “The Fourteeners.”  They are mountains that reach over 1400 feet, and the ones we saw were named after colleges.  We saw Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.

14ers - Harvard, Princeton & Yale

Princeton Mountain
After a 40-minute ride back to where we started, we got changed into our dry clothes, thanked and tipped our guide, and headed back to our hotel.  As soon as I laid my head back against the seat, I was a goner – slept until we pulled into our hotel parking lot.  We had such a great time… even Emilee loved it once she got behind Daddy and couldn’t see the rapids that were coming up in front of us.  And Ashlee wants to try some class four rapids the next time we go rafting!  No surprise there!

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