Floating in glory on the Colorado | AspenTimes.com

Floating in glory on the Colorado

I turned the big 5-0 recently and I chose the best way I could to deal with the momentous occasion — escape reality and head to my happy place: the river.

Normally I'd go for the Westwater Canyon permit right away and get some thrills in with some class III rapids. But knowing I might need to decompress, I went for the less stressful stretch of Rubey Horsethief on the Colorado.

I should mention that the last time I was in Westwater, which is a somewhat gnarly narrow canyon with several rapids in succession with pool drops in between, I got my ass handed to me in a rapid called "Sock It To Me."

My partner and I were on a shredder and we simply didn't have enough momentum going in so we got stuck in a hole and got thrashed around for what seemed like an eternity until we were plucked off the boat. I lost a paddle and my favorite hat.

So this old hag went for the flat water this time around. And what a glorious choice it was. The water was moving between 4,000 and 5,000 cfs, and there was little wind so we got to camp with relative ease.

The weather was perfect. A cloud cover lasted the entire first day, so the hot, desert sun didn't scorch us. The temperatures hovered in the mid 90s with 60s at night, and clear skies for stars and the moon.

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Our group did a "layover" trip where we spent two nights at camp at Blackrocks No. 6, which is nestled in between billion-year-old rocks and a nice little cove perfect for pool toys and stand-up paddleboarding.

There were, of course, horseshoes and cornhole, and a few (cases of) beer as part of the daytime activities.

There were 13 of us and we made a real nice group. Four had never done an overnight raft trip and I think it's pretty safe to say that they are now hooked.

I will always be hooked. Each trip offers something new. This time around, I spotted an otter on the other side of the river that was the size of a Labrador retriever. He was walking on all fours on a rock and then slipped into the river, swam upstream and played around on the bank for a bit before disappearing.

He showed up the next morning with four of his friends — or family members — on a beach across the way. Mother Nature also cued up some eagles and great blue herons.

Solitude at its finest. I could live out there on that river and never be bothered with the world again. As Mark Twain said about life on the Mississippi: "Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates."

csackariason@aspentimes.com