On the River: Don’t forget the swimming Cap

Scott Condon

“We’ve got a floater!”There are two times you don’t want to hear that phrase. One, when you’re sharing a swimming pool with lots of small children and, two, when you are rafting.I was a floater Saturday during a fabulous trip on the upper Roaring Fork River with Blazing Paddles. Let me stress straight off, it was nobody’s fault that I ended up in the drink. The ride was thrilling and safe. It was just one of those things that happen.About halfway into our trip, our guide, Justin, wanted to run the nose of our raft up onto a rock known as the Cap, anchored in the center of the river. The idea was that the bump would swing our rear end around while rolling us through the waves. It would be like riding the Tilt-a-Whirl when you were a kid.I was in the left front of the raft, the side that took the brunt of the bump on the Cap. One minute I’m paddling away, the next it’s like I’m taking a classic endo off my mountain bike.Fortunately, this landing didn’t hurt. It happened so fast and my feet had been wedged in to keep me in place, so I figured other raft riders from the left side had also been launched or that the boat had tipped. But when my head emerged and I got my bearings, I saw my crew floating away – the mouths of my wife, daughter, niece and good friend agape as they left me behind.Our raft and another pulled over to the shore and someone tossed out a line I was supposed to grab. I bobbed past like a toy boat, making a futile wave of my arm to grab the lifeline. I was a little bummed at missing the rope, but not particularly panicked. There were enough rafts in the water that I knew I wouldn’t float on my own to Glenwood Springs or Lake Powell. But, man, that water was cold (talk about shrinkage). It was moving fast enough that I wanted to keep my feet downstream rather than try to swim. Eventually, I was able to maneuver my way to shore.After standing like a wet dog until my knees quit shaking, I walked along the bank for 50 yards or so to where my raft had docked again. I took my spot back in the front, but was definitely a bit more sheepish for the remaining rapids.When six rafts full of people took out at Wingo I couldn’t help but feel like a dork as people kept asking if I was the guy who fell out, did I have my feet wedged and how cold was the water.I walked away with just one moral to the story – for a good time on the river, ask for Justin.Scott Condon’s e-mail is