On the River: What a rush | AspenTimes.com

On the River: What a rush

Marta Darby
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” On Saturday morning, I took a dip … a nice long dip in the Roaring Fork River. Refreshing.

It was my first trip down the river since moving to Aspen some three years ago, and something I have been wanting to do since that first summer in 2006 ” brave the much talked about Slaughterhouse Falls section that I have run by and biked by countless times on the Rio Grande Trail, just outside of Aspen.

So when the opportunity arose to test my courage last week with some co-workers, I signed up for the trip immediately and anxiously awaited the day.

That morning, our guides from Aspen Whitewater Rafting prepped us well before we set off downstream: safe-swimming position, how to paddle, strainers … and highsides ” hurtle your body to the “high side” of the raft as quickly as possible to avoid flipping. Ahhhh, yes … very important.

My six compatriots and I masterfully blasted through the famed Slaughterhouse Falls, along with the many other monsters in our path ” Entrance Exam, Hell’s Half Mile, Triple Drop; the river never rested along the 6-mile stretch, and as soon as we finished one, I thirstily awaited the next.

It was shortly after Hell’s Half Mile, some three-quarters of the way into the adventure, that my fellow boaters and I became well-acquainted with a slightly different (and chillier) view of the river’s beauty.

“Highside! Highside!” my guide yelled, as we started into Picket Fence.

Awkwardly, we leapt to the raft’s high side ” the bottom of the boat plastered against a midstream rock. My heart pounded with the excitement. That … was great. Magically the boat righted itself, and we tumbled back into position.

Within the next five strokes, our guide sounded the alarm again: “HIGHSIDE! HIGHSIDE!”

And despite our practice only moments before, one by one we abandoned ship and the river christened all six of us (minus our guide) with a crisp taste of the Roaring Fork.

My inner-monologue became a wild child as I blasted down the river solo. “Hold onto your oar! Reach out with it! Swim, swim! My paddle! Where’s my paddle? …” All I could see were boulders ” both water swept and dry; my attempts to avoid them were unsuccessful at best, making for a bumpy ride as I pinball machined through the rapid. The in-my-face view was incredible and the fear-induced adrenaline exhilarating. Secretly, I relished every second of the downriver solo-coaster.

The last one pulled from the drink, I glanced upshore to see all six of my raft mates dazed and recovering from the cool dip. And while I stood on the sun-drenched shore shivering, there was a part of my ego that I just couldn’t ignore:

What a rush … Can we do it again?