"You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give" - Winston Churchill
This trip was full of laughter, great conversations, and sprinkled with the perfect amount of awkwardness. Buckley and I get to assist with the Western State University Outdoor Recreation trip down the Yampa each Spring, and it has always proved to be the best "reset" button for my reality that I have found. Luckily, Colorado has had an extraordinary winter and with that comes a lot of work. As a full-time concierge for the Westin Riverwalk in Avon, Colorado, I had several 12 hour days and lots of demanding guest to deal with. To add to the stress this year, I was putting every penny I could towards paying off my condo. Way too much adulting if you ask me!
My biggest takeaway from this trip is how open, willing, and fearless young adults are. Many of them stepped onto a Hala stand-up paddleboard for the first time in a remote Canyon, with class III water with gusts of wind topping out at 30 MPH gusts.
This trip goes 72 miles down one of the last truly wild rivers in the nation. It so far has been protected from dams by people who fall in love with its towering walls, silty golden brown water, and history. To be able to introduce college kids to paddling in such a magnificent environment is beyond what I could possibly describe. It brings out the idea of stewardship. Not only for such an amazing place, but also for teaching a skill that has completely changed my life. There is no challenge that I have taken to a river that wasn't solved after. It is all about the power of focus, being in the moment and staying in awe of nature's beauty.
I see how people get addicted to being comfortable. This experience is so rewarding because you are constantly pushing your idea of what you can and can't handle.
Every year when I kiss Tiger Wall I know that Warm Springs* is right around the corner. The first year I swam the entire rapid from the top all the way to Surprise Hole. I tell myself: "Well at least you know it can't be worse than that year." Last year I went straight into Godzilla's Gut but landed luckily on my knees with my board and this year, I am thrilled to have made it all the way standing until Sup Snipper hole. It was a quick swim, with an easy eddy to find my safe harbor in.
This brings me so much pleasure to be able to continue to grow constantly in a sport I absolutely love. To be able to show these students that they too can stand up to more than they think they can. To be brave and vulnerable allows you to have the most fulfilling life. These are lessons that can only be learned on adventures, not in classrooms.
*Fun fact from Jake on Warm Springs Rapid: It's about 3.5 miles from Echo Park (the confluence of the Yampa and the Green Rivers), and is the only class IV rapid on the Yampa, other than those in Cross Mountain Canyon. It hasn't always been there - it was created by a rock slide in 1954. Until that point in time, Warm Springs was a class II riffle. The first trip to come upon it had a dude with no PFD on and cowboy boots. He got chucked off a raft and didn't make it out of the rapid. Warm Springs rapid is much less intense now than when it first formed.