This archived article was written by: Bo Christensen
A total of 23 people from the kayak and river guide class hit up the San Juan River for a three-day float down one of the only places that wasn’t covered with snow in Utah over spring. This section is usually a mild float with a few rapids and the main attraction to the area being the rock art and Indian ruins that can be found with short hikes from the river.
However, when you get 19 college students and only four other people over the age of 22, it gets to be an adventure right from the get-go. Nine beginner kayakers who have only practiced in the wave pool, six river guide students who have never rowed a raft, two people who have never canoed before, one other who has never even been camping before and the most wild and energetic 60-year-old man on the face of the Earth, is only the back drop for the picture I hope to paint.
Two vans, a truck and two trailers are jammed packed full of people and gear at 7 a.m. the day we leave for our adventure. Unbelievably everyone is there on time without even a phone call to get someone’s butt out of bed. Still amazed that everyone was on time, I felt that there may be a possibility that this trip could go pretty smoothly; optimism has gotten the better of me before though.
When we arrived at the spot we put in almost five hours later. It was a mad house unloading the gear from all of the vehicles with the river Nazi, my dad, Steve Christensen cracking the whip. Everyone was working like crazy doing everything that he said. It didn’t matter where gear was going, as long it was going. The same second that the last piece of equipment was unloaded, my dad was taking care of the shuttle, driving the vehicles to the take out where we would load the gear back up after the trip. My dad left me with only few words before he took off, “I expect my boat to be rigged by the time I’m back.”
A collective sigh of relief spread throughout the entire group when the river Nazi drove off out of sight. I then scanned the boat ramp to find 30-some odd dry bags the size of large duffle bags, four-big coolers, six-dry boxes the size of coolers, seven rafts that all of the gear needed to fit into, and 17-clueless faces standing on the boat ramp wondering what the heck they had gotten themselves into.
More over I was wondering the same thing. I picked up that metaphorical whip that my dad had left behind and began telling people we only had an hour for all these rafts to be blown up, rigged and ready to go. Just like an orchestra at the wave of the conductor’s wand, a flurry of college students starting working like an ant colony. It was a work of art, rafts were being rigged and loaded at speeds that I had never seen before; maybe there’s a possibility that this trip could go smoothly after all.
Once the rafts and kayakers and canoers had pushed off and were floating on the river, a calming bliss fell over me, something that I had never felt before, a sense of accomplishment, astonishment and absolute amazement combined to form a feeling that I could only describe as … unbelievable, there’s no way we’ve made it this far.
With some luck and determination from the group, the first day on the river was great. None of the kayakers bailed out of their boats, just a few successful rolls mainly from the kayakers tipping each other over.
The next morning I had made sure that all of the rafts and kayakers were on their way before I loaded into my kayak and headed down. It takes a few minutes to get yourself into the tightly fitted kayaks, which once you’re in, feels like you’re wearing the boat.
So after I had started my way down the river, the group was a little way a head of me, just about to go around the next bend and out of sight. I had thought nothing of it, being a couple of minutes behind everyone, the last day had gone great and everyone was settling in and now knowing what was going on.
As I made my way around the bend to catch up to the group, I saw one of the rafts pulled over. I kept floating and when I looked farther down stream I saw a traffic jam of kayaks, canoers and people swimming down the river after they had bailed from their boats.
Like a flurry of fire flies, the brightly colored kayaks looked like something that I couldn’t decide whether to sit back and watch or start pulling people out of the water. The kayakers made me proud after a little disappointment since they grabbed their boats and swam to the bank with them.
The canoers on the other hand looked like they were in the last round of a title fight; the sopping wet girls that at one point occupied the canoe were now at the side of the river wishing they had a hair dryer and were complaining that their hair was going to be flat. The frigid cold river water couldn’t have bothered them too much I thought to myself. Hmmm. Wow.
As the rapids started, the kayakers started to impress me. After the first good rapid everyone hiked their kayaks back up to the top of the rapid and did it a second time, some three times. As if everyone just needed to get their feet wet, literally, the entire group showed a new sense of confidence and excitement. Between rapids all I heard was when is the next rapid? And, so … these rapids are going to get bigger right?
The trip was an absolute blast; with little faith in the crew at the beginning, an enormous amount of respect was gathered for the kayakers. Everyone found their groove at some point throughout the trip, and without doubt in the last five years, hands down, this has been the best kayak class.