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July 12, 2009
New York, New York
August 20, 2003
My father had organized the trip a few weeks earlier by making a phone reservation with a local rafting outfit called Mountain Whitewater Descents. MWD offered three levels of rafting, and we opted for the "Poudre Splash," a $42 per person trip which was advertised as "little splash, a little sun, a lot of fun" and most importantly to my mother, the "ideal introductory rafting trip."
We began the trip by meeting at 11:30am at the company office, a facility that included a sand volleyball court, hot tub, and barbecue pit. Our first step towards the river was signing a release form, and then a rafting guide led us through a comprehensive but entertaining overview of whitewater safety. Finally, we were fitted for life jackets and helmets and then boarded a school bus for the river.
After a half-hour trip, we reached the entry point and helped move the rafts to the water. With this chore done, we were assigned a personal river guide and several shipmates. Our crew consisted of Kricket, a guide from Denver, and a mother, father, and their two young Boy Scout sons. We boarded the raft and practiced our strokes, and then Kricket told us a little about the river's history. "Cache la Poudre" is French for "hiding place for powder," and according to local legend, fur trappers once stashed a large amount of gunpowder along the riverbank after getting caught in a snowstorm. Kricket also mentioned that we should keep an eye out for wildlife as the river was home to eagles, black bears, bighorn sheep, deer, and elk.
Though indeed an "introductory rafting trip," our experience on The Poudre was more of an adventure than we had anticipated. Shortly after the trip began lightening streaked dramatically across the sky, and by the time we hit our first rapid it had started to rain. Though not overwhelming, this first stretch of class II whitewater did alert us to the possibility that more challenging rapids lay ahead. We survived the ominously named class III Decapitation Bridge without incident, but were not nearly as fortunate on Roller Coaster, the next set of rapids.
As we approached Roller Coaster, the roar of crashing whitewater drowned out Kricket's instructions and suddenly our raft tipped. After some confusion, we discovered that both my mother and father had been knocked overboard and were rapidly floating down the river. With some effort we returned them to the raft a little bruised and shaken, but with undiminished enthusiasm. The remainder of the trip was decidedly less exciting, but overall it was a great experience.
From journal Long Weekend in Fort Collins, CO