When adventure hits you hard in the form of river spray, excitement is sure to follow. As we filed onto A-1 Wildwater’s musty, yellow school busses, anticipation ran through the group like wildfire. Soon we had quitted the city and the caravan of busses drove into the canyon. Our energy grew with the hills, as they rose and rose in the towering mountain walls. The wind streaming through the open windows carried with it the invigorating smell of rushing water, as well as the earthy scents of rock, dirt, and high-off pines. As the road snaked deeper into the mountains, we passed through several tunnels cut through the living rock, drowning the group in temporary darkness. Twisting and turning, the road finally deposited us where we were to launch onto the river. Almost running, we rushed out of the hot bus, found our crew, raft, and guide and pushed out into the swirling waters of the Cache la Poudre River.
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At first, the river flowed smoothly, carrying us steadily onward. Dipping our paddles deep into the current, we surged forward, loving every moment. Soon, though, the waters grew choppier. Water tumbled over the rocks, capping them in white. The spray shot up at us, soaking our skin and energizing our spirits. The rapids roared, muffling the guide’s commands and dulling our sense of direction. The cliffs crowded together, awing us with their height and turning the river back and forth. Suddenly our guide warned that we were about to go over a waterfall. We shook with anticipation and smiled with eagerness. But when we arrived at the waterfall, to our relief, we only fell four feet. Surging over the brink, we crashed safely into calmer waters and pushed our raft onward.
More rapids followed. At one bend, our guide pointed out a rock formation that looked like a dragon’s head snarling at the crashing waters. During one difficult section, our guide stopped laughing and became very serious. Up ahead at a bend in the river, a huge boulder stood in our path. In order to pass the obstacle, we had to use our paddles to push off the rock to safety. Collision was not advised. We rounded the bend and the infamous boulder loomed into view. “Paddle!” yelled the guide, and paddle we did. With his strong hand, the guide steered us as far away from the boulder as the current would allow. But try as he might, the flow of the river pulled us straight towards the rock, the spray blinding, the water crashing, the crew screaming.
Impact! Our paddles connected with the slick surface of the rock and one by one we pushed off. Safe! We dipped our paddles deep into what was just our enemy, but now aided our escape. Soon after, the calm water lapped gently against the side of our raft, and we settled into the rhythmic pull of the river. Our guide directed us to the final landing and our journey on the Cache de Poudre River came to a close. Soaked, excited, and wishing we could have had more, we exited the raft on wobbly legs and stepped onto the land. As we waited for the rafts to be loaded back on their racks and the sun to dry us, I looked up one last time at the magnificent mountains forming the walls of the canyon, towering above our tiny group. For what is adventure without a majestic background? Exhausted, we slowly piled back onto our musty, yellow school busses and began the long ride back to Ft. Collins.
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