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Plans are what you make, life is what you live

So I fell off the Internet for a few weeks, after a fire in my apartment building (not my apartment!) and a cascade of events that followed from that, including: a second evacuation after a positive asbestos test, a week-long stay at a friend’s place in Aurora with a four-hour round trip commute, an emergency move, sketchy access to wifi for large swathes of time. But things have settled down now, I’m in my temporary apartment in the beautiful and interesting University of Denver area, I’m going back to my beloved Vine Street when the repairs there are done, all is well.

My younger kid had planned to come down for my five-day stretch of time off around the holiday, and nearly all of our plans were supplanted by Emergency Moving, but because we are stubborn and needed a connection to some sense of normalcy and control, we stuck doggedly to one piece of our staycation itinerary: going kayaking on the South Platte. Which we did yesterday. We got beat all to hell, we had a fantastic time, we learned a lot, we can’t wait to go again.

Things we learned:

  • Colorado outfitters (or at least this Colorado outfitter, or maybe it’s an urban vs. wilderness thing?) have a much more laid-back approach than Florida outfitters. There are no docks; getting the boats from the storefront to the river and back is your problem. Paperwork? What paperwork? Thanks for the money, here’s your boat, have fun!
  • Rental lifevests are terrible and we will be shopping for our own before our next outing.
  • Someone will lose a paddle in a rapid, but lost paddles are recoverable if you can catch up with the damn things; so we also be shopping for a spare collapsible paddle to stow.
  • How “what that obstacle looks like on Google Earth” and “what that obstacle feels like to actually go over” correlate, which will be super helpful in scouting future rivers in advance of other trips.
  • Scouting is smart for other reasons too. Like finding out that what you thought was a 12-mile run is actually 15.5 miles, and planning accordingly. (I’m glad we got to the kayak place right when they opened. I would have loved to have gotten an even earlier start. I feel a little better about our 7-hour time.)
  • Inflatable kayaks are more work to pull through the water than hardsides, and getting unstuck from shallow, slow-moving rapids is real work. And we got stuck a lot. Morgan this morning: “I feel like I got hit by a truck.” Me: “I don’t think I can move my arms.”
  • The South Platte really is just a great beginner river. The rapids are (mostly; see below) exhilarating and fun but actually about as dangerous as a theme park water slide, the scenery is beautiful and park-like almost all the way down and the industrial areas are visually interesting, there’s a ton of urban wildlife, the river traffic is not as heavy as I expected even on an extended holiday weekend in peak season.
  • That said, the best-marked rapids are not the most dangerous ones. There was one point – I want to say it was at Pasquinel’s Landing, but I’m not positive – there were some very large, clear signs, indicating difficult transits ahead, suggesting in strong wording to beach and scout (which we didn’t) but the rapids themselves were pretty much a breeze, so, okay, we weren’t that worried about signage after that. But there was another point, at Phil Milstein Park, that was legitimately dangerous and was not marked as such in any way. A series of constructed rapids on the right steered around a sheer dropoff of about twelve feet right into some big rocks on the left, and, of course, not knowing what the hell we were doing or what to look for, we steered left. Morgan went first, saw the cliff and the rocks, and jumped right out of her boat, electing the “scramble down the side of the waterfall” route instead. Coming up behind, I saw her go over the side, saw her boat go over the waterfall, saw the churning and the rocks at the bottom, thought, “okay, well, I’m going,” went over, flew right through the rocks at the bottom, and immediately started chasing after her boat while screaming at her to not worry about it, just to get to safety, I would bring her boat to her. But she couldn’t hear me, so she hightailed it down the riverbank chasing after her boat on foot too. She and I and her boat all caught up to each other about fifty feet downriver, and then she went back for the paddle that she’d carefully stowed in the rocks, and then we sat for a minute and let the shakes die down, and then we had a good laugh about it and continued on our merry way. But that really should have been marked.

She’s moving down here at the end of the month. We both could make ends meet on our own but really need a roommate to get any kind of ahead; we have a lot of fun together and push each other in healthy and interesting ways. Having her here will make the stay in the temporary apartment much less bleak, and going back to the Vine Street house that much more of a joy.

Published in sense of place


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