Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gates of Lodore: Day 1

Confession: this trip was billed as a "solo traveler" trip. I would be lying to you if I did tell you that I went into it with the teeny, tiniest glimmer of hope of meeting someone. Someone male. Someone male who was rugged, attractive and outdoorsy.

Of course, I should also tell you that I describe myself as an optimistic realist which means - hope for the best but expect reality. So while I did have this little seed of hope that maybe, perhaps, quite possibly, or at least theoritcally, I could meet someone . . . I did not expect it and mostly just figured that would be a bonus if it happened.

Before you get any ideas, I will just tell you: it didn't. And I knew that before the trip even technically started because the night before we hit the river, we had a very brief orientation meeting at which I was able to size up my travel companions. My first impression? Maybe the guides will be attractive . . .

What I did not expect is this - how unbelievably funny and interesting and fascinating this eclectic little group of six would be. Especially the women. Most especially the women.

Three of the four women with whom I spent four days on a river were around my age-ish and all four of them were bright, successful, attractive, adventerous and genuine. I could not have asked for better travel companions! The oldest among us recently lost 60 pounds so she could do things like learn to hang glide (err, or paraglide? not sure of the difference) and sky dive and just be healthy enough to do the things that had always interested her. Inspriational!

One of the women is a recently divorced psychiatrist originally from the south who talks even more than I do and can be just as ridiculous. Just hand her a coke and wait 15 minutes for the show.

Another among us films ground breaking surgeries, has a quiet sense of humor, is a travel whiz and lucky for me - lives in a nearby state!

And finally, perhaps my favorite one of all is the girl who was the most suprising. On that first day she seemed nice enough but more on the quiet side. I was still trying to remember the names of everyone and distinguish which blonde-haired girl was which. Then, after dinner, after this one had a chance to get a drink or two in her . . . she turned into "J__ After Dark"! It was hilarious for the sheer shock of it! Suddenly every other word out of her mouth was an expletive. I am not one to condone such language but I also don't condemn it too much (I am, after all, a lawyer in NYC, I cannot have too delicate of sensitivities). The contrast from daytime broke the newness tension and she was an instant hit. Oh, and she is hilarious and an intensive care RN in her day job. Or, more accurately, her night job since she works nights - which is her explanation for the swing in behavior.

Happily, it did not take the full four days for me to realize the quality of people with whom I was traveling. Going into this trip I had one goal. Ahem, aside from meeting the perfect outdoorsman with whom to share my life. This one goal was a bit more within my control - to overcome my fear of the inflatable kayak. You see, last summer, I had a bit of a disaster story in one wherein I ended up swimming through a Class III rapid. So, on that bright sunshiney Saturday morning, with a group of strangers, I vowed to be tough and strong and beat this fear.

The morning was calm and mostly flat with just a few bumps in the water. I felt strong and confident. We stopped for lunch and I chatted a bit with my fellow travelers, ate a delicious lunch and took a quick little hike up the hill to get a better view of the river below and the red rock bluffs above us. I still didn't know everyone's name and mostly, I was keeping to myself just taking in the beauty all around us.

Post-lunch we weren't in the boats very long when we pulled over to "scout out" our first real rapid . . . DISASTER FALLS! After securing the boats to shore, we took a little walk along side the river until we were above the rapid. My stomach folded into itself and doubt settled in. I was scared. The guides calmly pointed at boulders sticking out of the water and described "finger waves" and currents as I stared without seeing. I felt a little sick. There was one other person in an inflatable kayak - a "ducky" - and he was male. And he seemed unafraid, despite the fact that he had never done this before. Or, perhaps, because he had never done this before.

I asked the guides to explain over and over again how I needed to position myself just to the right of the first boulder, then point my nose slightly left to ride the current over the drop off. My heart continued to pound. Then one of the girls tugged on my pony tail and I felt slightly better. I kept thinking I wouldn't do it but the guides told me they were confident I could do it and one of the other girls told me I needed to do it for all of the girls. I took a deep breath and walked back, still flip flopping in my head.

But I climbed into the kayak anyway, chanting the instructions over and over in my head. Until I was out there in it. And soon it was over and I was still in the kayak and soaking wet and I was paddling into the "wave train" that was like a very wet little roller coaster of water. I couldn't believe I had been so afraid - that was actually fun!

I was pretty proud of myself when it was all over. And ready to tackle more rapids, but that would have to wait for another day. We were soon at our camp and before I knew it the day was ending. After setting up my tent I had planned on doing some journaling but the conversation of the group proved to be too interesting.

Someone got me started talking about my philosophy on writing and journaling and I probably lectured the one mid-thirties male in the group about how journaling is not just for women just a tad too much . . . my theory is male journalers/writers/diarists just keep it to themselves more than women might. History, as well as contemporary fiction/non-fiction/journalism is too jam packed with male writers for me to believe any sort of sweeping statement that men don't keep journals.

As our guides served dinner the conversation moved on to each person taking a turn telling about the favorite place they have ever traveled. Or, more accurately, the first thing that popped into their mind when the question was posed because it is often too hard to pick a favorite. This was revealing and I think it helped us gel as a group a bit more to discover we had been to similar places or that some had been places others had dreamed about. Plus, everyone enjoyed the opportunity to tell a little bit more about themselves to the group apart from the "what kind of animal would you be" question our guides asked us to respond to after we first climbed in our boats.

Night fell quickly and other than a few antics by my favorite after dark companion, the first night was uneventful and we all went to bed on the early side since the stars above us in the narrow canyon were mostly hidden by clouds.


Ma said...

You are obviously much more courageous than I am, but it does sound fun.

Tiffany said...

How fun! I'm proud of your bravery! Plus, I love finding kindred spirits. (Even if they talk like sailors.)

michele said...

i'm glad you had some awesome people on your trip. sounds like fun. i love those little ducky boats, although i have never done any big rapids in one.

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