Before we left for our trip on Gates of Ladore I busted out my river map and my checklists. Like any remote (rafting) adventure, I always air on the side of bringing it all and if you don’t use it, great. With rafting – that’s usually an acceptable approach – less so for backpacking 😉. The total distance from the “Gates” of Ladore Canyon to Split Mountain is about 45 miles scattered with class III-IV rapids and some mellow sections for balance.
Other than the Grand Canyon, this was my first big river trip as an adult. I’ve done a few 2-night trips but all on straightforward, mellow rivers. Needless-to-say, it was also my first time being a boat captain and rowing big water without other experienced rowers by my side.
I was feeling the standard anxiety around all the what-could-go-wrongs and the don’t-f$*&-it-ups. I usually go into new things with the mentality of “If you don’t try you’ll never learn” and knowing the best learning experiences come from messing up, I was expecting to blow it at some point. Nevertheless, making mistakes that other people must help you clean up always stresses me out and adds another layer of discomfort - not to mention the healthy and general fear instilled by running whitewater... It can be unpredictable, and you can’t always plan accordingly – sometimes the river just takes you where it wants you to go regardless of what you do.
The day we launched, they released an unusual amount of water from the Flaming Gorge Dam to help simulate runoff for the endangered fish – Humpback Chub. This meant bigger and pushier, but less technical water, which was awesome.
I was surprised at how good I felt scouting. We stopped for almost everything class III or greater. For how nervous I was feeling before going, which must have been a fear of the unknown, as soon as we were on the water it just felt like home. Everything just clicked, and I felt this overwhelming sense of relief and freedom.
Rafting is not for minimalists as far as gear and accommodations go; from Paco pads to Dutch ovens to an unlimited supply of beer – I didn’t sacrifice any comfort for sure. One of the best parts of rafting is the food – it’s almost a competition on the river to see who can have the best meal. I’m a foodie and eating is on my top 10 favorite things to do list for sure. The two best parts of eating, for me, are how good does it taste and how good is it for you (which don’t always mesh).
Splitting up food on the river is always fun because everyone usually does something creative and different. On our trip, since we didn’t have an extra-long trip, we were able to keep tons of ice in our cooler, so we ate fresh food even at the takeout. We had everything from berry fruit salad, to Asian chicken curry, to quinoa stuffed peppers. Each “boat” prepped one breakfast and one dinner and we were on our own for lunch – I like doing it like this because you get to distribute work pretty evenly and there’s a variety in every meal. As far as lunches go – I’m a snacker – so I don’t usually make an actual lunch, but I pull together all my favorite bars, bites, chews, fruits, and dehydrated deliciousness for my snack box. Snacking and easy access to snacks are essential. I’m no fun when I’m hangry – so two-hour feedings are standard in my life – on and off the river.
Here’s what I normally pack in my ammo can both gear wise and snack wise.
Ammo Can Essentials:
- Extra Koozie
- Backup Sunglasses/Croakies
- Mini Hair Brush
- Coconut Oil
- Packaroons (Sweet Coconut are my fav – but I love them all)
- Homemade Jerky
- Stinger gummies
- Dried mango with red chili powder (so good)
- Jalapeno Chips
- Rando Snack Bag
- Tea Bags
I didn’t grow up rafting – but I did grow up adventuring and the best memories I have are because of the people I was able to share a place with. I walked into this trip feeling completely different than I felt walking out. I knew the people on my boat would be phenomenal, but I didn’t know many other people in the group. The sense of humor and laughter that was scattered throughout my day on this trip took my level of fun to the next level. I was always present in the moment which is a rare and cherished presence for me. Like most people these days, my day to day is scattered with electronics, desk sitting, phone calls, and being too busy to resonate in stillness.
Sometimes, to get away from the hectic life I’ve created for myself I must step away and go somewhere that I’m forced to disconnect. The vacations where I get to challenge myself mentally and physically, surround myself with good humans, and be away from the chaos of living in 2018 are the most fulfilling and special. There are a handful of activities that make me feel free and the river is one of those places. The river has become my home no matter where the water is running, and the family is those I get to share it with.