The peaks of the 10MileRange, our home range here in Breckenridge, were still draped in a blanket a blinding white snow last July — but it was hot! Local rivers were bulging with clear, take-your-breath-away snowmelt, and we wanted to cool off. As luck would have it, Mike, a representative from Performance Tours Rafting, popped by the Summit Mountain Rentals office to see how we were faring. He generously offered to set up a half day rafting expedition for us, and we were not about to turn down the offer. Several weeks later, we found ourselves driving south from Breckenridge overHoosierPasstowardBuena Vistaand the mightyArkansas River. We stopped for a quick breakfast at a local coffee shop in quaintBuena Vista, and then carried on towards Performance Tours' staging area with theCollegiateRangelooming to the West at well over 14,000 feet. Small groups and families milled around applying sunscreen and donning wetsuits and helmets, while energetic guides took names and directed traffic. We loaded into an old yellow school bus trailing a stack of bright blue rafts, and theArkansasquickly came into view. The guides briefed us on safety, but most people seemed transfixed by the wide, meandering river. It looked so peaceful at the put-in, but we knew that it wouldn't be long before we were paddling as hard as we could through ClassIIIand IV rapids. As our smaller raft, complete with four paddlers and one ecstatic guide, slipped into the swift, cool water, I could feel my excitement rising. Other rafts were disappearing around a bend downstream, and I knew that a quick paddling lesson meant that we were in for some action sooner rather than later! As expected, we rounded the bend and were confronted with a long stretch of mild rapids -- some quick riffles, a couple of holes, and some rocks to avoid. Our team of paddlers quickly pulled together, obeying every command that our guide shouted to us. At the end of the first stretch, we rocketed through the first large hole, a huge wave of refreshing, freezing spray raining down on us. After a couple of quick cheers, some paddle high-fives, big smiles and pounding hearts, our guide gave us some more pointers and told us to prepare for even more exhilaration downstream.
She wasn't kidding. From there on out, the rapids kept coming at us, and we continued to weave our way through massive waves and small drop offs. Now, it sounds like a full-on adrenaline rush, but our guide was so skilled that we probably could have stopped paddling all together and she still would have led us through safely. Plus, the major rapids were spread out, with sections of slow-moving river in between where we were able to swim and enjoy the view as desert-like bluffs and rock outcroppings cruised past us. As we neared the take-out point, our group — once strangers but now friends — took one last dip in the river together. We then clamored back onto the bus, all smiles and a few sore arms, and zipped down a forested dirt road back to our cars.