Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Storm Before the Calm Before the Storm

Before writing this blog post I perused my photos to jog my memory.  I’m amazed at how fast a month can go by!  At first I thought my blog wasn’t showing me my latest post and then it dawned on me… Nope, that was really only a month ago!  I’m not sure if that makes sense so to boil down what I’m trying to say, a month seems like forever ago.  And what happened a month ago you might ask… Well, let me tell you.

At the end of my last post you may remember me telling you that I was about to go on a week long trip with a bunch of teenagers from the Houston, TX area.  The trip consisted of half a day of team building activities, rafting Browns Canyon, rock climbing and repelling, ducky-ing, and finished off with a final day of rafting through Bighorn Sheep Canyon.  For some reason I didn’t have that much energy going into the trip.  Because of that I didn’t have the best attitude.  I really wish that wasn’t the case because the kids were great and kept us laughing.  The youth pastor that came with on the trip had them work through a book that introduced them to a bunch of different ways to study the bible.  He had a great relationship with the kids and also loved quoting The Holy Grail.  Needless to say, we got along great!  One night that week we were staying at a campground just a few miles from our boathouse.  That whole week fires had been burning in Pagosa Springs, Colorado Springs and several other places in the state.  The winds had blown a lot of the smoke right into our valley which made the sky and the sun turn an eerie color of pink.  It reminded me of when the skies turn green right before a tornado in Minnesota.  To add to the eerie effect, we had been informed of a fire that had started just 5 miles north of our boathouse and that we may be asked to evacuate if the winds shifted.  Not what you really want to hear.  Thankfully the winds had blown the fire so far north (where there was just forest and no houses) that even if the winds turned south the fire would basically put itself out because it wouldn’t have anything to burn.  Not going to lie, trying to stay calm and keep a group of teenagers calm when the skies look like death is not an easy feat.  Like I said, thankfully that’s the closest a fire has gotten to us this summer and that was close enough for me!  If you want more info on the fires the Denver Post has been having some good articles and coverage on the topic. (http://www.denverpost.com/coloradowildfires2013)

The whole crew from Houston, TX
A couple of them enjoying a double ducky

Jumping off a rock by Double Dip Rapid

The title of this post reflects the ebb and flow of busyness this past month.  June 17th-22nd we had 171 people walk through our doors and the week after that we had 202 plus 18 on a week long backpack trip.  That may not seem like a lot but trust me it keeps a small staff busy!  After those two weeks we had a few days with only a couple people coming in each day so we used that time to clean up the mess we created over the “storm” weeks.  That cleaning week also happened to be the week of July 4th.  As a staff we dressed up and paraded around the boathouse singing patriotic type songs.  Mark just laughed at us the whole time and possibly contemplated why he hired the people he did (which happens more times than you might think… at least we keep him laughing!).  We then all went into Westcliffe to join in on some of the festivities, eat dinner, play in the park, and enjoy the fireworks.  One thing worth mentioning about dinner that night… Have you ever heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters? (If you haven’t check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_oysters)  Well, I thought it was just a practical joke of sorts, but nope, there’s a bar in Westcliffe that actually serves them!  Naturally, we had to get some and each try a bite.  They weren’t horrible, but I don’t think I’ll order them again.  It’s one of those mind-over-matter type of foods.  As long as you didn’t think about what they were you were fine.  Andrew Zimmern (host of Bizarre Foods) would have been proud of us. 

The gals on July 4th

Rocky Mountain Oysters

They actually didn't taste too bad.  I ate a couple of them.

Nature Valley always donates a TON of granola bars to all the rafting companies in the area.  This is our selection. 

The Anderson's getting ready to go down the river

July 7th – 8th we took a staff trip to Ouray, CO for some rest and to play in the mountains a little bit.  We didn’t do anything too crazy, just some hiking in Yankee Boy Basin, sitting in coffee shops, soaking in the hot springs, and some rock climbing.  It was nice to be away from the boathouse for a few days and hang out with the staff and the Anderson’s. 
The whole staff and all the Anderson's in Ouray, CO

Even the Anderson kids got to try climbing in Ouray

When we got back to the boathouse it was back to busyness.  We have had a steady stream of people coming in and we’ve been prepping for the coming week trips.  Cori and I went on a short backpack trip to scout a trail for a trip she is leading this week.  We covered a lot of miles and vert in a very short amount of time.  We were both extremely tired but for some reason still went climbing with the rest of the staff the next day. 

Me cooking dinner on the trail

Cori and I not looking forward the the 6 miles we had left...

Climbing at Shelf Road outside of Canon City

Being a true Minnesotan I have to talk about the weather at least a little bit…
The weather here has been rainy.  I don’t remember it raining this much last year, but since we’re not living out of a tent I don’t mind the afternoon/evening thunderstorms and rainshowers.  Jeanne Marie and I went puddle jumping one day, a few of us played Frisbee in the rain yesterday, and I’ve decided that I love rafting when it’s raining and thundering outside (as long as I’m not trying to get through a rapid).  It’s just neat how the thunder echoes through the canyon.  Other than that, there are days when it’s unbelievably hot, and others when the heat is bearable. 

That should bring you up to speed on my life.  Thanks for reading! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The First Month of Wetness

The past three weeks have absolutely flown by!  I’ll give you a rundown week by week…

The first week I was here we had one goal: get Elise (the other one) certified to guide in the Royal Gorge (class 4-5 rapids).  However, the water did not want to cooperate with that goal.  By that I mean the water was around 280 CFS (aka: super stinkin’ low!) making it nearly impossible for us to get down in the gorge during the first part of the week.  But we made the most of it and got Amy and Ryan going on guide training.  Since they were just learning the basics of guiding myself and the other returning guides navigated the more technical rapids.  Two things: 1) Guiding a raft is a lot like riding a bike, it comes back quickly. 2) I never want to raft the Arkansas at 280 CFS ever again!  Its just not fun.  Later in the week the water started to go up and we were able to finally get in the Gorge so Elise could get in some training.  By weeks end Elise was qualified to take people down the Royal Gorge and the boathouse was beginning to look more put together and ready for the season. 

On May 19th, Cori and Ben finally arrived which allowed us to finally start doing some “whole staff” types of things.  For example, team building/low ropes initiatives and rock climb training.  That second week involved those things and more training for Ryan, Ben, and Amy.  They actually caught on to guiding really quickly!  The rest of May was fairly uneventful.  A few things we did do included a visit to Westcliffe and swiftwater rescue training.  Thankfully it was not as cold as it was last year so I did not experience hypothermia while doing swiftwater training. 

Journey Quest guides (Ryan, Ben, Elise, Elise, Amy, Cori, Josh)

Elise climbing up a crack

Concert in the park at Westcliffe

Elise and Cori in the boat

Throw bag practice during Swiftwater Rescue Training

June 4th-6th was our first multi-day trip.  A group from Albuquerque, NM came up to do some teambuilding and a full day on the river.  They were pretty cool!  I really enjoyed hanging out with the group, however, the weather decided to be cold, windy and cloudy the day we were on the river.  But the group made the most of it and we still had a great time!  It’s hard not to have a good time on the river this year because the water is so high!  Seriously, last year we were happy to have a day over 400CFS and this year we’ve been running at or above 1500CFS most days!  If you don’t know… CFS stands for Cubic Feet per Second.  In other words, a kitchen sink holds about 1 cubic foot.  If the river is running at 1000CFS that means that 1000 kitchen sinks are running past any given point in the river ever second.  If you want to track the CFS in our area feel free to check out this website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=07094500

Our first multi-day group doing a team building activity

More team building.  ...really!

Me hitting a hole in Spikebuck rapid

On June 7th we went up river to Brown’s Canyon which is in between Buena Vista and Salida.  Most of us had not guided up there before and we were planning to raft that section with a group who is coming next week.  This was significant to me because the very first rafting trip I’d ever been on was with Noah’s Ark in Buena Vista back in 2004.  I don’t remember much about the rafting but I do remember loving it and if you would have told me then that I would be back in that very spot 9 years later as a guide I wouldn’t have believed you.  But sure enough, its true!  Brown’s Canyon is really pretty!  It’s much more foresty and secluded.  Big Horn Sheep Canyon (what we normally run) is more deserty and runs right along a highway.  I do still prefer the rapids in Bighorn Canyon, but it’s nice to run a different section of the river once in awhile. 

Earlier this week most of our staff went on a backpack training trip in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe.  Only Mark, Josh, Amy and I were left to take care of things at the boathouse.  We had a few day trips, but mostly did work projects and cleaning/organizing around the boathouse.  Amy and I also found some time to make a highly informative video that you can check out here https://vimeo.com/68351180.

The past few days have been insane!  At least in reference to the water levels.  The water has been between 2600 and 2900CFS!  To give you a little bit of an idea of how intense that is the Royal Gorge closes to commercial vessels at 3200 because it’s just too dangerous to run at that level!  Seriously, the waves are almost bigger than our rafts and our rafts are 13-14 feet long!  I cannot say it enough, the rafting this year is SOOOOO much different (and more fun/wet) than last year!  I’m using a lot of explanation points because it literally is that crazy!

Also, fires have hit the state of Colorado in the past few days.  There is a giant fire in Colorado Springs, another fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, and a few others have also started in Pagosa Springs.  However, the one that has been most concerning to us is the one that is in Canon City.  It started in the Royal Gorge and has burnt many structures already.  We did have some rain showers this afternoon/evening so hopefully that helped out the fires.  It doesn’t seem like the fire will come near where we are, but parts of the river are closed off because of the fire so it’s effecting the rafting industry significantly. 

Next week I’ll be on a week long trip with a youth group.  We’ll be spending several days on the river and a day rock climbing.  We are still without internet and phone service so please be patient with me if you are trying to contact me.  Hope you all are doing well!  I’ve been having a great summer so far and I know God is working in my life and through our staff this year and I’m excited for the rest of the summer.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Living Quarters and Contact Info

Many of you have wondered where in the world I'll be living this summer and how you can contact me.  Well, today is your lucky day because I am about to show/tell you!

I will be living in a house this year!  The house is on the Anderson's property and is complete with a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.  Elise, Cori, Amy, Jeanne Marie and myself will be staying in it throughout the summer.  The boys will be living with Steve.  I'm not sure how they've got things set up there but I'll show you a little bit of what our space looks like.  Please keep in mind that the house is still under some minor construction (a door needs to put in and all the walls were just painted) so look past the mess. :)

Welcome to our humble abode.

This is how far away we are from Mark and Sarah's house.

When you first walk in this is what you'll see: The kitchen sink and the bathroom.  Don't worry Mom, we're being really heathy already (note Krispy Kreme box).

Elise and Amy standing in the living/dining room.  On the left is a stove/oven and refrigerator and on the right is a couch and a few chairs.

Our bedroom.  The opposite side of the room has a washer/dryer and a closet.
We have a deck outside our bedroom door!  Pretty good view if I do say so myself!

So, as you can see we have a pretty swell spot to live for the summer.  As I mentioned things will probably move around and look a little more finished/lived in as the summer goes on so maybe later I'll post some updated pics.  

Elise, Amy and I drove to Salida today and below are a few pictures I took along the way.  There is so much more snow in the mountains than this time last year!


We start training tomorrow (Monday) morning.  Pray for safety and fun!  Josh and Ryan will be arriving tonight and Cori and Ben will be coming next weekend (they have to finish up school).  

If you want to look up where we are or send me SNAIL MAIL!  Then here is the address...

Journey Quest
Attn: Elise Holmstrom
27077 Highway 50 Suite 4
Texas Creek, CO 81223

I do not have cell service or internet where we are living so don't be offended if I don't get back to you for several days.