Monday, May 28, 2012

Spikebuck, Shark's Tooth, and Satan's Suckhole

I always try to think of some interesting way to start a blog post.  Today I’m not feeling incredibly creative so I’ll throw up a headline of sorts:

Hypothermia Strikes Young Woman While Training to be a Raft Guide!

Actually, I only experienced a minor case of hypothermia and it was only for a few hours. But now I bet you want to know more about my life the past few weeks. :)

My elbow healed up.  I think what happened was I tore some of the tendons in my elbow.  Not rowing for awhile allowed it to heal up and I’ve been able to function normally.  I have an elbow brace now which makes me look pretty darn hard core if I do say so myself. 

Most days around here are the same.  Wake up around 6:15am; eat breakfast and get ready for the day; get on the river by 8:00am; lunch; more river time; dinner; wash dishes; play games/watch a movie; bedtime around 10:00pm.  We’ve had several groups every week that we take down the river with us, but for the most part we’re doing a lot of training.  And the only way to train to be a raft guide is to do it.  In order to guide a boat down a river smoothly you have to know what to avoid, when to turn you’re boat, and what to tell your paddlers.  It’s kind of like a big remote control car, but not really… Either way, the more you do it the more you remember what to do. 

The other exciting thing we’ve done is Swiftwater Rescue Training.  Last Wednesday-Friday the new guides from VFH and some guides from other companies in the area took this course.  On Wednesday we spent the day watching videos of what we’d be doing and going over some rope systems we’d be using in the coming days.  Thursday was hypothermia day!  We spent the morning swimming through class 3 rapids in the headwaters of the Arkansas (aka: really, REALLY cold snowmelt).  Even with a wetsuit on, a person can get quite chilly.  When we took a break for lunch I found it hard to eat my chicken salad sandwich because my hands were shaking so terribly.  It was quite comical but also frustrating.  That afternoon we spent some more time in the water and by 5:00pm I was never so happy to see my dry, cotton underwear!  Friday was also spent in the water but mostly working on scenarios such as foot entrapment, rescuing swimmers, and boat flips.  Because of that we didn’t spend as much time in the water and I didn’t get that cold. 

Yesterday I guided a boat of 4 of my fellow guides from Pinnacle to Parkdale on the Arkansas River.  It’s about a 9 mile stretch that we will use for ½ day trips.  It went really smoothly and I’m feeling really confident about guiding groups down in the near future!  Despite the fact that I’ve never been a huge fan of water, I’m really enjoying my summer job so far!

View of the Royal Gorge Bridge and the Royal Gorge Train
while rafting through none other than the Royal Gorge

An exciting run through Five Points

Getting ready to hit the water

I think that’s about all that’s new and exciting to tell you about.  I still don’t have a picture of me guiding a boat… hopefully in the near future!  Until then enjoy the other photos and feel free to ask me any questions (I try to explain things clearly but that doesn’t always work). 

One last update: The Anderson’s are still looking for a house.  Right now they’re camping out with the rest of us but I know they’d love a more permanent spot to live. 

Until next time, have a good one!

ps... the title of this blog entry was inspired by some of the rapids I pass through every day on the Arkansas River.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sun, Sand and Surf

Being a raft guide doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did a few weeks ago.  I’ve been told I’ve already got the “look” of a guide down.  And looks are everything, right?  So, I should be good to go.  But seriously, here’s what I’ve been doing so far…

The "raft guide look" with Elise and Jeanne Marie 

After a marathon day of grocery shopping and packing I left Johnstown, CO on April 28th along with the Anderson’s.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a $1000 grocery run before, but now I can add that to my resume.  We arrived in Texas Creek several hours later and began the not-so-small task of cleaning and organizing.  Within the next few days we were joined by Steve, the Soniat sisters, Dwight and Justin Grant (Dwight is the founder of VFH), and Josh Shannon.  I didn’t take any ‘before’ pictures of the office and boat house, but you can trust me when I say great improvements were made by way of elbow grease from the whole crew!

View of VFH from the road (the office is behind this building)
Office (front) and Boathouse/Staff area (behind)
Inside the Office (it's still being organized, but you get the idea)
Picnic area (white and blue building on left is the back side of the office)
Inside the prep room/staff area

On May 2nd seven of us left Texas Creek, CO for the Green River in Utah.  I’d never been to Utah and I’d never been on a raft trip so new experiences all around!  We drove for nearly 12 hours when we finally made it to the put-in.  We were all rather tired after a long day in the van so we rolled out our sleeping bags and slept under the stars. 

The next morning we woke up bright and early, packed up the boats and said goodbye to civilization and hello to Desolation Canyon.  We wanted to cover about 30 miles the first day, but only ended up going about 26.  We rowed and rowed and ROWED for what seemed to be forever until we reached our campsite.  Tired, cranky, and sore are three words that come to mind from that first day.  However, we all felt better after eating some food and playing a highly competitive game of Bocce Ball. 

On the Green River
Getting ready to leave our campsite

The second day was a lot like the first, long and tiring, but VERY pretty.  The views in the canyon were spectacular.  The next 4 days were quite a bit easier because we only covered 3-10 miles per day. 

Right before a wave drenches the boat

We were able to do some hiking in the canyon.  One hike was to an old prospectors cabin and another was to the top of a high point in Grey’s Canyon.  For the most part, though, we stayed near the river.  But that wasn’t hard because every campsite was home to some of the best beach sand I’ve ever seen!  It was so nice to be able to get off the river, kick your shoes off and walk around in the warm sand.  But, there was a drawback… Sand got EVERYWHERE!  I’m still trying to clean the sand out of my sleeping bag, toothbrush and camera. 

Hiking in Desolation Canyon
Josh trying to stand up in the prospectors cabin
View from the high point in Grey's Canyon

Another thing about river trips is… you can’t relieve yourself on shore.  By that I mean if you need to go (which you do multiple times during a 6 day trip) you need to go in the river.  And if you need to take a poo you get to use what’s known as a groover.  Basically an old ammo can with a toilet seat on top of it.  I’m trying to come up with a points system for the groover, but it’s much harder to come up with that a point system for BIFFing. 

Using the "facilities"

I ended up hurting my elbow after the first day of the trip, so I haven’t been paddling since then.  It’s my left elbow and it feels like tennis elbow.  Mark and I decided that it would be better if I skipped out on rowing for these past few weeks rather than become more seriously injured and being out for the summer.  So, I don’t have too much experience under my belt yet but I will in the near future. 

Since we got back from the Green River trip we’ve been further organizing and cleaning the office and boat house.  We’ve also been practicing backing up the trailers with 15-passenger vans.  I’ve gotten quite good at that.  The other newbies have been learning how to guide a paddle boat down the Arkansas River, and because of my elbow I have been learning how to shuttle and take rafting pictures. We've also become quite good at mouse extermination.  We've caught 9 since getting back from the Green River and have removed a nest from Jeanne Marie's car.  And by we I mean Josh.  

Training on the Arkansas
Josh taking care of a mouse nest

Overall, I’ve been having a good time and am about 10 shades darker than 3 weeks ago.  I cannot wait to start paddling again and I’m hoping and praying that my elbow can take it!  Currently I’m in Fort Collins, CO with Jeanne Marie and Elise.  We’re staying with they’re older sister Gina.  We will be heading back down to Texas Creek on Monday night to officially begin staff training on Tuesday.  And… just so y’all know I don’t have cell phone service where I am and currently I don’t have internet access either.  Steve is working on getting us some wi-fi, but in the meantime, if I don’t answer you back for a week it’s because I literally cannot. 

If you’d like to send me snail-mail here’s the address:

Elise Holmstrom
27077 Highway 50 Suite 4
Texas Creek, CO 81223

Mark and Sarah are still trying to purchase a house down by VFH.  They have one that they want that would be practically perfect for them and their 5 kids.  They put in a bid, but so far no dice.  If you could be praying for them, I would greatly appreciate it. 

Lastly, Happy Mothers Day!  Love you Mom!