Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's official... I'm a raft guide!

Since my last post I have become an official raft guide for Vessels for Honor/Journey Quest!  My first customer groups happened on June 16th, my birthday.  In total I’ve taken 5 groups down the Arkansas River.

Me guiding a group through 5 points rapid

My 20th birthday I spent climbing Uncompahgre Peak with a group from Redcloud.  My 21st birthday I got to ride a horse for the first time and it was in the mountains of Colorado!  So, it seemed only fitting that I did something just as fun and epic on my 22nd birthday.  The day started with a reunion-ing family from all over the country.  They were… memorable.  I say that because they were definitely the most difficult group I’ve brought down the river yet.  The group consisted of two smaller women (one of which was a less than ideal paddler), one average sized guy and a small 12 year old girl (also a less than ideal paddler).  They mentioned that they were hungry only 30 minutes after we left which meant they were even worse paddlers.  They tried to stay positive but it gets to be annoying when all they can talk say are things like, “Huh, maybe we should have eaten more for breakfast”, “How much longer are we on the river?”, “They should build a McDonalds on the river”, “This is quite the workout, isn’t it!” and other “I’m-trying-to stay-positive-but-I’m-really-loathing-life-right-now” remarks.  To sum it all up I got tired, REALLY tired!  When you’re the only paddler in a 13 foot boat for 9 miles with an upstream wind, life kind of stinks.  I remember thinking, “Dang, this is going to be a hard summer!” and, “Worst birthday ever!”  Thankfully, however, we had another group that afternoon and they made the day loads better! 

That afternoon I got back, crammed a sandwich into my mouth and then… waited around.  A thunderstorm with hail decided to stop by so we opted to wait for our afternoon run until after the storm went through.  The group was a youth group from Faith Lutheran in Colorado Springs.  As a whole, they have been my favorite group so far.  They had already been waiting to get on the river for awhile and then it started storming so they had to wait even longer.  They could have chosen to complain but instead they stayed positive and even went puddle jumping and dancing in the rain.  When we finally got on the bus and started driving I was able to sit next to Chloe, a 9th grader who was really nervous about water.  I shared with her that I’m not a huge fan of water either and then we got to talking about theatre, speech and all things acting.  She was a pretty cool gal.  After driving for about 4 miles the bus came to a sudden halt: there were two big boulders in the road that had come down after the rain.  All of us guides and a few of Faith Lutheran’s adult leaders decided to get out and roll them out of the road.  They probably weighed 100-200 pounds each, but we were able to save someone’s car from unavoidable damage and rolled them into the ditch. 

When we finally made it to our put-in, it had finished raining and we were able to get onto the river.  My paddlers that afternoon were actually that, paddlers.  They paddled strong and together and made my job a WHOLE heck of a lot easier.  They were also really fun to talk to which was a bonus.  One thing Mark wants us guides to be doing while we’re on the river with a group is bringing up some sort of faith related analogies or try to share our Christian testimonies or just talk to them about their faith.  Not a super easy task, but there are a lot of great analogies that link the Christian faith and rafting so it makes it a bit more doable.  Anyways, my group that afternoon really got into one of the analogies and we had some good faith discussion for the last stretch of our trip. 

To round out the day we decided to go into Canon City for pizza.  Probably the most delicious pizza I’ve ever had.  At least that’s how good it was after a LONG and hard day on the river.
Full "food baby" bellies after eating at Pizza Madness

To sum it up, my birthday was pretty fantastic.  It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t bad either.  I’m sure I’ll have another group like that one I had on the morning of June 16th which I’m not looking forward to… but for the most part I’m enjoying guiding and being on the river. 

The weather here has been HOT!  During the afternoons it gets up around 100F.  I’m so glad I have a job where I have to get wet.  If the heat gets unbearable you just jump out of the boat for a second and take a quick swim in the river.  However, in the past few days we’ve been getting afternoon thunderstorms which I’ve heard will continue throughout most of the summer.  But they’re Colorado thunderstorms.  Aka: they last for about 5 minutes and then it’s sunny again. 
Playing in the river near VFH to cool off on a hot summer day

Cori’s sister, Amanda, recently got engaged.  Her fiancĂ© and her came to VFH for a couple of days to raft and have Elise Soniat take their engagement pictures.  I got to tag along on the photo shoot, which was a lot of fun! 
Elise taking engagement pictures for Amanda and Micah

We were able to get away from rafting for a day to do peak hike training.  Our whole staff hiked Comanche peak (13,271 ft) and some of us opted to do Spring peak as well.  It was a decent hike up, but the hike down stunk!  The hike up was nice because the trail was long and spread out the elevation, but that meant that the way down took forever!  The peak was different than anything I’ve ever climbed before.  When you got to the top and looked down all you saw was a large flat valley on both sides with a town.  All of the mountains around Lake City/Redcloud were surrounded by miles and miles of more mountains so it was a strange site. 
Starting out hike up Comanche Peak right as the sun rises
On the summit of Spring Peak.  Comanche Peak in the background.

The whole group at the top of Comanche Peak

The "strange" view of a flat valley

One of my favorite activities here is paddling a ducky down the river.  A ducky is basically a kayak made out of the same material of the larger rafts.  It’s a lot of fun to take down rapids because you can take different/smaller routes, turn on a dime (well, compared to a big raft), and they don’t get stuck on sleepers as often. 
Tough day in the office

Playing in the ducky

Dan and Harrison using some "experimental" methods in the ducky

We’ve had several visitors in the past few weeks.  Harrison and Jake (two of the guys I worked with at Redcloud last summer) came to visit for a few days.  They were bagging some peaks before Harrison had to return to med school.  We took them down the river in some duckies, played ultimate Frisbee with them and ate Blue Bell ice cream.  It was nice to see them and hang out with them for a few days. 

The Reiff family also came to visit for a few days.  Steve Reiff, his wife Mandy and their three children will be joining the full time staff at Journey Quest in the fall.  They were on a trip visiting friends and family around the country and decided to stop by for a few days to see the place and play on the water with us.  I’d met Steve before when he came with his church’s youth group to Redcloud the past few summers, so it was nice to meet his family and have them here. 

Cori, Elise, Jeanne Marie and I decided that we wanted to climb Wetterhorn peak and last weekend was when we figured we’d have enough time and energy to do it.  As soon as our last group left on Saturday (which, by the way, was made up of the interns from Focus on the Family including one intern who attends Northwestern College.  Small world!) we packed up the Jeep and headed west for Lake City (where the trailhead for Wetterhorn is located).  We arrived at the trailhead around 11:00pm and started hiking around midnight.  We hiked in the dark for a little more than an hour, found the last flat looking spot according to the map, spread out our sleeping bags, and slept under the stars for about 4 hours.  The stars are INCREDIBLE at 12,000 feet with no light pollution! 
Midnight and ready to hike!

View from where we chose to sleep that night
Morning sunrise on Wetterhorn Peak
Once 5:00am rolled around we reluctantly got out of our warm sleeping bags and began hiking.  3 hours later we made it to the summit!  It was a steep climb but well worth it.  I’ve now climbed all five 14er’s in the Lake City area!  We talked about doing Matterhorn and Uncompahgre as well, but we decided food, ice cream and a nap in the park were all a better idea. 
Final scramble to the summit
View from the top of Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 ft)
Matterhorn and Uncompahgre are the two tallest peaks on the left
All of us on the summit
This past week I went into Colorado Springs to help Sarah get food and other supplies.  I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about the wildfires in Colorado but there’s been A LOT of them recently.  While I was in the Springs, the fire that was nearby got even closer.  So close that I could see the flames from some of the roads.  The fire was near the north side of town and we were mostly on the opposite side so we weren’t in much danger.  However, it was strange to see so much smoke everywhere and think that there was a raging uncontrolled fire just miles from me.  I’ve heard that the fire is now 25% contained and it hasn’t spread much in the past few days, but 2 people have died so far and the fire has consumed a couple hundred homes.  Several of our guides live in Colorado Springs, so watching this fire consume their hometown has been pretty tough on them.  Prayers for the firefighters, homeowners, and everyone else involved in the fire are appreciated. 

Journey Quest will start to have its first multi-day trips in just one short week!  Pray that we are prepared spiritually, emotionally and physically for those. 

I think that’s all I have to say for now.  Hope you enjoy my ramblings!  Have a great day!