Parenting Blog

Dynamic Water (Life Lessons From Whitewater Rafting Down The Arkansas River in Colorado)

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado

There was little separating the early summer sun and us. Helmets, short sleeve wet suits that would absolutely kill in a comedy sketch back on dry land, tattered orange life vests that’ve been through a few wars at sea, and a lathering of spf 50 that should’ve really been reapplied more liberally; that’s about it.

The only thing between the sun and the Arkansas River was us, 19 in total, in four blue rafts.

A freshly grilled riverside lunch had wrapped and we shook off the strong urge to nap right there on the rocks. If it had been up to me, I’d have never left. I might still be there now, a month on, burnt to a crisp.

Instead we staggered back to the put-in, upriver about 40 paces, and climbed into position upon the rigid inflated rims of our rafts, picked up our paddles, and heave hoed into handfuls of class 2 and 3 rapids.

In between the thrills, we drifted like a broadleaf through a few stoic passages ideal for an overboard splash followed by a food coma float with serene faces pointed to the heavens.

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado

When Keiran wasn’t regaling us with jokes he freely admitted to repeating daily, our ‘rugged beach bum in the mountains kind of handsome’ 24 year old river guide got downright giddy talking about, and eager to show us, dynamic water.

He spoke of the dynamic water on a few occasions during our moderate Bighorn Sheep Canyon rafting trip, the pitch in his neighborly voice rising each time, like a fat boy speaking of the chocolate mousse pie he knows he’ll get after dinner and — claps hands — the whipped cream that’ll sit atop. It quickly became clear that the frequent sight of these curiously shifting pockets of Arkansas River water is a highlight of Keiran’s seasonal job with Echo Canyon Rafting.

That same dynamic water also became the highlight of my virgin rafting experience.

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado

I’ve spent portions of the past 12 months wondering if marriage is a tenable idea and if I’m actually husband material. Dad material too. It’s been a complicated stretch of rapids.

Like these swirling patches of the Arkansas, the water of my river has been flowing in a multitude of directions, folding into itself, crashing against its source with reckless abandon, unsure as to whether I was still flowing in the correct way.

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado Royal Gorge Cabin

At times, the center of my own patch of dynamic water has looked like a cross between a whirlpool and a black hole, like something either sucking up helpless humans or spewing out aggressively annoyed aliens. Over the past 12 months, I’ve been found sympathizing with both parties.

Keiran’s youthful wonder at seeing the dynamic water as we paddled along the river put something of a positive spin on the complexity of life, although it took wobbling back onto dry land for it to fully sink into my consciousness.

Because the dynamic water was located in or around the rapids and shouts of “forward 2” were coming fast and furious from the raft’s stern during those moments, there was only time to crack the smallest of smiles and tilt my helmeted head a fraction off its axis, like a dog who’s unsure if his curiosity is worth the movement, if there would be a chewy bone in it for him.

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado Royal Gorge Cabin

It was only later, after a drive away from the water in a caravan of 2019 Kia Sorentos with the Kia Family, when I would collapse my weary frame onto the king size bed back at Three Rocks, our luxurious 2-story Royal Gorge Cabin, that I saw myself and a rippled reflective of my present day life in those complex parcels of Arkansas River water.

I understood that while I revel in industry, in the doing and the completing, and in productivity as a significant measure of a man and his worth in this world, that I am not long for a life of nothing but paddling.

When the opportunity presents itself as I make my way downstream, deeper into middle age, nearer the estuary where all things will dramatically change, I must ignore the forward commands only I hear being shouted, put the paddle down, fall out, and float on with my smiling face peacefully aimed skyward.

Dynamic water while rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado Royal Gorge Cabin

*My family was invited on this trip as part of a Kia Family experience. All travel costs were paid for by Kia. All opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased, as always.

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6 Comments

  1. …whoa.

    I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to figure out exactly how to respond to this post. It’s beautiful and moving and thoughtful and poignant and… I usually try to use comments to start a bit of discussion, but I’m not sure how I want to do that here. I may have to say “I love it” and just leave it at that.

  2. I’ll take that, Aaron. Thank you for reading!

  3. Great post, Jeff.

  4. Love this. We’re in the same boat.

  5. Thank you, Vera!

  6. Thanks, man!

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