Women on the River

A four-day trip through Utah's Lodore Canyon teaches life lessons
By Marilyn Karras
  |  Gorp.com
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Tackling the Green River
Tackling the Green River

Cold rain pelted the group of women as they moved about the boat ramp, efficiently unloading and sorting piles of waterproof bags, heavy metal boxes, wooden table tops and other gear off three large rubber rafts. Despite being drenched and chilled, they laughed and joked while tugging the obstinate, hulking boats onto trailers.

The women appeared to have been doing this work together for a long while. But the reality is they had met only three days earlier and many had never experienced river rafting before.

The river does things to groups of people. Floating 48 miles on the Green River through Lodore Canyon and beyond—drifting past towering rock cliffs, camping along the shore, eating and sleeping together, sharing past and present experiences—changed this group of 18 strangers into friends—and teammates.

The river does things to individuals, too. It would be difficult to explain the effects of four days' immersion in the spectacular beauties of mountain and water except to say that no one is quite the same afterward.

And the river does things for women. The first woman to run the Green River did it 60 years ago, but for many years the river called mostly to men. But for some reason women have recently "discovered" river running, and we are particularly attracted to trips that exclude men—both as visitors and as guides.

These women-only river trips create an environment that has a feminine perspective. While they provide the same thrills as other river runs, women's trips also let us get to know ourselves a little better.

On this trip, organized by Holiday Expeditions in Vernal (the company has offices in Salt Lake City), 15 women from backgrounds as diverse as could be imagined joined up at 7 a.m. one morning for a three-hour van ride to the put-in at the Gates of Lodore. Half of them—Di, Monique, Diana, Lisa, Tracy, Kathleen, Grace—had come alone, from Chicago, Texas, California, Wisconsin. Others came in pairs, but old alliances soon broadened to include new friendships.

One woman was a retired Los Angeles police officer. Others managed computer services, insurance offices, satellite companies. Another was a letter carrier; one worked with Chicago inner-city schools to improve management of the educational system. Our lucky group had its own opera singer. Jeanne's soaring voice echoed off the rock cliffs at the base of a waterfall and in Echo Park, where the rafts paused for the performance.

The four days were a vacation—sometimes resembling a long party—but moments of true relaxation were rare. There was too much to do: Susan Ann, the group's yoga and meditation teacher, and Arlene, a masseuse, encouraged everyone to "be present" at classes that started as early as 6:30 a.m. and happened again after dinner. Most of the group took turns maneuvering inflatable kayaks through some of the less formidable rapids.

Hikes revealed Whispering Cave, waterfalls, and ancient petroglyphs left a thousand years ago by Fremont Indians.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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