Women on the River

The Rewards
By Marilyn Karras
  |  Gorp.com
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The challenges of the trip soon were overshadowed by its rewards. Tracey, a rookie camper, had brought her "shower kit," complete with fluffy towel, shoes, and soaps to be easily carried from her tent to the "showers," which she soon discovered did not exist.

Makeup, shampoo, and combs were soon forgotten. A portable "bang" was set up at each camp, but everyone soon abandoned privacy and delicacy and more often headed for water or a bush.

The three guides for the trip were as amazing as the scenery. Jamie, who was starting a master's degree program and is an Olympic hopeful in the heptathlon (a combination of track and field events including shot-putting, hurdles, javelin, and running), bench presses 350 pounds and thought nothing of lifting her mother out of a kayak by her life jacket with one hand.

Angie usually guides river-rafting trips in the summer and teaches skiing at Alta during winter months. Her knowledge of geology and history gave the groups in her raft a bonus. She explained the fault lines, the age of the rocks, and how John Wesley Powell first explored and named the rocks and rapids: Echo Park, Steamboat Rock, Moonshine Rapids, a rock called Lucifer, Hell's Half Mile, and Disaster Falls. Others were named later: Teddy Bear Rock and rapids called Greasy Pliers.

Ellie had received her bachelor's degree in engineering and was headed this winter to Mexico to learn Spanish. She wanted to continue river rafting in the summers and so was probably going to look for a job in education. She was our trip leader and directed the work of the trio in rowing, cooking, cleaning up, and providing for all the group's needs.

Jamie helped as the trip began by explaining some hints, including these: "Don't stay under the raft if it turns over; it makes us nervous if we can't find you" and "If we have to throw you this bag with a rope in it, hold onto the rope, not the bag, because there's 30 feet of I rope in it and you could get a long ways away and that just makes it harder for us to pull you in."

She suggested "The best thing is just to keep your life jacket on and stay in the boat."

Thanks, Jamie.

The food was incredible—no hot dogs on this trip: lasagna, salmon with fruit salsa, Mexican burritos, omelets with a choice of filling, hummus and black bean pitas, chocolate and raspberry cake, pineapple upside-down cake. As the women set up tents and did a little yoga, the three guides set up the kitchen and had meals ready promptly—always followed by dessert.

One unexpected treat occurred through Headstand Rapids when Jamie and Ellie demonstrated why the rapids had been given that name: Both guides quit rowing long enough to do headstands all the way through the rough water.

The final day, as the group headed into "flat water," the guides tied the three rafts together and a party broke out. Few realized it was a farewell party until the rain began to fall, the rafts were again divided, and the boat ramp soon came into view.

The day, the party, the trip seemed to be over before they had really begun.

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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