Home on Vacation d5

Day 5 – The River of Lost Souls

We took our skills to the Animas River. The Spanish called it Rio de las Animas Perdidas. Animas means “breath” or “soul” in many cultures. To the Spanish it was the river of lost souls. We started at Baker’s Bridge – Class 1 for 16 miles, which means little or no rapids. The river oxbowed back and forth with and then against the wind. Shortly into the run we hit our first obstacle and failed it miserably even though we got out to look at it and figure the best route. We were still getting our river legs on. We bunched up against the rocks, missing the entry by at least a foot. We ended up getting out and walking the canoe through it without passenger. Robert took the front paner rope, I took the rear.

At this time I took a moment to reiterate, “If we flip, it is the person in the back’s fault. He has to watch how the person in the front is leaning and overcompensate for it. If we lose the canoe, it is the person in the front’s fault.”

We would eventually get a chance to prove this hours later.

Along the banks of the switchbacks are old rusty cars. Robert, who knows about those kind of things, says that the oldest he saw might have been from the early 70s. Most, however, were from the 50s and 60s. I fought the idea of the city using them for an erosion control solution. How could such a naturalist Colorado government approve something like that? In Texas it would make sense, but I guess I had higher expectations for an outdoor oriented society consistent with leftist hippies and go-green mentality. I thought maybe a flood pulled them in and the city dragged them out. Unfortunately, I could not find any online information about it, so the mystery remains. To support his case Robert pointed out that all of them were front end down and none of them had engines. He hypothesized that they all came from junk yards, having been long stripped of usable parts.

We could have taken his girlfriend and the dog on this section, but we did not. Two conflicting maps (or so we thought) made the trek from our put in to 32nd street uncertain. A river map drawn and produced by a local jumped from an unrated gorge with multiple danger signs, exclamation points, and the words “DO NOT ATTEMPT” to the class IIIs of 32nd street. The other book claimed that area to be what it was – class nothing. Rather than take the risk we sent them with my mother to do souvenir shopping, something Robert would not be that into anyway. They were supposed to pull us out in a neighborhood access point behind the Home Depot. We never made it there.

Less than a mile before 32nd street bridge the water started picking up. We had a good couple twists and turns around protruded rocks to practice on before we hit the public eye. Then, it was full on action. Robert shouted “Left. Right. More Right. Left. Left!. LEFT! Oh, wait. I meant RIGHT!!! RIGHT!!!” We pushed through, scraping over unavoidable rocks in the low spots. The rain that had been on our footheels from the moment they arrived in Colorado closed in. We had pushed well in front of it during the long stretch of open water, but now it was menacingly upon us.

At Smelter rapids, the 3 mile marker from 32nd, we got tumped. We even pulled out to look at it. That seems to be bad luck for Robert and I. He said, “Get your ass back in the boat.” I said, “Wait a minute. I want to look at this. Give me a cigarette.” I had pulled us out because we were definitely not going in it at the right angle. We saw 3 major rapids back to back forcing us to zig zag slightly but quickly along a path of white. I did not see the 4th or 5th. That was the one that would catch us.

“You can have a cigarette after we conquer this.”

“Fine.” We backed up about 20 feet to get a good straight shot into the trail. He called his directions around the first 3 precise. We hit them perfect. I also told him earlier that if we get into the shit, get on your good side. One thing that made Robert and I such a good team is that he was a lefty and I a right. On that 4th Class III we were a bit crooked. He shouted, “HARD RIGHT!” and I dug in to swing the bow. He happened to be leaning on the right also. I did not notice until it was too late. I watched a small wave lap over the side of the canoe. It filled it and threw us out.

There are 3 things I could not believe when we were finally secure enough to process. 1. I kept my hat on my head 2. and the paddle in my hand. 3. Robert left the ziploc with the cigarettes and lighter open.

He caught the canoe, which weighed over a ton, from the back paner and drug it to shore. I had no way to even think about grabbing it. By the time I was out of the boat, it was 10ft ahead of me. After we flipped and bailed the water out of it and readied ourselves to rock and roll on the last couple miles, the rain came in fierce and hard. We were going to do it anyway. Lightning struck to advise us against that.

Smelter has park access. We were on the other side of the bank for that. The 5th rapid looked at us from a short distance. Just ahead of that was the exit. I figured we could make it across without problems. I forgot this was a lake canoe and not a white water. The major difference is a rudder that runs down the center of the boat for straight lake travels. A whitewater does not need that because it has the current to propel them along. It also does not want it because it needs to be versatile enough to pull out of rapids or skit across at an angle to them. For instance pretend you need to get across the flow to a bank on the other side. That rudder will get grabbed and straightened into the mix. Into the mix we went. It was good that we did. Both of us would have hated to end on a bail out.

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