Ayep. I went straight for some jagged rocks. I repeatedly told myself to avoid those rocks, but I steered ‒ or didn’t steer ‒ right into them. I saw my feet rise up and thought, “Oh no.” I was flipped under my boat, but I managed to keep a firm grip on my paddle. I flipped the boat back over. Or did the boat flip itself? I don’t remember. And then I self-rescued after pushing the ducky to the edge of the river.
My heart was pounding. That was my first real swim in a rapid. Am I officially a river rat?
While I felt embarrassed to be the first tossed out of my boat, it definitely woke me up to the fact that a duckie is much different than a raft. I am the captain of my own boat, which is thrilling, but that also means I’m the only one to blame.
I’d need to be a little less willy-nilly in my approaches and choose my lines more carefully. I never fell out again.
The sweet, funny Texas family I tagged along with had a bet on the journey. They would award $5 to the family member who never fell out.
But everyone swam. Just like our guide, Paul Zimmer, said we would.
At the bottom of Staircase rapid, Susan* started to celebrate that she was the last one in her family who had not taken a swim; then, she promptly fell out of her ducky. Two of her children had fallen out in front of her, so it was a pileup ‒ duckies everywhere. All three made it safely back to their boats smiling.
Steve* won the prize for falling out the most. To his credit, it was mostly while he was chatting between rapids and hitting rocks. He was a great sport about it. At the end of the day he said, “Just call me ‘fish’ because I was in the water so much.”
Our guides, Claire Simon and Paul, were great. They were both fun, knowledgeable, relaxed and did I mention fun? I haven’t had that much fun on the river in a long time.
It was a full-day trip; we left Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center at about 10 a.m. (right from their put in) and took out at Stone Bridge at about 3 p.m. We had a delicious lunch complete with two boxes of cookies at Hecla Junction.
I was never bored. I never hoped to be done soon, and I was never tired of the company. I thoroughly enjoyed my day.
I enjoyed being in charge of my boat. Spinning around rocks, eddying out, trying to surf waves and doing a pretty good job playing follow the leader. Just like a real duck!
Unlike boating in our double ducky, where every paddle involves a discussion, I could make fast decisions without consulting anyone.
At one point, maybe in Zoom Flume, my boat filled with water. It was a bit eerie, but aside from being heavier, it didn’t change much. I finished the rapid and the water drained.
All day I felt brave, strong, capable and like I was no doubt building muscles. I assumed, wrongly, that it was arm muscles. It was back and shoulder muscles. I’ll take it.
If you haven’t been down Browns in a ducky, now is the perfect time. I’ll go with you.
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the boaters. We wouldn’t want them to face rampant teasing.