Colorado Rafting: Guides Who Make You Go!

May 23, 2024   5 Comments »

Colorado Rafting: Guides Who Make You Go!

August 27, 2015 5 Comments »

I am half aware that I have fallen asleep. My head back on the seat, mouth open, I may even be drooling for all I know. I can sort of still hear the people talking around me and the radio on, but it’s just background noise that tends to lull me more into this catnap. It doesn’t matter how old you get, moving vehicles can put me right to sleep like a baby.

But the catnap is short-lived as I hear Margo talking about the weather, “I think the sun is still going to come out,” she says enthusiastically. I’m enticed enough to open my eyes and peer out the van window. As my vision comes into focus and I come out of my hibernation the first thing I see are the windshield wipers, methodically going back and forth. Back and forth. The sky is heavy and gray, it looks cold and uncomfortable out; a great day to be taking a nap, but not a great day to go Colorado rafting.

Colorado Rafting
A great looking day for rafting!

I look at Margo, our guide from Blazing Adventures, and she’s smiling and singing along to the music as she drives us down the highway in the pouring rain. “The sun is going to come out” I repeat to myself silently in my head and I wonder about what weird positive world of lollipops and puppies she lives in.

But then I soften my thoughts; Margo is probably one of the most energetic, positive people I have met. She’s always smiling, running around making sure everyone has everything they need, giving a big whoop of excitement to the group indicating to us that we should also feel the excitement. And this is what makes her a great guide; her endless enthusiasm for our next adventurous activity, even when it’s pouring rain outside, is infectious.  Yet, it’s her enthusiasm that has me perplexed.

As I look outside, still groggy from my nap, I think about getting in a wet suit and then spending the next few hours white water rafting down a very bloated and fast-moving river where the water temperature is 35 to 40 degrees, I shudder. I don’t want to do that.

White Water Rafting in the Rain

There’s nothing about that scenario that sounds remotely fun. I’ve done white water rafting before, I don’t need to go I think to myself. I fantasize about going back to the warm hotel and doing work, trying to catch up on the backlog of emails and writing that weighs so heavily on my mind. That would make me feel better I think to myself; I should just bail out of this rafting.

colorado rafting

But then there’s Margo, smiling as we pull into the parking lot talking about how great the rafting is going to be today and how awesome our rafting guides are.

“But if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to,” she says as she lowers her normally high-energy voice into a serious tone. “There’s a van that will take you back to the hotel if you want,” she says. But in true Jekyll and Hyde fashion, she perks up and says, “But the rafting is going to be epic today!”

So I do this familiar dance I’ve done way too many times in my travel – should I, shouldn’t I? I don’t really want to go, but I’ve signed up for it and that horrible voice in my head that is my dad says – finish what you started; do what you say you are going to do; don’t quit.

Weekend in Colorado Springs: where to eat, stay, and adventure

Finish What You Started

Before I know it I’m putting on a slightly wet and very cold wetsuit over my swimsuit. It’s a horrible feeling being cold, and putting on a wet cold layer, but I’m here now and committed, so I must suck it up.

Hilary, our rafting guide is giving up the lecture on how to follow her instructions and what to do if we fall in…fall in the 35-degree water. I don’t really want to listen to this part, but I do. Considering yesterday I just got bucked off a horse, maybe my string of bad luck would continue and I’d end up swimming in the Roaring Fork River – which was indeed roaring today.

Colorado Rafting
Ready to ride the Roaring Fork!

The moment I looked at Hilary, our Colorado rafting guide, I knew she was tough. Her booming voice, weathered face, and short gray hair reminded me of so many strong women I had met in the world. She seemed like the kind of woman who could cut off her arm with a pocket knife if she was pinned under a rock.

Colorado Rafting Adventure

We pushed off in our raft and were taken by the swift-moving current with Hilary barking paddle forward orders at us.

The cold water hit my face as we started over rapids and the raft bent and elongated with the water movement splashing up water into the raft. It was invigorating and I felt awake and alive all of a sudden. It was the cold blast of water that made me switch from “shit…I’m doing this.” to “SHIT, I’m doing this!”. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I was awake, alive, and energized.

Matt, who was sitting in the front seat of the raft, yelled and screamed profanities as we passed through the rapids. I have no idea where that came from as he seemed so mild-mannered in the van, but this man could curse – and I loved it. Soon I was screaming and laughing – equally at Matt and equally in excitement. I felt 12 again – I suddenly had that kid’s laughter and sheer excitement oozing out of me on this wild ride.

Looking ahead at the class 3+ rapids named Toothache, Abscess, and the Bill – Hilary prepared us mentally for them. They were the toughest on this run and she went over some basics again as we approached them. She was ready to make us scream…and Matt curse.

Read about my 10-day Grand Canyon rafting trip

Oh Captain My Captain – The Importance of a Good Guide

The rapids were foaming as we passed through Toothache and suddenly we came up on this wave that lifted us up and slammed us down so hard that it practically folded the boat in half like a taco. We hit hard and Hilary was launched out of her seat at the back and landed next to me 2 ‘rows’ up. I looked over and didn’t know what to do – our leader was down! She was trying to hold on to her two big oars and get up at the same time as we were in the middle of the rapids swirling and bobbing.

My instincts were to try to give her a hand, but suddenly she started barking out orders urgently, “forward paddle, forward paddle!” And we follow the orders as we have lost our captain momentarily and our steering.

She eventually got herself up during the very bumpy ride and her oars back in their clamps. While this was going on we followed her orders and muddled our way through the Abscess and the Bill as Matt let the f-bombs fly and screamed like an excited girl – which made me laugh in delight. We all rejoiced that we had survived and I had totally forgotten that I was soaked and cold. I looked back at Hilary and smiled asking her if she was ok. She didn’t seem phased from the excitement – and just laughed and said “That was a wild ride, “ and smiled.

I had a bit of girl crush going on – she really was tough – and she was 58 years old. Yes – I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

We finished the rafting and raced to take off our wet, freezing cold wetsuits, dry off, and put back on warm clothes. Margo was there to greet us at the van with a cooler full of beer and high fives. I smiled as I cracked the beer exhilarated and energized.

Most importantly, I was happy I didn’t bail out and go back to the hotel like my inner voice wanted me to. It would have been so easy to be lazy and just not do it. I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t be any fun, that I’d be miserable.

It’s Always Worth it to Go – No Matter What the Weather Throws at You

However, I don’t know how many times I have to learn this lesson – it’s always worth it to go. One would think that it would just sink in and I wouldn’t have to go through this roller coaster anguish of should I/shouldn’t I again and again. But thanks to guides like Margo who lives in a world of puppies and lollipops, they pull me in and know what’s best for me.

Explore Southwest Colorado on a road trip that features mountains, dunes, and canyons

How To Recreate My Colorado Rafting Trip:

Rafting, Horseback riding, and other activities via Blazing Adventures –

Westin Snowmass –
A more rustic option along the river – think bonfires and homemade cookies! Redstone Cliffs Lodge –
Boutique Lodging in a distillery – Marble Distilling Co. Inn –


I was a guest of Snowmass tourism on this trip, however all opinions here are my own.

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