The West Water Rafting Trip with the Dogs

We got back from the annual West Water Rafting trip last night. This year was unusual for many of reasons:

1) Ron’s trusty 1988 F350 decided to breakdown just minutes after leaving. Here’s the loaded truck and trailer before the engine died: The truck and trailer at our place just before leaving *AAA took the truck to our mechanic’s garage after Jodi came back to our place, picked up her truck and transferred the trailer people and gear to her truck.

2) It was snowing and windy on a trip that normally is warm enough to wear a bikini top on during the day, but the sporty people I was with said: “the worse the weather the better the stories”.

3) I had migraines for half the trip. Thankfully I only went for the last two days and I had medication with me, and when I was pain free, I could enjoy the scenery and company.

4) We didn’t have enough vehicles to comfortably run shuttle. Some vehicles are left at the “put-in” (where you get into the boats at the beginning of the trip). Other vehicles need to be driven to the “take-out” and left there so that there’s a way to transport everyone back at the end of the trip. Then the people “running shuttle” drive back to the put-in.

*If there aren’t enough vehicles at the take-out, people and cargo should ride like sardines until they reach the rest of the vehicles at the put-in.

*The crew didn’t complain about the cold, the snow, the freezing rain, or even flipping over into cold whitewater rapids, but there was griping about having to squeeze into vehicles for the ride back.

*Ground zero for this trip is usually our place. It’s my husband’s departmental trip at the end of the ski season. He plans and functions as the trip leader. As an experienced raft guide and trip lead he’s a great person for the job.

*When I first met, him I was impressed by how many people told me they would completely trust their personal safety to him. He has a highly-developed sense of responsibility and concern for others’ safefy as well as as the competence to back it up. It’s one of my favorite things about him.

*We had a total of sixteen people, four dogs, four oar boats, one paddle boat, eight vehicles and one trailer this year. There have been as many as 21 people on this trip. The duration of the trip is five days and four nights. I joined them for the last two days.

*I apologize in advance for not taking any photos of the rapids. I wasn’t feeling well enough to be a good photographer except for the times on land or during calm stretches of “flat” water.

*My photographic goal was to document the small dogs on this trip. Russell is our seven pound Yorki-Maltese (Morkie) and Halle is our five pound Yorkie. There were two other dogs on the trip: a sweet and submissive lab-mix named Josie, and a dominant aggressive Rotty-mix named Libby, who probably should have been named Cujo or Killer so that people could manage their expectations. I mean that in the best way.

*I like Libby, she just scares the living daylights out of other dogs, both big and small, and her growl inspires images of a punctured jugular.

*Here’s Libby enjoying the trip with her significant others: Scottie and Melissa: Libby, Scottie and Melissa *All the photos in this post are from the last two days of the trip. Russell loves to feel the wind on her ears. *A picture-perfect shot of Greg and the two terriers *Checking out the scenery

*Some say West water trip is like the mini Grand Canyon trip. This photo doesn't do the scenery justice, but shows some of the canyon walls you float by on the river. *It was cold at our layover camp. the smart little ones found a comfy spot together in one of the dry-bags, like two peas in a pod *Preparing for the day of the rapids, six of them in row. Gear up folks. The dogs are layered up too. *Russell and Halle are both wearing Neoprene as a base layer to keep their core warm in the even they fell into the water. Their second layer consists of a hooded waterproof breathable rain coat. The third layer is their PFD (personal flotation device). Usually bigger dogs or double or triple-coated dogs only need a life vest. Our little ones are just more susceptible to cold.

*I thought dressing the dogs in three layers was a bit much, but after the trip I realize how it was both practical and functional. The dogs didn’t once appear uncomfortable or try to remove their clothing. Ron and Russell before launching the boats *Fortney (front), Marshall and Josie (background) just before take-off *Marshall and Josie on their boat *Russell is the sporty one in our dog-family *We're off to the rapids. (Ron and Russell) *Sadly, I have no photos of what happened during the most exciting part of the trip: the whitewater section and the paddle boat flip in the biggest and mushiest rapid called “Skull”, which also features “The Room of Doom”.

*Running Skull successfully is fun even though you typically get wet. *Unfortunately, the paddle boat with five people in it took a line that threw the boat into a vertical position and then flipped it over. Everyone went into the water.

*Of course, every person in that boat was fit and accustomed to outdoor “situations”, so it didn’t take long for someone in that group (Rob) to flip the boat back over and for everyone to climb back into the boat.

*Three boats including ours went before the paddle boat and pulled over under the rapid to prepare for a rescue if needed. Ron was on a rock with his throw bag. As soon as they flipped, Ron threw the bag to people in the water, but we weren’t close enough.

*The paddle boaters were cold and wet, but unharmed and the only material loss was Alex’s hat which we saw sinking as we passed it.

*We made a stop for a quick lunch where most people changed into dryer clothing and then cruised the rest of the flat water to the take-out. After the rapids, Rhiannon rows while Ron gets a break with me and the dogs.

*Look. It's a five pound Yorkie on an extended-day raft trip. This is how you have fun deflating your raft. Ron (front) and Rhiannon posing with a bag of Merlot (back)

*Getting the last of the air out before rolling it up and putting it on the trailer. *It takes a little time to get everything off the boats, rigged on the trailer or stowed in various cars and trucks and organize the shuttle back. Everyone was tired and hungry. Last year we didn’t get home until midnight because we stopped for a sit-down Mexican meal. This year we just grabbed $5.00-foot-long specials at a gas station Subway and got home by 9:30 pm.

Halle and Russell in Jodi's truck, waiting to leave the take-out. *I asked Ron if dogs are allowed on commercial trips. He said typically they are not allowed. Plenty of dogs go on private trips where people secure their own permits row or paddle their own boats, and take their own gear.

*Some rivers allow dogs, others do not depend on the national parks policies. All dogs are supposed to be on leash at the park locations, but may be off leash at the campsites along the river. *The ski season is officially over for us and the whitewater season is beginning. Ron works as a whitewater photographer on the Arkansas River in South Central Colorado. We move next week.

*Today I was laid up with another massive migraine/nausea attack. Ron, Jodi and Alex spent the afternoon cleaning and unloading gear from the trailer.

*Now that I am pain free for the moment, I am surrounded by four snoozing bodies: Ron, Russell, Halle, and Willie. *Willie is the Min-Pin who had to stay home because she can’t ever be off-leash and has a low tolerance for cold weather. She didn’t seem as upset as she usually gets when we “abandon” her. I think the terriers told her she wouldn’t have liked being wet or cold. My buddies fed her while I was gone. (Thanks Rhett! Thanks Paul!) I left the TV, night lights and heating on for her, as well as full access to the down comforter she loves to crawl under at night.