Holbrook: Groovin’ on the Colorado; or, a poo with a view (column)
September 21, 2016
"I am never doing that again," I stated flatly, after surviving what was most certainly, in my opinion, a near-death rafting experience through Westwater Canyon.
I had just moved full time to Colorado from South Florida. A few months earlier I might have characterized outdoor adventure as, well, just venturing outdoors in the midday South Florida heat to go to the mall.
My introduction to Colorado life was a weeklong, group mountain bike trip from Fruita to Moab. There was a day off from biking in the middle of the trip for a whitewater rafting adventure through Westwater Canyon.
I had never been rafting before.
Rock of Shock, Room of Doom, Skull Rapids?! Why was my boyfriend Alan even telling me these names? Why would anyone willingly (and not befuddled by love) get into a small rubber boat to be swept down a powerful river and possibly thrown overboard into the churning waves and dashed to pieces against giant boulders? Why?
I have no idea. And after surviving my first rafting trip, I vowed it would be my last.
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To be honest, besides the distinct possibility of drowning, or being sucked into the vortex of the "Room of Doom" for all eternity, there were other aspects of adventure travel along the river that were challenging in a different way.
For example, halfway along our Westwater trip, we pulled ashore to have lunch. Which was a good thing, because I had to pee. Feeling that I was being quite rugged and outdoorsy, I slipped behind a bush to take care of business with no girly qualms.
When I re-emerged, Alan looked at me with dismay. "You're not supposed to do that."
"What do you mean?" was my retort. "It was either behind a bush or in the boat."
"You're supposed to go in the water" he replied. "For environmental reasons."
Did he seriously mean here, on this steep sandy riverbank with almost no cover, amidst our group of five girls and seven guys?
Exactly how was I supposed to "go in the water?" It was not something I wanted to picture.
Fortunately, that question did not need to be answered at that particular moment.
This spring, Alan pulled the raft out of storage after a two-year hiatus. And there it sat, week after week, on its trailer in the driveway, too big to ignore. Every once in a while Alan would say, "I'd really like to do at least one rafting trip before winter."
As August passed and the days of September began to fly by, he tried again:
"We'll do something mellow," he reasoned. Still I dug in my heels.
"We'll bring the air mattress, and the really big tent," he persisted. I began to soften.
"You can be in charge of the food — and the wine." Bingo. And with that I relented.
But there was still the question of: What happens when you have to "go?"
Having now spent over two years among outdoor enthusiasts in Summit County, I was pretty sure I knew what the answer would be: The Groover.
Over the past several years I had learned that because of Colorado's extremely dry climate and fragile ecology, rafting etiquette required the use of a kind of portable waste-disposal "system," if you will, known as The Groover.
How did this system get its name? Not from being so groovy. Rather, the original groovers were large ammunition canisters; after a session on the canister, one's derriere came away stamped with distinct "groove" marks.
I tried to warm to the idea. I called Christy Campton, founder with her husband Campy, of Kodi Rafting. How did she reconcile her self to pooping in a metal box?
"After the first day, it's just a fact of life," she laughed. And further more, "the groover boy or groover girl is an important role on a rafting trip — they pick out the best spot, they let people know where it is. They announce 'First Call on the Groover' and 'Last Call.' And nothing pleases the groover girl or boy more than to hear: 'Nice Groover Spot! Best Groover Spot Ever!'"
What would qualify as a nice groover spot?
"When you're groovin'," Campy joined in, "privacy and view are key. Though not necessarily in that order."
And in fact, a good friend and rafting buddy of the Camptons has a photo collection featuring views from all of his favorite groover spots, over many seasons of rafting.
And so, sometimes it's all about how you decide to look at things.
Two weeks ago we set off from Loma for a three-day rafting trip down Ruby Horsethief Canyon. The days were sunny and hot with vibrant blue skies, and as Alan had promised, it was an easy float trip with gentle rapids.
We camped out at Mee Canyon amidst the awe-inspiring red sandstone cliffs.
Our large, "Taj-mah-Tent" with its comfy air mattress was set up beneath the shade of a cottonwood tree, on a rise above the beach. Down on shore, we arranged a grill for broiling the steaks we had brought, and a big umbrella against the desert sun. I set the table in anticipation of dinner later, which would include a nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon.
And further up the hillside, away from our camp, we found a flat spot with the spectacular canyon walls rising up behind it, and the full sweep of the Colorado River out in front. It was, in fact, the perfect location for a poo with view.
Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge.
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