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PCSkiGal: Outside In Aspen Jumpstarts Her Summer

Aspen river rafting

Foggy head. It's either my allergies, lack of sleep, too many hours in a car or the stress of knowing it's time to get my butt in gear and get active outdoors. 


I usually use something like Outside in Aspen - a festival filled with clinics to introduce people to the outdoors - to jumpstart my summer. But as I watched the grey-tinged water pool at my feet this morning, I realized I was going about this all wrong.


I hadn't showered or shaved in three days. At home, as I finally washed out the weekend in solitude, I felt weightless. The whine of little children and a puppy cramped up in a Subaru for seven hours, a truckload of toys and clothes covering the floor of our room at the Molly Gibson Lodge so that it was impossible to find anything in a hurry, and the mad dash to meet our clinic leaders, left no room for recovery. At night, we would rush to the receptions, kids in tow.


My only relaxing time was during the actual workshop and that's not good.

I was jealous of my friend Liz. She took the whitewater rafting workshop on the Arkansas River off Independence Pass and said the only break from serious rapids was at the take-out. While she was hanging on for dear life, I trotted my pup Moki over to Glory Hole park for five hours of mostly dog demonstrations by trainer Mike Stewart from Wildrose Kennels. 


Three of the five dogs were his; they were invited to show us what trained dogs are supposed to do.


He went over an outline of adventure dog etiquette and we briefly (i.e. tried one time) some of the things on his list. Luckily, I took a ton of notes and can practice at home, but I sure wish I could have really worked with Moki in advance to get some of the techniques down. 


Jill, Moki, kayak instruction

Of course, he may be too young to do what Mike's dogs were doing, but even the older pup that was there sat around. The owner asked questions and would have to work with his dog on his own back home. Don't get me wrong. It was all valuable information but my ass got awfully tired.


The next clinic day - whitewater kayaking for beginners/intermediates - was all beginners. Again, not exactly what I needed to rev my spirits. The calm, rippling water lulled me to sleep, rather than stirred my adrenaline. Apparently, no one had signed up for the expert class (about now I was thinking that I should have) and only one person besides myself had ever been in a whitewater boat. 


Piglet from Aspen Kayak and SUP was a ball of spunk and smiles and her partner in crime – Willie "River" Kern - coached our group of six through the equipment, paddle strokes, and lingo associated with the sport. As we practiced going in and out of eddies (the stagnant corners of water on the sides of rivers), I couldn't help but look longingly over at the standup paddlers passing us. At least they were moving.


Everyone in our group was having a blast with the basics, but after my two weeks kayaking in Montana with First Descents the past two summers, I was ready for something more challenging. Sigh. The most excitement came at the take out when I attempted to roll – on purpose of course. I didn't really do it (I used my paddle on the bottom of the river to push me back up) but the try made my heart skip a beat.


Aspen kayaking

Aspen was glorious. The weather perfect (aside from the Cottonwood cotton balls floating through the air 24/7) and the clinics extremely well organized. I just chose wrong. Sometimes life happens that way and, like a river, we have to go with the flow. 


The kids adored playing in Colorado, the pup couldn't get enough attention walking from A to B, and Liz not only survived a roaring ride but learned a thing or two about outdoor camera work in the adventure photography class. 


Tomorrow, I will take Moki to the park here in Park City and start my own training program. Then I'll mountain bike in the evening and paddle around the local reservoir. I forget that you don't need to leave Utah to find adventure. Sometimes it takes an event like Outside in Aspen to remind me of that.


Photos by Liz Mallon



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