Shortly after my husband and I were married, someone gave us a ducky as a wedding gift. The inflatable canoe was easy enough to pilot for two people, even two people who didn’t know much about what we were doing on the water. We weren’t hardcore paddlers and we didn’t aspire to be, but we quickly figured out the ducky was a chance to escape the heat of summer, crowded playgrounds and busy trails, and to disconnect from the rest of the world.
We stuck to put-ins on well-known stretches, after the rush of snowmelt as the river began to calm. We’d push into headwinds and along sleepy flats, finding a rhythm with our paddles, the balance of who powered and who steered, much like we were in our marriage.
When we had kids, we’d sneak out and leave the babies home with a sitter, drifting (mostly) lazily along the Colorado from Pumphouse to Radium. The two of us got handy with the pump, efficient with the packing, ambitious with our picnics, enjoying the time stopped along the river’s banks as much or more than the act of paddling through the stretches of rapids here and there. I’d grown up on lakes, and the sound of the water playing on the edge of the boat, the dip of the paddles, was familiar comfort. I’d close my eyes and drift, singling out bird song, the splash of a leaping fish, and feel a sense of peace that was hard to come by in those years as a young family.
A ducky seats two people—or Dad and two little boys, if you’re noodling around on a lake. But as they grew it was soon clear we either needed to upgrade our ride or find a different hobby. So we finagled an old used raft and drafted some former river guide friends to grab their little boy, dust off their skills and pile in the boat with us to show us some moves.
For the entire day, no one stayed dry and no one cared. We spotted eagles, practiced paddle strokes, floated backwards down gentle rapids as the kids squealed (and I gripped their lifejackets just in case). We spent a leisurely lunch on a sandy stretch of shore, eating salami sandwiches and blondies while the boys ran circles around each other and swam in an eddy.
At best we’re sporadic and fair-weather rafters. We do it because we can—and because it’s there. In the same way we raise our kids in the mountains and on the snow, so too do we put them on the river from time to time because this world-class opportunity is literally in our backyard. As my children grow up and get harder to pin down, I appreciate our time on the water even more. There’s no cell signal, no screens, no coach organizing and directing the play. While my husband and I load and shuttle, they chase cabbage white butterflies, dig holes and stack rocks. Once we’re afloat, they’re all mine—sun-screen scented, excited and as close as an arm’s reach.
Whether you’re a never-ever newbie or ready to commit to spending more quality time on the water, we’ve got you covered: In this issue adventurer Tracy Ross reflects on mothering river rats and the chance to embrace river life. With record snowpack, this promises to be a long and beautiful season on the water—I hope it’ll call you, for a morning, an adventure, for a lifetime. Our family’s making plans now, and despite the impending summer crush of sports and camp and work and visitors, I’ll be looking forward to the days when we’re all in the same boat.