Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My 2nd Time Around - FA Trip 2015


Prior to beginning this adventure, I wanted to make sure I would do one thing, simply enjoy it. Having the experience of last year under my belt, I knew I was not going to die in the wilderness or the river. The three returning members, Will, Tony, and Smiles had my complete trust. I knew my provider, Jared, was not going to let anything happen to me.
I, pretty much, knew the layout of the land, and what to expect during the trip. Going in, I wanted to relax and let things happen. See where the river took me without having that pressure, it was quite nice. This year's trip with SPLORE was not better than the first, but completely different and perfect. How do you compare two trips of a lifetime?

Gary and Judith were not going to be able to make it this year, so I had to find a new provider. Jared and I were good friends throughout high school, but we went our separate ways following graduation. I went to college, and he went to the military. I knew Jared could handle me physically after spending thirteen years in Iraq. I know I'm a lot of trouble, but come on, I'm not that bad. Jared had the most difficult, intensive provider course I could imagine. However, he handled everything with ease and care. With that aside, we were both allowed to focus on the beauty that surrounded us. After nearly fifteen years of not seeing him, our relationship did not miss a beat. I knew by bringing him as well, he would really appreciate the amazing sites and soothing sounds of the Colorado River. Our late night conversations and laughter throughout the adventure led to one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. Jared's involvement was essential to my enjoyment on this trip. I could not imagine a better provider choice.

The 2015 FA Trip was full of new faces. Going on my second trip, I previously knew Katie, Will, Smiles, and Tony. Becky picked me up again from the airport. The cast of characters was new, but the end result was very similar. Our new river guide, Deja, took us down the river with a sense of calmness and confidence. I remember thinking to myself, I was being led by an angel. Since I was looking forward the entire time, and she was behind me. All I could hear was her voice, and it was absolutely beautiful. The FA participants were a pair of sisters, Megan and Melissa. Both girls looked similar, but were totally different. Megan was very sweet and feminine. Melissa was a firecracker, with her stories about "Murderball." I had known Liam from a post I put in a Facebook group about the trip, and really wanted him to go on this SPLORE adventure. His calm presence and demeanor provided a smooth tone during the trip. I got to see how I was ten years ago when watching Liam handle himself. My physical symptoms were very similar at that time. Katie was as sweet as always. Putting up with my drama once again with the greatest of ease. I tend to be a handful. This year, there were four volunteers in total. Everyone was so helpful in different ways. With Judith only with me in spirit, one of the volunteers had to fill some big shoes. Chris stepped up to the plate, and did it as a non family member. Her strength and attitude were out of this world. I would follow that woman anywhere. She was a big reason why this trip was so great. The roster on the river adventure was at seventeen people. It is always cool to see a group of people start down the river as strangers, and at the end of the rapids float down the river as a family.

I felt so fortunate to witness such beauty along the Colorado River. The shadows and sharp angles off the rocks and cliffs of Ruby Horsethief Canyon created a breathtaking backdrop. The smooth, flowing quality of the river passing by brought a soothing peace and the echoes the words of Joe Kittel, "let my past float behind with the river." I'll never forget the sound of the oars and the paddles touching the water, moving us slowly down the river. I kept thinking, I should be sitting in traffic with everyone else. It's an indescribable feeling when you are surrounded by beauty. Everywhere you look there is something awe inspiring. The layover day, or two days in the same campsite, is always my favorite. We were allowed to enjoy nature at its finest without having to worry about the next destination. Of course, more so than last year, I was able to really take it in. I'm a firm believer in the healing power of nature.

There were many moments along the river when I was able to just sit back and realize how lucky I am to be in this magical place. On our layover day, I remember sitting in the river with all the FA'ers and just hanging out. I remember the song, Perfect Day by Lou Reed, kept playing over and over in my head. I think that one song pretty much sums up the entire trip. Thanks SPLORE!