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Lifelong Dream Fulfilled on the Colorado River in Moab, Utah

Mark Ahrens

The day started out questionably as I observed the rain falling outside our cabin window. Looking at the radar image quickly showed that our put-in point was rain-free, and I could see over the town of Moab that the rain definitely had a solid boundary, beyond which was the clear blue of the morning sky. It would be a great day! My family and I gathered at the shop and checked in, getting our water bottles filled and getting fitted with the life jackets we’d wear that day. The anticipation of a day on the river was slowly building within me. Was the day going to be cold as the weather had been threatening? Would the water also be cold and provide us with more chill than was comfortable? I guess we’d find out.

Finally, I would be heading out on this day-long river trip. Finally. After growing up seeing the Colorado River portrayed on a small and large screen, I was finally going to be able to spend some time, some real-time in this legendary, even epic landscape. This was going to be more than entertainment for me. It was more than just a checkmark off my bucket list. I had a feeling that there was something more involved than mere vacation planning. I was becoming more and more convinced that this was going to involve something bigger than just me, I just knew it.

We all piled into the bus and made our way to our put-in point, the Lower Onion Creek Campground near Fisher Towers; my thoughts centered singularly on the journey ahead of us. After cruising along Hwy 128, taking in the scenery, I was reassured that this was going to be unlike any other rafting experience I have had up to this time.

We pull into the area and get off the bus while the rafts were unloaded. It was fairly hot, but not blazing. The sun was still filtering through some of the storm cloud edges which were on their way out. The time came to gather in front of the rafts and find out who was going to be our guide. We boarded the raft and set off down Colorado. I felt connected to this land as I have never felt before.

With the drought that was affecting the area, the water levels were lower than usual for this time of year. It drastically reduced the classes of the rapids from IIs and III’ to I’s and IIs. No matter, I thought. I’m just going to take it as it comes. Turns out it was a bit of a blessing because it afforded us more time to spend outside of the raft, just floating along.

I was, at long last, in my true element (even if it was for only a little while). We got familiar with our fellow raft mates. We talked, laughed, told jokes, listened to jokes, and listened to the great silence of the surrounding wilderness. Time passed - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but it slipped away nonetheless.

Somewhere near the middle of the float, my youngest son and I jumped out of the raft and into the water. We were floating just slightly ahead of the raft. Comfortable in the beautifully cool water in the very middle of the river, I was looking around at the mighty red rock walls surrounding us and the brilliant blue cloudless sky above us, and in that one solitary moment, my heart was joyful and I just smiled. I looked at Andrew (my boy) and told him that it was the fulfillment of a lifelong desire, just doing what we were doing right then and there, languidly floating downstream amidst this indescribable grandeur of God. I know I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

I didn't document it with video. I didn’t take pictures with the intent to post them on my social media or anything like that. I just let it happen. That instant was a private spiritual moment between me, my boy, and my God. It was simply meant to be savored and cemented into my being. Words really can't truly describe those precious few seconds, but what it was in my soul is now a part of me and who I am, forever influencing my world. Sometimes a single moment of true beauty is all we ever get out of this life. I'm happy I recognized this one.

That almost infinitesimally small and fleeting moment, I knew, would have an eternal impact on me, and, I hope, on my family.

Moab River Rafting Floating Castle Valley