Sunday, July 25, 2010

My day on the river

There is one thing that the title means...Tubing on the Salt River.  There is only one river in Arizona...okay, there really isn't, but for Tucsonan's the Salt is as close as it gets and is probably a tradition for people of Tucson, especially college age.  Even though I am a native, I have never been.  I have always heard horror stories about tubing down the Salt River consisting of major sun burns, near drownings or drownings, cliff dives gone awry, to name a few.  So while many of my friends and family went, I always found a reason not to.  I think what it came down to was I was scared and I didn't trust the random folks that invited me along.

Well, that all changed this weekend.  Our friends, Heather and Matt, invited us along with some other friends we knew (Will and Colleen) and friends-to-be we didn't (Kristin, Vinnie and Nicole).  After a lot of banter between J and I, we decided we would go.  We met at Heather and Matt's house at 8 am (really early for me on Saturday - my only sleep in day of the week!) and trekked with 2 vehicles holding Heather, Matt, Nicole, Vinnie, Kristin, J and myself for the 2 hour trip to Mesa, AZ for the river experience.

It is big business.  There is a company that rents out tubes and bus rides, but we opted to buy or borrow our own tubes and set up our own shuttle service.  We met Will and Colleen at the place because they live in Phoenix.  After a bit more banter, we figured out our shuttle system, leaving one vehicle at the last stop that was the biggest (Will's) with our towels and "after the river" needed items.  We shuttled them to the top and began our adventure.

First there was the pumping of the tubes, which took F-O-R-E-V-E-R it seemed - after all, we had 6 tubes to air up (5 singles, 2 dual tubes, and a cooler tube).  We had left Tucson at 8:30 am or so, and after the 2 hour drive to Mesa, plus the hour or so it took to air the tubes, get situated and get them in the water, we began about 11:30 am. 

I had bought water shoes because the bottom of the river is mostly rocks, not sand, and was a bit treacherous.  We got on the river and it was quite nice.  At first, there were a few of us tied together, but we quickly got away from the others, so we held up (by holding onto plants in the water until they caught up to us) and then tied ourselves together.  So now we had 7 people, and a cooler, floating down the river together.  We had mostly slow currant, but a couple little rapids where everyone had to lift their butts out of the water to avoid the rocks creating the rapids.
This is one of the rapids.  That's J on the left with his funny hat that prevented face sunburn!

We saw deer....I mean horses!  Sorry, Nicole - couldn't resist!  So, yes, there's a story.  As we came around one of the curves, there was a couple animals drinking water.  The leader at the time was Nicole and she exclaimed, "Oh, look at the deer!"  Tell me, is this a deer behind her?

No, it is not.  So it became a long standing joke as we saw more horses, even one I questioned later in the trip, but turned out to be a colt.  She will never live that down.

The trip was supposed to be 3 hours long, or about.  About hour 2, I was getting concerned because we were supposed to pass a bridge which was the half-way point, and it was nowhere to be seen.  We finally got there, about hour 3...anyone keeping track?  The bridge was the half-way point of the WHOLE 3-hour trip!  So we continued on our merry way.  We would hit shallow areas where we would get out and walk a bit, or a couple people would pull us.  We would hit deep areas that seemed to stop us cold and a couple of us would start to paddle, or get out and kick.  But one or two people kicking 7 at times doesn't go very far.  But we were having a great time...chatting, watching the beautiful scenery, re-applying sunscreen every 30 minutes or so (I hope!) and drinking just a little bit.

We ran into a lot of different people...girls in very small bikinis, men with very big bellies, people with large stereos, people that were wasted, families with kids, college kids that were having a lot of fun and not applying enough sunscreen, a few guys on kayaks that were helpful along the way, to name a few.  We talked with a couple.  We avoided a couple.  We laughed at more than a couple.  I questioned my thought to wear a bikini, but when we got there I felt like I was one of the few who should  be wearing a bikini!  

I got to a point where I was pretty close to being done with the whole trip about hour 5.  I was tired, hungry, hot (even though the water was lovely), my shoes would fall off every time I hopped into the water, and it was a little too long outside for me.  I wasn't mad or angry, just ready for the river trip to be over.  It was right about this time that we ran into a tree.  Well, I didn't, Matt seemed to get the brunt of it and we bounced off him.  See below! 
It was quite humorous.  Sorry Matt!

Then came the thing that took my breath away.  We had been watching the clouds as the day drew on and slowly began to notice dark clouds wandering our way.  We were watching for lightening (having been AZ kids and knowing about the monsoons and things that ensued afterwards - including flash floods).  They seemed to draw closer, but still no lightening and definitely no thunder.  So we tried not to worry.  Then we began to notice clouds coming at us from the other direction, which could have met the other dark clouds in the middle and I for one began to worry a bit more.  I tried to paddle and instigate others to do the same, but no one could hear me or seemed that worried.  Anyway, I started to get on edge a bit.  But tried to calm myself down as much as I could.  

Our tube had been losing air the whole way, and it seemed at this point to be getting a lot worse.  At one point, we hit a little bit of rapids that was incredibly shallow and we got stuck.  J got out and I followed, but when I did, both my shoes came undone (they were velcro) and I leaned down to try to get them back on my feet.  After trying to do that, I realized the water was moving incredibly fast and I still hadn't sufficiently caught my footing, so I decided we had gotten ourselves away from the shallow area enough and decided to hop back on the tube.  Just as I did, some of the others crashed into me and flipped our now almost empty tube over.  I was quickly washed away and tried to get my footing, but was very unsuccessful due to the slippery rocks and the quick rapids.  All the tubes quickly slipped over me and our group passed me by.  I started to move on my belly along the rocks (kinda painful) and bypass the group and keep my head above the probably 8" to 12" water.  People were throwing their hands out to me but no one seemed quick enough.  I remember going under at one point and seeing Vinnie at the very end...I heard his fiance yell at him to grab me and saw his hand outstrech towards me as he stepped out of his tube.  It took all my might to reach towards him, keep my head above water, and actually touch him.  He was able to grab me and pull me away from the slick rocks that had been beating my legs and belly up.  I got my footing and finally was able to catch my breath for a bit.  But by now my tube was further away, so I hopped onto a empty tube and just held on as everyone else got situated and caught their breath from my adventure.  J told me we had lost everything in our cooler (thankfully, our keys and important items were clipped to the tube, so they hadn't floated away).  Matt had gotten out to walk at that point, I ended up in his tube.  We found him a bit later down the way, holding most of our lost items, the only things he didn't find were a t-shirt and hand towel I had brought, but he did find our water bottles, sunscreen etc.  He hopped in my tube with J which was mostly deflated at this point for the rest of the ride.

The river trip still continued and didn't seem to ever end.  We finally found the end of it and all scurried off, happy to be done.  By now it was 6 pm...yes, we had been on the river for 6.5 hours!  It had been a long day with a lot of sun, water, little food, some alcohol and more excitement than I had bargained for.  We got the tubes off and carted everything up the bank to the awaiting car, which now had a ticket!  We couldn't find the place to pay for a park pass, so had seen another vehicle with a ticket and I discovered it was only for $6 which was what the park pass fee was, so opted for that way.  So, Will had a ticket.  We got everything aired down and piled into Will's Chevy Trailblazer - 7 of us, plus tubes and coolers and headed back to the other two waiting vehicles.  We were hungry and tired.  We got there, dried off, re-loaded, changed (no showers, but changed) and took one last picture before heading away from the River.

Can't beat that back-drop!

Will and Colleen left us to head for home which wasn't far away, but the rest of us were starving, so we headed to find food!  We ended up at a little bar called Uncle Bear's and had nachos, burgers, wings, whatever sounded god - forget the calories!  We were starving.  They probably could have fed us liver and we would have been in heaven!  Then we headed for the long drive home.  Got home about 11:30 pm after dropping our rider off at his house (Matt) and saying goodbye to the others.  After quick showers, and feeding the pups, I was in bed and out cold!  Woke up a little pink (gladly not burnt) and relieved to be home.

I figured with all the work we had put in, I had burnt enough calories to suffice eating anything!  How do you count calories for something like tubing down a river and feeling like you were drowning?! 

What a day!  One I will never forget, and may not want to repeat...except for a couple years!  Overall it was fun, but stopped my heart for about 15 seconds it seemed....possibly a minute!  Glad I survived!

On that note, I'm going back to my glass of wine and then bed!


  1. Great blog entry! Thanks for journaling our adventurous day on the river! Heather :)

  2. oh my, you almost drowned! so glad you pulled out of that. When i was little we went tubing down the river, i'm pretty sure it wasn't 6 hours long. but that was a LONG time ago and 6 year olds don't really know time. There is also an uncle bears near my house, are you stalking me? haha.

  3. My family used to go tubing down the delaware river all the time! it was always so fun!!! :) It definitely is a long day though! lol You kind of get stuck in it for the long haul!


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