Misadventures: Our First Time Packrafting
Going through my photos to pull some together for a post I was going to work on, I came across pictures from the first trip we took the Alpacka Raft on. I realized that I never wrote a post about it. From the title of this post you can guess how it went, but I encourage you to keep reading because you may learn a thing or two from our mistakes. If not, no worries, we’ll read this and be reminded to not make the same mistakes again!
It was the beginning of May and we were boondocked outside Cortez, CO – right by Mesa Verde National Park, Phil’s World, and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. We realized that there were actually two bodies of water in the area and were super eager to go check them out. Totten Reservoir is one of them and located right in Cortez, not far from where we were staying. We brought the dogs out there after our mountain bike ride in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Our plan was that the next day we would bring our Alpacka Raft out on McPhee Reservoir since it was finally warm enough to think about being on the water – just three weeks before then we were in Salida, CO waking up to over a foot of snow. McPhee Reservoir is located in Dolores, about 15 miles away from Cortez.
We should have known from the beginning that things weren’t going to go well. Our day didn’t start as planned - we didn’t get out to McPhee Reservoir until way later in the afternoon than we wanted. You know how that goes – you’ve made plans about how the day is going to go and one thing screws it up enough that you know you should reconsider the original plans, but by then you’re so set on it that the original plans are going to happen no matter what. By the time we found the put in spot, the clouds over the far edge of the reservoir were super dark and headed our direction. But we really wanted to try out the Alpacka and give the dogs a chance to swim. We figured we could probably miss the rain.
After living in the southeast for so long there is a lot we learn each day we are out west. One of the lessons learned that day was that even though it’s hot outside, the water is not even close enough to be warm enough to swim in, especially when it’s only May. So it was a stupid move on our part to let the dogs go for a dip and have Tyki swim after us as we paddled. But he got me back when he got into the boat and mashed his cold shivering wet self against me. How I wished I wasn’t wearing shorts. That day turned out to be the coldest day of the week. The day before would have been a great paddling day rather than a mountain biking day. It would have been smart of us to check the weather in advance.
With the storm coming our way we were at least smart enough to not go far (and stayed close to shore). We paddled around just to get a feel for the boat. I wish we had videotaped ourselves on that first paddle - what a circus act we were! Neither of us had paddled a kayak tandem before, and packrafts don’t track as well as rigid boats We couldn’t get the boat to go straight; it went in all directions except for straight. What was worse was that our zigzags kept turning into circles. The strong winds and choppy water added to the difficulty we were already having trying to paddle together. As we both fought to correct our course, we inevitably over-corrected and ended up spinning the boat completely around. There’s a reason tandem kayaks are frequently called “divorce boats”.
Jerud said it was my fault. Since I’m not much of a kayaker I accepted the blame. But I also chose to see his complaint to mean that I was just the stronger paddler and he couldn’t keep up. In addition to that, Jerud kept hitting me on the head with his paddle. Each time he claimed it was on accident. It is pretty tight quarters in the boat, but I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose a couple of times. I got chilled during the paddle. Water kept dripping on me from my own paddle along with Jerud’s each time it was lifted above my head. Don’t forget the cold wet dog in my lap! The only reasonable being in the boat was Tybee, who calmly lay between Jerud’s legs with her chin rested on the side of the Alpacka. She looked content but bored and embarrassed of us.
When the dark clouds were right above us we gave up paddling and zigzagged back to shore. We had putzed around enough in the Alpacka to know that we really liked it but that it was different from paddling a hard sided boat. It would take some more practice before we could use it well. Even with all the screwups we still had a good time and a lot of fun laughing at ourselves.
After I got out of the boat with Tyki I went to help Tybee out. That’s when we noticed she had pooped in the boat - right between Jerud’s legs. Ha! I’m pretty sure it was her revenge on Jerud for smacking me with his paddle.