#VailBen Dispatch 3: The Perfect Time for Whitewater Rafting is Now

Jun. 16, 2014


Benjamin (right) after conquering the Class Four Rapids of the Upper Eagle River.

Benjamin (right) after conquering the Class Four Rapids of the Upper Eagle River.

All anyone could talk about was how high the water was. Huge winter snowfalls combined with a fast-arriving Spring meant that river runoff in the Vail Valley had pushed local rivers to their peaks. I had seen the raging Gore Creek during the GoPro Mountain Games but I had no idea how good the whitewater was until I found myself in the middle of some Class Four rapids.

I was partaking in a two day rafting trip down the Eagle River with local Vail outfitter Sage Outdoor Adventures. It was my first rafting experience aside from a stint on the rather tame Delaware River when I was 15 and I didn’t know what to expect. (Other than that the water would be cold. So cold.) Nonetheless, I was ready for the adventure.

We spent Day One on the Middle Eagle, a section of the river that consisted mostly of Class Two and Class Three rapids. In addition to Sage’s energetic guide, Kevin, my raft included a young couple from Denver, Jaff and Kara, and two social workers from Florida, Pebbles and Toni. Given we were all novice paddlers, Sage outfitted us with wetsuits, booties, and a personal flotation device.

The Middle Eagle turned out to be the perfect introduction to whitewater. Kevin kept the trip fun and educational, teaching us how to paddle with our entire bodies, how to wedge our foot in the raft so we didn’t fall out, and how to high-five with our oars. When we ventured further up the Eagle the next morning, I was hungry for a challange.

Day Two’s guide, Jason, explained how the river was currently at its peak and I could see his eyes light up after we went through the first section of Class Four rapids. We were rafting some of the best whitewater of the season and I was so glad I has my GoPro there to document it.

The day turned out to be much harder than the first. The rapids came faster and harder, and the run-off froze my hands. But I was having so much fun, I hardly cared about the temperature. (In fact, I couldn’t stop giggling!) But we managed to make it through the two-hour trip—including the legendary Edwards Mile, a famous section of Class Four rapids—without one person going overboard.

On the ride back, the energy in the van was electric. Both students and guides buzzed about the raging river. It is an incredible feeling to conquer such a powerful force of nature.

Vail America's Best Summer Job BenBenjamin Solomon is the winner of America’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Benjamin has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.