My First Overnight On The Dolores River

Since my move to Colorado to further pursue mountain bike racing I have been on hundreds of bike rides through these gorgeous Colorado mountains. However, my pursuit of conquering Colorado rivers just started sparking my interest when I moved to Salida, CO a few years ago. After several SUP runs and day raft trips I started feeling more comfortable on the river. I really started to fit into the rafting dominated community. However, I was missing a huge part of being a river savvy individual as I had never experienced an overnight trip!

Luckily on a trip to visit friends in Telluride we heard that the Dolores River was finally running. Not knowing much about the history of rivers, I learned that the Dolores has not run in a while and it would be a real treat to do an overnight on one of the most beautiful rivers in Colorado. It would be foolish to miss an opportunity like this so we made some calls, found some gear and headed out to to begin our journey on the Dolores River with Matt, Bob a local outfitter and my dog Twocaps.

Twocaps has been mountain biking with me since we teamed up about four years ago. She loves doing anything outside and is an excellent trail dog. However, at this point she has never been on a raft or a SUP except for one time at a lake in which she refused to stay on the board. Being a German Shepard hybrid she likes the water but is definitely not a water dog. Since I do everything with Twocaps, we found her a doggy PFD, decided she would be fine and brought her along for her first rafting endeavor.

Excited for the adventure ahead we rigged the boat and got on our way. The trip started out with Matt and myself on SUPs and the dog in the boat with Bob. We had to cover a certain distanced the first day to ensure we didn’t have too long a day on the river the following day.

Things were not going as planned. Twocaps was whining and was freaking out, we were unsure what to do with her. Knowing she just wanted to be close we decided to put her on the SUP with us, ignoring the previous SUP drama. Magically she transformed into a SUP dog! She sat perfectly on the board through class II and III rapids as if she’d been SUPing her entire life. From this moment on Twocaps has been an awesome SUP pup. As long as we kept Twocaps with one of us she was fine. We continued to stroll down the river with a mix of rapids and beautiful scenery. It was quiet and peaceful with no noise aside from the soothing river. It was truly magical.

Finally, we made camp and were stoked that the dog did so well on the river. Next we got out our camping and cooking supplies and set up beds and a kitchen. We cooked up some spaghetti and sat back and took in the sights around us. We saw no one, and it was amazing to be completely unplugged from the world. We stayed up telling stories and looking at the brilliant stars until it was time for bed.

The next morning it was breakfast, packing up, and chatting about the day. The boys told me about the “Snaggle Tooth Rapid” that we would be experiencing early on in the day. A plan was hatched that I would stay in the boat with the dog and Matt would SUP it because I wasn’t quite ready for a class IV SUP. The river took us winding down a series of fun and playful waters until we approached the big rapid of the day. We got out of the boat scouted for a bit and I gratefully returned to the boat for the rapid. One hand on the boat and one hand on the dog we started descending into Snaggle Tooth.

Due to very low water we had a tricky time navigating through the rapid and got stuck half way through! The dog bailed out and I reached most of my body into the water after an oar that started floating away. Half in the water I grabbed the oar then helped Bob push off some rocks and we finally made it through. We gathered ourselves and the dog while watching Matt crush the rapid on his SUP! It was awesome. After Snaggle Tooth, we went on to experience beautiful stone walls and ponderosa panoramas. Shortly after I decided it was time for me to SUP as well, but realized my SUP paddle was gone! I must have left it back at shore. Matt being accustomed to my antics, rolled his eyes and let me borrowing his paddle while he rowed the boat. The further down the river we went the wider the canyon walls opened up, revealing green valleys and striking landscapes.

We snacked, we lounged, we had an amazing time. As the day went on the river calmed down and we took turns laying out on the boat and taking in the magnificence around us. Although the trip was only two days it left a lasting smile on all our faces and a yearning to go back again and again.

Since then Twocaps is hooked on rafting and rivals all the river dog breeds with her new found skills!

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