Kayaking With(out) Crutches


Something about being in a kayak on a crystal clear Colorado lake or on a river through a canyon in Utah just makes me smile the smile of a goofball. I love it. I love the splashy-gurgly sound of a paddle through water, the aroma of clean, cool air, and the reflection of land and sky on ripples.

Mike is now a pro at getting me in and out of kayaks safely as I’ve been banned from weight-bearing on my right foot for most of the summer. I’m expecting to be told I can resume life as a bipod in eleven days. It will be a glorious day, but until then, I’m being a good girl and doing what I’m told. Fortunately, the way I kayak, foot pressure isn’t necessary.

We decided to paddle upstream yesterday on the Colorado River from a launch site not far from our campground in Moab. The idea was that we’d paddle as long and hard as we wanted, and then enjoy a more leisurely trip with the river doing most of the work on the way back. The not-yet-sweltering morning temperatures and the cool water, moving downstream steadily, made for perfect conditions.

Beautiful day on the Colorado River in Moab
Beautiful day on the Colorado River in Moab

As soon as Mike pushed me away from shore, the reality of paddling against the flow hit me, but I was going to be a good sport. Forty-five minutes into our adventure my arm muscles burned and my palms, already callused from over a month of crutching, showed me where there were still some soft spots. I headed for some branches by the shore.

“What are you doing?” Mike paddled over to where I clung to a clump of dead twigs and spun his kayak around easily, paddling backwards for a while to hold his ground (because holding his water just sounds wrong) while we chatted.

“Oh, you know, just checking out the local flora.” The water threatened to pull me from the thicket, but I hung tight. Mike knew the truth, though.

“I think I’ll recon up a little further and check out the conditions, okay?” He was very gracious.

“Okay. I’ll join you in a bit,” I tried to convince him. And myself.

Mike leaves me in my safety thicket...if I let go, I'll be whisked back to shore in no time!
Mike leaves me in my safety thicket…if I let go, I’ll be whisked back to the dock in no time!

After Mike disappeared up river, it was time to get back out there myself. With renewed energy I continued my struggle against the current, making fairly good progress until Mike returned.

“It gets a little trickier up near that narrow place, but it’s doable.” His words did little to encourage me, but I had already told Mike how much I loved being on the water and we had barely been out an hour. So I followed him.

I followed him until I reached a place where my paddling turnover could not compensate for the volume of water working against me. I felt like I was in one of those Endless pools, working and working and getting nowhere.

“I think I’m done!” I called to my endless-energy husband, and despite the fact that he could have paddled all the way back to Colorado, backwards, he agreed it was time to head back for lunch. We had the kayaks for the whole day. We could bring them out again in the afternoon. Oh joy! I thought.

And back out we went after lunch for another up-river assault.

This time, although I did not get as far as I had in the morning, I knew where I could sneak out of the big flow areas and “study flora” in several places I had missed earlier.

“You go on ahead and I’ll hang here,” I told Mike when I knew I was spent, and while he completed another awesome workout, I watched with amusement some mating rituals along shallow shoreline. And no, I’m not talking about the trailer people.

A pairs of dragonflies did it right on the edge of my kayak before taking flight, stuck together in what seemed an endless dance. For well over 10 minutes they clung and danced and I never saw them part. And juxtaposed to their ceaseless airborne ritual, dozens of water striders darted over the flowing surface in a seemingly random pattern. They occasional bumped into one another before dashing away, all the while maintaining their position relative to shore atop the moving water. It looked like some Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom video game. I could not imagine the brusque bump was procreative, but I also had no idea what the purpose of this bizarre, confused dance could be. I also wondered how long it would be before their legs, like my arms, would say “Enough!”

Mike WAY up river from me!
Mike WAY up river from me!

I paddled upstream a bit more after marveling at how much I do not know about the world, and saw that Mike was on his way back. He pulled his boat alongside mine and the two of us floated together with the current back to our launch site where our truck, and my crutches, awaited.


By author

Laurel lives and laughs and publishes and podcasts in Colorado's Rocky Mountains! She has published several multi-genre books and hosts the podcast "Alligator Preserves," where she interviews fascinating people, talks about the human condition, and shares scary stories from her "Dark Ebb" collection.

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