DELTA, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado waterways are still running pretty strong, even this late in the summer. A group of Girl Scouts and some of their parents were kind enough to let a CBS4 crew tag along for a day in a canoe.
The Scouts had been raising money two years for the adventure. And like so many outdoor experiences, the ride on the Gunnison River in Western Colorado was more than fun — it was a rite of passage.
River runners-to-be paid close attention to on-shore instructions, but they all knew the only way to really learn is to get on the water. After some initial jitters, the canoes were strapped together to form what the guides call a barge.
Kat Mason was one of the guides for the trip.
“Barging is a great way to go through things as a team. No matter what we do, chances are we’re not going to fall over,” Mason said. “So it’s a much more stable craft when we’re barged together.”
“It just takes a few times trying to realize what you do with your paddle and how it will turn your canoe, you have to practice,” Paula Dalton said.
The group got to settle in, but the serenity, however, didn’t last.
“Well, we went around the corner kind of fast and we couldn’t stay to the left,” Denise Glunz said. “We didn’t know if we were ready for those bigger rapids.”
But they managed to maneuver safely to shore.
“It feels good to feel like we could do it,” Glunz said.
Getting through gave the girls a huge boost of confidence.
“They were scary at first but now it seems so fun. I’m a little soaked, but that doesn’t really matter because hey, we’re on a river, this is awesome,” Scout Haley Lewin said.
Last through the rapids was another guide on the trip, Curt Waibel. He’s a music teacher at Runyon Elementary in Littleton.
“This is a really special trip for me. I’ve known these Girl Scouts; I’ve been teaching them since they were about 5 years old. “I knew them since they were in kindergarten,” Waibel said. “Now they’re on their way to middle school and this is going to be kind of our last huzzah together.”
Waibel’s students were still getting used to a different relationship with their former teacher.
“Every time he raises his voice when we’re going through the rapids, I get that, you know, old student-teacher feeling where, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to give me an ‘F,'” Lewin said.
There was no need to worry, however, Waibel said they all did great.
“Oh, ‘A+’ and extra points for positive behavior and effort,” Waibel said.
Waibel told the Scouts about the wildlife.
“Desert bighorn — there’s at least one herd, there actually may be two. They’re normally peeking up over the cliff, trying to see what we’re doing in their backyard,” he said.
Ever the educator, Waibel kept up the narrative on the river.
“It looks like a great big eagle’s head looking to the left. Can you see it? That’s the mouth of the Dominguez Canyon. That’s where we’re headed,” Waibel said.
The classmates approached the end of Day 1 of the three-day adventure on the Gunnison River with mothers, fathers, guides, and one very special teacher.
“He has these kids wrapped around his finger. They all love him and they would do anything, I think, to go have fun with Mr. Waibel,” a mother said. “So this great for them to have this one last journey with this teacher that they’ve had for so long.”
“They’re now moving on to middle school, and it’s a real nice send-off, I think, and I hope it leaves them with a lot of really nice memories of their time at our school when they were just elementary school students,” Waibel said.
The group went with Centennial Canoe Outfitters. They put in at Escalante Canyon about 12 miles north of Delta and floated to Dominguez Canyon where the CBS4 crew said good-bye. The Girl Scouts continued two more days on the Gunnison and took out at Whitewater near Grand Junction.
In addition to the Gunnison, Centennial run trips on the Colorado, Dolores, Yampa, Green, North Platte and White rivers — also in Costa Rica and the San Juan Islands. Learn about their guided canoe trips by calling toll-free at (877) 353-1850. Or log on to centennialcanoe.com.