ACADEMY IN ACTION: RIVER TIME
Working full time for Telluride Academy, a summer outdoor youth organization, I am constantly living in a summer mindset.
Whether it is fall and I am dreaming up new and exciting outdoor adventures, or early winter, when you find me choosing photos for the Academy website and program brochure, or early spring when I am interviewing new summer instructors to contribute to our upcoming season, I cannot escape the summer season here in Telluride, even now.
And now, as the snow piles up and smiling faces can be seen from every street corner to See Forever, there is the guilty pleasure that we summer seekers take in the accumulation of the white gold. For we know that soon snowfall will slow and that sun and a spring runoff will lead the way to river season! For those of us who live with winter for several more months than most of our neighbors in the lower elevations, river season stands as our reward for those extra weeks of shoveling and staying inside. River season acts as motivator and preserver of sanity as we find ourselves longing for flip flops and lighter layers come May.
Spending time on the river is a gift to oneself. It allows for a committed experience and a break from a world of screens, engines, deadlines, even time itself.
When I was a child growing up in the Southwest, my family would take advantage of river season with numerous trips on the Colorado, the San Juan and the Dolores Rivers. My sisters and I were not allowed to wear watches or bring any electronic devices of any kind. (Not that there were many to choose from at the time.) When we’d ask our parents “What time is it?,” they’d reply with “It’s river time” before returning to lazily paddling our vessel or doing absolutely nothing at all.
There is never a sense of urgency on the river. You flow and move at the natural pace of those ribbons of water as they move and meander through the canyons they themselves have masterfully crafted over millions of years. A river trip can be a few hours or several days, but the longer you stay on the water, the deeper you fall into the natural rhythm of the experience. In a world that is becoming more and more “plugged in,” it is important to return to the source and connect with a world that many of us are losing touch with. This is especially true for kids.
For kids, being on the river is the perfect arena for children to celebrate and participate in the unique human experience of childhood. Removed from schedules, tests, and television screens, the river instantly becomes a breeding ground for an engaging adventure of imagination and creativity. My “office,” the Telluride Academy, offers numerous programs that give children the opportunity to paddle their own inflatable kayaks down a river where they instantly become pirates of the high seas searching for buried treasure around every unknown bend in the canyon. They experience freedom and independence by learning proper and safe techniques for navigating small rapids, identifying a variety of river features, using eddies to take a break from the current, and how to run rapids. Our water adventures teach patience and humility as young people learn to work with and not against the natural movements of the river.
Throughout many of my river trips during my time at the Academy I have witnessed first-hand the lessons and associated joys kids have on the water. I have seen imaginations and knowledge blossom. I have taken comfort in the fact we are creating another generation of river stewards and adventurers who seek solitude and excitement in a world of water, wildlife, and waves.
Folks like me have ulterior motives when we say: “Let it snow!”