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NOLS Alumni Yampa Rafting
By Erica Krug
The gang smiles for the camera on their way to the next rapid.

Anyone who’s been on a river trip knows the saying, “What happens on the river, stays on the river.” I don’t want to spill all the stories, but as a participant on the recent NOLS Alumni five-day rafting trip on the Yampa and Green rivers in Colorado and Utah, I do feel I can divulge a few secrets.

The first thing I learned about river trips is that you can bring a lot of stuff. As a graduate of a NOLS Gila Range Backpacking course, I was trained to think in terms of ounces — while packing for that trip I had a five-minute debate with myself over bringing a three-ounce bottle of lotion. But packing for the Yampa was a very different story. That first morning as we all sat in the lawn at the NOLS river base in Vernal, Utah I had an epiphany. All of our gear was going to be neatly and conven-iently packed on the boats — not on our backs! Sure, throw in that 56-ounce bottle of lotion. Three bottles of champagne for a couple’s anniversary we would be celebrating one day on the river? No problem!

Alumni, family and friends discover one of the perks of Alumni river trips... The boats carry all the weight!

The second secret I learned is that you eat like camping royalty on NOLS Alumni river trips. Due to the nature of traveling in a boat, you can bring an enormous amount of food and also all of the materials needed to establish the sophisticated “river kitchen,” a set-up of tables, stoves, blasters, dishwashing bins and even a kitchen floor. From our put-in at Deer Lodge, Colorado to our take-out some 60 miles down the river in Utah, we had many amazing multi-course meals, including dutch oven lasagna, salad, and a giant cookie dessert that tasted amazing after one long day on the river. Which brings me to the third thing that I learned on our Yampa River adventure…

It does rain in the desert. But instead of being a hindrance, the weather made the incredible scenery even more mystifying. As we paddled our way down the river corridors through Dinosaur National Monument, we looked with awe at the rock walls that displayed thous-ands of years of geologic history. When the walls and open spaces next to the river were shrouded in mist, it gave the area such a Jurassic Park-type feeling that I almost expected to see a brontosaurus munching on some grass next to my campsite.

One of the best discoveries I made was that NOLS Alumni trips attract a diverse group of people. You don’t have to be a NOLS Alumni to participate in an alumni trip, but everyone there has a connection to NOLS. From the mom of one of our instructors to a former NOLS instructor, from a doctor whose daughter will be going on a NOLS course this summer to a NOLS grad who is a park ranger in the Grand Canyon, we were all different, but all eager to share this wilderness adventure. Some of us were professional river guides and some of us had never spent time on the water. But it didn’t matter — we all had something to contribute and different experiences to share, and that is what made it a trip to remember.

The fifth secret I uncovered on our NOLS Alumni river trip is cocktail hour. I’m sorry, but I’ve said enough.

Erica Krug recently completed an editorial internship at NOLS and is still talking about how good the food was on her NOLS Alumni rafting trip.

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