Summer isn’t just about beaches, swimming pools, and Speedos. There is another world happening in the mountains, where the snow is melting and swelling rivers with runoff. This is rafting season, when people purposely risk their lives as they charge into turbulent rapids swirling through channels and rocks, all for the thrill of getting blasted in the face by freezing spray. And then they celebrate their survival by drinking beer.
We jest, of course, about the imminent danger of rafting. These trips are quite safe when led by a worthy guide, and the terror of death tends to get washed away when that first rush of adrenalin hits. We are not, however, jesting about the beer.
The wildest river rides usually happen in late spring and early summer, when the snowmelt is flowing strong and the rivers are bursting at their banks. But the winter of 2018-2019 was especially snowy, and that runoff is still going strong—even now, in August, those rapids are big, meaning the river runs are going to be a wild ride.
Gay rafting trips have popped up around the U.S., with rafts filled with thrillseekers that go careening down rivers of various skill levels. Rivers are classified by how turbulent the rapids are; of course you will have a rough day if you choose to go down Class 5 rapids on your first rafting trip. But everything will work out if you just keep yourself in the boat, listen to the guide, do not under any circumstances take off your life vest, and remember one rule: if the water is too rough to hold a can of beer, you shouldn’t be drinking the beer.
Here are some late summer rafting trips coming up that look like lots of fun:
Glenwood Springs, Colo.
August 16-18, 2019
There are two Big Gay Raft Trip excursions each summer, starting in Glenwood Springs, Colo., one in June and the other in August. The August departure usually sees calmer waters, but this year there will still be some good rapids because there’s so much water coming down from the mountains.
But don’t expect to surf holes and hairy currents.* This is a casual trip, involving approximately 150 people on multiple rafts, and there will be lots of partying on those rafts as well as overnights in a hotel. Everyone is encouraged to bring a water gun.
Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, Idaho
August 22-27, 2019
Don’t let the spooky name fool you, because the “River of No Return” is in a federally protected forest, and perhaps its name means you won’t want to return to your regular life. Central Idaho is beautiful, pristine wilderness that is picture-perfect for miles around. This “wine and whitewater” trip features geothermal hot springs, whitewater rafting, trout fishing, and camping under the stars, plus there is lots of really good food and wine, and they serve vodka made from Idaho potatoes. Imagine going to a posh adult summer camp, with 24 guests and 6 guides. Super-fun.
These 9-day trips travel the Colorado River, through the heart of the Grand Canyon, which is stunning just because it is the Grand Canyon. Most of the journey itself is floating along the gentle river, but guests also ride whitewater rapids, hike to waterfalls, see Anasazi Indian ruins, and enjoy the scenery of two billion years of geologic history. This top-dollar trip includes only 14 guests and 2 guides, the adventure level is very high, and the food is delightful.
Do you have an interesting travel idea? Email [email protected]
*This refers to particular types of turbulent currents.