Wednesday, July 21, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 11

Since 2004, I've lived in the fabulous city of Fort Collins (recently ranked No. 6 on the "Top 100 Places to Live" list in Money magazine). In all that time, I've never once gone tubing, rafting or floating down the Poudre River, which is literally 20 minutes away. Every summer that has passed, I've looked back regretfully on yet another missed opportunity to whitewater raft or kayak down the clear, cool waters of the Poudre Canyon. Determined to enjoy this favorite local pastime, I was certain to add Item 11: Ride the Poudre in a Sea-Bearing Vessel to my list.

Early in the morning on the 5th of July, my spouse and I awoke to perfectly blue Colorado skies excited for our long-awaited Cache la Poudre adventure: Whitewater Rafting! Booked through Mountain Whitewater Descents, we drove to the base of the Poudre Canyon on the north end of Fort Collins and checked in for our morning "plunge".  

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos in this post, darn underwater cameras.....

We started off the trip with a short informational session; a rafting guide disclosed to us the many dangers of whitewater rafting as well as situations to avoid (i.e. falling out). We were then given helmets, life vests and splash jackets (the lovely blue number I'm wearing below) and directed to our transportation. Packed with all the necessary life-saving gear and instructions, we crammed into a school bus full of family vacationers, a whole team of softball-playing teenage girls, and adventurous couples....just like us!

Taking note of the guide's stories of potential river injuries and mishaps, I have to admit I was a little nervous as I slid into my seat and hooked my foot under the single strip of plastic that would supposedly keep in me the boat if we, when....we hit a rock. Thankfully, my nervous energy quickly faded as I took in the breath-taking beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park and we pushed off the riverbank to start our 12-mile watercourse. 

Bryan, our red-eyed, unshaven guide, had a surprisingly cheery disposition and excited us all with detailed accounts of what to expect from the Class II, III and IV rapids we would encounter on our adventure. He named each of the most tumultuous rapids, explaining the rock locations and water depth, while preparing us to be launched from our seats and thrown into the water at any moment! Promising to not have any "swimmers" on his ship, he let our excitement takeover and the whole boat of passengers rowed eagerly towards the white waves ahead.

We hit the Class II and III rapids first (the easier rapids....thank goodness) shrieking as the cold water plunged over us and laughing as we bumped and splashed our way down the mountainside. While cascading between rocks and over whitewater currents, our hilarious guide regaled us with stories of previous rafting trips, random skiing adventures and his favorite, local hippie-hangouts. 

After a short time of the "easy" stuff, we began to hit the Class IV rapids with exciting dips, drops and plunges into layers of crisp, Colorado runoff. Adrenaline pumping, fear tickling the back of our necks and smiles shining, we went up and down the rocky, white peaks of waves screaming with delight and clinging to the raft as Bryan instructed us to row and to hang on!! 

True to his word, Bryan's boat was successful in keeping all passengers on board (thanks to John's one-handed catch of an 11-year old who flew out of her seat). The boats around us.....not so lucky.....

Between exciting moments of thrashing waves and avoiding rock collisions, we had a fair amount of welcome down time to catch our breath and soak up the sun. On the break pictured below, we had a good laugh at the rafters who had to abandon ship onto the rocks as their guide attempted to get their beached boat back in the water.

Overall, I give Mountain Whitewater Descents an A++ with an extra special thanks to our guide, Bryan. We had an absolute blast whitewater rafting and can't hardly believe we've lived so close to such fun for six years and hadn't tried it before now. It will definitely be on the summer activity list going forward. Just look at these happy customers :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Can't Cook But Even I Can Make: 'Smores Bites

My favorite four-year old is turning FIVE this week and to celebrate his birthday, his mom and dad threw a camping-themed bash last Saturday afternoon. Burgers on the grill, tents, sparklers, a fire pit and Boone's Farm (for the adults only, of course) transformed their backyard into the quintessential campsite; complete with 'Smores-Making Kits as party favors.  

Inspired by the party theme, I thought up a special treat for the birthday boy and party-goers that I've dubbed 'Smores Bites. 

As described in my previous cooking posts Here and Here, I'm not exactly skilled in the kitchen. However, these little treats are easy, easy, easy. If I can make them, you can too. Extra Bonus for those of you intimated by the knobs on the oven: The only cooking required is pressing buttons on the microwave! 

You Need:
  • Melting Milk Chocolates or Milk Chocoloate Chips
  • One Bag of Large Marshmallows
  • Graham Crackers
  • Toothpicks 
And Action:
Pour the melting chocolates or chips into a shallow bowl. Heat in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring the chocolate in between heating until melted and creamy.

Put 3-4 graham crackers in a plastic, ziploc bag and crush into crumbs until they are nearly dust. Pour them out on to large plate and spread evenly.

Poke a marshmallow with a toothpick on its flat side. Roll it in the melted chocolate, coating the entire rounded portion. Then roll the chocolate-dipped 'mallow in the graham cracker crumbs until covered.

Plate on its flat side and let sit for 10-15 minutes until the chocolate starts to harden. Serve & try not to eat the whole plate yourself.

If the summer plans don't include bonfires or marshmallow sticks, you can replace the classic campground treat with these little bites and the only thing they'll leave you craving is....well.....s'more :)