Grace in the Hand of God: A River Story
While many of the lakes and waterways around Leadville Today still have a bit more thawing to do, the rafting season is starting to gear up down south in Brown’s Canyon. Plus, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is promoting National Safe Boating Week, May 21-28, so it seemed like the good time for an Arkansas River story. Enjoy and be safe out there on the water!
The Arkansas River: Whitewater Tales
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
I had never done Class IV Rapids before, so I invited my friend Grace along for the free river raft ride. I had been given the white water raft trip as a “media” perk, hoping that I might write about my adventure and in turn bring them more rafting business. They said I bring a guest, and I’ve found that it’s a good idea when you’re going to encounter “intense, powerful rapids requiring precise maneuvering in fast, turbulent water,” to bring along a friend with a name like Grace. Or Hope or even Buoyant. It increases your odds of survival.
After arriving at the raft company’s headquarters along the Arkansas River, we zipped up our wet suits (optional depending on the time of season), listened intently to the safety lesson, pulled on our helmets and boarded our paddleboats with a nice couple from Chicago and our raft guide: Billy-from-Boston.
The trip was incredible. Our raft team worked together like a well-oiled machine: “forward three!” and “back two!” By the end of the trip, we were doing high fives with our paddles and singing river songs. It was a raft trip not soon forgotten!
And then . . . we reached the Hand of God. In brief, the Hand of God is a rock in The Arkansas River where the water’s current has carved out a hole that drops down five feet where it meets the river. The raft companies usually “put out” here and give people a chance to hang out onshore or experience the Hand of God.
It’s really not that scary, especially if you can swim, which is always a good idea if you go rafting. Billy-from-Boston docked our raft at the Hand of God to check out the action. It was a busy day on the river and lots of fellow rafters had gathered on the shore as spectators.
“Anyone want to slip into the Hand of God?” But before Billy could get the question out, Grace was out of the raft and headed towards the rock. Our faithful guide followed up, quickly behind her. I reluctantly followed.
Now, Grace is from Leadville, born and raised, so naturally, when she reached the top of the rock, she turned to the crowd and informed the other rafters that “Leadville was in the house!” The crowd loved it and Grace played it off for another 30 seconds and then turned and looked down into the Hand of God.
“Oh wow,” she said with trepidation.
“So what you do is . . ,” explained Billy, “lower yourself down into the hole and . .”
“Oh wow,” Grace interrupted. “Hmmm. I don’t know if I can do that. It’s kinda far down there.”
At this point, the crowd on the bank was getting louder: “Leadville! Leadville!”
“Now once you get down into the hole . . ,” but Billy never got to finish that sentence either.
Grace had been motivated by the chanting crowd, and with a do-or-die approach she began to lower herself down into the Hand of God. However, at the last second, Grace did something that turned this simple riverside dare into a prime-time reality show. She turned to our faithful river guide and asked, “will you hold these?” handing him her eyeglasses as Grace plunged into the Hand of God.
Now for anyone who wears glasses, you probably gasped a little at this part of the story. Panic can set in pretty quick when you can’t see! As Grace shot down into the Hand of God, cheers erupted from the riverbank.
“Woo-hoo! Leadville’s representing!” And they waited for their newfound river goddess to pop up on the other side of the rock, as did everyone brave enough to take on the challenge.
At this point, I approached the top of the hole’s chute to assess the situation. Grace’s head was neatly encased in her life vest, which was doing its job: keeping her afloat. She was spinning herself around in the hole, trying to get her near-sighted bearings, moving her hands along the wall of the cylinder.
Billy-from-Boston was calling down the next set of instruction, “Ok, now use your hand to find the spot where you can duck under. . .”
It was too late. Grace’s sightless fear was setting in – quick!
Then, in true comic form, Grace began to shout: “Fear Factor! Fear Factor!” as she spun around and around in the Hand of God.
By now the crowd on the bank started to wonder what was taking so long, as their chants rose above the sound of the rushing water: “Leadville! Leadville”
I knelt down at the opening of the Hand of God.
“Grace,” I said calmly. She looked up from her spinning and “Fear Factor” squawking long enough to refocus. “Put your hand over at three o’clock. You’ll feel the break in the rock that you duck under to get back out to the …” This time it was me who didn’t get to finish.
Grace had found the portal and pulled herself under, releasing herself from the Hand of God and popping up into the river. A bounty of accolades erupted from her legion of new-found fans. “Long Live Grace in the Hand of God!”
I-70 Delays at Dumont
According to a media advisory distributed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), traffic will be periodically stopped in both directions on I-70 near Mile Point 236 just east of Dumont between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, and Wednesday, May 26. Traffic stops are necessary while loose rocks are pushed off the mountain slope above the highway.
Vehicles will be stopped for about 20 minutes while crews perform this rock scaling work and clean up the highway. The queue of stopped vehicles will then be released before traffic is again stopped and the process repeats. Drivers should plan for delays of up to 30 minutes.
There will be no traffic impacts during the Memorial Day holiday but another two days of brief traffic holds will take place in June when a helicopter is used to drape the rockfall mesh over the slope. Work is planned to be complete before the Fourth of July holiday.
This rockfall mitigation work will help stabilize the slope where a 2019 rockslide the day after Thanksgiving prompted an emergency closure of I-70.
Summer Planning Guide: I-70 Mountain Corridor
According to a press release distributed to media outlets on Monday, May 17, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported, the Interstate 70 Mountain Corridor between Denver and Grand Junction will have a busy construction season this spring and summer as the Colorado Department of Transportation is making numerous improvements to the corridor.
Go to the I-70 Mountain Corridor page to see larger versions of the maps below.
“While we have a lot of work to do, we are carefully coordinated across the state so that the typical traveler will experience limited disruptions,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “Still, if you plan to travel through the high country on I-70, it is always best to plan ahead and be prepared for changing conditions. If you are traveling during nighttime hours – when many of our lane closures are planned – expect small changes to traffic patterns and go just a little slower to handle these changes safely.”
Because I-70 is so heavily used, and the weather conditions in the high country limit the time to do much of the upkeep work on the interstate, CDOT will conduct the work with the least impact as possible to motorists. Most of the lane closures on I-70 from C-470 to the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnel will occur overnight, with daytime work restricted to emergencies and short-term traffic holds for rockfall mitigation. No lane closures will be planned on weekends or holidays. There will be daytime lane closures on nearby US 6 Clear Creek County and US 40.
“Travelers should be aware of planned work along both I-70 and some of the popular parallel routes like US-6 and US-40,” said Denver Metro Regional Transportation Director Paul Jesaitis. “If you are headed to the mountains from the Front Range, know before you go so that you can enjoy summertime in the mountains.”
“In addition to a number of projects in Glenwood Canyon, CDOT crews will conduct a variety of maintenance operations from the Continental Divide to the Utah border,” said Northwest Regional Transportation Director Mike Goolsby. “The daily work on these projects will be limited to relatively small areas that reduce the impacts to travelers, but drivers still need to be aware of these minor disruptions.”
Multiple projects are underway in Glenwood Canyon with several scheduled to be complete before the busy summer travel season. Motorists should plan for lower speeds and intermittent daytime single lane closures. If there is a safety closure in Glenwood Canyon due to a Flash Flood Warning, CDOT recommends the alternate route if the closure is anticipated to last longer than two hours. Motorists should detour by traveling via CO 9 to US 40 to CO 13.
Motorists should be prepared for heavy traffic along the highly traveled mountain corridor during the busy summer season, give themselves some extra time to reach their destination, drive safely through work zones and check out COtrip.org for the latest road conditions.