“Forward!” our guide Erika yelled, as the Colorado River boiled furiously around us. At the end of the rapids – still upright and exhilarated – we lifted our paddles in victory. I was tagging along with nine women who had booked O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists) six-day Ultimate Southwest Vacation for a fiftieth birthday celebration with pizzazz. The 30 year-old company is offering all-women weeks this year – and I was one of the program’s inaugural paddlers.
Over the next three days, we negotiated the class III and IV rapids of Utah’s Cataract Canyon, pitched tents on the river’s sandy banks, climbed towering, red-rock cliffs to an ancient Pueblan granary, and floated down flat-water stretches in our life jackets. I’d rafted bigger rapids before, but being part of an all-female crew doubled the camaraderie and fun. Evenings at camp, our guides prepared hearty, tasty suppers – grilled salmon, barbequed steaks – and even whipped up a Dutch oven birthday cake. But it was our last morning on the river that was the most thrilling: We almost capsized tackling Big Drop Three. “It was exciting and wonderful,” said first-time paddler Kim Kosmatka, who was already talking about a reunion.
From the take-out on Lake Powell, we hopped a scenic flight to Moab for two days of horseback riding, mountain biking and 4X4 tours. After soothing my muscles at Sorrel River Ranch’s spa, I relaxed on the porch of my Southwest-style cabin each night, watching calmer waters slip by cliffs the color of cherry wood.
All-women weeks are also offered on the Salmon River, and in Yellowstone and the Tetons. Rates start at $2,452, including meals, all activities and three nights at the ranch.