If traditional bachelorette party ideas don’t sound appealing, here’s why you should opt for a rafting trip with your best friends instead.
After picking our way up the side canyon, climbing over mossy boulders, and wading through pockets of green water, we scrambled up a final rock garden to reach our destination. It was a deep pool tucked all the way at the top, water temperature perfect for swimming, with a pair of small waterfalls cascading into it. A miniature paradise. We jumped in, splashing and bobbing. Sat under the falls, letting the water tumble over our heads. Explored the little cave system in the back. After a while, I swam to a ledge at the lip of the pool, pulled myself up, and surveyed the scene. My best girlfriends frolicked and shrieked, playing like kids. The canyon spread out under my feet. And farther down, the river that brought us here coursed through the desert landscape.
I pinched myself at my double luck. First off, I was preparing to marry the love of my life. And somehow, that entitled me to celebrate with a bachelorette party like this? How does that work?
I didn’t figure it out, but I didn’t need to. It was time to scamper back to the rafts.
The rite of the bachelor/bachelorette party is pretty simple: one last hoorah with your friends before you bid adieu forever to singledom, with the inference being that your life is about to get seriously dull.
It’s a little silly, but like so many wedding rituals, the tradition persists. With their debauched reputations, bachelor parties are more infamous. But the bride version isn’t exactly tame. There are bachelorette pub crawls, wild nights on the town with the bride-to-be decked out in some ridiculous headpiece, spa dates with mimosas, and naughty lingerie parties.
And exactly none of those appealed to me. My ideal way to celebrate anything in life is to do it outside, with great company, delicious food, and views for days.
So when my friends hustled up a weekend rafting trip down the Gunnison Gorge in Colorado, I was thrilled. Life had felt like a nonstop onslaught of wedding planning and job stress. The promise of escape from details like table runners sounded delicious.
Sure enough, it was.
We rendezvoused in a pull-off beneath a huge cottonwood somewhere between the towns of Montrose and Delta. With agricultural fields and industrial lots dominating the landscape, it was hard to believe a river adventure awaited nearby. But soon we were bumping down a heinously rough road, dropping into a world of desert scrub and sunbaked rock. At the parking lot at the bottom, we lugged dry bags filled with personal gear on our backs and hoofed it down the Chukar Trail. In about a mile, we reached the banks of the Gunnison as it enters the Gunnison Gorge.
The river was steely blue under the blaring September sun, snaking through massive walls of black schist. Granite intrusions painted the cliffs with strokes of pinkish grey, and a canyon wren called out its winding-down song. It was like we had stumbled upon a mini Grand Canyon.
We rigged the boats and got on the water. We were 10 women, along with my dear friend Stash (whose bachelor party I attended) and his former river-guide-in-arms, Midnite. The gals hailed from across Colorado and ranged from Lexi, a former outdoor educator who rowed one of the boats, to Kathrine, an inexperienced rafter nervous about the rapids, to Rachel, who brought her own Alpacka raft to pilot.
The walls soared above, the rapids came quickly and the river, at a lowish 900 cfs, demanded careful attention. Sleepers hid around every corner and bony whitewater required fast-thinking maneuvering. I rode in the front of a paddle raft, digging in through the churning water, shrieking when I got splashed, exulting each time we survived a rapid.
Paddle high fives. Swallows darting above the water. Rock faces contorting in surreal patterns. This gorgeous gem of a place. And my best friends to share it with. I couldn’t have been happier.
We pulled into the takeout at the end of the weekend a little dirty but beaming with joy. We had swam in the icy river, survived spicy close calls in the rapids, eaten cake for breakfast, and busted into a post-coffee dance party at the campsite. We had talked about life, told dirty jokes, and shared in the triumph of negotiating whitewater. There were no texts or emails to distract us, and I didn’t think once about table runners. It was complete engagement — with the nuances of the river, the spread of stars at night, the scurrying lizards, with the most important friends in my life.
And underlying the trip was a collective joy from these friends, a happiness, and full-out support for the even bigger adventure I was preparing to embark on.
At the end, part of me wanted to get right back on the river and start all over again. But I had a groom waiting for me. And I felt more ready to marry him than ever.
Love the idea of a whitewater rafting bachelorette party (or bachelor party) but don’t want the stress of planning and outfitting your own trip. We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite destinations for pre-wedding whitewater.