Some say it's a harmless flirtation with a natural high. Others call it the first step toward total addiction. One usually isn't enough.
So, they simply stay away from the river's edge. They never sit in a boat or wrap a life jacket around their chest. They never cradle an oar in their hands, never smell the bouquet of the misty air and never feel the power of the water against the blade of the paddle.Because if they do, what comes next is just one more stroke of the paddle, just one more rapid, just one more mile, just one more trip, please.
It happens all the time, says Myke Hughes, owner of Adrift Adventures in Moab.
"Before they're even off the river they're talking about the next trip," Hughes said. "Before they even say thanks for the first trip, they want to know about another, longer trip. Then they say `Thanks.' "
One such hook on moving-water dependency is a section of the Colorado River professionally referred to as the "daily."
Millions of viewers got a glimpse of the area over the shoulder of a mounted Billy Crystal in "City Slickers," or a seated Susan Sarandon in "Thelma & Louise," or with Bill Murray leading a pachyderm in "Larger Than Life." Parts of these movies were filmed in the area.
The trip begins 25 miles upriver from Moab, at Hittle Bottom, and flows for the next 10 1/2 miles to the BLM takeout, or the full 25 to the town bridge. The section is officially called the Fisher Towers Section because of the conspicuous sandstone spires known as Fisher Towers off to the left of floating rafts.
In most cases the trip can be made in a day, with a lunch stop. Better still, it can be stretched to two, with a couple of lunches and an overnight stay on riverfront property. There are several nice beaches along the river.
What makes this stretch so popular is that it's convenient, runnable, available, and it has rapids. It is also one of the few runnable sections of river in Utah that does not require rafters to have a permit.
As for the rapids, they are very runnable, not like the ones downriver in Cataract that are famous for swallowing 22-foot boats. They are fun, exciting rapids that tumble and turn and bounce the boat about, but in most cases leave it upright.
Lately, rafters have taken to running the river in smaller and smaller boats. Most common are the two-person kayaks. The latest craft have been the even smaller, one-person, rowable pontoon boats.
The two-person kayak, referred to as "duckys," look like a large banana with seats. Because the boats sit low, instead of looking down into the mouth of an eight-foot swell, the two boatmen look up and out, like looking out of the mouth of a whale.
Hughes recommends that people unfamiliar with whitewater look for a commercial outfitter to go with. And that those planning to do self-guided trips have some experience in rapids. As with every rapid run, there are fun, safe ways, and poor routes that can capsize a boat.
Rafters should know, for example, not to be fooled by a bump in the surface of the water that looks like a soft, fluffy pillow. It means there's a rock under the surface and that behind it is "recycler." Which simply means that a boat caught in one of the holes could be recycled a few times before being sent on its way.
"Ideally, what you want to do is line up, nose first, so you enter the `V-wave' in the river, then try and anticipate where the river will take you, then take the best line for the best and safest run," said Hughes. "Just make sure you're always headed downriver."
"What sometimes happens is that rafters make it through the tough part, then relax and get bumped out of the boat at the bottom where there's a lot of turbulence or a wave that suddenly breaks from the side."
Rental fee on a two-person kayak is about $40 to 50 a day.
Hughes recommends those without experience tag along with a commercial outfit.
"For $39 a day, they get the kayak, lunch and all the things that go with a commercial run. Most importantly, they get someone who knows the river and can give them tips and direction," he said.
"The cost is very reasonable. It's fun and it's a great way to beat the heat. Families can take a river trip, enjoy the rapids and float along in calm water in a life vest," he noted.
Because the highways parallel the river, boaters on self-guided trips can park a vehicle near a camp spot, pull off the river, go into town and have dinner, then make it back to catch the sunset.
Making early plans is preferred, but Hughes says a reservation made the day before a scheduled trip is usually enough lead time.
But, be prepared for the consequences . . . the uncontrollable urge to take just one more stroke of the paddle, just one more rapid, just one more mile, just one more trip, please.