My sister’s wedding and the annual festival on the Arkansas River align in late June and I’m flying home to Colorado. It’s been too many years since my last Rocky Mountain summer. Although my girlfriend – a beach body who grew up a block or two from the ocean – disagrees with me, the dry mountain heat has a strengthening effect; like baking clay in an oven. Warm breezes and afternoon thunderstorms are the recipe for nostalgic childhood memories.
Before the wedding, Bo Dwyer and I spend two days paddling around Vail and Buena Vista. The rivers are near- or at flood stage due to late-season storms. Short on time and aiming to maximise the value of our rented boats, we press ourselves to get as many laps on Gore Creek and the Ark as possible; leaving no time for pictures. While sitting in an eddy or cresting a large wave, seeing Colorado from the river is a new perspective to incredibly familiar place. It gives an altered interpretation to the John Denver lyric “coming home to a place he’d never been before”.
Drying myself off from the river, I’m back home to start celebrating the wedding. Katy and Dan have been living the married lifer for years; the wedding just puts it on paper and gives the family reason to come together and raise a drink to the couple. Aunts and uncles seem as surprised by the fact that I’m no longer an awkward, gangly teenager as I am by the fact that my cousins’ kids are no longer infants. It’s a chorus of it’s-been-too-long-s and I-can’t-believe-how-much-you’ve-grown-s. We’re telling and retelling old stories, arguing about the details. It’s simply the most enjoyable wedding I’ve been to.