Pro tip: You don’t need a boat
I learned from a friend in college about using elevators awkwardly. The common protocol for using an elevator is to walk in, turn 180 degrees, press the button for your floor, then remain facing that direction.
What about facing the wall in the elevator? What about sitting down? What about twirling in as many circles as possible before the doors reopen?
To be more direct about it, I am suggesting that, when you are in an elevator alone or with a friend or family member, you can play if you want. You might annoy the other passengers if you are obnoxious enough, but tolerance for play is not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about playing in public spaces. Specifically, I want to talk about playing in the river.
In terms of popularity, the top two ways to play in the river are with a boat and on the beach. I suppose you’re not technically in the river when you’re on the beach, but you’ll probably wade in while you’re there.
Taking a kayak, raft, or paddleboard to the Colorado River is a classic. Everyone else does it, so you won’t get funny looks doing it. It’s a perfectly fine way to enjoy the river. It’s one of my personal favorites.
You also won’t get funny looks if you carry a cooler and towel down to the beach for some sunbathing. Again, everyone else does it.
Some things you can do in the river that few others are doing is ford it, float down it without a boat, swim upstream like you’re in an infinity pool, attempt to walk over it using floatation devices, run directly at it and jump as far as you can into it, form a giant circle in it with your friends by holding hands, and more.
Of course, some of this is uncommon for good reason. Just like you shouldn’t try to do jumping jacks in a crowded elevator, you shouldn’t try to float down rapids without a boat. You could probably do either, but they would require some planning and extra safety measures.
Other river activities are just harmless fun. Children are good at coming up with ideas for how to play in unconventional ways; follow their lead.
One example — a classic among children and animals alike — is covering yourself in mud. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a top-notch way of playing in the river.
You remember all the heavy rains we had this summer? They washed very silty mud into the river, and there might even be some left on the inside curves of the river, where the water flows slower.
Some might say, “Oh, that’s just like having a mud bath!” No. It’s not a mud bath. It’s playing. Please do not talk about your boring adulthood things in my presence while I’m having fun.
If you bring a bucket, you can get piles of the mud out of the water to play with it on the land. This prevents the mud from washing away from the water so that you can.
Do not wear any clothing that you don’t want permanently stained, though. I won’t say that I ruined a pair of swim trunks by doing this, but I will say that the mud christened them.
Another one of my personal favorites is floating down the river without a boat. Again, do not do this in or upstream of rapids because you can get your foot stuck in a crevice and drown.
For reasons of safety and fun, use a personal floatation device. It’ll mean less treading water, leaving you more energy for swimming and jumping up and down.
The challenge here — you adults will have fun solving this one — is finding a place on the river that is flowing slowly enough that you don’t have to constantly swim or walk upstream to stay near your anchor beach.
You can also just embrace this challenge by making it a part of the play. Walk upstream from the beach as far as you can then let the river take you. Float on your back with your feet above the water for style points (and to keep from getting entrapped).
And the last one — perhaps my favorite — is going to the other side of the river.
Especially along Highway 128, the other side is uninhabited. It’s just a vast expanse of land that you can pretend is undiscovered. There are few roads and usually no people. You might even find remnants of an ancient civilization (that you should show proper respect by looking and not touching).
Make sure you go past Salt Wash (up the road from Take Out Beach) so that you’re not traipsing around the national park. Avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil or kicking a cactus. Don’t be gone for too long.
But more importantly, have fun.