Similar to most people, I am not a morning person. Rolling over in bed, tapping my 4:00 AM alarm off, and then wiping the crusty sleep out of my eyes, it’s easy to become disheartened on mornings like this. But not this morning. Outside it’s a crisp, spring, Colorado morning. I fumble around in the dark looking for my long underwear and an extra fleece layer. I crack a few eggs into a frying pan and feel my system awaken from the smell of roasting coffee grounds. There’s a good reason I’m waking up at this untimely hour. In fact, the best reason I can possibly imagine.
I meet with the rest of the Colorado State rowing team on campus where we then all drive a couple miles west into the foothills, home to Horsetooth Reservoir, where we have morning practice. Crammed into cars, driving along the winding mountainous roads with our ears popping, excitement begins to wash over us as we get our first look of the water in the moonlight. Finally, we reach the inlet. We step outside the car to see Fort Collins’s city lights have faded away and all that’s exposed is a dark canvas of a sky, riddled with stars. Habitually, we walk down to the dock to prepare the oars and place our boats in the water. One after the other, each boat is met by its crew and sent off, oars dipping beneath the black surface and reemerging systematically. Stern pair rows, followed by bow pair. Finally, the whole boat rows in methodic rhythm, approaching the dam where dawn’s first light begins to trickle over the horizon.
There’s nothing quite like the experience of a sunrise on Horsetooth Reservoir. Feeling it’s warmth on your neck, staring straight ahead, concentrating on nothing except matching the motion of the body ahead of you. It’s a humbling experience to be had, stroking in complete unity with your boat. Oars catching and pulling simultaneously in your peripheral vision, feeling the fluidity of each person’s body in sync, and hearing the harmonious sound of the oar locks turning together like an orchestra. It’s in that moment that everything escapes your mind, everything except the sensation of gliding on top of the water. Our distractions, our worries, all nonexistent. All that we can focus on is ourselves working symbiotically with the natural elements around us.
Concentration is only broken when you hear two distinct words yelled out by the coxswain. “Way enough!” The crew finishes their stroke and lays their ores on the surface of the water, catches their breath, and takes in the first glimpses of the new day reflecting on the shimmering water. Golden sun rays dance around your oar in the deep blue water. Rock faces turn red with the morning glow on either side of the reservoir. Stars quickly disappearing while the sky begins to fill with light.
It’s feeling of such compatibility that I’ve only experienced in these moments. My boat and I working together to move on the water, just as the nature around us works together to give us another day.
FEATURED EDITOR: Jonny Jessup
Jonny is a senior and varsity member of the rowing team at Colorado State University. When he isn't rowing, he has a strong passion for skiing and photography.
Wants to go to: Nepal
His Goodland: The Mountains!