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He’s already there

Jeff Koch

Editor’s note: This is a testimonial following the death of Avon resident Daryle Bogenrief, who was killed June 17 on the Animas River north of Durango. Heard a news blurb about an accident on the Animas. Not much info. Guess they needed to contact the families first. Tried a Net search a couple of times over the next day or so in order to assure it wasn’t him. Tried again late Sunday night, and my worst fears were realized. The river guide who drowned was my friend. We all headed down to Durango to say goodbye. That’s when I began to learn more about the friend I had lost. The San Juans were spectacularly beautiful in mid-June. Green with snow on the peaks. Steep and severe. Waterfalls. Different from the Rockies in Summit and Eagle counties that I frequent. Wilder, it seems. And the rivers were running high. I can see why my friend loved these mountains.The accident happened on the upper Animas River. This stretch is some of the most difficult commercially guided water in the U S. Parts are Class V when running as high, as it was that day. My friend had run this stretch many times before and loved the challenge. There were five in the boat that day. The raft went over, and everyone went swimming. Not an unusual occurrence. The guides train for this and know how to respond. Other rafts were part of the group and a safety raft followed. Witnesses say my friend righted the raft and then it flipped again. Three made it to the river bank. My friend went after the other client. It’s unclear, or maybe information is unavailable, as to what happened next. But regardless, the outcome is the same. They got them both to shore and started CPR. They had left the party. My friend was strong. I’m sure he didn’t go without a hell of a fight. They rode on the train. They rode on the chopper. It didn’t matter. My friend, his joy, his energy, his soul, never came out of the river. The Animas, the River of Lost Souls, had taken him. It helps me to believe he became part of the river, the water flowing out to the desert, down to the ocean, evaporating up to the sky where it can fall as snow on these mountains. Melt in the spring flowing down to the river and starting the cycle again. I can see why my friend loved this river.It was hot at the service. The room was small and the turnout was large, so most of us stood outside and strained to listen to a small PA speaker placed in the window. None of us really wanted to be inside. Jackets and ties were removed in the heat as the service went on. The river people wore Tevas. My friend’s wife spoke. She was amazingly strong. The Dave Matthews Band’s music asked my friend “Where are you going?” I knew the answer. Down a river. Up on a mountain. Just 50 years too soon. Most of the outside crowd were young people like my friend. Fit, healthy, tan. Lives ahead of them. I can see that they loved my friend.My friend was only on Vail Mountain for the past two seasons. Guess he had outgrown his old mountain and Vail was the next step. It takes time to get established in a mountain town, but my friend made an impact in a short time. His fiancee moved down from Steamboat to teach school, and they married late last summer. They bought a home in Avon and began to build a life together. He told me he wanted to do this one last season on the river and then move on. Maybe go Down Under to ski for our summer next year. Maybe start a family. I can see my friend and his bride were happy, and in love.My friend was progressing through the Professional Ski Instructors of America certification system at an unprecedented rate. I coined the description wunderkind, or wonder child in English, to describe him. Many of us thought it was a fluke and that my friend didn’t have the experience and maturity at this point in his life to be truly successful. It turns out he was achieving milestones with exceedingly high marks, and in April was selected as the youngest instructor examiner in the Rocky Mountain Division’s history. His potential in the industry was unlimited. Can’t say that about many. I learned that my friend possessed an uncanny ability to assimilate information and to commit to a goal and achieve it. This quality is something beyond just self confidence. It’s faith and belief that with the appropriate effort, one will be successful. No problem. Get it done.There are some qualities that my friend lacked. Qualities like ego, arrogance, and vanity.He projected a simple, straight-forward, down-home vibe. Unusual for a military brat born in Spain and raised abroad. I can see him rolling the brim of a ball cap and wearing his trademark flannel shirt under a Vail Ski School jacket. I told him once I bet he was wearing a big belt buckle under that shirt and he showed me – there it was, longhorn steer and all. My friend was a cowboy, a straight shooter. No Bogner for Bogenrief. He liked Carhardt.After the service there was a reception in the park along the Animas. It was running high. There were signs describing the many times the river had flooded the city over the years. We sat in the sun and roasted. There was shade but nobody cared. We hadn’t planned to be comfortable. There was a video running showing my friend on the river and his trademark raised paddle salute for the obligatory raft trip photo op. Eerily it was taken the day before the accident. Same flannel shirt. My friend was humble. Friendly. Warm. A sweet kid. And a rippin’ skier. I can see his wave on the mountain. A grin. A smirk. The snow spray off his skis. Then he was gone. Down Prima. Down the mountain.My friend is and always will be a son. A brother. A husband. An apprentice. A guide and a teacher. And he’ll always be my friend. After all I’ve learned, I’ll try to be more like him. My friend’s name is Daryle Bogenrief. Last November he turned 25.There’s talk of spreading his ashes on Vail Mountain and on the Animas. Doesn’t matter.He’s already there. Vail, Colorado


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