Water Torture

updated 07/31/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/31/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ASPEN POLICE WERE HORRIFIED, and a State Department spokesman said the department was "greatly concerned." But what's the point in being a prince if you can't get your own way? So last weekend, Princes Wills, 13, and Harry, 10, took their mother for a white-water rafting trip on Colorado's Roaring Fork River. The outing, said one witness, had Princess Diana "clutching the side of the raft in white-knuckled terror." The near-freezing river, dangerously swollen by the spring's heavy snow, has claimed the lives of nine rafters, most of them unsupervised, in the area so far this year. Though criticized in the British tabs for endangering the children's lives ("Water crazy thing to do!" screeched The Sun), "they went to enormous lengths to make the journey safe," said a bystander. Just in case, the royal party brought aboard four bodyguards to rescue them if necessary.

When the boys and their mum disembarked 12 miles downriver in Glen-wood, they were dripping wet but still alive. The raft trip was the high point—for the princes, at least—of their 11-day excellent adventure, which started July 10 at a guest house on the 70-acre Old Snowmass estate of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who were not there during the visit. Though a pack of British reporters hung around the property's gates, Hawn's publicist Heidi Schaeffer denied the royal presence, saying that "Kurt has family staying there."

For Wills and Harry, the mountain frolic included a wild trail ride on all-terrain vehicles. At one point, William was nearly run down by one of his own security jeeps, which skidded wildly when the boy's ATV came to a sudden stop.

On her own, Diana cruised the Aspen stores and bought two $58 medium-size polo dresses at Banana Republic. Perhaps the most mysterious sighting was reported by a gas jockey at a Texaco station in Vail, which is 90 minutes away. Bill Mounsey II said that on Wednesday morning at 7:15, two men standing outside a blue Mercedes limo asked him to recommend a good place for breakfast. He was stunned when the limo's window rolled down to reveal a grinning Diana inside.

The royals seemed interested in sampling American grub. Diana was seen loitering outside an El Jebel grocery store waiting for a woman assistant to come out with groceries. "She's hard to miss," said bank staffer Carole Berry, gawking from next door. Di and the boys also went to a drive-through McDonald's for burgers, then picked up two pies from Pizza Mama's, which they apparently ate in their parked car.

Even in celebrity-heavy Aspen, holiday playground of Kevin Costner, Melanie Griffith and Jon Peters, among others, news of Di sightings will no doubt keep building long after her scheduled departure on July 20. "We see so many stars, but never a princess," said salesclerk Jalayne Vickers. "It was pretty cool."

VICKIE BANE in Colorado

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