To Go or Not To Go - Whitewater Rafting For Beginners

Alice Scott

Visitors: 146

Have you ever thought “I wonder what white water rafting is like?" I know I have. And I think I kind of thought “Yeah, I'd like to try it. " But another part of me, the scared chicken part of me thought “HA!! You turned 60 years old last winter. Who are you trying to kid?"

And then. . . My older (but not necessarily wiser) sister Sue stopped by one day quite excited. She had won a raffle and the prize was four whitewater rafting tickets.

She had decided that as long as she was turning 65 in a few days she was going to have a coming out party and invite all her sisters to go with her on a whitewater rafting trip. Was I interested? “Yes!!" I answered automatically and enthusiastically. All of a sudden fear gripped me. What was I thinking? Whitewater rafting??

Sister Jeanette was psyched. She's the youngest and is quite adventurous. Sister-in-law Mary asked if her hair would get wet. Sister Anne said if Mary was going she would. Sister Sam said she was in. Sister Mary lives in Florida and couldn't make it. I guess I'll have to go if everyone else is, I can't be the chicken. Mom worries that her whole family may be wiped out all at once.

Wednesday we drive two hours through pouring rain that has been coming down nonstop since some time in the night to our hotel in Indian Lake. We hope it will stop raining by Thursday and wonder how this will affect the whitewater rafting?

At night we laugh and drink beers in the motel reminiscing on when we were kids. Morning brings welcome sunshine.

As the guides explain our part in the whitewater rafting and dangers of the trip, we nervously squeeze into a wet jacket, splash jacket, life vest, and helmet. Our guide shows us her bruises and cuts from last week when she was hit by a paddle and thrown out of the raft.

It's now apparent that I won't be sitting on a seat in the raft holding on for dear life with my arthritic hands. We have to paddle and we have to sit on the side of the raft with our feed tucked under the things where the seats should be. We're asked to sign a release that we won't hold them responsible if we die on this trip.

I'm wondering how big a mistake this was and Anne is really grumbling. We help load the raft onto the school bus for the bumpy ride to the white water. I feel sick.

We carry the heavy raft from the bus to the water. Couldn't they park any closer? There are hundreds of people here carrying rafts down to the river. I can't believe this many people are here today for whitewater rafting. They're all excitedly talking about how great the water is today. This worries me.

Our guide Josh is cool. We ask if we'll get to try out the paddling before we start out into the white water. “Sure" Josh says, but two forward commands, one backward command, and one left back command and we're out in the white water swinging our paddles and on our way down the river.

Our paddles all clunk against each other as Josh screams out “Forward!! Paddle Forward!! HARD!! You've got to get it together!!" The front of the raft drops severely as a huge wave pours over the front and into the raft. We all scream in unison. The front rises high into the water and the rear bounces as we cling with our toes. What a rush!!

Everyone is still in the raft. Good. I go over it again in my mind - what to do if someone does fall out of the raft.

1. Reach down and grab them with two hands and pull them in.

2. If they're out too far, reach out with the paddle offering them the handle.

3. If they're out too far, throw the rope bag.

BIGGEST RULE - NEVER NEVER stand up. Keep your feet up if you end up in the river.

We paddle, we rest, we paddle, we drift downstream. Rapids ahead - Grade 3. What does that mean? BAD?? Josh explains that white water is rated 1-5 with 5 being the kind of water you only went into if you are a professional. The Grade 3 was some pretty good white water.

I feel sick again. There it is ahead. Wow!! Tighten your toes and “Paddle Forward HARD!!" Josh yells. Huge waves hit us hard on the left side. Buckets of cold water rush over the side covering me and my sisters. We scream in unison. “Paddle Forward HARD!! Forward!!" Josh screams. Our paddles clunk.

We get past the rapids and drift when Anne says she can't take the front any more. She and Sue trade with two adventurous teenagers and thankfully move to the rear.

By the time we pull over for lunch we've been hit by huge waves from every direction. Everyone is soaked. Everyone is tired. Everyone is starving. Our legs don't work well when we get on the rocks. But it's a beautiful sunny day and we just lived half way through an adventure and we're excited.

The guides brought turkey sandwiches, chips and cookies to eat with 5 gallon containers of drinks. They forgot the cups so we drink the water and iced tea from potato chip bags as we sit on the warm rocks and think about what the rest of the trip holds in store.

The rest of the trip was equally exciting and the water was so fast the trip was two hours quicker than Tuesday of that same week. I loved it! It was a blast. Jeanette, Sam and I will surely do it again. But if you ask Anne, she'll say “Never Again. " Sue says maybe she'll try something else next time maybe skydiving.

So if you are trying to decide if you are going to try whitewater rafting ask yourself if you're open to adventure. I really don't like getting cold, especially wet and cold. I worried that the cold water would keep me from enjoying the trip. But we were so busy and things were happening so fast there was never time to feel cold and you get used to wet. Personally, I would highly recommend whitewater rafting. As I said, it was a BLAST!

Copyright 2006 Alice Scott

Alice Scott has been partners with her daughter Michele Redmond in their Medical Billing Business for the past 12 years. They have an informational website that offers help to Medical Providers and individuals with Doctor Bill Issues. They also have a website that offers information on life's experiences, such as pondless waterfalls, lawn ornaments, the whitewater rafting trip and much more. You can visit their websites at:


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