Rafting Nerves

It's hard to believe it was only last summer that the craziest rafting trip of my life happened.  I ride a thin line in my life in that I definitely consider myself adventurous and up for (almost) anything, but the moment something goes "wrong," I can often become a big baby about said adventure.  Case in point: rafting.

July 2012, Chris and I went on a rafting adventure with two of our great California friends. We woke up early one Saturday in July and made the trek up to Middle Fork American River where we were promised class III and IV rapids as we journeyed through a beautiful canyon.  

Having been rafting once before on the Deschutes River in Oregon, I had absolutely no fears as we headed out onto the river, though I wonder if my subconscious mind harbored a little bit of fear, because I chose the far back seat in the raft.  (for some reason that seemed like a safe seat!)

 We paddled through a few insignificant rapids soon after we pushed offshore before our guide warned us about the first major rapid: Tunnel Chute Rapid.  He said it was a class IV and would drop straight into a tunnel through the rock cliff, just as we hit the bottom of the rapid.  He then reiterated safety protocol, should you fall out of the raft (blah, blah, blah) and assured everyone that they would be just fine.  I will admit that I tuned him out half way through his warning, because I thought, 'there's no way they will take us on a super hard rapid where we have potential of falling out and getting hurt.'  Right?

Naive? Probably, especially considering we had signed a waiver before jumping into our raft, but it wasn't until we reached the top of the rapid that a wave of fear washed over me. My feet were hardly wedged in, let alone the fact that there were no handles on the raft. I had no idea how I was going to get through this huge drop safely.  

As we started down the rapid, our guide shouted for us to "paddle, paddle," though I cannot recall if I actually did or not. I will say (with a bit of shame) that as our raft started to head towards the rock wall on the right hand side of the rapid, I was grateful to be sitting on the left.  The shameful part? My husband and friend, Stephanie, were sitting on that side, and all I was worried about was my own safety.  

A little thing called karma punished me for my selfishness though, because as we hit off the rock wall on the right hand side, everyone came flying over to the left (my) side of the raft.  Chris flew directly into me, causing my worst fears to be realized. I was going to have to free ride the last part of this rapid as well as the dreaded tunnel.

{ pretty sure my husband knocked me out of the raft... }

Sheer desperation kept me reaching (literally) for any means of staying on that raft, even if that meant my friend, Ryan, was coming with me.  

{ I love the look on Chris' face here... }

And just when Ryan thought he was finally safe, I reached out for one last ditch attempt to save myself. Because I'm selfish like that.

{ Desperate times call for desperate measures! I love how all you can see is my arm! }

I quickly started remembering bits of the safety information our guide had relayed to us while I was tuning him out in favor of the beautiful scenery. Feet forward, lean back, you can do it, you're okay, oh my gosh are there rocks in this white water that I might hit my head on and get knocked unconscious?

What? I panicked.

{ "breathe, you're fine, feet forward, lean back..." }

I made it through the rest of the rapid, pushing off the rock walls with my feet and into the darkened tunnel. When I emerged from the other side, another thoughtful guide pulled me out onto his boat, exclaiming "welcome to the club!" I had no idea what he was talking about in that moment, and am sure I looked a hot mess, but somehow my sunglasses had stayed intact despite going overboard in the hardest rapid of the day. I found this intriguing.

I will be forever grateful for these photos the rafting company took, as they made us all laugh with tears over dinner and beer on the journey home from our adventure.  I live for those funny stories that, no matter how many times you tell them, they never lose their ability to stitch you up with laughter. 

The timing of this post is not random, however.  We have our first Colorado rafting adventure planned for this coming weekend and I am mixed with excitement and nerves for what will come on the journey.  I think it's someone else's turn to fall out. Girlfriend's had enough excitement.  Thank you very much, Universe.

Wish me luck!