The first time I went white-water rafting, I was probably too young to qualify under most normal safety waivers or fit in the raft properly. But that’s what it’s like down in Tennessee on the Pigeon River. It’s crazy, it’s fun, and as long as you’re willing: you’re in. Now I was about 10 years old, so that makes my sister 8- and she was right there in the boat with us too, on Class 4 (Class 5 usually being the highest you’ll see in a river) rapids. Of course one of the rafts capsizing behind us before we even reached the first set of rapids scared the bejeesus out of the both of us, and the extra 2 or 3 passengers we picked up for the ride made for a more friendly ship than we were expecting. In fact, when our picture showed our jam-packed boat, all the instructors had never seen anything like it. The entire time, I had my toes jammed under the plastic pontoons, until my toenails were practically rolling backwards (ew, I know). It was ten years ago, but I still remember the name of the girl we picked out of the water: Autumn, and the name of the most dangerous rapid: the Elevator Shaft. And do you wanna know why, after ten years, this information is still in my brain? Because, along with the terror I felt as a ten year old, it was freakin’ fun. White water rafting is excellent, and usually very safe especially if you’ve got a good instructor. They’ll take care of you and they instruct you in the safety procedures before you leave. And you sign a waiver. So, hell: you’re signing up for it. And if you enjoy outdoor adventure like I do you certainly won’t be sorry.
I’ve also been white water rafting on my pre-orientation trip before going to Johns Hopkins in Ohiopyle Pennsylvania, and by that time at the age of 18 I felt a little more sure of myself. I’d done a lot of kayaking, tubing, and rafting by then and I was pretty sure I was just going to have fun that time. The Yough River definitely gave us a great ride, and my particular raft was actually assigned the duty of lodging ourselves on a giant boulder in the middle of the river and pushing other rafts around us so that they wouldn’t get stuck and clog up the river. That definitely made me feel like a pro, and my group really got into the rhythm of paddling into the rapids in the exact right way so as to ride the rapids but not be tipped by them. It’s not a science, but there’s definitely some technique involved. With your helmet and your life jacket and your paddle, you’ve really got all you need to have a fantastic, exhilarating, and enjoyable trip down the river.
Another great thing about rafting is that there are often several companies available on the major rivers right next to each other that provide transportation to and from the launch and end points on the river, and you can research and find the company that’s got the best reviews and prices and head there. I definitely get the researching skill from my Dad; it never hurts to be prepared. Because once you’re on the river, as my sister found out ten years ago when she told my mom mid-river that she didn’t want to go anymore, there’s no turning back! Unless you bail out, I guess. And that’s no fun.
P.S.- I’m hoping to try out some white water kayaking with Hopkins this year, to follow up my love for the water! Hopefully it’s even more fun than kayaking and white water rafting combined.