Read at your own risk…
While it might seem like our vacation was nothing more than pretty flowers and mountain breezes, think again. My parents treated us to a whitewater rafting adventure near Breckenridge.
Many years ago, I rafted down a river in Alaska with my family. But, we were basically just floating along with maybe a speck of whitewater from time to time. I was excited for a more adventurous ride than that, but whoa.
In Buena Vista, Colorado, my husband, my brother, and I (decked out in wetsuits, raincoats, life jackets, and helmets–this should have clued me in) boarded a bus that would take us to this little adventure. I have ridden the most thrilling roller coasters in the world, but little did I know that we would soon be on the most continuous whitewater rafting trip in all of Colorado: the Numbers. This is Class 5 whitewater. Now, I’m not a rafter. I don’t know what this means. Looking back, the adjectives used to describe this are “advanced,” “non-navigable,” “non-stop,” “intimidating,”and “high-intensity.” My mom booked this excursion for us. I didn’t do any research beforehand. I was just along for the ride.
Walking through a cloud of what was likely marijuana smoke, we boarded this bus. Still, I am pretty clueless. My parents are watching our daughter for the afternoon, and I’m excited for a few hours with my husband and my brother. Then, a guide named “Fish” began presenting what we refer to as “101 Ways to Die on the River Today.”
I am busy trying to remember what not to do. The last thing I want to do is end up upside down or getting thrown out of the raft. I am nervous, but optimistic. The adrenaline is definitely pumping.
We get assigned to our individual rafting groups. The three of us will be with a middle-aged Dad, his two teenage daughters, and our female rafting guide. I’m feeling pretty good with three strong guys on board.
When we start down the river in our raft, I look back at Scot and Brian and comment that this is definitely scarier than I was expecting. They then told me that we had not yet even reached the actual rapids yet. Oh. My. Gosh. Are you kidding me?! Well, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. So, I buckled down, practiced my rafting technique, and focused on the task at hand. All I am thinking about is making it back to my daughter and staying in that boat.
We are going through a series of eight major rapids, some of which drop several feet, and huge “non-navigable” boulders are in our path. The two teenage girls are steering up front, which was probably not the greatest scenario. As we slam into the first rapid, it fills the boat with water, drenching us all, and slaps me across the face.
Now, let me cut to the chase. Halfway down this section of river, we get to a huge rapid at a boulder. We don’t manage to maneuver around the boulder quickly enough. The front end of our boat goes up on the boulder, and the back end of boat keeps getting pushed forward and sideways from the current. The front end keeps going higher and higher. I wedge my feet into the footholds at the bottom of the raft. I feel myself starting to fall backward, but I hang on and fight to follow the guide’s commands. I look backward, and I see my brother fall backward into the water. Everyone else continues fighting gravity and the river.
Suddenly, our raft comes loose. We are free from the boulder. But, I feel my brother under my feet. He is trapped under the boat. My husband tells me that I said (in a very calm voice), “Um, my brother is under the boat.” He says that the more calm I am, the more dire the situation. Let me tell you, I am freaking out internally. He is my little brother. He is trapped under water. This is all happening so fast. We are in white water. My parents will not be able to handle this. What am I going to do?! My brother is underwater.
We look around, and finally my husband says that he sees my brother floating alongside us. Meanwhile, the rest of us are still trying to navigate these rapids. On the inside, I am panicking. I am trying to live through this to see my daughter again, yet my brother is in serious danger. The guide drags my brother in with her paddle. My husband pulls my brother into the raft, and I tell him (calmly on the outside, freaking out on the inside) “thank you for saving my brother.” His Ray-Bans were crooked, and he was soaked and slightly shaken, but he was safe.
Later on, our raft came in sideways on another boulder in another rapid, and I started to go over. Luckily, my husband and the guy next to me grabbed me and kept me in the raft.
When our guide told us that we had finished navigating The Numbers, I felt a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. Would I do it again? Absolutely! No question. I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat! Now that I know what to expect, I would be ready for an action-packed afternoon on the river. It was so much fun!
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