48OE Blog  
Jun 15

Written by: 48OE Admin
15/06/2011 14:13  RssIcon

Up at 5.00 am and we steered the Hummer down the drive from the log cabin. We had a fair drive to get to our destination in the Rocky Mountains. The Hummer was a complete indulgence as I had never driven one before and since the gas crisis the Rental Booth at Denver Airport had them on special offer as no Americans were prepared to pay $48 to fill them up! It felt massive when we first climbed in but we soon realised the roads were big too.

We love (loved) white water rafting. Previous trips had been great, very enjoyable and without incident. After a very long early morning briefing we were all kitted out with helmets, life vests and all told to leave car keys and anything electrical like phones and cameras back on the bus. We wound our way up a long, long mountain trail and got to chat to our guides.

There were three rafts and they split us up by size, strength and family groups keeping the children in-board so they did not need to paddle. Our first clue should have been our guide. She was tall, blonde, very athletic in build and in modern parlance 'fit'. I felt quite comfortable being told to sit at the back next to her position from where she steered the raft.

The other two guides, one male & one female had a slightly different air. They seemed to carry a lot more kit - rather like a Swat Team: - knives, rope, first aid packs & lights all strapped to legs, arms and about their torso. They also had a bit more Clint Eastwood about them rather than our Prom Queen guide. With hindsight, it is all to easy to see now.

We soon found out that this was white water rafting like we had never experienced. After 30 minutes, it dawned on me that the trip was two and a half to three hours and we were already puffing from exhaustion. We got warned about each stretch of river with names like Guide Hole, Cardiac Corner or Rocky Falls. One thing was very clear - that we were committed and it was essential we followed the guide’s instruction to the letter, so we heaved and paddled our craft to set it up for each massive plunge into oblivion.

The first two boats disappeared into a mass of foam and out of sight and it was our turn. We struck out paddles in unison and the world ended. In a split second we were underwater - flung from the boat, bubbles, arms, legs, boulders. Then just as quickly like corks we shot up to the surface gulped air and headed at break neck speed down river - all eight of us spread out across a wide stretch of river.

At this point we were scared - Valerie cannot swim and I could hear her calling for help. What was it they said in the briefing?…. swim or not swim?... go down river feet-first or head-first?... Your instinct for survival tends to take over but it seemed about 500 yards before I could get to shore completely exhausted. Just as I got to the bank, Valerie went crashing past me shouting Andreeeeeeeew. I felt helpless.

Fortunately, the two Clint Eastwood types knew their stuff and carried the kit. This was the reason they went first to collect the flotsam and jetsam. They were quick, ruthlessly efficient and we were soon all back in our boat. My guide was more concerned about me touching poison ivy on the bank rather than my 'near death' experience.

Now here is a funny thing they do not tell you. We were soaked, traumatised and completely exhausted but with about 90 minutes still to go through all the ravines and falls of the Rockies to our pick-up point, we had to get back in the saddle and paddle our way out. When we lost a crew member on the next rapid and he shot under the boat we realised this was getting a bit serious!Again the Clints were ready....

Back at base it dawned on us. We had the rookie guide on vacation from college, not a lifer on the Poudre River. We also learnt that we should have paid far more attention at the briefing - some sports need respect! The speed and power of water is frightening even in shallow streams. They later told us that in parts the river may only be 24 inches deep, but you cannot stand in it against the force of the water.

I can recommend:-

• Always go with the meanest guide carrying the most kit.

• Never wear cotton underpants or shorts (when wet they stay wet!).

• Listen to the safety briefing.

• Make sure you buy the iconic rafting t-shirt with the slogan 'I enjoyed a good dump'.

That afternoon we swore we would never go whitewater rafting again. Now memories fade and legends are born and we may just go looking for 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' later this year.

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