My River Rafting Adventure
I'm the biggest wimp when it comes to (death-defying) adventures. Years ago, I read an interview with Meryl Streep, who said that she repeatedly told her kids: "To be afraid when one should be afraid is good sense." That stuck with me and became my own personal mantra. When my kids would suggest a skydiving or zip lining adventure, I'd say: "Thanks, but no thanks." I saw that as being intelligent: It's instinctive to feel fear when the earth beneath you is rumbling literally (as it often does in my hometown of San Francisco) or figuratively.
And while that's worked for me, generally, I've also been feeling a sense of ennui; a desire to do something exciting and, outside my comfort zone. A recent topple from a banana boat where I landed gobble smack in the warm waters of the Caribbean and ended up laughing giddily showed me that it's possible to experience real joy while feeling and facing my fear.
So when my friend suggested a Whitewater rafting trip on the American river it sounded horrendous (since I can't swim) but too thrilling to pass up. It was going to be on the last weekend before school opened and the perfect excuse to bond with my prickly sixteen-year-old. Visions of landing face down in the water kept me up all week. What if my life jacket sprung a leak? What if my foot caught in the millions of rocks, the region is known for? What if I . . .gulp. . .died?
When the day finally arrives, there are fifteen of us; six 40-something women and their offspring, ranging from ages 10-20. White water running involves paddling canoes, kayaks or rafts down fast moving, turbulent rivers. Our group is divided among two rafts with a handy-dandy guide in each. Not all rivers are created equal. Our guide helpfully informs us that the south fork boasts 50 rapids in just 21 miles. My hands feel like a couple of slippery trout as I grip my paddle in anticipation of the run.
I learn the true meaning of Franklin Roosevelt's words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" when I get splashed with the icy-cold water coming down from the Sierras. "Aiyeeeeee," I scream like a banshee, my heart hammering painfully in my chest. I tell myself, the only thing worse would be falling in the water itself.
So, I follow our brawny guide's instructions to the T, whether it be "paddle forward," "paddle back" or "lean in" every time a strong undercurrent threatens to pull us in, and I'm happy to report I more than survive!
I'm actually joyous, my heart singing, my veins pumped with adrenaline at the end of the higher class III and some lower-class IV rapids. The beauty of the rugged scenery that envelops the bouncy whitewater is not exaggerated. The river is a roller-coaster ride, but it builds slowly and the nice thing is that there is a break between the big rapids for one to relax and catch one's breath before plunging into the next one. The guides are knowledgeable and its rip-roaring fun for non-swimmers and first-timers alike.
Next time up, something more challenging. Paragliding, anyone??