There has always been something about the water that I love. Granted, water terrifies me, but the idea of gliding on top of the glass like surface just sounds so peaceful and that is what I find every time. It never fails, I always find some moment of piece when on the water regardless of how unpredictable it maybe.
For years, we have visited northern Wisconsin and taken out the family speedboat or pontoon. A few years ago, I signed up for a Kayak safety class, which was a little bit more intense than I expected. Nonetheless, I loved every second of it, although fearful at times. This year though, I finally took the plunge and decided to go white water rafting.
My sister, her wife and I arrived at about 10:00 am at Clackamas River and it was hot. I mean real hot. I turned myself bleach white, as I lathered on my sunscreen and thought about how great the water would feel against my skin in the hot sun.
A member of the staff gave us regular updates and once all the folks arrived we pilled into the company vans and headed up stream. The vans were hot and the windows didn’t open. Although I sat between my sister and her wife, all I could smell was male sweat and alcohol. We soon realized along with us on this trip was a bachelor party. (greaaaattttt)
We arrived at our start point and put on our life vests and helmets. (I wanted to be cool and not wear a helmet, but my sister being the worrisome person that this is convinced me.) From there, our guides went over some basic safety procedures. We were then split into groups. Luckily the three of us had our own guide and boat. Relived that we would not be with the drunken bachelor party, we anxiety greeted our guide, who was head of the trek and we were off.
The water was freezing, but with how warm it was it felt delightful. My sister and I took the bow seats. First, we just guided along the top of the clean, clear water. That peaceful feeling soon came into play. Once all the other boats were on the water, we just let the river be our guide for a while. Here and there our real guide would ask us to paddle, but nothing too intense. Then we hit our first rapid.
Our guide gave us a heads up and was direct as to what needed to be done. “Two paddles!” He, as the stern with his paddle swings the boat starboard and we head over the rapid giving me a start and a little bit of whiplash for a moment. The rapid itself was not big, but our guide’s tricky maneuver made it feel like it was. He did this from time to time throughout the trip. I think it was to give each rapid a bit more thrill.
The portion of the Clackamas River that we rafted was only about 8 miles long. Within this 8 miles there was about a half dozen rapids, all of which ranged from class 1 to 4. What was great about the trek is that it was only 3 hours long and slowly eased up to the more difficult rapids. There are also pools between each rapid to allow folks to grip their bearings and regroup. Perfect for any Newbee trying to get their feet wet. (Pun intended)
What was also so great about the Clackamas River was the lush scenery. Not only are you on crystal clear, fresh water, but also you are surrounded by beautiful forest. There were areas along the ride where many visitors gathered, but nothing too crazy. We lucked out, our guide was very knowledge about the history of the river, land and even forestry. Not only would he tell us fact of Louis and Clark and their journey along the Clackamas and Oregon trail, but also about greenery and what it does for the land and water, an added plus to the trip.
We awkwardly went over rapid after rapid, laughing and smiling along. Then we approached the last one for the day. Our guide warned us that it is about a class 4 and that after we get there, there would be a cross current that we would go over. We would then have to wait to ensure that all the other rafts got through ok, as our guide was heading the trek. From there, we would then have to cross the crosscurrent and head down stream.
Although it sounded like a lot, I wasn’t worried. I felt that we were all a great team and had done perfect so far. Our guide even told us so. We approached the rapid and as we neared I could see how different it was from the others. It was round a bend and you couldn’t see the other side. The sounds of the river picked up. So much louder than I had imagined. We start to plunge down and I hear the booming voice of our guide, “Three hard paddles!” My paddle pushes into the water and I am drenched. I look across to my sister and so is she. I see waves going over her and hitting my sister-in-law. I could still hear our guide directing us, but I could even get my paddle down with the waves hitting me. Then, like that it was over. We were laughing, smiling, cheering. It felt amazing. My arms hurt from the paddling. Then, our guide reminded us, it wasn’t over.
We sat on left of the pool as we watched the other boats hit the rapid and then head around the bend, past us and over the crosscurrent. Watching them I thought to myself, “did we look that foolish?” As if my sister read my mind, she said it out loud. Our guide assured us that we did much better than most. I figure he was just being nice.
Watching the other boats from behind, we really didn’t see the intensity of the cross current. Once again, we were warned that this was going to be different and once again my confidence was at its peak. “We got this”, I thought.
Four hard paddles and we were in the current and it was like nothing I had ever felt. My body lung toward my sister and I left my bottom leave the boat. I yell, “SH******TTTTTT!” I gripped my paddle, as the starboard side of the boat flies in the air and crashes back down creating a wave that hit me in the pit of my stomach. All I can through the thunderous waves was my sisters bright yellow helmet. At that moment, I was glad I was not a cool kid and grateful for her. Then, just like that it was over. It felt so long and intense in the moment, but it was gone in a flash.
The first thing I hear after we settled was “Wow, Katie. I really thought we were going to loose you. You were standing straight up on the boat”, said our guide. It was an amazing feel a rush that I can’t quite explain. We busted into laugher re-hashing everything that had just happened. The four of us laughed and chatted as we eased our way down the rest of the river.
How was my first time white water rafting?
Would you ever do it again?
- Can’t wait!
What advise would you give a Newbee?
- Make sure you stuff your feet somewhere. It was the only thing that didn’t have me going overboard.
Where did you go rafting?
Clackamas River. Only an hour drive from Portland, OR
Half Day/ 3 Hours of rafting
$52 a person
All equipment included
Professional pictures taken by staff an additional fee (which is well worth it)
*All photo credits to Blue Sky Rafting