Monday, July 14, 2008

Sass: 1 River: 0

On Saturday my sister, two cousins, husband, and myself drove up the mountain for a little outdoors action. We walked along Piney Lake for a while and took a zillion pictures, all of which I'm sure will be on Facebook within the next few days, and scared my younger cousin by driving along the outside edge of the road. She's scared of heights, apparently. Which she didn't even know until we drove up the mountain. After that we grabbed a quick sandwich and headed for the water. Rafting, here we come!

A lot of other people had the same idea because there were rafts everywhere shortly after we arrived. We pulled off I-70 somewhere to put in (I think we were rafting the Colorado?), and our friend the rafting guide explained the ins and outs of rafting to us poor noobs. We made sure our life jackets and helmets were secure and readied ourselves to tackle what we thought were class 2 and 3 rapids. At the last second we were joined by a tag-along wife who wanted to float down the river with us, since her husband was in a kayak and obviously had no room for her. He agreed to be our safety boat in return.

Mind you, I was nervous. I hadn't been rafting since middle school. There was a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was going to go swimming this trip. Only half joking, I said "yeah, I am so going to fall out."

Yeah. I fell out. Along with five other people in the raft.

We were going along nicely at the beginning. There were two sets of rapids -- I think, I'll get to that in a minute -- and we were cruising right through the first set, laughing and cheering as we were splashed with water. Our friend did his best to guide us through but we hit an unlucky wave. As we discovered much later in the day, the water was at such a high level and running so fast, we were actually going over class 4 rapids, which were way out of our league. Anyway, we were unfortunate enough to run over a small dip in the water (a rock, for those of you in the know) and caught a rollback wave. The raft is capable of surfing anything it comes across, but the problem with that is it's at the mercy of the wave, and the wave was a sharp dip down followed by a major backwards rotation.

Of course, I think we all saw it coming at the last second, and my brain had enough time to think "oh boy" before we hit it. I thought I was going to fall forward when we dipped down and prepared for it. Our friend yelled "high side," but at that point it was too late. Turns out we had so much momentum the raft bucked the other way and sent 6 out of 7 backwards into the water.

Holy shit, the Sass is now body surfing class 4 rapids.

It was then I figured out I am one of those people that remains calm during an emergency. After landing on my older cousin and pushing myself free of him, I immediately went into high gear. Our buddy the rafting guide had told us to keep our feet in front to take the impact of any upcoming rocks, and if we were close to the raft to try and stay close so we could be pulled back in. If we weren't close to the raft we needed to try and make it to shore. If we could hold on to our paddles that was even better, because someone could use it to help pull us in. I couldn't see shit due to the waves, so I fought the current and got my feet out in front of me.

This is the part I'm proud of. I knew, I knew, if I panicked I was going to swallow more water than air, so I fought the urge to gasp any time my mouth was free and waited until after the waves rolled over me to take short breaths. At one point I must have hit another snarl of rocks, because the water spun me around and sucked me under head first. I felt my life jacket scrape rock and I was held under there for a moment, but my feet found a surface and I pushed as hard as I could. I shot out of the water and took another breath of air. After that the water calmed to the point where I could actually see, and I saw that I was still with the raft, though now a little ahead of it where I'd been behind it before.

Someone offered me the handle of their paddle. I thought, holy shit I still have my own paddle, and reached out with it too. Someone took it. They got a hold of the straps of my life jacket and pulled me in. Of course, my pants were down in the back from being pulled by the water, so I mooned everyone and their brother coming out of the water. Did I care? Not so much. I collapsed in the middle of the raft, shaking and gasping and glad I made it out of the water. Moments later my younger cousin was pulled on top of me.

Our buddy the rafting guide was yelling for us to get up and paddle. I didn't feel it, but I guess we went over a rock which I later learned was named "Tombstone." He wanted us to get up and paddle so we wouldn't be dumped again, but luckily we hit that rock at a favorable angle and didn't tip a second time. I kept asking my cousin to get off of my leg, but she thought I was on top of her, not the other way around, which should tell you how disoriented she was.

Anyway, we all got our shaky selves back into sitting positions with the paddles. There was a moment of relief, and then my younger cousin said, "Omigod, where's Stephanie?"

My sister was not in the raft.

I felt oddly calm at that point. Someone mentioned they'd seen her go ashore, and I just looked around to make sure there wasn't another helmet bobbing along somewhere. I didn't think my sister was hurt, I knew/hoped she wasn't, that bad feeling from earlier was gone, but I was worried because I didn't know where she'd gotten out of the water, or if she was even out of the water yet. Did she pass us?

We pulled ashore ASAP and all but me and our buddy the rafting guide ran up along the bike path back the way we came to go look for her. I felt a need to take a break from the water so I climbed out onto a rock, which was a lot harder than it should have been. I was shakier than I realized. Our friend went ahead to check the next set of rapids (which I later learned were called "Maneater," omg!) to see if we'd need to pull the raft past it or not. He came back and said it looked okay, but we both got anxious waiting so he tied the raft and we went up the bike path.

He didn't say so, but he was shaken. His hand wavered any time he offered me water, though he was certainly walking a lot faster than I was. I was still wobbly, and I kind of felt like I wanted to puke. I was also thirsty because I was still breathing kind of hard. But I kept walking... and walking... and walking... and what the hell, how far up did we fall out?... and we eventually saw everyone come around the corner along with my sister. She'd been walking back to where we started because she didn't know where to go. But...

We'd fallen out over a quarter of a mile up the river. A quarter mile. I surfed a quarter of a mile of class 3 and 4 rapids out of the raft. I was damned lucky I hadn't hit any rocks. There were a lot of rocks in that stretch of river.

Anyway, I relaxed when I saw my sister. I guess my younger cousin was in tears when she saw Steph, and my older cousin was probably literally shocked into silence, because Mr. Jokesalot said nothing on the walk back. My sister got back and was like yeah I almost drowned but I'm okay. Smile on her face. Dismissive wave. That's my sis. Hell, she even managed to save her sunglasses. Out of all 6 of us she was the only one to swim to shore, and she did it with style to boot.

So, our buddy the rafting guide managed to stay in the raft, my husband was pulled in first, the tag-along wife came in second (pulled herself in, and we later found out she'd already swam class 6 rapids earlier in the day... crazy woman), my sister made it to shore sometime between the first couple of people back in the raft, they got my older cousin in after the crazy lady, pulled me in, and got my younger cousin last (who had apparently spent some quality time under the raft for half that experience. eek!).

My cousins, my sis, and I walked past the next rapids and got back into the raft after that for some calmer class 1 and 2 stuff. We broke out the beers and had a blast the rest of the way down. It was very pretty. There was even something called a Hippy Dip, which was an area with a natural hot spring that drained right into the river. (Called a hippy dip because it was free.) We stopped there for a leisurely soak, and ten minutes down from that we got out of the water and agreed that was the most fun we'd had all week.

And then we pigged out on pizza later. We kept finding random bruises, teased each other, and agreed we'd have a good story to tell our grandkids. I ended up with a scraped and bruised left butt cheek and hip, a bruise under my right arm from where it had rubbed the corner of my flotation device, and a strange bruise on the right side (the inside) of my left wrist. I figure I got the butt bruise from when I felt my life jacket scrape rock, either that or I got it when I first fell out, because I fell on that side, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I got the wrist bruise. If I was going to bruise there, I figured it would be on the top, bottom, or outside side, not the inside. Awkward angle. Oh well.

Anyway, fun times were had by all, and turns out Sass is capable of remaining calm and clear-headed in emergencies. Go me!

Quote of the day:

(Army of Darkness)
Ash: Clatto Verata N... Necktie... Nickel... It's an "N" word, it's definitely an "N" word!


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