If you read the first installment of this adventure, you know that my parents and I spent the morning before our whitewater rafting adventure on a lovely train ride through Colorado's Royal Gorge. That finished up around lunchtime, at which point we were driven back to the check-in area to eat and get changed into our rafting get-up. We opted against wetsuits, but were all decked out in some snazzy lifejackets and helmets. The whole group was loaded onto a school bus with our tour leader and guides and driven to our rafting location.
On the ride over there was when Val, our tour leader, went over safety guidelines and what to do if you ended up in the river. But have you ever been on a school bus? Between the engine noise, all the open windows, and the complete lack of any sort of microphone system on board, she was completely inaudible, especially to those of us waayyyy in the back of the bus. I was very unconcerned, though. I'd been rafting one or two times before, and learned to canoe and kayak at sleepaway camp. I know the basics, and besides, most water safety stuff is pretty common sense. (Please note: this becomes an important plot point.)
When we arrived at our starting point, we broke up into rafts. My parents and I ended up with a guide named Weiss and a group of four; Lane and Monica, who looked around my age, and Chris and Earl, who were probably about my parents' age. We were given a quick how-to on paddling and what Weiss's commands would mean, and then we shoved off!
Lane and Monica were in front, followed by my dad and Chris, and then my mom and Earl. I was in the very back next to Weiss. Normally only six people are assigned to a raft, so I was sort of a weird overflow. I also happened to get the most difficult seat; after we'd already made it through several rapids, Weiss informed me that the back was the hardest place to sit because you'll often feel the raft dip and then fling you a little bit. I had, in fact, noticed the flinging, and was wondering why it felt so hard to stay seated. But I just jammed my feet underneath the seat in front of me and vowed to myself that I was not going to get flung anywhere.
We were out on the river for a pretty long time, and it was so much fun. Nobody could stop laughing as we were going through rapids, and Weiss kept us all entertained with information about the surrounding area and bad jokes.
The river was at historically high levels because of all the recent rain and the snowmelts still coming from up in the mountains. This made some of the rapids a little rougher than usual, and there was even one that Weiss told me to just get low and hold on for so I didn't get thrown out of the raft. He said that an experienced guide had flipped there earlier, so he wasn't taking any chances.
See me in the back there? Just chillin'.
That was a class 3-4 rapid (rapids are classed from 1-6, with 6 being the roughest water. The highest we were told to expect on this trip was 3). Not long after that, Weiss informed us that we'd be going through another class 3-4 rapid, but he didn't tell me to hold on for that one. He did, however, tell us that if he yelled "lean in," we should get low and lean into the middle of the raft.
So we're paddling through this rapid, having a grand ol' time, when Weiss starts yelling, "Lean in! Lean in!"
I started to lean forward, but a split second later a wall of water hits my back, I feel my paddle get ripped from my hands, and suddenly I was under water.
(How's that for a cliffhanger? Hah. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!)