You may recall that I am one of the most bawk! bawk! chicken-y people around (remember the double-dose of Xanax I needed to get through a simple LASIK procedure?).
I am on a quest to bust through some of my limiting beliefs, like the one that says I don’t get along well with water, especially wild water. So earlier this month when we took a family weekend in Colorado Springs and the others wanted to go whitewater rafting? I resolved to model for my kids how to be brave, how to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Gulp. I don’t much like being cold, being underwater, or proving the existence of gravity.
When we checked in, the owner approached my husband and me to ask if we were first-timers (I was) and if we’d agree to provide a testimonial on camera when we returned. I balked. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to. Endure was about the best I could hope for. I told the owner I’d let him know after I returned.
If I returned (please God let me return).
I was somewhat soothed to find that we had the option to don wet suits that included padding and footies. This was helpful because the whiteboard at the desk said the water was a frigid 56 degrees. (Our guide would point out that just 48 hours before, the water we’d be rafting in had been snow).
But this new sense of relief was challenged on the bus ride up the mountain, the roiling Arkansas River to our right, taunting me like a snake about to simultaneously swallow, strike, and squeeze me.
“Y’all are so LUCKY!” said Suzy, our effervescent guide, to the bus full of her charges. “We’re hitting 3500 cubic feet of water per second here in Bighorn Sheep Canyon! Rafting conditions are AMAZING today! Y’all have no idea how rare and special this is!”
Suzy spent the next 15 minutes telling us what to do when we fell out of the boat (I could swear she said when but later on I realized she’d said, if). “Never ever try to stand up in the river, y’all. Know why? The bottom is full of rocks and crannies and if you get your foot caught in one, the current will suck your face into the water and you’ll be stuck like that til we can rescue you. Your goal is to SWIM TO LAND.”
“Repeat after me: I WILL NOT STAND UP IN THE RIVER!” We dutifully repeated.
She added that after we SWIM TO LAND we were not to move around much while waiting for rescue, for there might be rattle snakes, mountain lions and other hazards lying in wait for us.
Great. I was running low on things to worry about. Thanks for the fresh batch.
I resolved that moment that I’d just not get off the bus. I’ll just stay with right here on this comfy bus seat. I’ll watch as my husband and kids and the others get onto their rafts to head downriver, and I’ll ride the bus down to the take-out spot to wait for them.
When we got to the put-in spot, though, I somehow made myself disembark. While the guides unloaded and prepped our rafts, I nervously busied myself getting our personal flotation devices and helmets adjusted.
Soon, Suzy was telling each of us where we’d sit. Did you know that you don’t sit in the raft as much as you sit on the side of it?
We got in position, pushed our raft into the river and got ourselves in, anchoring our feet as instructed. She taught us to paddle in synch at her command, and we started down the river.
The first mile or so were very calm, interrupted only by the occasional Class I rapids, which Suzy had explained was like being in your bathtub with your rubber ducky. Class VI, she said, was considered hair-on-fire unsurvivable. Our ceiling would be Class III.
Rollin’ Onna River
The river was high with melting spring run-off, so we had to limbo under bridges. One time we all leaned waaay back, grazing the water with the backs of our heads. Another time we all leaned in, nearly clanking our helmets. Suzy also encouraged us to make splash attacks on our compatriots in other rafts. With each victory, we’d raise our paddles in a high-five above our raft. Things almost seemed fun.
We eventually hit Class II water and worked so well as a team my spirits were buoyed. I began to think I might survive this.
Suzy then cautioned us that we were coming up on The Maytag, a Class III challenge. She told us if we followed her paddling and leaning directions, we’d do just fine. She hit the remote button for the Go-Pro fastened at the front of the raft just before telling us to paddle FORWARD TWO!
We did what we were told and got blasted by wall after wall of water. But thanks to Suzy’s expert read of both the river and her paddlers, we emerged from The Maytag about 30 seconds later.
It was exhilarating! And from that moment on, Class I and Class III rapids seemed dull to me. An unexpected turn, for sure.
Just when I felt I’d gotten the hang of it, Suzy let us know the take-out spot was coming up, and we’d have to maneuver around a boulder together to get into position. Within a minute, we are all on land again, the adventure behind us.
My mood on the bus ride down was triumphant. I did it! I faced my fear. I enjoyed river rafting.
Now I’m a Believer
Back to Echo Canyon HQ, Roger and I sat down in front of the video camera and I spoke enthusiastically about my conversion, telling other scaredy-cats to get off the bus. I’m so thankful to Suzy for making it fun, to my family for tolerating my neuroses, and to myself for getting off that bus.
Shout out to everyone at Echo Canyon, and also to the Garden of the Gods Club an Resort. They provided experiences for my family for purposes of sharing it all on MileHighMamas.com (<== click to see more of our family’s adventures). This post was just because I wanted to document my conversion from chicken to brave girl.
What brave thing have you done lately?