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Busting a Fear

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.

Thanks to guidance from VisitCOS, we entrusted Echo Canyon River Expeditions with my family’s desire for an adventure and my desire to not die a watery death.

family goes river rafting

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!”

Uh, yay?

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.

whitewater rafting colorado

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.

whitewater river rafting

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 (<== 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.

garden of the gods resort
One of many stunning views at Garden of the Gods Club and Resort

What brave thing have you done lately?

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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17 Responses

  1. Congratulations! I haven’t done anything brave lately, but as a chicken when it comes to heights (even the simplest little swing bridge gives me the willies), I similarly felt proud of myself after a balloon flight several years ago.

    1. Now, is it weird that I’d do a balloon ride but not skydive? I guess it’s because I’m not afraid of heights but I am of falling.

      Did you end up enjoying or enduring the balloon ride?

  2. My fear is needles. This fear was (mostly) conquered when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua and became a temporary pincushion for myriad of vaccinations I needed. I even became brave enough to donate blood, which, if you were unaware, requires a needle big enough to drive a small SVU through. I’ve found, if I am permitted to watch (sounds crazy, I know, but not watching makes me tense up and the anticipation is way WORSE than the stick), I can breath through it. Woo-hoo on conquering fears!!

    1. Oh, my. I think my fear of needles surpasses even my fear of wild water. No way I could ever watch a flipping blood draw (*shiver*). You are my hero of the day for busting through that one, Ashley!

  3. I’m so glad you did this! White water rafting is a lot of fun, but it requires a lot of courage just to get through those first Rapids. In a weird way, like other challenges, often it’s far worse in our heads. Hence why over coming your fear was amazingly important. And what a role model you are to Tessa and Reed.


  4. Glad you went before the Post’s Sunday cover story on whitewater deaths being on the rise because there’s no way you would have gone after that! It scared me off whitewater rafting FOREVER. Your picture looks like a blast though 🙂

    1. Oh. Em. Jee. I found that article and just spent the last 30 minutes poring over it. I’m so glad I saw it AFTER, and I’m glad to now know the reasons why Suzy told us the things she did.

  5. Way to raft the Arkansas! I haven’t done it, but I did raft the Poudre when S’s grandma was like 85. It was on her bucket list. I couldn’t chicken out!

    Havent done anything brave lately unless you count the transition from crib to bed for a not quite 2 year old. I got the kids who love climbing out of their cribs……

  6. Kudos to you for facing your fears, my friend. Sounds fun, though still a tad bit scary. I’ve never given it much thought in recent years why I have no interest to go white-water rafting, but it’s all starting to come back to me. One of my most memorable experiences was floating down the Russian River in California on inner tubes as a camper. I loved that part of the story. Everything was great until we stopped at this “deep” water hole. All my fellow campers were let in on an embarrassing big secret that day. As I bobbed up down in the water trying to catch my breath, one of the boys noticed me almost drowning. He yelled, “Oh, my, she doesn’t know how to swim as he pulled me out of the water to safety.” I was the only one wearing a life-jacket the rest of the trip. I think I will try to conquer another fear … besides lots of water.

    1. Oh, no! That sounds traumatizing, for sure.

      I can certainly understand why you’d choose a different fear to work with. If you’re like me, you have plenty to choose from.

  7. Oooh, I love rafting. I used to go a few times every summer, but it has been two years or so. I’m not a roller coaster person, but for some reason, I really like rafting, even when there are big drops.

    Good for you for tackling your fear.

  8. I went white-water rafting several years ago on the Snake River in Wyoming – It was late August, so it was not terribly wild. Plus, we were a large group, so my sorry rear end did not dangle off the side of the boat – I sat in the middle in front of the guide. Like the little kids. 🙂 Correction – they all sat on the front of the boat, so they could get wet.

    However, I am not a fan of heights, due to the time I got stuck on the roof of the bay window of my parents house and had to jump down. But I recently climbed onto our roof to keep my husband company while he was replacing shingles that had blown off. Getting up there was no big deal, and the view is nice, but I hate having to get back on the ladder to get down. *Shudder*

  9. I love this post! I felt like I was right there with you, feeling all the feels. I am terrified of river rafting or really anything that could result in death (which is a lot of things, actually). And the mountain lion/rattler comment? YIKES! I am so proud of you for facing down your fear with such gusto and becoming a believer. You give me hope that one day I can become less of a scaredy cat.

  10. Good for you!! I am not sure I could be that brave, although I’m not overly terrified by water. (I think?) My own fears? I’m not exactly afraid of heights — I used to attend meetings on the 65th floor of our building, no problem, and I will go up the CN Tower. But the CN Tower Edgewalk? FORGET IT!!

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