Even by the mildest standards, I would not describe myself as adventurous, but on vacations I seem to be willing to try things I wouldn’t normally do at home. Maybe it is the idea of broadening my horizons or maybe it is the idea that I can make an absolute fool of myself in front of people I will never see again. Retirement sports, raftingWhatever the reason, vacations seem to be the perfect opportunity to step outside of the comfort zone.

On a trip to the Canadian Rockies, I decided it was time to give whitewater rafting a try. When I approached my husband with this idea he was surprised by my suggestion. He was willing to undertake this new experience, but asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I’m never sure I want to do these things and fear always lurks in the rational part of my brain, but there’s a part of me that won’t let that fear keep me from experiencing something new. That is the part that usually gets me into trouble.

The extent of my “whitewater” experience came from a few rough patches during an afternoon of tubing on the tranquil Delaware River, so I began doing some research. Rapids are rated from class one to class six. The probability of bodily injury or death increases with each class. While class one is relaxing and mild, class six is a near death experience. It was with this new-found knowledge that I was firmly committed to riding rapids no higher than class three and signed us up for the “gentle river journey.”Aside from the fear of being tossed like a rag doll from the raft was the added bonus of the possibility of hypothermia since the river water, provided by melting snow, is just a few degrees above freezing.

Before the rational part of my brain could stop me, I booked our rafting trip and completed the emergency contact information. Nothing says fun like providing the name and number of the person you want to be contacted in the event of your disappearance, injury or death. What I should have noticed during all of my research was the name of the river on which we’d be rafting. It wasn’t until we were booked and confirmed that I realized we’d be rafting on the Kicking Horse River. That name didn’t bode well for a calm experience. I would have been more comfortable with a river named Lame Mule.

On a cloudy, forty degree morning, we put on our bathing suits and headed out for our adventure. After a quick overview of the morning’s events we were handed wet-suits, booties, fleece jackets and splash jackets. I have worn a wet-suit before and wasn’t really looking forward to squeezing into one again. If you have never put on a wet-suit it is akin to putting on pantyhose that go all the way to your neck. It is not a quick or attractive process; much tugging and contorting is required. A less flattering garment has never been created. I know the purpose of the wet-suit is to keep me warm, but couldn’t there be a less embarrassing way to go about it? Sweaty from my battle of the bulge, I emerged from the dressing room a vision in neoprene. Luckily the addition of the fleece and the splash jacket hid most of the unsightly lumps and bumps created from squashing all of my assorted parts into the wet-suit. To help save my life in the event of an ejection from the raft, a life vest and helmet were the accessories that rounded out my outfit. By the time I was fully dressed for our departure I could no longer put my arms down at my sides.

On the river bank we were given a thorough safety briefing on the finer points of swift water rescue. While the knowledge and experience of our guides was reassuring, this is always the part when my brain screams, “What have you gotten yourself into?” Before we pushed off from shore, our guide, Dave, told us that if we enjoyed this part of the trip they had room to move us to one of the other rafts that was continuing on to the class four rapids. Since this was our first time rafting we told him we’d have to see how we survived this part of the journey before making any decisions. Then, I was given the option to paddle or hold on. I had already decided that I was not going to let go of that raft for any reason so I chose the hold on and scream option rather than paddling.

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