As we entered Alarm Clock rapids we were hit with a bracing blast of icy water. Dave deftly and safely negotiated us through several more rapids with non-threatening names like Palliser and Hopi Hole. Retirement sports, raftingWe were completely soaked and loving every minute of it. When we reached the end of the “gentle river journey” all of the rafts came to a calm bend in the river and pulled ashore for a brief break. Again, Dave asked us if we’d like to continue. As it turned out I was very good at holding on and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves so we opted to keep going.

Dave bid us farewell and told us we’d be in good hands with our new guide, Bruce. Everyone in the raft was encouraging and supportive of the rafting virgins who had just joined them. They let us sit in the back of the raft where things are a bit less intense. Bruce reviewed the commands he would be calling out and made us practice them. They were all simple and obvious: get down, hold on (I was already really good at that one.) jump left or jump right. We crossed the river, disembarked and clambered up a steep bank to get an aerial view of the class four rapids we would soon be traversing. These rapids had names like Shotgun Portage, Table Saw, Pillow Rock and Rollercoaster. Bruce identified features we’d be trying to avoid, like a dip that was nicknamed “the terminator.” Though I didn’t think it was possible, the guides tightened our life vests even more. Bruce explained that the vests needed to be tight so that if we were ejected from the raft, someone would be able to grab the vest and yank us back into the boat. A vest that was too loose would be pulled back into the boat while the former wearer of that vest continued to float downstream to an untimely demise. As I stood there trying to breathe in my tightly cinched life vest I realized I had not made an informed decision.

With all the grace of a three legged mountain goat I slid back down the steep bank and got into the raft. I tucked my foot tightly in the foothold, grabbed every rope I could reach and sat up on the side of the raft. As we hit the first of the rapids Bruce yelled, “Get down!” We all slid off the sides of the boat and tucked ourselves inside as huge waves crashed over us. Bruce then yelled “Get up!” That was easier said than done. All the insulating layers I was wearing diminished my agility and getting back up while being bombarded with cold waves was quite an undertaking. I was reluctant to let go of any rope, but needed my arms to help hoist myself back onto the side of the boat. It was quite the dilemma. As I was considering how to propel myself back onto the edge of the raft, we bounced over a wave and my center of gravity shifted. I found myself in a ball on my back struggling like a turtle that has been flipped shell side down. I swallowed a big mouthful of the river because I was laughing so hard. By the time I finally righted myself and had managed to drag myself up to a sitting position on the side of the of the raft, Bruce was once again yelling, “Get down and hold on!” After going through this exercise a few times I was exhausted and opted to just stay down.

As the intensity of the waves declined, my heart rate and body temperature returned to normal. In the dressing room, as I was unpeeling myself from the wet-suit I was happy that my fear had not prevented me from having such an amazing experience. I realized that sometimes it is fun to push the edge of your comfort zone just a bit farther out. On the drive back to our hotel, my husband pointed out a zip line tour. Every comfort zone has its limits.

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