Posts Tagged ‘white-water rafting’

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

A Long Swim

Being a writer and journal keeper, the artifacts of my life are found in words, like those that popped up yesterday when I was going through a box of photographs. Among the pictures was a faded proof of a story I wrote as a personal newspaper column back in 1988.

Who knows what is going to pop up when you're going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

Who knows what is going to pop up when you’re going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

While the story is about an incident that will forever be hazily embedded in my brain, the words I had written, when the details were fresh and new, brought back the memory in vivid, living color. I just love being a writer.

Here’s what I wrote over a quarter of a century ago – with a bit of judicious editing because I’m a better writer, if not a better rafter, these days.

            PIECE-OF-CAKE RAPID, SALMON, RIVER, IDAHO – I knew before it happened that it was going to happen. I was going swimming. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy swimming. But I didn’t have the slightest yen to take a dip in a fast-flowing, bubbling, chilly rapid.

            The last piece of advice given me by White Otter River guide, Randy Hess, as I stepped for the very first time into a one-person, inflatable kayak, was “Just keep it straight. These babies are steady and designed so they slice nicely through the water.”

            Somehow he forgot to say: “But don’t let the kayak get turned broadside to the rapid or it will flip.”

            Actually I already knew that. I had even been down this stretch of the Salmon River before, only in a large paddle raft with six people to keep the rubber boat pointed downstream.          

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. -- Photo by Pat Bean

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. — Photo by Pat Bean

   Today, however, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the hang of maneuvering my wobbly (Randy lied. It wasn’t steady) craft, or the skill to easily use the two-bladed paddle, which was also a first for me.

            I might have had a chance to overcome the learning curve if the first rapid, Piece-of-Cake, named I’m sure by some maniacal jokester, hadn’t been within sight of the launch point.

            “Stay to the left,” I heard Randy, who was nearby in his hard-body kayak, yell at me.

            I was able do that, but I didn’t have enough control to swing the raft around to meet the oncoming second wave – and so I flipped.

            “Sh-ee-it!” I uttered as I flew out of the boat just a couple of minutes after getting into it. As the water drowned my exclamation, I told myself to just go with the flow, and almost immediately I bounced off the river bottom and back up to where the air was less thick to breathe – until a mean wave reburied me beneath the water again.

            But finally I managed to get my life-jacketed, and thankfully wet-suited body above the waves, and then quickly pointed my feet downstream, so they, and not my head, would hit any rock obstacle in the way. This wasn’t my first time being dumped in fast-flowing water.

            The current, however, stramded me in a patch of tricky backwash.  Sh-ee-it! I managed to get my favorite “I’m-gonna-die” word out this time before another kayaker came up beside me.

            “Grab on,” she said. I didn’t have to be asked twice. But with my weight hanging on to her hard-shelled kayak, she couldn’t escape the backwash, and although my kayak was just on the other side of her, I couldn’t get to it.

            Finally the expert, Randy, comes in to save the day, maneuvering his kayak so I can grab hold of it. I breathe a sigh of relief, figuring I’m now in capable hands.   

            The feeling was short-lived. In a rare, slow-motion moment, Randy’s kayak flips When I realize I still have hold of the boat, and am hindering Randy’s attempts to roll up, I let go. The rapid immediately takes me to the middle of the river, shoving more water down my throat until the waves subsist and I’m floating in calm water. Exhausted now, I wait to be rescued.

            I ride in the group’s raft with the lunch supplies for a while, but then get back in that dang inflatable kayak and spend the rest of the day without mishap.

            The kayakers later congratulate me for dumping Randy, a “pretty sight” they say they had never seen before. An abashed Randy then gives me “The Salmon River Swimming Championship Award,”

            “I think the river,” he said, “was a bit high today.” And then he grins.  –30

A few years later, when the water wasn’t quite so high, I got back in another dang inflatable kayak and with a granddaughter by my side in a second inflatable kayak, stayed in the boat through Piece-of-Cake Rapid and the rest of the day’s float trip. No rewards for me this day, only a deeply felt satisfaction in my soul.          

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

  Bean Pat: A new mindset http://tinyurl.com/ovy7yh9 Ditto what this blogger wrote.

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“Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night.” Terri Guillemets

My old raft's last tumble among the waves, July 2007, Snake River near Jackson, Wyoming.

Travels With Maggie

One of the great things about growing older is discovering that passion doesn’t always have to involve sex. It can be anything that gets your blood pumping, your heart racing and gives you immense pleasure.

My greatest passions these days include writing, family, friends, Maggie, travel, books, birds, learning new things and nature. I’m grateful for each and every one of them. They give both meaning and joy to my life.

When I was younger, passion had only one meaning – and it came with a lot of angst. It usually does when there’s another person involved in fulfilling your own wants and needs. And that’s especially true when you’ve made wrong choices about whom to love.

My friend, Kim, and I, sit in the raft -- filled with water as it always was after a big rapid -- one last time.

Thus it was in 1983, at the ripe old age of 44 ,that I found myself without the soul mate I always expected to have in my life – but didn’t. The five children I had with a non-soul mate had all flown the coop, and my second attempt at connecting passion with a soul mate had just ended badly.

I was totally on my own for the very first time. And then passion found me.

I was invited to raft down a stretch of the Snake River with a friend – and I fell passionately in love with white water.

Camping was always part of the rafting agenda. This photo was taken at the East Table Campground beside the Snake River in the Targhee National Forest

Within weeks I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years, it never missed a summer going down at least one stretch of white water, often more. There were always plenty of friends willing to help paddle.

And oh the adventures we all shared. We never tire of telling them again and again.

They all came back to me in a flash yesterday when I was sorting through my photographs. Among them was a file I hadn’t opened that my friend, Kim, had sent me of the retirement party that we gave for that old raft in 2007.

Many of those who had paddled it came for the celebration.

As I reviewed the photos that had been taken at the party, my eyes moistened. That raft was what taught me that passion had more than one meaning.

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“Life is like a train ride. You get on. You get off. You get on and ride some more.” — Author unknown  

Going round the bend -- Photo taken by Pat Bean from one of the train cars.


Travels With Maggie

When I was mapping out my route back to Texas from Utah – a trip I make yearly, always trying to see new sights along the way – I came across information on a scenic train ride through Royal Gorge.

I immediately signed up for the 24-mile round-trip. I’ve been intrigued with train trips ever since reading Agatha Cristie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” and I’m a big fan of Paul Theroux’s books on his train journeys through Asia, China, South America and elsewhere.  

I wasn’t disappointed wtth my click-clacking scenic ride through the gorge – well except that I wasn’t ready for my journey to end.  The train ride, begins in Canon, Colorado, and on the summer day I took the tour, we passed several groups of white-water rafters coming

 down the Arkansas River. But I noted, as I refreshed my memory for this blog by going to the railroad’s web site (http://www.royalgorgeroute.com/), that it’s now offering its own version of “The Polar Express” for this season of the year.

Too bad I’m spending my Christmas holidays this year in Texas and Arkansas. I’d love to hug Santa and feel like a kid again. Wouldn’t you?

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Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” — Maya Angelou

They say you can’t go back home again. Of course you can. It’s just that nothing will be the same. Both people and cities change. Friendships, however, can be more durable. My stop for lunch in Twin Falls, Idaho, this day proved this.

While the huge Rose of Sharon bush, that had grown in my front yard and whose blooms I had treasured during the two years I lived in this Magic Valley city no longer existed, the bond between me and my friend, Kris, was as strong as ever. Over sandwiches at a new restaurant on Blue Lakes Boulevard, where businesses had expanded all the way from the city center to the edge of the Snake River Gorge since I moved away, she and I picked up just where we had left off 25 years ago.

 While we usually only see each other about once every three years, and seldom communicate between times, it always feels as if we had just talked the day before when we do finally get together. . I think people who have such friendships understand this miracle that time and distance can’t erode. I’m not sure how to explain the phenomenon to others.

 Kris is the person whose rough laughter cheered me when I was down or had made a fool of myself. Kris is also the person I nearly drowned when first learning to white-water raft. It happened on a section of the Snake River between Haggerman and Bliss before I knew that turning off the area’s irrigation water turned this stretch of water into a white water torrent that would capsize my small raft.

Fortunately all of us in the boat this day survived – although we had a five-mile walk back to our vehicles after the raft continued on down the river without us. Incidents like this can either destroy or strengthen friendships. I’m so glad for the direction ours took.

 While I always enjoy revisiting nature’s wonders in the Magic Valley – Shoshone Falls, The Snake River Gorge, Thousand Springs – it’s friendship that keeps me going back. It was the motivating factor this time for my choice of a driving route through Idaho.

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