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Try something new: rafting

In continuing “Ball Five with Nicole” for this week, I’ve decided to focus on a sport that isn’t common around South Dakota, but certainly fun: white water rafting.

A number of years ago my family decided to take a trip out to Idaho to visit some relatives. My dad’s cousin part-owned a rafting company called Aire, and he and his wife would make it a habit to raft down rivers with friends and family.

My family of six flew out there the summer of 2009 to see the sights and spend time with this cousin. Us kids just called him “Uncle Alan.”

Alan and Mary planned to take us on a 12-mile trip down Snake River. It would take all day. I was super pumped. I always thought it would be cool to go rafting. But I was also a little nervous. I was hoping the rapids wouldn’t be too dangerous. My youngest brother was only 5 years old. I was only 13 years old.

A few days before the long trip, we went to a smaller creek that flowed behind their house. The creek had class I and II rapids, meaning they were easy to navigate. There are six classes of rapids I through VI, and they are used to determine the technicality and difficulty of the rapids.

This trip was our teaching trip in which Uncle Alan explained to us the right things to do. We always had to keep our kayak pointed downriver. If we got turned sideways, our first action was to point either the front or back of the kayak back downstream. When turned sideways, it’s easier for the kayak to get flipped over or to hit rocks.

Uncle Alan told us we would be going doing III and IV class rapids on the Snake River. A big group of us were going too, not just my family. A couple of Alan and Mary’s friends were joining us.

The day came for the big float. We strapped on our helmets and put on our lifejackets. The boats were lowered into the water. We had one cataraft, one raft, and two kayaks. Uncle Alan would lead the way with the raft, and the rest of us would follow his path so to avoid rocks hidden beneath the surface.

My dad and I were in one of the kayaks. He sat behind me since he was heavier and provided power. I was up in front and had the job of steering. Not 200 feet from where we put in I suddenly felt my kayak get lighter. I looked behind me, and there was dad’s head bobbing up and down in the river. I laughed a bit, but we hadn’t even hit any rapids yet. How was he going to survive the real deal?

The day went on, and it was a cool experience. Going through the first set of rapids was scary, but the rest were adrenaline-filled. Dad and I timed our paddles so that they hit the water opposite of each other, and we took in the beautiful tall trees and old railroad track. The water from the rapids sprayed our faces and the river foamed.

We stopped along the side of the river in an eddy and ate our sack lunches. We were halfway through the day, and we had a long ways to go. After dinner I hopped into the big raft with Alan and the rest of my family because I was tired and dad took the kayak alone. Uncle Alan also mentioned a big waterfall that we were going to go down at the very end of our trip. I had gone through a lot of rapids that day, but I was not prepared to go down a waterfall.

We went through the last big run of rapids, and then up ahead came the waterfall. I couldn’t see how it, only that the water below it looked really far away from me. There was no turning back now, and we all squealed as we went down over the falls.

And then, it was over. I found myself wondering why we couldn’t go on. The big scary waterfall wasn’t that scary at all.

We were warned of the dangers, but we were all safe. Uncle Alan and Mary took care of us and we had the time of our lives.

My youngest brother was the most relieved of us I think. At the very end of the waterfall, after we had floated to our pull out spot, he whipped around with a big grin on his face and said, “Nobody died!”

I guess that’s good too.