by John George
Some years ago, I was on a South American vacation that included a white water rafting trip on the Urubamba River in Peru. What an experience! And when my wife Jenny was twentysomething and single, she went white water rafting in Australia. She and her friends went seeking adventure, and they sure found it on a wild ride rafting the Queensland River.
Years later, as parents, white water rafting conjured up images of almost losing our then ten-year old son, Zeke, to the rapids of a mighty river. So, we steered clear of rafting-focused family vacations… until recently.
We were visiting relatives in Colorado over the summer and found ourselves in the town of Salida, which just so happens to be the place for summertime rafting in Colorado. Jenny sorely wanted to go, but also feared for the safety of our son, who was also with us. Jenny’s mom was with us, too. A fit seventy-year old, she too was game, but understandably nervous about the potential dangers of rafting. Our son? Well, you can only imagine his excitement (and how quickly he forgot the last white water disaster).
Taking the plunge back into white water
Overcoming our initial fears, our multi-generational group signed up with Colorado’s Whitewater Encounters for their half-day Salida West Family Raft trip on the Arkansas River, an introductory rafting trip leaving at 8:30 am or 12:30 pm. Since we had five in our party, we got a raft and guide to ourselves. After a short bus ride and a brief lesson on paddling, we all donned life vests and carried our raft and paddles to the river. Our guide was careful about how he positioned us in the raft, and then we were off! It started slowly, but soon we saw the rapids coming and our guide instructed us to paddle hard. We bounced over the rocks and rounded the first rapid smoothly. Finally I relaxed and looked up. It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and we were surrounded by some of Colorado’s tallest mountain peaks.
Of course, you can never get too comfortable when you’re white water rafting. It wasn’t long before we were faced with fiercer rapids and had to paddle even harder. Our guide kept after us to paddle correctly and even hollered at us a couple of times when we weren’t paying proper attention. No hard feelings, though — he was a terrific guide who was very conscious of our safety, knowledgeable about the river and really just a fun guy.
Surprise, surprise — our family has a blast!
It was a fantastic ride and some of the most fun I have ever had on a family vacation. There were a few hair-raising rapids and at times we had to work hard together as a team, which I think that added to the enjoyment of the trip. A couple of us did fall into the river, which we agreed wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, the water was delightful, and we even found a safe place for Zeke to take a dip along the way.
After our trip we couldn’t stop talking about it. For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening we recollected the most exciting parts of the trip, how beautiful the scenery was and how much fun we’d had. In fact, we are still talking about it today!
John George is a full-time working dad to his 11-year-old son. After visiting every continent, save Antarctica, he was domesticated by his wife Jenny. Their family enjoys cruising, beach vacations and getaways to the Big Apple.