Sunday, July 30, 2017

Part the Third: Floatin' Down the River

So, just in case you couldn't tell from the title, we did some river rafting today. There were six of us (youngest, a.k.a. "ruggest of the rats", at least as I like to call him, had been left at MIL's house for the day). The menfolk yesterday had purchased 6 cheapo inner tubes, so we could each just floatfloatfloat down the river, separately but together.

Our adventures outside the house began with taking two vehicles in the direction of the parking at the bottom end of the river... by way of dropping off the ruggest of the rats at Gramma's house, and lunch for the rest of us at the taco place... and then transporting all of us with our tubes from the end-result parking lot in one vehicle to the jump-into-the-river parking lot.

Shopping at the dollah store for cheap sunglasses, cords to hold said specs on faces, flip-flops, and backpack-style nylon bags to transport stuffs down the river. Lunch. Parking lot. Collect. Second parking lot. Gather. Coordinate. Venture into the river, which. was. COOOOOOOOOOOLLLLD.

My "buddy" was older child. Stephen's "buddy" was younger child. Bill and Kelli were each other's "buddies". Originally, Kelli wanted the kids to "buddy" with the parents, leaving Auntie and Uncle to "buddy" together. But, ya know (or maybe you don't, in which case, I shall inform you), nephews see the parents all the time, so they'd rather buddy with the visiting relatives. So Kelli acquiesced.

Older nephew (henceforth to be known as ON) and I created our system pretty quickly. I had my little backpack bag slung over a shoulder, and he was wearing a life vest. So, to stay "connected", either I'd hold a shoulder of his vest, or he'd hold a fistful of my bag. We worked together to stay facing downriver as much as possible, or to paddle (with our arms) or kick away from either shoreline, carefully traversing any rapids together.

One of the first rapids we hit, ON tipped out of his tube. But he held onto it, and he held onto the bottle of water in his hand, and I had a good grip on his life vest, so once we were over it, we were able to get him back up on his tube. He was soaked and cold, but he'd survived that tipping, and our lives were pretty good.

Kelli and Bill kept unbuddying, and over the course of the entire river, they managed to lose just about every "extra" thing they had on their persons. Kelli had a kayak paddle that broke on her, and for a short time, even lost her tube!

ON and I unsuccessfully attempted a maneuver around a very small island. I ended up getting caught going quickly downstream to the left of the island, and ON got beached on some rocks to the right of it. I grabbed hold of low-lying tree branches, holding on for dear life, shouting his name, which he couldn't hear over the rapids. He was no more than 10 feet upstream of me, and he couldn't hear me calling his name. #ResponsiblePanicSetsIn

But he'd managed to stand up, carrying his tube across some not-as-fast shallow water, and when I found a place to beach myself, we reacquired each other. Whew! On the opposite side, he'd been passed by Stephen and YN (younger nephew, #duh), who'd indicated the loss of Kelli's tube, but were also at least a bit concerned at our separation. Once we'd taken a little breather on the rapid/deep side, ON and I reseated ourselves and let the current drift us back downstream.

Once we were back in the center of that part of the river, we passed Stephen and YN, who'd intentionally beached themselves on a small (actual) beach. They both seemed in good spirits, and relieved that ON and I were back together, so we waved as we passed, and then we focused on whether Kelli would have somehow made her way past us, or if we'd be the first to "land" and get to gather the rest of the group. We'd traveled a pretty good distance, but we had no real concept of exactly what that distance was. According to Stephen, our two beaching incidents happened about five miles downstream of the entry point, leaving only about a mile to the exit.

For Stephen, that was #TheLongestMile. The beach where he and YN had chosen to stop and worry had taken a feat of strength that sapped his energy. Just getting beached drained him. The water was very cold, and very rough, and worry about any lost members of the party were just too much. And then, getting back into it was just too awkward, and he ended up with most of his body submerged in the cold water, with only his arms and head (through the hole in the tube) out in the sunshine. He had on cheap flip flops, of course, so his only hope of getting properly reseated was to encounter a shallows that wasn't fast. That didn't happen. The shallows he went over were too fast to stand up, which meant his poor body got dragged that remaining mile.

Kelli had at least regained her tube from some other rafters who'd collected it once they saw it floating riderless. Yay. Bill kept solo floating. The "lone" buddy, on purpose.

So ON and I made it to the off-ramp. Other tubers lent a hand to help us escape the current and beach at the beach. So once we were secure, we did the same. We helped others land, by grabbing hands, feet, or paddles that were outstretched. We got to be heroes. It was cool.

So we pulled Kelli in. And other rafters.

Then Bill. And more rafters.

And more. And more. And more. Where the heck were Stephen and YN? Some of the other rafters indicated that, if we were waiting for the two inner tubes (yes), that they were, in fact, on their way, but they weren't doing too well.

Stephen was essentially hypothermic by the time we pulled him and YN out of the water. He lacked the strength to stand, so I plopped him down onto his tube up a few feet on the beach. He was shaking from the cold, so we removed his t-shirt, and even though I wasn't particularly warm, I tried to share my body heat with him by straddle/hugging him. His hands were completely numb, and had somehow turned yellow. Both nephews accompanied the 'rents up to the vehicle to bring back towels, and then the 'rents went back to the first parking lot to bring back the other car.

Everyone was gone long enough for Stephen and I to try to get him warm. Other rafters offered assistance. We had him drink some water, honestly not knowing if that would help or hinder. I kept blowing on his cupped hands, and trying to hug him warm. Eventually, he got the strength to stand, so we walked up to where all the inner tubes had been collected, as the nephews returned with towels.

We moved all the tubes into a patch of sunshine, and we waited. Stephen propped himself against a lamppost, like a bear scratching against a tree, because it was some warm-but-not-too-hot metal for his skin. We waited. We saw Bill and Kelli drive up. We waited. We waited. We waited. Finally, they walked up, and everyone was as recovered as we were going to be, so we headed up to the cars and came back to the house. Three in each vehicle, rehashing the events of the event, and coming to a few conclusions.

Future reference:

  1. Groups of six who choose to "float the river" in inner tubes should divvy up as three-n-three rather than 2x2x2. Had one parent and one child and one non-parent grouped, we'd have all felt more secure in the safety of each other.
  2. Waterproof walkie-talkies, if divvied up. If one group has any issues, they can radio to the other group the situation, let 'em know to keep going and we'll meet up at the end, and also indicate "rapids ahead" (hang onto yer butts!), "shallows ahead" (don't drag yer butts!), or "you suck, we rock" (you suck, we rock!) types of lively banter
  3. WATER SHOES. Flip flops or other sandals Just. Will. Not. Do. You need shoes that will immediately drain but also have amazing traction, to help you get in and out of the water on slippery rocks.
In spite of what may seem like a buncha negatives, a Good Time Was Had By One And All. I've got a cut on the top of my foot and a rubber burn near my right elbow (from frantic paddling). Stephen's got a scrape or cut on his ankle, a cut on his knee, and probably more cuts and/or bruises all over that I'm unaware of. Bill Zonked Out when we got home, and even though everyone is officially in bed or headed there already, he's had like three naps since we got in. The boys have been making Paracord Bracelets for me and Stephen. Kelli's been working on some Continuing Education credits for her job, and the ruggest of the rats has been, well, a two-year-old. He had a good time with Gramma.

Have you had this sort of adventure whilst vacationing on a long weekend with family? Tell me about it.

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