Hey, so sorry about the absence. Like you noticed.
How was your Independence Day? Unless you were one of the 1215 airmen, Marines, sailors, and Soldiers who re-upped at the Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, it wasn’t nearly as good as mine (do you know how tingly I get simply knowing they did it at one of Saddam’s palaces?). Did any of you see a bald eagle, our national bird, on the nation’s birthday? I would say “me either,” except that I did, while floating down a river in the middle of the forested mountains. You wish you were me.
Oh my goodness, y’all, I can’t even put into words how much fun it was (but I’ll try). First off, I can’t believe that I was such a chicken about it before. The first time I hiked the Grand Canyon, I figured that hiking it was crazy enough (it is, a bit), and no way ever would I be insane enough to raft it or to ever raft any river, because that’s stupid and dangerous! I had canoed many times, but that just doesn’t have the scary factor that rafting has, for obvious reasons. I mean, canoeing can be really hard if you’re on the right river, but generally you’re only tipping over if you hit a tree or a log or something (done that).
Wow. So we drove up just past Horseshoe Bend to Cascade Raft & Kayak for our all-day rafting trip. The Cascade people are very nice, and the guides are great (well, I can’t really speak to all of them, but Eli was excellent). At the headquarters, they put us on a bus to take us to the North Fork of the Payette River, about a forty-five minute drive. Just driving up there is amazing. Since we were on the bus, we could see more than we could have seen had we been driving in the car; we could see down past the trees to the river and the miles and miles of Class V rapids that we passed. Breathtaking and a little unnerving, because you’re like, “Oh no! What if we miss a turn or something and accidentally end up on those rapids and die?” I assume I’m not the only one who had that reaction.
About half an hour into the drive, we stopped to pick up other people who were meeting us at Cascade (I think that’s where we stopped). There were three groups. One was a couple, one was a big family of several, and the other was a family of nine. While we were waiting for the family of nine to arrive, Frank and I sat on the bus and watched the people; we also fidgeted, because we couldn’t wait to get started. The big family of several was taking their sweet time getting themselves ready for the trip, but we later learned that the family of nine wasn’t there yet, so the severals knew we weren’t waiting on them. Now here’s something I hadn’t seen before: A man took off his shirt, and he wasn’t remotely Marky-Mark-like, so I mostly just put on my “ew” face and tried not to watch, but it was hard not to watch, because I was so fascinated by his behavior. The man took off his shirt, lathered himself up in sunscreen (sooooo much sunscreen), and then put his shirt back on. I don’t understand this, because where I come from, you put the sunscreen anywhere that isn’t covered by your clothes. I was still scratching my head and trying to figure that one out when he took off his shirt again. Rinse repeat. Lathered up all over again. Put his shirt back on. Rinse repeat. I don’t know if he was trying to turn his 15spf lotion into 45 or what, but that man applied sunscreen no fewer than three times to the same areas (which would be clothed). Finally, I said, “How much of that is he going to put on?” to no one in particular. The other couple still on the bus agreed that my question was valid, and one of the guides acknowledged the over-lathering. Human behavior is strange.
When the family of nine finally arrived, we got going. We were able to see parts of the river we would be rafting, and the guides kept us entertained with their corny joke-cracking. This is also when I learned that there were children on the bus. Children. The kind that scream and fuss and make lots of noise. I was not on board with this, because what if one of the loud teenage girls ended up on our raft? Srsly. This was a worse thought than taking a wrong turn at the Class Vs.
We got to the whatever point (drop point? enter the river point? get on raft point?), and we almost got smashed into by an impatient guy and his small child in a truck — impatient guy obviously not able to see the giant bus and trailer backing across the highway into a too-small parking lot. People were all kinds of rude in the lot, too. No, the river will disappear if you get into it before I do, so I’m going to be a total jerk about sharing this public parking lot and public river! Anyway, I, being a chick and paying customer, stood idly by watching the guides and a couple of the men unload the rafts, praying that we would be on an all-adults raft. I was so pleased when Eli called the three adult couples to his raft. But Eli was wearing shorts that said “Lost,” and, not wanting to end up on an island in the south Pacific with humidity and Others and toner monsters, I worried just a little.
Finally we were in the river. As I got braver and gained more trust in my life jacket, I scooted more and more off of the cushion on the inside of the raft and onto the outside of the raft, where you are supposed to sit. By the end of the day, I was actually comfortable sitting on the edge. Go me.
The first half of the trip was mostly calm. The majority of the time, we sat there with our paddles while Eli did all the work. He would tell us when to paddle and when to stop, and other than that, we sat watching the amazing scenery as we floated by. We didn’t see any wildlife on the ground (other than chipmunks), but we did see a bald eagle. In the wild. On Independence Day. Because we’re awesome. There were two or three rapids before lunch, a couple of Class IIs and one Class III, I think. Class IIs were fun, but I was ready for more. When we got to the Class III, I squealed in delight — so. much. fun. My brain started screaming inside my head, “I WAS SO BORN TO DO THIS!” Brain was having lots of fun. Apparently, Frank’s side of the raft got nailed on that rapid, because when we got to lunch, I noticed he was drenched head-to-toe, and I was only drenched waist-to-toe.
We stopped for lunch, and they even accommodated my diet. They feed you sandwiches halfway through the trip, but for me they had a salad, because Frank had told them I needed to be GF. It was basically one of those bag salads with iceberg lettuce and cabbage bits (I’m pretty sure they gave me the whole bag, because wow, that was a lot of lettuce), but they made sure to tell me more than once that I could add turkey and veggies from the sandwich fixin’s (which I did), and they sent me three different kinds of dressing, two of which I was able to eat, and I also ate some fruit. I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce, but I didn’t care, because it was food, and I got to eat it. Oh, here’s a cutie-head moment for you: I took my digestive enzymes along, just in case I got glutened. I didn’t think about the effect that water has on gel caps that dissolve in water, so I was like, “Hey! I’ll stick these gel caps in my pocket, since my pocket is snug, and they won’t fall out! I’m so smart!” Only I didn’t say it out loud, so Frank wasn’t able to remind me that the gel caps would be melting as soon as I got wet. So we’re standing there, waiting for lunch to be served, and Frank asked what was on my shorts. Oh, it’s just water, I thought, but when I looked down, I saw that I had a huge painting of orange and brown all over my khaki-colored shorts. I said, “Oh. Um. I put my enzymes in my pocket before we left.” Frank just started laughing at me. It looks like something rusted in my pocket.
After lunch, we got back on the river, and I couldn’t wait for the next rapids. This leg seemed a little more full of the splashies, so I was giddy. We had a few more Class IIs, a small III, and a big III. The small III was actually more fun (I think it’s called Francois), because it lasts longer and gets all up in your face. The big III was a ton of fun, too — y’all will have to see the pictures of us going over that when we get them, and you won’t believe I did that.
After the last III, it’s all calm floatiness, and the guide does all the work. Frank and I had already decided we want to move on to the bigger rapids, the ones where you have to wear a helmet. I should probably wear one of those just walking on my two feet, so I’m thinking my helmet should come with a full faceguard or something more. Either way, bring it on.
The drive back was a nailbiter, because the girl driving the bus (also the photographer) was driving crazy scary. You know, left wheels over the center lines of the two-lane highway. Other cars would zoom closely by our bus, and she would be like, “Did you see that guy?” Um, did you see you? But she was nice and took good pictures of us, so whatevs.
My birthday is coming up (it’s the 19th, don’t you forget it!), and Frank has already asked me what I want. “Take me rafting again.” “Yeah, but what about a present?” “Take me rafting. That’s my present.” He still thinks he needs to buy me something I can hold in my hands, so I’m like, “Fine. Get me a TV show on DVD. We don’t watch enough of those. And take me rafting.”