Vick's View

Rough Rafting


Years ago, my husband and young sons convinced me to go river rafting. I pictured myself gently floating down a river in a fat air filled boat and it sounded like a good idea. So we made reservations in the Smokies at a rafting company and off we went.

It was not a good idea.

First, I really cared about my appearance back then so like an idiot I was wearing white shorts. I had even used a self-tanning product on my legs and arms to look pretty and tanned while I gently floated down the river.

Second, I very stupidly thought that the water would be nice and warm. But we were on the Nantahala River which comes from the tops of the mountains and is as cold as ice. So just getting in the boat was a miserable experience because my feet immediately grew numb stepping from the water into the boat.

We were given instructions by our boat captains, we were wearing life jackets and helmets, and I thought we were ready for just about anything.

I was wrong.

In the beginning of our rafting trip, the water was just as I had pictured it in my mind. It was moving slowly and calmly, and I smiled just thinking about how relaxing this all was. But that didn’t last long. In a matter of minutes everything changed. Suddenly, this water was not only freezing cold, but it was moving fast. I mean really FAST!

I began to have doubts about this trip, but it was too late. This was no longer fun. Now I felt I was in a battle for my life. My oars were useless, and it felt as though we were hitting every rock on the bottom of the river as well as crashing into huge boulders as we went down the rapids. It took everything I had to keep my balance and stay in the boat. But my youngest son wasn’t as lucky. We suddenly hit a rapid, and like popping corn he flew right out of the boat and into the water. I dropped my oar and shrieking like a banshee, I reached over the side of the boat, grabbed my son’s life vest, and with one arm picked him up and put him in the boat. The mommy strength just welled up in me.

Right after that episode we pulled over to the side of the river on a sandbar. I was completely relieved. I thought this was the end of the trip and one that I was more than ready stop. But that’s when our boat captain said we would take a little break because we were halfway down the river.

He had to be joking! We had another hour to go on this wretched river? Sighing, I looked down at my shaking hands. And that’s when I noticed another disaster. My beautiful white shorts were now muddy brown. And to make matters worse, my self-tanning lotion was running in rivulets down my legs in long brown and white streaks. I looked at my arms… same thing. I looked ridiculous.

Horrified, I quickly jumped into the water and began furiously washing off the self-tanning lotion. It took forever and since the water was so cold, arms and legs and everything else were growing numb. And of all the irritating things, that’s when our captain told us to get back in our boats.

Now, I have never seen a walrus or giant seal trying to jump into a boat, but I can only imagine that is what I looked like trying to get my numb limbs in the big fat air filled boat. Finally, my husband took pity on me, jumped in the water, got behind my rear end, and shoved with all his might. I went flying into the boat and slid on my belly all the way to the other end. But at least I was in the boat.

It was only a little later that we hit bigger rapids, that I managed to survive, and finally we arrived near the end of the trip. That’s when our captain yelled out that we had one last rapid to pass over. I looked ahead in shock. That wasn’t a rapid! That was a cotton-picking waterfall!

I said my prayers and asked God to forgive me for lying about my weight on my driver’s license, then I prepared to die. I closed my eyes and held my breath. In a big falling rush, we cleared the waterfall and slowly drifted to shore. My white shorts were ruined, my arms and legs were still streaked brown and white, my makeup was running down my face, and my hair was askew and flattened by my helmet.

But I had done it! I had survived what was in my opinion, a near death experience. I had survived the river.

I’ll never do it again.

Um…I hope I didn’t ruin any summer rafting plans for anyone.