Monday, August 09, 2010

White Water Rafting the on the Ocoee

As I write this, my arms are heavy and weighted, my legs are rubber, my brain is fried, my body is exhausted, and my bladder is full.  One of those is not really related to the weekend.  Nevertheless, the bachelor party for William, consisting of white water rafting and true camping, in the eastern hills of Tennessee and the western mountains of North Carolina, was tremendous fun.

Adam and I took my car down to William's house on Friday afternoon, top off and windows down.  The trip is about five hours, plus a time-zone change (CST to EST).  On the way we worked a diagramless crossword puzzle and managed to finish by the time we got to Chattanooga.  We got there first, unpacked the car and filled William's truck, and waited for the rest of the group to get there.  Little sleep was to be had, for I am but a super-sensitive sleeper, particular in that I almost need pitch black and deeply cold rooms accompanied by absolute silence and a whirring of a fan.  Still, I managed to get a few (2-3) hours and woke up excited to hit the river.

From William's, we drove another hour or so east and met up with his brothers at the rafting outfitter.  The eight of us checked in, signed our waivers, got our gear (life-jacket, helmet, and a paddle), and watched the safety info.  Soon we were bussed to the river and carrying our raft down at the base of a dam.  We picked the vessel up and stepped it into the water, feeling for the first time the coolness of the river.  And then we were in it and rapid bound.

Total time on the river was about an hour-and-a-half.  Much of this time was spent in the rapids, from names like Broken Nose to Hell's Hole.  I was amazed at the sheer power of the water, at the white-foamed bubbles from the swift flowing river, broken by massive boulders and jagged rocks spread throughout.  The rapids were loud and noisy.  The whole river was beautiful.

Going through a rapid is an exhilarating experience.  First is the anticipation, hearing the raft guide tell you about it and how you're going to have to paddle to make it through.  It's important that everyone paddle in sync to be efficient, and for the most part we did this.  Next comes entering the rapid and the guide yelling directions.  The boat is rocked and pulled to one side, bumping into a rock here, spinning around there, free-falling over a ledge there.  It's kind of like mixing a roller-coaster with ATV riding, only you're on water.  Sometimes you may all have to lean one way or the other to prevent a capsize, and sometimes the raft may be inclined as it rides the waves or sucked down by a powerful whirlpool.  Finally, once the rapid is cleared, you're either in a brief calm section or approaching another rapid, the guide already giving directions.  As I said, exhilarating.

The first time we capsized I slightly panicked.  The raft flipped, we all spilled over into very cold waters, and I swam up to the surface.  However, I came out of the water below the raft and I was disoriented.  I gasped and gulped down water and tried to breathe.  Eventually I realized that the raft was flipped over and the air cavity would let me breathe, and so I took a lungfull of air and made my way out.  After a moment to calm down, I relaxed and floated on down the river.  It was a calm between rapids and we enjoyed a few minutes of swimming.  Still, the body never really acclimates to the temperature, but I enjoyed swimming in a river.

The guide asked us if anyone wanted to ride the bull.  This means that the rider abandons their seat and paddle and goes to the front of the raft.  Then they hop up on the side, dangle their legs over, and hold on to a rope attached to the tip.  It's almost like riding a mechanical bull.  There are three spots during the trip that one can ride the bull, and I did it on the last spot.  When I hopped up there, the guide told us we were going through Hell's Hole and Powerhouse.  He gave the warnings that if the raft flipped to make your way immediately to shore, that this section was strong and swift.  Somewhat apprehensive, somewhat thrilled, we entered the rapid and I held on for dear life.  Riding the bull was crazy.  I was pounded by ten foot waves, taking the brunt of them head on.  The whole time I was fighting for air, but drinking down water.  I could feel the raft tipping forward and backwards and sideways and I loved it.  I managed to stay on the whole time and shortly after the trip was over.

White water rafting was an incredible experience that I would love to do again.  We all had a great time together on the river, and spending another late night out camping was also fun.  Sunday, cold and fatigued, we packed up tent and headed back home.

Overall the weekend was phenomenal.  It was good seeing people.  It was fun camping again, as it's been a long time.  And it was amazing being able to raft.  Good times all around.


Bill said...

I definitely agree with you there, Logan! Whitewater rafting was a blast, and I can't wait to go again. Gaurav said the same thing the whole way home. Next time we'll have to tackle an all-day trip in West Virginia or one of the other rivers.

Anyway, great seeing you, Will, Adam etc and hope to see you again in September!

Mattson Tomlin said...

ahh yes. the good stuff indeed!

logankstewart said...

@Bill: Definitely; an all-day trip sounds great. Nice seeing you, too, Bill.

@Mattson: I second that.

David Wagner said...

Pictures! Pictures!!!1!

logankstewart said...

@David: Keep heart, for a friend has a few shots up on Facebook that I plan to snag. I just may put one up yet!