Fear Conquering and Whitewater Rafting

In my never-ending quest to push the envelope, I figured my next challenge would be to tackle whitewater rafting. My trepidation wasn’t what most people would expect.

I love to swim, I love being out on the water and am generally fearless when boating. What I was frightfully anxious about was the coldness of the water.

I like my water warm. When I use the word "bracing" it is always in a negative context. Never the one to just dive into a pool -- no -- I use the stairs or a ladder to lower myself inch by careful inch.

No use in shocking the goods -- that kind of jolt can't be good for the old cardiovascular system.

The idea of capsizing into an icy Montana river, as one can imagine, was not my idea of a good time. I'm fully convinced that hypothermia can happen in the dead of summer -- especially when the water was Montana snow about fifteen minutes ago.

Heading in to be outfitted for our excursion, the fact that a helmet was issued didn‘t faze me. I was sure that rafting companies have to be careful for insurance reasons and no one wants to play rock-paper-knoggin out on the river. I was completely calm, in fact, as the three guides -- who could only be described as your quintessential Dudes -- were handing out the gear. Surely we couldn‘t be doing anything hazardous with these young whippersnappers at the helm.

I happily donned the ray-o-sunshine yellow helmet, the deliciously day-glow orange vest and the darling little waterproof booties. To top off the ensemble, I chose a bright blue pair of David’s swimming trunks. I was a near-radioactive thing of beauty.

Feeling my fashion-forward oats, I boarded the van that hauled us to the launching site.

During the ride as we laughed and kidded with The Dudes -- I was completely convinced that this was going to be a cakewalk -- sitting back, dragging my hand in the water while the Dudes paddled me down a lazy

river with spectacular scenery. This was, after all, where the film “A River Runs Though It” was shot and Brad Pitt seemed to like it. Hey! I could work on my tan! Maybe they served drinks with little umbrellas! This was going to be fun!

Things took underwent an abrupt turn for the real once we reached our destination. The Dudes got all professional on us. Uh-oh. Listening to the rapid-fire instructions I suddenly was made aware of several things:

1) The river was full of crazy big rocks that had to be dodged.

2) Even if I wasn‘t tossed overboard, I was going to be drenched in freezing cold water.

3) The darling booties weren‘t for decorative purposes -- they were actually protective gear.

4) I was expected to row (I found this out as a Dude handed me an oar).

5) The reason my garments were so bright was so I could be easily located after being dashed upon the rocks.

In addition, I learned how to respond when I was tossed overboard, that I was to board a raft with only one Dude and five other people that had never rafted before and that I was suddenly terrified. Great.

Still, I was here on a fear-conquering mission and - by golly - I was going in. I held fast to my oar, strode purposefully to the raft and situated myself on the bench. Our Dude sat at the rear and we were on our way.

Initially, it wasn‘t so rough. The serene beauty of the canyon was overwhelming. I actually COULD drag my hand along the water. Dude was once again relaxed and dude-like and we were yucking it up again. It was quite nice.

Then came the first big bend of the river. Like a flume ride at an amusement park (that you could drown on) we were set into action. The floor of the raft quickly took on freezing cold water. Dude was suddenly shouting out commands -- like a stoned drill sergeant -- and we scurried to follow.

The in-case-of-emergency talk was NOT just for insurance purposes! We were oaring for our lives -- and I was pretty darn sure not a single person in our raft knew what they were doing. It was exhilarating!

There‘s a beauty to being scared witless. My mind held only the task at hand. I had completely put my trust in Dude -- the same Dude who was bragging on his drinking antics just moments before in the van -- because I had no other choice. My clueless comrades-in-oar were doing the same.

After those initial rapids, the river became peaceful again and the cheers of victory went up as oars were double-pumped overhead. Tales of bravado were excitedly tossed around. I felt as though I was aboard a vessel with my only friends in the world.

We were a team that, together, conquered the wild river -- and our fears. Collectively, we couldn’t wait for the next rapids.

Bring it on!

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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