But morning arrived at last.
My husband became the Greatest Man on Earth when he managed to run some power in the truck long enough to trickle out two cups of coffee for us. And there was only a little dirt in the bottom-- not his fault. But no matter because today was the day.
The day we would do something we had never done before. All together. Something that would challenge us. That would drag us from our comfortable lives on dry ground. This thing we had been thinking about for weeks. White Water Rafting.
We showed up at the building downtown where we were to meet, where we paid a heavenly sum to risk our lives in such a manner. They gave us water shoes, helmets, and paddles, then the talk on How Not to Hold the Paddle and What to Do If You Fall Out of the Boat. Our very awesome guide assured us this rarely happens. He also said the boat rarely tips over. He did have to warn us that this was an adventurous activity in which we could perish. After this comforting speech, we all boarded a van for a ride across the canyon to the launching point.
It turns out we were the only family on this boat, with one other couple joining us for the rapids-- who would then get out and take a kayak the rest of the way. An employee on a bike rode the trail beside the river to snap pictures of us all while we struggled through. This is the only reason I have over a hundred pictures of this adventure. And because I couldn't say no to buying a whole flash drive-worth of them. We did get a couple of great family shots, however. (Note to self: If all goes south, someday get a job riding a bike along the river, taking pictures).
Well, it is one thing to view the gorgeous river flowing along the highway, from the safety of your car. It is quite another to actually climb into a rubber raft that is going to sail into the cold, swirling water, only inches from you. I am surprised the kids did not get out and run at that point. They knew there was no going back, and resigned themselves to hunkering down in the back of the boat for the worst of it. My son looked on in-- fear? disbelief?-- as the adults practiced paddling and leaning, just a quick refresher before pushing into the briny deep.
And then we were off!
We got drenched. The rapids were like Mother Nature dumping gallons of frigid water in your face, while you keep paddling like a tiny ant. Our guide would tell us how many strokes to take, since he was very experienced, and seemed to know what it would take to get us out of the drain. After the first few miles of rapids, we were able to take off our helmets, attempt to dry out in the sun, and just relax a little. We conversed with our guide and enjoyed the scenery.
At one point, we stopped along the side where hot springs had created a little rocky alcove. He let us out, and we took off those slimy wet shoes to warm our feet. The shore was smelly, but it was interesting. The springs near the source were too hot to even touch, but farther out, we found the perfect temperatures. This was one of those magical places I had to remember in my mind, since the camera girl had long gone, and I had nothing with me. Although I respected the river, this was the highlight of the rafting trip for me.
Reluctantly, we got back in the boat. A little farther on, we reached our disembarking point. I should mention that part of the whole rafting experience is the rafting guide. We had a great one, and that made for an awesome trip. The guide is not only your lifesaver; he is also an entertainer. He lives out of a tent all summer, and the river is his second home. He knows it intimately. We got to hear his stories, and he asked us plenty of questions. I'm sure we will run into him on a remote mountain path or river someday, as long as my husband is with us.
Tipping the guide is a big way to show that you liked him. We did this afterward, especially since he sat through our picture show at the ice cream shop. Yes, after the van ride back, we were taken across the street to an ice cream shop to view our pictures on tv screens there. Quite a set-up, yes? Because of course, in a shop like this, also full of candy, you just have to have refreshment after a half-day long ride on the river.
Driving back to our little cabin-in-the-wilderness felt pretty good this time. Lo and behold, we arrived to more settlers. The lone woman had moved out, and a family had taken her place. The two cabins next to us were occupied by a very large family, who had also set up a giant tent. We were never so happy to have neighbors up there as we grilled our hamburgers. We kind of enjoyed watching them tiptoe through the spiky weeds, stare at the pile of bones, and discover the lack of electricity in the bath house. Because we felt like survivors.
My daughter made immediate friends with a girl her age. This family was on their way home to Chicago, and it's too bad we couldn't have actually known each other in real life. Still, this time, I was the one who talked with them as it got very dark. We told of our travels and things we had seen, while the girls walked around with flashlights, talking and writing in a little book. We laughed about the two-mile drive up the road that required one to wear a sports bra. (She got the joke). We wished each other well and safe travels. The girls wished each other good-night.
This would be our last night at the ranch. We had made arrangements to leave the next day, after my mini-meltdown in which I said I didn't want our trip to end here, and I had visions of going back somewhere cool, wet, and green. With less dirt, and more rocks. Maybe by a river. We were pretty sure we knew just the place.