Family tries some adventure with whitewater rafting trip

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child


Last fall at our school fund-raising auction, I noticed that a whitewater rafting trip for two was coming up for bid. Normally, I wouldn't have given that a second glance. But it was October, and I was already in a Christmas shopping mood.

As I raised my number, I thought how surprised and happy my husband would be about this trip. He has gently mentioned a time or two how he wishes I would be more adventurous. Ah, this would fit the bill, wouldn't it?

The bidding stopped with my offer of $45, and I wondered if that was a good deal.

I didn't check into it because the school year was getting busier, and I was glad to have at least one thing "bought" for my husband. I thought about the trip again in December as I wrapped the gift certificate and placed it under our tree.

On Christmas morning, the gift seemed to please my husband and gave him something to look forward to in warm weather.


At the beginning of June, he reminded me that we needed to call and schedule our trip. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I had forgotten all about it.)

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the price I paid for the two-person package was a deal. A single spot on a three-hour whitewater rafting trip with River Riders, in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is about $60 a person.

Obviously, I've never gone whitewater rafting. My purchase turned out to be a good choice, not only because of the reduced rate but because it was a fun learning experience for our family.

We decided to take our trip in July when our 9-year-old was at camp because we weren't sure if it would be too challenging for her. I was tempted to tell our 13-year-old son to go in my place, but that would defeat the purpose of proving to my husband that I can be adventurous. So we bought a pass for my son.

River Riders advised us not to wear cotton, which becomes heavy when it gets wet, so we wore our bathing suits. The guys wore nylon-type shirts, and I wore some running shorts with my suit. We also were given helmets and life vests.

Our guide, Chris, sat in the back of the raft where he could issue commands, and we each sat on the sides. His commands ranged from "forward paddle" to "backward paddle" to my favorite, "relax." I knew our guide was pulling more than his weight of the work, and I was grateful. Rowing is good exercise, but it is quite tiring. While the trip wasn't very challenging for my athletic husband, it was more than sufficient for me.

Several times I came close to falling out of the raft, which wouldn't have been a big deal - I can swim - except for some very large rocks that looked like they could cause some very large bruises.

There also was the snake issue. We saw at least three. A copperhead stretched out on a rock was in the process of swallowing a rodent. Another snake was skimming across the top of the water. He was so long, I didn't think we'd ever see his tail. The third snake's head moved so fast across the water I never saw the rest of him.

That was fine with me. I don't want to be anywhere near a snake, especially not in water where I might be mistaken as potential lunch.

Thankfully, we were shown a safety video before we got in the river. It explained how to stay in the raft and what to do if we accidentally fell out. Our guide was a big help, too.

We learned a lot about river safety. For example, if a rafter falls into the water, the rafter should float on his back and pull his feet up to the surface. This prevents foot entrapment, which can be dangerous. When a person tries to stand in rapids, his foot can get caught under a rock. The rushing water from behind can push a person's face forward into the water, putting him at risk for drowning.

There are times when the "man overboard" needs to swim aggressively to avoid "strainers" - fallen trees and other debris - and to roll out of the undercurrent.

I simply tried to remember the basics:

If you fall out of the raft, float on your back, wait for a rope to be thrown to you and then grab it.

Thankfully, I didn't have to test our rafting guide's pulling skills. I was ready for the trip to end, though, when the left side of our raft tipped up into the air. I was sitting on the right side and almost ended up in the rocks.

After we got through that one, I shouted over the rushing water, "I should get symphony tickets for this!"

Turnabout is fair play.

o For more information about local whitewater rafting, go to the River Riders Web site at

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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