Note: This article was published May 2019. Please check with local raft guides for current available rafting experiences.
When you work in the tourism marketing field you get to experience incredible activities, as it helps to authentically promote things when you've actually done them. Whitewater rafting is something I've never tried and for good reason: I was terrified. Terrified that I would fall overboard, terrified that I would spend the whole time shivering in a borderline hypothermic state and terrified that I would do something stupid. Terrified I'd look ridiculous in a wet suit. Did I mention the hypothermia? I really don't like cold water.
I expressed all these things to a coworker who wanted me to take part in a rafting trip she organized, so I could be better informed about one of the main recreational activities we promote. I objected. I asked nicely to stay out. I grumped. I asked not so nicely to stay out. I mentioned my aversion to cold water. I didn't say anything about being terrified though; I didn't want to seem weak after all. Either way, none of it worked, I was going. I was tempted to hang out in a medical waiting room ahead of time to see if I could catch a cold or something, but that seemed a bit extreme.
I arrived at the Moore Creek Boat Access Site at 9 a.m. to meet with Pete from Blue Sky Rafting along with some of my coworkers and cohorts from Travel Oregon. I could immediately tell that Pete exuded the confidence that only thousands of trips down the Clackamas River can bring. You'd think that would help calm my frayed nerves, but it didn't. As Pete began his schpiel, he noted that safety wasn't his biggest concern. Humor being my default mechanism, I immediately made a snarky joke, something I did many more times throughout his talk. What he was actually saying was falling out of the boat isn't a big deal. (I disagreed). He was teaching us how to deal with it should it happen, and prevent a simple occurrence from becoming something he would actually worry about. Made sense when I stopped screaming inside my head and actually thought about it. (That internal screaming didn't stop for a little while, by the way.)
Before I knew it, we were pushing off on what I was sure was going to be my final journey. Our guide was a truly wonderful human being named Gary. Or Greg. Something like that, I'm terrible with names. But either way, he was a great guy whose jovial nature I appreciated as it helped decrease the feeling of impending doom.
It wasn't long before we were at our first set of rapids. I remember repeating some expletives, that at the time I thought were only in my head. One of my fellow rafters informed me I was actually voicing them, saying aloud what he was thinking. Glad I could save him the effort.
After that first set of rapids I thought "That wasn't so bad! But surely it must get worse." My optimistic personality was really shining through. To make a long story short, it didn't get worse, it just got more fun. It wasn't long before I was (begrudgingly) having the time of my life. I eagerly anticipated each set of rapids as we enjoyed the picturesque scenery between them. I even ended up "Riding the Bull" which is where you sit up at the front of the raft with your legs dangling off while holding on to a rope, much like a cowboy riding a bull. It was amazing. I was invigorated. I was laughing. I was drenched, and I didn't even care. And instead of dreading the rest of the trip, I was bummed when it all to quickly came to an end. There's probably a deeper metaphor for life in all that, but I'm honestly not that contemplative.
After all my initial fears and stress and grumbling, I ended up having the time of my life. I most certainly will be going again, this time with my wife, and I will request Gary/Greg to be our guide again. It's amazing what can happen when you open yourself up to new experiences. Or are forced to, I mean. Wonderful things can happen.
Next steps: Book your Clackamas River Rafting Trip