For us, that was a rafting trip down the river , done like voyageurs of old. Or like Burt Reynolds when he wasn’t old and ugly.
The river we’d chosen was right on our campsite. I’m sure it had a name, but we simply called it ‘the river’. Or RiverMcRivery. Based on advice, we decided to go upriver a bit and float back down to our campsite. It was a perfect day for it, but the heat had made the river a little low.
That was sort of the good news and bad news. Good news, the river wouldn’t be a raging torrent that would carry us all to Mexico or Japan. Bad news, there were a ton of exposed rocks and likely, there would be places too shallow to raft.
No matter. We lathered up in sunscreen and bug spray, exuding a cloud of toxic smells around us just like the voyageurs, though they just kinda smelled bad. And, like the voyageurs, we used air mattresses, an inflatable comfy chair with a drink holder, and a leaky pump-up raft.
There were 5 of us. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, her amazing mom, me, and both boys, aka creatures of chaos known as the Oldest and the Youngest. All of us could swim, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world even had a first aid certificate and we were all confident of our transportation choices, even the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world who’d chosen the inflatable comfy chair with a drink holder.
We began in mid-day. I want to say 2ish. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s stepdad drove us up to our launching point since we all made loud complaining noises about having to carry our ‘rafts’ for an hour in the scorching heat to reach our destination.
We hauled the ‘rafts’ off the truck, then made our first fateful decision. We tied all the ‘rafts’ together. This seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, knowing The Youngest, he would have happily roared downriver by himself and been lost for a very long time, reappearing 20 years later as a hairy-faced man with a bear as a girlfriend.
But, roped together, we would all be tied to the same fate, but not all of the ‘rafts’ had something to tie a rope to, so some of us, well, most of us, just had to hold on to the rope. Honestly, the only one really secured to anything was the Youngest who we wanted to make sure didn’t make a run for it,
So we plopped the ‘rafts’ in the shallow water. For some bizarre reason, The Youngest was out front, with me behind him, both of us on air mattresses. The Oldest and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s mom brought up the rear in the real raft, and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world lounged in the middle, staring at the empty drink holder longingly.
The first bit of the river wasn’t too bad. The water was deep enough for us to move, shallow enough for us not to move too fast. But we soon realized that being all tied together, if one of us got stuck on a rock, all of us did. Like a dog on a leash, we’d all get jerked to a stop, spun around and, as often as not, slammed into one another.
To get off the rocks, we could do one of two things. Stand up. Or wiggle like a salmon trying to jump upstream. Being us, we chose the salmoning. So every time our colourful train of little boats got stuck, we would jiggle and shake and squirm and twist until we were free.
Sometimes we’d all just do that even if only one of us were stuck. I can’t explain why. Anyone watching us would have thought us mental or under attack by electric eels or something.
But we made our way SLOWLY down the river. At several points, we tried to wriggle our way off the rocks only to fail. We all then flopped in the water and pulled our ‘rafts’ to deeper water, the small bugs that hugged the river scattering like, well, flies.
When we did get up some speed, I learned why the voyageurs had not chosen air mattresses to use. I lay on my stomach on one and every time we began to zip along, some rock would catch me in the nuts. Whammo! I dunno about you, but 2 hours of having the family jewels roughly polished by big round rocks is about as fun as being a kicking dummy for a woman’s self defense class.
Thus we made our way downstream, listening to the sound of the river and the screech of the Youngest as he tried not to flip over, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the wilderness, looking upon the mossy trees, the stone cliffs, and the sparkling sunlight on the water. Sure, we swallowed our fair share of bugs and fought off wasps with bad attitudes, but that was the price of being surrounded by such beauty.
For the last leg, though, I had to get off my air mattress and pull everyone over the rocks. This seemed to really piss off the little flies who chomped on me like I was made of honey. Like a drunken zombie, I staggered and slipped and yanked the train of small boats over the slippery rocks. Amazingly enough, I only fell once, and even more amazingly, I didn’t twist my ankle like a princess fleeing a dragon.
But we made it back intact, stopping at the dam the Oldest and the Youngest had made near our campsite. All of us were a bit bruised, a bit bug bitten, but we had survived the epic journey, even if I’d never father any children from this point on.
Still, it was one of those things I just had to try.
After all, every camping trip has to have an adventure.