On our last official weekend of summer vacation, my husband, kids, brother-in-law, nephew and the neighbor kid went whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River. We had a blast. Not surprising.
The surprising part? We haven’t done it nearly enough. When I met my husband for the first time, he told me about his summer job as a whitewater raft guide. He showed me pictures of his trips and impressed me with the tan lines on his feet from these complicated sandals he wore for guiding. You can now buy knock-off sport sandals at Walmart, but back then you had to go to The River Store.
Our first vacation together was a weekend trip on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite. We went with his two older brothers, both former guides, and their friends, wives and girlfriends. My boyfriend was so cool, he didn’t even need a tent. He told me how he liked to sleep under the stars. Which was great except it rained the whole trip. We slept under a tarp the first night and then propped the rafts up on the paddles and slept under the makeshift lean-to.
The food was phenomenal. The scenery, spectacular. The weather… not so great. But the whitewater was awesome. We spent three days and two nights on the river and it was one of the most exhilarating and relaxing trips I’ve ever taken.
I was hooked. And my sweetie bought me my very own lifejacket. Not jewelry, but a lifejacket. He wanted me to be able to participate in something that was an important part of his life.
We did a few day trips together during college and after we were married. We did an amazing trip on the Yampa the year after we were married. I can’t even begin to describe the serenity of the sandstone cliffs, the beauty of the remote canyon, or the peaceful, easy feeling of sleeping in the desert. I did convince him we needed a tent for privacy, though.
Life moved on, and trips got pushed aside by kids, and school and baseball. Oh, and as the years went by, we weren’t able to borrow the equipment from the young guides who hadn’t known the legend that is the Mathews brothers.
My oldest brother-in-law is still on the Board of Directors, so he stays in contact with the company. About a year ago, he was able to procure an old raft that had been retired from the fleet. A 1982 model, we finally got the gear together and made the time to take the old “bucket boat” down the river.
We outfitted the kids with lifejackets, made sure we had our water, snacks and safety equipment and we were ready to roll. After dropping off the truck and my brother’s SUV at the takeout, we drove back to the put-in spot were the kids were sunscreened up and ready to roll on the river.
I’d forgotten how much fun whitewater rafting is.
Maybe our sons will grow up to be Awesome Whitewater Dudes like their dad and uncles.