Monday, September 29, 2008

Article on the Whitewater Side of Life--For Many, Including Me, Its not Just a Hobby, but a Passionate Lifestyle

Why Ride a Raft Down a Wild River? --Wil Hansen

The sport of rafting allows you to experience remote wilderness environments, high adventure, and a rare level of self-sufficiency. If you're lucky enough to live near a white water river, it's a great way to spend a day in the outdoors. If you take an overnight river rafting trip you can camp out in comfort, in a deluxe spare-no-frills style, because rafts can carry so much gear, fresh food, and your favorite beverages. By carefully selecting the river and flow level or season of the year, you can bite off as much or as little physical challenge and adrenalin-pumping thrill as you can handle. Whitewater rafting is high adventure with a bit of an adjustment knob!

White water rafting is very much a thinking sport. If you’re rowing or paddling a big rapid, it's like a chess match against a force of nature. If you let down your concentration you get your butt kicked, sometimes figuratively, sometime literally. Your angle to the current and position relative to obstacles and your optimal 'line' through the rapids are critical. Each maneuver sets up the next. And when the current slows, you can just sit back and enjoy some of the best scenery on the planet as it drifts quietly by. If taking the oars and the responsibility isn’t your thing, you can sit back and let expert river guides handle the boat and take you to places you simply will never see any other way.

River rafting is also a social sport. Where else can you live and travel with a group of friends and/or family for days or even weeks at a time and together tackle the challenges thrown at you by the natural environment and the adventure of wilderness isolation? And each afternoon, when you beach the rafts at your campsite, you've arrived at your own little Margaritaville!

Off the water, white water rafting becomes an eating and drinking sport (at least to the degree that this is a good thing!). The best wines I drink all year are consumed from my polycarbonate wine glass while sitting in a beach chair beside a river, in the middle of nowhere. I get to gaze at outstanding scenery and share the company of good friends. And then we cook up a feast, do a little fishing, or play games, and then relax around the campfire. When we wake up tomorrow, we’ll do it all again. We spend the day running rapids, seeing the sights, and exploring the secrets of the river corridor. The sport of white water rafting has it all!
The amazing mix of excitement, comfortable camping, and natural beauty that is white water rafting is very addicting. If you've read this far, you've probably already fallen under its spell.

A Day on the River
An amazing aspect of multi-day white water rafting trips is the irony of the daily routine. On one hand you know precisely what you will be doing today and tomorrow, and the next day, which is, having fun, travelling downstream.
You'll break camp each day, load the gear onto the boats, pull away from camp, out into the current, and enjoy those first few miles in the morning which are always a special time to be on the water. You'll stop to scout rapids, and stop for lunch, goof around, and explore the historical and natural features of the river corridor. And then in the afternoon you'll make camp, maybe hike or fish a bit, play games, eat dinner, and sit around the evening campfire until the embers die away.

But each day will be brand new in every other way, with its own unique sights and adventures. Maybe that's what makes casting off in the mornings so fun. Each morning, you know you won't see that camp again; everything today will be brand new. Not only is the sound of the flowing water invigorating, but the whole day is set out before your, for you to encounter and enjoy. You live the life of a nomad, a wanderer. The river takes you away, and reveals to you the rare experiences that are together, a river rafting trip. You'll learn what's around each bend as you move downstream. You'll see it all, and experience the magic that is moving water, the excitement and adventure of the rapids, the solitude and silence of the calm pools.
After a day or two of this wonderful ironic routine, you’ll undoubtedly slip into a mental state that we river runners call 'river time'. Your mind downshifts to a more primitive mode. The cares and stress of your life back in the 'real world' slip away. Here, on the river, there is no rush, except the rush of moving water. For you, nothing must happen urgently. You take it as it comes. You savor it. You relax.

Pick a rock or a nice place on the beach. Settle in. Take a nap, read a book. Chat with your friends. Indulge your hobbies of cooking or photography or knitting, fishing, hiking, or whatever it is. Read your maps; find the old homestead or mining claim up that gulch behind camp. Look for traces of Indian camps, pit houses, and ancient art work. Soak in a crystal clear hot spring with a glass of wine, and the wilderness scenery all around you. Imagine life in the corridor thousands of years ago. Most of the river corridors in the western US have been inhabited for 5-10,000 years and more. These are places human beings like to be.

Chances are it looked to those folks as you see it today - except the wine glass, and the tent, and the camp kitchen, and the folding chairs, and all the other conveniences of a modern river rafting trip.

If you're on a river, you are one lucky person. May you find your fair share of 'river time':

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