Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

River Rafting Brings People Together

I grew up in Dallas, Texas, about as far from a river rafting adventure as you can get in the continental United States.  My first river journey was by accident.  I blithely selected a college in Arizona that put great value in outdoor recreation, and as freshman orientation my first month in school, they randomly sent me on a 30-day Colorado river trip.

I do not recall reading the school's mission, but, after spending a month in the back country of the Southwest on a muddy river with a dozen people I didn't know, sleeping under a field of stars every night, living off freeze-dried rations, hard-tack crackers and peanut butter, hiking the red rock canyons when we weren't floating the river, I am guessing they figured wilderness travel was an overall net-gain for society.  You learned things about one another and your fellow traveler that would take decades to learn in the 'real world'.
Letting your hair down on the river.
River rafting recreation and leisure time activities.
My father was a minister and founding and maintaining churches and their congregations was his forte.  My mother allowed me to treat our home as if it were a community recreation center.  With this sort of background, it was natural that once I discovered the intrinsic, communal value of outdoor recreation and, particularly, extended outdoor trips, I would somehow act on it.

The sharing of a thirty-day river adventure forged strong bonds between it participants.  I have seen this bond happen in much shorter adventures as well.  It has something to do with sharing the challenge or the experience or the stories that will be told.  Or all of those things combined.  Or sharing in the hardships like foul weather, dilapidated vehicles or moldy summer sausages.

The beauty of a river trip is that it is an outdoor adventure that can be shared by a fairly large number of people all at once.  It is also an outdoor adventure that is accessible to a wide range of abilities and ages.  An additional plus is river rafting is more comparable to car camping than a climbing assault on the North Face.  You can venture forth into the 'wilderness' with friends and family carrying everything as well as the kitchen sink.

A river trip is an ideal adventure for youth at risk, employee work groups or bachelor or bacholerette parties.  Since most people will be fully out of their element on a river trip the shared challenge before them will be crystal clear.  It will be something they anticipate and something they will talk about for months or years to come.

As the purveyor of river trips, I try to make them as 'uneventful' as possible.  I remember a YMCA group telling me of their disappointment with a trip because nothing happened.  The waves had been fun, swimming the rapids had been fun, their time on the river had been a great respite, but there had not been any mishaps, so their storyline was weak.

I was incredulous.  Surely they would not want us to manufacture 'disaster', because it is wholly unnecessary.  'Disaster' lurks in every river hydraulic, so there is no need to go looking for it.
But I did understand their disappointment and where it was coming from.  They wanted more of a story to tell. 

I told them they will just have to keep coming back.