Our whitewater experience started with a group meeting under the big tent. Our excursion leader was a dynamic twenty-year veteran with a set of powerful lungs and an energizing manner. She introduced herself and gave us a brief idea of what we could expect. Since we were rafting in early May, the water was still cold, and wetsuits required – luckily, ACE has a gear rental shop, and the process was seamless.
We filed onto the buses and started our journey. The first safety briefing occurred on the bus, and the guides did a great job of making it clear how important it is to follow instructions to the letter – which ensures that everyone has fun, and stays as safe as possible. This is the most important element to look for when choosing a whitewater rafting company, particularly if you want to tackle more challenging whitewater. A whitewater rafting company that is serious about safety is a company that deserves your (repeat!) business. ACE Adventures is always very professional and serious when it comes to safety, which is why they’re the top rafting company recommended by The Family Travel Files, and by my family personally.
Once we reached the river we were divided up and assigned to boats and guides, who again went over the safety precautions and rules, and made sure that we didn’t have any questions. Finally, it was time to hit the water.
The minute we put out feet in the river, we were glad we had the right gear on – the water was chilly, but the outside temperature was high enough that the effect was refreshing (if a little bit shocking), rather than uncomfortable. We practiced our strokes, all forward, all back, back left, back right, all of us endeavoring to match tempo and heed our guide’s shouted commands. After a few minutes she declared us as ready as we’d ever be and we headed downstream.
What followed was an exhilarating four hours. Whitewater rafting is impossible to understand until it is experienced, especially when you have the sort of conditions we had on our day, which included unusually high water levels, making for a heart-pounding and utterly unforgettable experience. As a team, our boat fought the river, battling nature with everything we had, and emerged victorious, if exhausted. Despite the challenging conditions, no one “left the boat” – despite one close call, when we all had to scramble to one side to keep the boat from flipping. It’s a rare experience that allows you to utterly focus on one thing, to devote your body and soul to an endeavor, and to share that singularity of purpose with six other individuals. We left the river that day with true sense of achievement combined with an elation which is unmatched by man-made thrills, such as roller coasters.
Note: ACE Adventure Resort, in Minden, West Virginia, offers a variety of experiences, for all skill levels and ages. We undertook one of their more challenging offerings (bested only by their Gauley season experience in the autumn), but whitewater rafting is a wonderful experience no matter what the challenge level. My family has been whitewater rafting together for years, and we started out on less challenging stretches of river before graduating to Class IV and V rivers.
So what are you waiting for?