There were more than a few moments this past weekend when we questioned the sanity of our actions.  It all revolved around the rain, which has been pervasive in the Northeast U.S. for the last several weeks.  Still, we had planned this camping trip a few months ago with our friends, Doug, Mo and their kiddos and we were going, hell or high water.  It turned out to be both.

Friday night was actually lovely. 

camping 3 camping 2 

At one point after we had set up camp, the kids were playing, and we were chowing down on a gourmet campfire meal I suggested that we leave then while the going was good.  But since we had only been there for 3 hours, we decided to stay.

The rain started Saturday morning right after breakfast, just in time for our whitewater rafting trip. 

camping 4

Our choice was to sit in damp tents and get wet… or float down the Lehigh River and get wet.  We decided to check out the rafting and make an on-the-spot decision.  The girl behind the desk told us how much fun it is when the river is running high and fast.  And that we would have better stories to tell when we went home.  (We suburban families don’t have tons of opportunities to feel rugged.  Roughing it for us is leaving the comfort of our homes and hunting down a Dairy Queen in the summertime.)  So we all embraced our inner bravado, rented wet suits, and took the plunge.

camping 5

We were glad we did.  The rain, which had been coming down in buckets as we headed to the river, subsided quite a bit and was never too heavy during the rafting trip.  Dave and Mo were “elected” captains and were in charge of steering; Doug and I happily criticized their captaining prowess and did whatever we wanted to up front.  (Especially when they kept telling us to stop paddling.)  The river was fast but the whitewater was easily managed.  We were almost disappointed with the lack of excitement.  But it was a blast. And as most parents will agree, on family vacations you tend to measure your own fun by the amount of fun your kids are having.  On this scale, the trip measured very high.


The last area of whitewater of the day, nicknamed Carnage, was approaching.  Our guide, whose name was Yo, suggested that we stay as close the big rock in the river as possible to maximize the experience.  Despite Chase’s insistence that we paddle up to the front to lead the charge, we stayed back, allowing 5 or 6 boats to go first. 

We watched as three boats went through the whitewater, got caught, and upended, throwing their passengers into the river.  Deciding that their strategy was a bad one, we paddled wide, around the major whitewater, and floated into the churn where we pulled three people to safety.  Getting thrown out of your boat makes for a great story but these people were scared – and I suspect they were not the strongest swimmers.  Thankfully, everyone had life jackets.  Other rafters who were not capsized grabbed the other victims and we all traveled another 200 yards to the shore and safety.

All of the grownups were a little freaked out, especially on the bus ride home when the rafting tour guide launched into his spiel about historic Jim Thorpe, as if nothing had happened.  When we arrived back at the rafting headquarters we heard that they were still looking for one of the rafters.  We hadn’t gotten them all!

This was the story on the news that evening and video of the final rescue when the last rafter was eventually saved, long after we were gone.


A few reflections:

1) The conditions on the river look 100 times worse in this video than they actually were.

2) We were reassured time and time again by the pros that the trip would be a blast and we felt safe the entire time. I’m sure the people who were pulled from the river felt the same way – until the end.

3) I thank the Universe for two things: First that we weren’t there in front as the first boats flipped. Second that we were there immediately following and pulled a few people out of the water.

We think we made all the decisions this weekend – to go camping in the rain, to take the rafting trip, to hold back on that last whitewater run.  But in times like these, I wonder if there was a higher power, with everyone’s best interest at heart,  making the calls for us.

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