Today we went to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. From their website the Whitewater Center is “home to the world’s largest man-made recirculating river, the USNWC provides exciting rafting adventures on Class II, III and IV whitewater rapids. All raft trips include a professional guide, a short trip talk on the fundamentals of rafting and essential safety information and all the technical equipment needed.”
OK so that all sounds fine and dandy and when they said Niagra Falls is literally a class VI rapid and we are going to see class IV several times in the day I was thinking it was going to get pretty gnarly. Before I get to that I just want to mention I got a few things knocked off the bucket list today which was a good thing. The first was rock climbing which I had never done. My long arms and legs definitely helped me scale right up the easy course of the rock wall to break myself in. I also now know how to put on a climbing harness which definitely wasn’t the case before today. I decided not to do a medium or hard climb because I didn’t want to burn my arms out before we went whitewater rafting. The climb was good, I had no idea how much cardio it would involve by the time you got to the top of the wall. I was breathing really heavy which I didn’t expect.
We next got ready for whitewater rafting and after a 10 minute safety lesson of rafting we got our helmets and life jackets on. I got into Mark, Cynthia, Robin, and Steve’s group and I would learn it was quite a team to be with. Our guide was named Jerry who taught us to go forward, backward, jump into the raft, all go to one side, and how to hold the paddles so we wouldn’t knock out out anyone elses’s teeth. We started out really well and rowed well together as a team. We hit the first few rapid which were class one and two and did just fine. We next paddled further down the river and encountered pinball alley (I think that was what he said) and encountered our first class III rapid. Mark and I were in the front, Robin and Cynthia in the middle, and Steve was in the back with the guide. We flew down the river once we got caught up in the class III current and were paddling like crazy. Our guide told us to go forward as hard and fast as we could and it was clear the river was in control but we kept paddling any way. We went through the first few rapids OK but then we got hung up on a rock, went backwards and somehow our entire raft went lopsided and everyone started tumbling out of the raft. I think Steve in the back was first in, then Cynthia in the middle, then Mark next to me in the front and I went in shortly after him.
Mass pandemonium ensued with the guide yelling instructions to everyone in the water but with so many of us it was every person for themselves for a while. Mark and I got tossed out upstream and we both went under the raft for a few seconds. I was able to come up for a quick breath after getting out from under the raft but before I knew it I was next getting sucked into the next rapid which made me drink some nice river water. I eventually got to the right hand side of the river but the guide wanted me to swim back across the river to the raft (which only had one person in it). I made it back across the river and he pulled me back into the raft. Upon getting back into the raft I learned Robin was the only one who was able to stay in the raft. Steve and Cynthia were upstream and we were wedged over a rock. Robin and I got out and I think at that point we got Mark back. Steve was pulled up with a rope and walked back down the bank to meet us and Cynthia was rescued by another raft. Our guide then let us know we were the only “swimmers” he had all season meaning we were the only people who had fallen out of the raft.
OK now after telling you all of that, and after getting my life flashed before my eyes (kinda) I just need to remind you that rapid was a class III and we hadn’t yet gotten to the class IV. We took the magic carpet ride back around the river and we were going to do it all over again. This time the guide decided to further torture us by intentionally getting us stuck in a rapid and Mark and I got a lovely bath together with water dumping into the raft. We went down pinball alley again and this time we all stayed inside the raft. Back to the magic carpet ride and now we were going to go down the other side of the man made river which had the class IV rapid.
The class IV rapid was huge but we all stayed in. After getting done with that we had a nice water fight with another raft. The guide of that raft went up and asked if we knew what the weather forecast was going to be. We said we didn’t and he replied “showers” and his raft started to use their paddles to splash us and elementary school type behavior ensued. After getting back on the magic carpet ride we were told we were going to take the class IV rapids backwards for our last ride. Ironically I think that was the easiest thing and after an hour and a half of paddling it was time to get back to the shore.
They don’t let you go in the river without shoes or water shoes so I wore my favorite old Nike tennis shoes which are now soaked. I think I’m going to try using the hair dryer on them for a little while tonight because I am going to need them on Wednesday when I fly home. I got sun scorched today as well, my nice white skin didn’t fare so well in the overcast weather today so sunscreen would have definitely been a wise move and I’m going to have to pay some consequences as a result. My face, arms, and even legs are nice and red. My body needs a few days to recover but oh no the conference must go on! It ironically only officially started tonight so watch out. Even though the outdoor activities are complete the indoor activities should be equally as exciting.