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June 17th, 2007:

Whitewater Rafting on the Lehigh!

Yesterday (Saturday), Stephanie and I got up at 6 am, and after groping around like moles to find our clothes, keys, sunblock, and water-proof shoes, stumbled out of the house and drove to White Haven, PA to start a fun day of adventure. Well, first we stopped to pick up 3 of Stephanie’s colleagues. We picked up two Idahoans, and an Aussie. This was a team-building exercise, and Stephanie’s boss graciously invited me along to serve as the mascot of the team. Thanks Rob!

We managed to make it there without incident (with stops along the way– at McDonalds for a “delicious” breakfast burrito, and a stop at a WaWa for iced coffee found me my first siting of the Stephen Colbert ice cream “Americone Dream”.) Sadly, I did not get any, as I was not sure that eating ice cream at 9 am was my smartest idea ever.

We signed our waiver forms, allowing that any deaths, disfigurements, or other troubles arising from the trip were strictly of our own doing, put on our gear (Stephanie rented a wet suit, a jacket, and little rubber footies) and set off on our 45 minute bus ride from the place you park your car to the place you get in your boat. We passed the town of Jim Thorpe (and I amazed some of Stephanie’s colleagues with my knowledge of Jim Thorpe’s exploits– thank you sixth grade scholastic books!) and we finally arrived.

There were nine of us, and we hoped to get three rafts, but there were only two, so we split up 4 and 5. I was foolishly elected captain of our boat, which meant that I sat in the back and tried to get the 4 other people to row in approximately the same direction, while they ignored my directions. We went approximately where we wanted to go, and didn’t spend too much time going in circles, so I guess I have a small sense of accomplishment.

Along with us were 9 other rafts on our trip, including a group of boy scouts who were relatively rambunctious. The trip outfits you with two buckets-one for your lunch and one for “bailing” although it might be more accurate to say that it was for throwing water at other boats, and then bailing out the water that they threw at you. Several of the other boats came prepared with water guns, super-soakers, and smaller water munitions.

We were a little worried that the rambunctious boy scouts would be soaking us (and they did, they did) but we had a surprising good time splashing every boat in vicinity, getting completely soaked by our enemy boats, and the fershlugginer boy scouts. We requited ourselves fairly well in the process- our other team’s boat ended up losing their bucket to us, in a miniature skirmish. They ended up paying one of the boy scouts to steal our bucket back, but in the process we stole another bucket, so ended up never without. Along the way we rafted, and although there were a couple of spots of rapids, most of the trip was relatively beautiful and peaceful. Of course, there were several highway areas where local people were out smoking pot, or cops were driving by at full force.

Just as we arrived at the takeout point of the river, it began to thunder and lightning. It started to rain as we got into the bus for the next 45 minute ride back to the car. As we started down the highway it came down in buckets, furiously, and then began to hail. The bus pulled over, and I had serious thoughts that our bus might end up being a fatality of the storm. But we made it– and by the time we got back to the car/camp, all the bad weather was gone. If our trip had started 30 minutes later, we would have been drenched on the river not by our trip-mates, but by mother nature. We had excellent timing!

We came back to NY and had a great Indian dinner with most of our rafting ensemble (8 out of 9– the Australian member got a better offer to squire a bevy of Aussie beauties on the town) and then came back to the house (with two of Stephanie’s colleagues in town, who stayed the night as guests) and sacked out like lumps of potatoes. In my case, sunburned potatoes, as the tops of my legs are red red red.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and I’m thinking that I’d like to do it again, maybe on a more difficult river, and maybe in a kayak. (although the splashing and team work is less in those) Maybe arrange a group whitewater adventure in August when Stephanie’s mom and sister come to town (along with their boyfriends) It could be a lot of fun! (Especially if I apply more sunblock!)