It was July 12th, a glorious day, and I was packing for my newest adventure. Today I was going white water rafting on the Deschutes River(Rivière des Chutes, or "River of the Falls) in Oregon. It was just going to be a little overnighter, yet the apprehension I felt was almost nauseating. The songs of the musical, The Man of La Mancha, would not leave my head as I continued to fill my L.L. Bean backpack with a change of clothes, some sweats, and other essentials I felt I would need. My camera and my journal topped the pack and I walked out of the apartment. I was ready for anything...or was I? The trip was about four hours and when we arrived at the river bank, I was amused at myself for the earlier queasiness. This river looked harmless enough. I had rafted the Ocoee in North Carolina as a teenager , and it was definitely worse than this. We readied ourselves for the first leg of the adventure. We would load up and raft about ten miles, pull out, and camp for the night. The first leg offered nothing to write home about. The group in the raft had a great deal of fun bonding and challenging other rafts we met as we drifted lazily down the river. Evening came quickly and soon it was time to set up a campsite before the best ones were taken. The place we chose had a heady smell of sage. I stood and felt the remnants of the sun burn it’s image on my chapped face and inhaled the fragrance. We set up our tents and began supper preparation. there would be no campfire tonight...just a Coleman stove and lantern. This was a high risk fire area. the supper detail fixed burritos, avocado dip, and tostidos for our meal. We all were ravenous and ate as if this were to be our last supper. Little did we know that it could possibly be. After supper the clean up detail went to the river’s edge and washed the dishes and packed them away for the next day. We then gathered around the stove, pulled out our guitars, and began to sing. We sang everything from the Eagles to old girl scout songs and finally our guide told us that if we were going to get an early start we needed to call it a night. I was glad. The calluses on my fingers from playing were beginning to throb. We all went to our assigned tents. I lay down and felt the old feelings of claustrophobia close in as we lay there safe within the confines of the tent. I had to get out. It was a beautiful night. I would sleep under the stars. So I quickly and quietly withdrew into the aromatic outdoors. I lay there under the stars, smelled the sage, and sang softly to myself. Diane and Cecilia joined me shortly. The star show was so awesome, and I felt the weight of tiredness tugging at my eyes. I fell into a sound sleep. but sleep would not last long. We were pelted into awakeness by the feel of razor sharp rain drops. A storm had moved into the canyon. We all headed for the van. The three of us slept in the van for the remainder of the night and when the morning light finally reared her head I felt like hell! The pinks and grays of dawn came peeping, July 13th was going to be another beautiful day. You could see no traces of the night storm. Look our Deschutes here I come!!! After a quiet breakfast of hot tea and granola, we closed out camp and headed for the rafts. Our bright yellow raft sat on the shoreline ready and waiting on us. It seemed to be laughing at us, begging us to come out and play again. We named her the Yellow Submarine. Looking back now I can see where that would be a poor choice of words. The crew was an ageless one. all of us had long since seen thirty something. Steve, Diane, Ruth, Cecilia, Clark (the guide), Tia Maria, and I made up this motley crew. The start was fun. We were all natural competitors so we left ahead of the rest. We straddled the yellow raft and away we went. Our first little class two rapid was met with Tia Maria being tossed into the drink. the guide scooped her up, and she was back in the boat safe and sound before any of us knew she had gone. The Box-Car rapids were a class three and the challenge was loads of fun. We all managed to stay dry here. the morning part of the trip had been delightful. We stopped for a lunch of fruit and more granola and continued on. On to the quest ...our goal. Our motto had become, All for one and one for all. Let’s Take it over the edge. Let’s Take it to the limit. The wind was up, and we lost control of our tiny craft. We were catapulted from the raft, and the experience into the bowels of hell began. The last thing I remember was seeing Steve fly through the air and then everything went black for me. I struggled to the surface only to find myself trapped under the raft as it was being sucked down into a maelstrom. Something was holding me down! I emerged in an air pocket of the raft to find a rope around my throat choking the life out of me. I fought with it and finally broke free right before I was sucked down into the maelstrom again. My life as I knew it was passing before my eyes and I felt myself crying...but I didn’t know if I was really crying or just imagining it. I was somewhere between here and unconsciousness. I was filled with sadness at never having the chance to see Kat, my daughter, grown. I was terrified and gagging when suddenly I felt a rock under my feet. I pushed hard against it, and propelled myself against the raft, broke the suction of the maelstrom, and left my would-be grave. I was literally thrown through the air. The people on he bank said if it hadn’t been so frightening it would have been amusing. I looked like a bronco buster that had just been thrown off of a wild horse. I landed in he middle of the raging Deschutes on a slick rock. I dug my fingers in and held on for dear life. I tasted blood but didn’t know where it was coming from. My head hurt, and my left eye was blurred. A kayaker floated out to me and told em to let go and float to him. I thought to myself, IS HE CRAZY?: I wasn’t letting go of Nothing! did he not know where I had just come from? He realized that I was in shock...so he kept talking gently to me until I let go and he caught me. Putting the wet remnant of a person in he kayak he took me to shore where the rest of the frightened group waited. I was dizzy and nauseated. I couldn’t stand and as soon as I was helped from the kayak...passed out. Patty came over, revived me, and checked me out. I was pretty banged up, had a concussion, and was in shock. I had to be gotten out and fast. the guides radioed for a rescue unit and waited with me. Everyone wrapped their arms around me to ward off the shock. I remember nothing except that I was cold. The helicopter arrived and I was air lifted to the Dalles and treated for a concussion, cuts, bruises, and shock. the rest of the team finished the course and picked me up at the emergency room. We headed back to Walla Walla. The group had been instructed not to let me see a mirror...just yet. It was a good thing. When I finally did see a mirror I would terrify myself and little children! Quasi Moto and the Gargoyles had nothing on me. I bathed in a warm tub...wearily put on my jammies...and settled down for sleep. The sedative I had been given earlier kicked in and I floated to sleep. Minutes after I closed my eyes the water came back and I was drowning again. I awoke with a loud scream. the rest of the night everytime I closed my eyes the scream would be repeated. My suitemates took turns sitting with me all night. I would have these nightmares for years to come. The next day I could hardly move. I was black and blue all over. I had been fortunate. I lost a tooth, a pair of Ray-Bans, and a good deal of blood, but was still alive. It took about three weeks for me to return to my active self. It took a long time to get over the nightmare and my fear of rapids...if I ever do. Someday I want to return to the Deschutes and this time...this time I will be the victor.
I am a woman who wears many hats and loves them all. I am a singer - I sing with the group Still Magnolias. I was part of the original First United Methodist Church Arbor Praise Team until we moved. After 24+ years of teaching English 11 and Spanish I - II at Benjamin Russell High School I decided to take a job closer to home. I now teach Spanish I & 2 at Randolph Co. High School and Wadley. I thought I was getting close to retirement and looking forward to it, but decided to move my cheese and try something different. I am a preacher's wife and a preacher myself. My husband Frank is the pastor at Rock Mills United Methodist Church and I am the pastor at Midway (Wedowee). It has made our conversations interesting, to say the least.