If a pictures worth a thousand words, then my work here is done! This picture was taken during my family trip to North Carolina this summer. And yes, the picture is real! The past few summers I have met my parents in North Carolina for some rest, relaxation, and quality family time. Before I left Texas, my Dad and I had every day planned out with various activities (we both love a good schedule). During one of the days, we decided we would go white water rafting down the Nantahala river. When the words white water rafting come up, most people probably instinctually think of Colorado (as do I). However, do not be confused, (like my family and I were) the Nantahala river is quite impressive. Apparently, the Nantahala is a training river for olympic and professional kayaking (information that would have been helpful before we launched into the river). Hopefully you are starting to see the enormous error in judgment, thinking this was going to be a fun little splash down the river.
The day started innocently enough. My mom and I went to K-Mart and purchased the cheapest water shoes we could find, we meticulously packed our bags with sunscreen, bottle waters, snacks, and jubilantly headed out the door. As we approached our destination, an hour later, we realized that our GPS was giving us some inaccurate directions. I decided to call the Paddle Inn, our rafting company, to help with the final, last bit of directions. In explaining our location, "Mama" the owner of Paddle Inn, in her husky, Marlboro man voice tells me to, "turn off the GPS and listen to me, I said turn it off right NOW!" At that point, getting my feathers extremely ruffled, I passed the phone to my Dad to handle this crusty, old bag!
As we arrived at the Paddle Inn, thanks to Mama, to retrieve our raft and paddles pure adrenaline was in motion. We signed our lives away in the two-page contract and gladly paid our money. Before we left the Paddle Inn to load unto the converted school bus that would drop us at our river departure, we needed to be briefed by "PawPaw," the husband of Mama. Just envision an auctioneer, and that's about how fast PawPaw was giving instructions about the river. "Now when y'all see Turtle Rock stay left, that's where we had our last drowning in 2008, but then immediately stay to the right after Turtle Rock. Then stay left, after that stay right, left, right. Then when y'all see a sign nailed to the tree...MAKE SURE Y'ALL STAY TO THE LEFT, yers gonna get yerself caught up in some rocks if yers don't."
"Now listen, once you hit the big rapid yers wanna stay to the right, unless of course yers wanna get a fun ride in the whirlpool. It will suck yous in, and spit yous out, and suck yous back in and take yer shorts, and spit yous back out. It's yer choice, I've only done it once in my many, many times down the river and that was enough for me!"
"OK, any questions? Let me get Mama over here to pray for us." By the end of his briefing, and Mama's prayer, my family and I gave each other the, what-the-hell-did-we-get-into look. I believe it was at that moment fear set in.
Within minutes of ascending into the river we were faced with our first class II rapid. Curse words flew, emotions ran high. It was not the Woodsons' finest moment. As we watched other families, with their paid guides help them leisurely traverse down the river our hatred for each other grew with each passing paddle. "I swear to God Kaitlyn if you don't start paddling I will drown you in this river right now!!" I am such a wonderful big sister when provoked with fear and anxiety (NOT)! I would like to take a moment and apologize to my youngest sister for any mental anguish I may have caused her during this rafting trip. :) Shortly after the first extreme rapid, we decided to follow one of the "smart" families that paid for a guide and do everything JUST like they were doing. We lovingly named our unpaid guide, Curious George because he was wearing a hat like Curious George's owner from the books. "Keep up with Curious George! We gotta paddle faster, Curious George is getting too far ahead!" This plan seemed to work the rest of the way down the river, until Curious George and his family pulled over at "Chicken Beach" and we stupidly paddled right past him!
Saying farewell to Curious George and approaching our doom, the class III rapid, we idiotically took the wrong turn and ended up stuck in the rocks just like PawPaw said to avoid. That right there should have been a omen from above, as if God was saying to us, "I am giving you this chance to avoid what is coming next. Quietly take your raft out of the river and get on the converted school bus back to camp Paddle Inn." Did we listen to this omen? Of course not! We spent the next fifteen minutes trying not to slip on the rocks and walked our enormous, five hundred pound raft back to Chicken Beach to re-enter the river for the Class III rapid. We are dumb.
Kaitlyn and my Mom's expressions are priceless is this picture! I think it was exactly what was going on in every one's mind, they were just the first to express it outwardly! We tried our darnest to stay to the right, and avoid the whirlpool, but it was too late! Things happened so quickly after we hit the rapid I really only recall thinking, "I am going overboard," and then seeing nothing but white. The water not only swirled and churned with extreme force, but it was ice cold. For the first time in my life, my body went into shock. All I could think to do was tuck my legs up and float. Hoping and praying that I would float to the bank of the river where a permanent ambulance stood to help idiots like me. I could not catch my breath, I could not feel my body, and my neck was mysteriously throbbing in pain. My only thought was getting the hell out of the Nantahala river.
Out of nowhere, a boat floated by me and a girl, probably no more than sixteen years old, grabbed the shoulders of my life jacket and hoisted me into their boat. Safe at last. My poor sister and mom clung to our raft for dear life and my Dad was the only one in the boat to save both of them. Luckily, another man swam over to help him get my sister and mom back into the raft.
Once we were on dry land my body stood there shaking. I contemplated crying to let everyone know, who didn't have the pleasure of experiencing the rapid, just how distressing that rapid really is, but decided to suck it up. After loading into the converted school bus, we assessed the damages. Three paddles lost, a pair of broken sunglasses, and two water shoes missing (one from my sister and one from my mom). No one spoke the entire ride back to camp Paddle Inn. I think we were in complete dismay of what just took place. After changing into dry clothes and loading into our car to head home, we realized that we were going to be alright and we started laughing, hysterical, crying laughter...and haven't stopped laughing about this calamity ever since.