Last weekend I went white water rafting for the 3rd time. This trip was my 2nd time on the Ocoee River which is one of the top 10 white water locations in the US and site of the 1996 Olympics for kayaking. I know the fact that I did this surprises some of you. To dispel any doubt I'm including a photo. This photo as you might guess was taken during one of the bigger rapids - on the Olympic course. Please note that I am smiling and do not have a terrified look on my face.
This particular trip was with a company called Adventurers Unlimited, they ran a discount on Groupon. My dad and I went several years ago and talked about doing it again so when the groupon came up I knew I found the perfect birthday gift. Ordinarily the full day of rafting we did would be $81 per person and then a photo CD an additional $50 - Groupon was $75 a person with the photos, so basically it was like getting the photos for free. The trip lasts 6 hours but that includes the bus ride to the drop point, lunch and the bus ride back so they say its about 4.5 hours on the water. Because the river was high on our day we finished a little fast but still got a good 4 hours of water time. All rafters have three pieces of equipment - a helmet, life jacket and a paddle; after grabbing all three and meeting our guide we loaded onto an old school bus for the long ride up the mountain. Once at the drop off we met the other 4 people that were in our raft and got some safety instructions, after 15 minutes of taking care of business we were off!
In our raft were two couples probably around my age from Georgia, they had never been before. Bless her heart but one of the Georgia girls fell out 10 minutes into the trip, she was pulled back in with no injury and we continued on our merry little way. The early portion of the day includes the Olympic portion of the trip , don't be too impressed y'all - the real athletes were by themselves going up river, recreational rafting is down river with 7 paddlers. It is rough though and a persons greatest risk of falling out, it's also the most dangerous place to fall due to all the rocks. We made it through the course fine but then the same girl and her bf fell out right beyond the course. Poor thing, in most of the pics she does look terrified. Although the roughest rapids are in the morning they are more spaced out, except for the Olympic course so there was also time for some leisurely rafting, a lot of people even got out to swim on the "lazy river" portion before lunch. It was refreshing but very cold - I was already pretty wet from being splashed in the rapids so I figured why not. Lunch was a picnic of deli sandwiches and sides, I think it's strategic to not feed people until after the Olympic course - it makes first timers really nervous.
In the afternoon we walked the raft down past the Dam that separates the upper and middle river sections. Most people consider the Olympic course to be the main attraction but if you can only do one portion I actually recommend the middle river, it has a most consistent volume of rapids. Level 4 rapids are pretty intense and level 2 are mild bumps so only level 3s they will allow people to "ride the bull" - which means sit on the front of the raft like a mechanical bull. The BF of bless her heart attempted to do this bit fell into the raft right before we hit the actual rapid. Next time, I totally plan on giving this a try. No one fell out of the raft in the afternoon - although it was presented as an option on a level 3 if we wanted to flip but the general consensus was that we were all good.
When the rafting was done we had a shorter bus ride back to the base. On the ride we were reminded that our guides had not "over tipped us and its impossible to over tip your guide". I already had cash in anticipation of a tip worthy guide, I gave $20 to cover me and my dad and our guide gave us both hugs so this must be considered a good tip. The base had a gift shop where one can buy "evidence of survival" aka souvenirs, shower and see the pics. Since I knew we were getting a whole cd I didn't bother viewing at the base but we had fun looking at them back at the hotel.
Overall dad and I had a good time, no one got hurt and we didn't fall out. Our last time we did fall and were riding in front, I think it's the most likely position to fall as an FYI if you are considering rafting. You're wearing a helmet and a life vest, as long as you're ok with the possibility of falling out you'll be fine, the cold of the water is the most shocking part. My strong suspicion is no one has ever gotten hurt following the rules and not acting like an idiot. I've already decided I won't wait so long before going again so if you're interested let me know!
Oh, as a side note : there was a bridal party checking in when we left, how fun is that?