Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This river don't go to no Aintry

Every year my family has a reunion the first full weekend of August at a lake about 40 minutes from Deep Creek Lake.

Last year, a few of us went to the top of the mountain at Wisp to check out the newly opened Adventure Sports Center International (it opened in 2008). They offer all sorts of outdoorsy-type of activities from mountain biking to rock climbing to zip lining (even geocaching seminars!), but the centerpiece is a gorgeous looking man-made river course for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The base of it is poured concrete with on-site quarried stones lining the perimeter. The water is pumped up the mountain from Deep Creek Lake, which is a considerable elevation difference. The water is then pumped through the raging course and wave shapers can be raised and lowered to create the class of rapids. The weekends usually have stronger Class 3/4 rapids, while the weekdays have 2/3 rapids. A few of us wanted to whitewater raft last year, but were unprepared for the trip. It's best to wear a swimsuit and closed toed water shoes and we did not have either.

This year the four of us would not be denied. It was me and DB~ and my cousin and her boyfriend. On the drive there, I seemed to be the only one not regretting the decision to do it. There was a lot of gallows humor among the group, especially when the rest of the people at the reunion pooled their money to guess who would go overboard first. I was the runaway winner of the prediction pool.

The water she was a ragin' on Sunday, that's for sure. The place was packed on this perfectly sunny day. We thought the water would be cold, but it was pretty pleasant. We just hoped that none of the four of us would experience it unnecessarily.

Our group was matched with another couple. As we were boarding (wearing our personal floatation devices and brain buckets as they call them) our guide asked us where we were all from. DB~ said we were from Pittsburgh and the other couple said they were too. That's not really a surprise as Deep Creek Lake is pretty much Pittsburgh's playground at this point. But when we asked what part of Pittsburgh, the guy ended up not only being from the same Township where I live, but 5 minutes from my house. Seriously...what are odds that we would be in the same 6 person raft?

I've done a lot of canoeing and in recent years I have gotten into kayaking, but I'm no expert by any means. But it felt natural to me when our guide was explaining the commands he would bark out to us over the next 2 hours. I dragged me and DB~ to the front section of the boat. Little did we realize that when you whitewater raft, you actually sit on the edge of the raft and not in the raft. All the easier for you to fall out I guess.

We left the float pond and got the raft on to the conveyor belt that would take us up to the top of the course that we would eventually run 7 times in 2 hours. It's a short paddle from the top to the first waterfall on the course. By the 3rd trip we learned to avoid the "parking garage", an area off to the side where the currents and eddies will take you if you all don't paddle together off the waterfall to avoid.

The 2nd rapids were also prone to congestion with other rafts and this is also where we smeared a kayaker one time. We bumped off a rock and pinned him against another rock as he tried to slide past us. He eventually got flipped over and it took him a maddening few extra seconds to rotate himself back over. The 3rd and 4th rapids are, in our opinion, the toughest on the course. They both had huge churning wakes at the bottom of them on Sunday and this caused a lot of turbulence in the raft. The very first run I cracked skulls with my cousin who was sitting behind me diagonally in the 2nd row.
The 5th rapid seemed tame, but we let our guard down during one run (we were getting cocky and starting crowing about how great of a run we had). There was a tricky double dip that we didn't brace for and 2 of us (not me...I didn't "win" the pool) went overboard. It was my cousin's boyfriend and the other girl from Pittsburgh. The other girl from Pittsburgh looked like a tuna being dragged into a fishing boat as she flopped all around after getting rescued. She was probably a little scared, I guess from getting bounced out and dragged through the rapids.

The 6th and final rapid is the descent into the float pool. Our guide encouraged us to jump out and experience the rush of flying through the area and into the wake. We thought he was crazy at first, but we watched others do it on other rafts. On the last run, 5 of the 6 of us did it so that we wouldn't have to climb back in the raft ungracefully. DB~ said she sort of eased her way out of the raft after we hit the churning wake! I did not like this at all, as I got caught up in the wake underwater and semi-panicked while I tried to resurface.

Even though DB~ nearly smacked me with the end of her paddle for the better part of 2 hours and she held on to the "chicken strap" during the rough times, I was proud of her for doing it. She's not really a water person, but she woman'ed up and did it anyway. The picture in this post was taken by DB~ after we finished up.

We were all really sore from doing this. It's a real workout and I think a lot of us tensed up during the excursion. Maybe next year I'll try the whitewater kayaking...on a lesser class of rapids.

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