Thrilling and Silly

You haven’t gone whitewater rafting if you haven’t gone with a boat full of 11- and 12-year-old girls. Sure, you may have enjoyed the adventure of a river trip in a raft and enjoyed the excitement of crashing through whitewater rapids, but for our Rockbrook Middlers today, it was much more. For them, a whitewater rafting trip is equally thrilling and silly. That is to say, for them, it was way more fun.

Even putting on the gear was fascinating for the girls today. Many had never been rafting before, so simply buckling the PFDs and figuring out how to adjust the helmets —long hair adds some challenge— and to hold the paddles was interesting for them. They listened carefully to our lead raft guide Ruby explain important details like how to sit in the boat, what to do if you fall out, how to float in whitewater (feet downstream… don’t stand up!), and how to help pull someone back into the boat. They used real muscle carrying the rafts to the water’s edge, and felt their excitement build as they perched on the edge of the rafts and practiced paddling to their guide’s instructions.

The Nantahala is an ideal introductory whitewater river. It’s dam-controlled and offers about 9 miles of scenic easy-flowing stretches between named class II and III whitewater rapids (“Patton’s Run,” “Ledges” and “Pyramid Rock,” for example). Right away, the girls noticed another extraordinary feature of the Nantahala, the temperature of its water. It’s a toe-numbing 50 degrees or so. That makes being splashed even more intense, and makes falling in the river a shocking, wide-eyed surprise.

Riding in the boat is inherently fun, of course. It’s bouncy and a little edgy, with your raft hitting rocks and waves unpredictably. At any moment, you might be surprised by a face full of cold water. The girls definitely get wet on these trips! The guides allow the girls to take turns sitting on the front of the raft, like a hood ornament, a position called “riding the bull.” This is precarious to say the least, and when the raft takes a sudden bump, it quickly becomes hilarious too, with legs flailing in the air. Or, if the person bounces out of the raft, it becomes becomes a team effort to pull her back into the boat, laughing the whole time.

But none of this is really the best part of a Rockbrook rafting trip. What’s uniquely great about this rafting is the girls’ bright attitudes, their playful, silly and enthusiastic approach to the experience. Every boat is a fun social experience with the girls singing (and even dancing at times!), laughing and chatting. They’re also screaming with glee through the rapids, and having a blast coming up with goofy poses for the camera each time there’s a chance to wave and smile. A camp rafting trip like this, like all camp activities, begins with relaxed friendship, and that in turn leads to some silly, silly stuff. Here too, there’s a special energy to a group of girls like this, to a group of camp friends who know each other this well, who already trust each other and love making each other laugh.

This is another example of how the people at camp, the special relationship they share (kind, caring, genuine, optimistic), makes everything we do better. Nice weather, like we had today, helps, but when we do things together, the good feelings of friendship that define our time at camp have an almost magical power to bring joy to almost anything. That’s where all the singing comes from, all those smiles, so much laughter and silliness.

See how these aren’t ordinary rafting trips? They sparkle with the exuberance of camp. And for those of us lucky enough to be a small part of it (yes, this includes you parents too!), it’s an absolute joy.

summer camp rafting fun


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