Trip Start Aug 08, 2010
16Trip End Aug 27, 2010
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We were booked on the 1.30 rafting session with Wet Planet rafting on an 8 mile stretch of the White Salmon River.
We were surprised to see how many other people had arrived to raft with us but we signed our disclaimer(!) in the event of sudden and unexpected death and got kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and life jackets. Wriggling into tight wetsuits on a hot day is not easy and then to wait several minutes for the safety briefing meant that we all felt that we knew what the term "boil in the bag" means
We were taken by bus to our put in on the river and this time we did not have to carry out rafts to the water, they used a zip line. We were rafting with a nice guy from Seattle and his teenage son, Cameron. Our guide, Gianni was good at naming and explaining all of the rapids to us but he was a little scathing about our paddling technique until we got into the swing of it. The river was narrower than the Athabasca we had rafted in Canada but the water seemed just as turbulent and some of the rapids meant that we all got drenched in freezing river water. Flo and I were slightly dismayed to see that at one point during the trip we had to negotiate some very rocky terrain on a steep slope on the side of the river bank as the water was too turbulent for us to raft on. Only the experienced guides took the rafts down this section of the river. Our hearts sank even further into our soggy boots when we saw that part of the descent back to our rafts was via a rope! I thought I had signed up for rafting, not rock climbing!
Once settled back into our rafts we paddled further downstream negotiating the Staircase, Shark's tooth, the Granny Grabber and we almost lost Paul and Julian who were sitting in the front at one point as we came down the Corkscrew
We then spent an anxious 10 minutes practising the drill for going over the top - put your paddle on the side of the raft without decapitating the person in front, hold onto the OS line, make the straps ready, put your feet in to a different position, on the command DROP you had to instantly drop into the bottom of the raft with your knees up by your ears! Needless to say it took several attempts before all 6 of us managed to get ready enough for our guide's satisfaction. What he then did threw rather a spanner in the works - we had to rearrange the seating combination, lightest at the front! This meant that Flo and Cameron had to sit in the very front - with no footholds to secure yourself in and they had to set the rhythm for the paddling. We had to paddle right up to the last minute - and it was a heart in the mouth experience watching the falls approach knowing that we were going over.
Nothing can prepare you for the power and the coldness of the water - the raft is submerged under tons of turbulent water before we bobbed back up onto the surface - but to our relief no-one had fallen out or had to be rescued. Our guide congratulated us on an almost perfect drop although speaking personally, I was in shock for some minutes! After divesting ourselves of our wetsuits back at base we drove back to Portland along the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, taking in the scenic views for one last time. We had a trip down memory lane later as we stopped at Applebee's neighbourhood bar and grill for some old fashioned comfort food. Quite a day, one that we won't forget for a while.