The rapids rush swiftly from the glaciers down the mountains, sending the 34-degree water plunging over rocks and around anything that stands in the way. In my dry suit, that took 30 minutes to put on, I look like I belong on Star Trek more than in a raft. I can barely feel my feet and hands because of the tight rubber bands on my wrists and ankles. The rubber shoes on top of two layers of socks are supposed to keep my feet dry. The one piece suit reminds me of footy pajamas my children wore when they were babies…only it is heavy rubber. I am zipped in up to the rubber turtle neck around my throat. I have on a stocking hat, knit gloves, and rubber dish washing gloves on top of that. Then comes the life jacket that has to fit “snuggly.” Now they ask me to climb into the raft in while standing in rushing 34 degree water. How in the world am I supposed to do that? I can barely put my arms down by my sides.
Once we are all suited up and in place, the adrenaline packed journey begins. We have a guide that paddles our raft with oars. Our job is to hold on to the “chicken rope.” No problem there for me…I am chicken. The excitement begins right away around the first turn in the river as we approach our first class 3 rapid. Hannah and Peter are in the front of the raft with another couple next to them. Bill and I as well as William and Aaron are in the back. The raft is transformed into a roller coaster as I grip the chicken rope with both hands. The splash is large and cold. Now we are soaked and the sweat we worked up while dressing is gone immediately. The smiles are wide and we all yell and want to do it again. The river does not disappoint. Around the next turn, another in 11 miles of one class 3 after another, we get blasted again. By the end of the trip, we are all soaked on the outside but dry on the inside. The cold begins to set in because our dry suits are not insulated.
When we begin our trip the sun is out, a perfect evening for rafting. The mountains fall right down into the river. The trees are amazing and the birds seem to follow us. We even see a curious beaver that swims along behind us for a ways. However, the weather changes in minutes in Alaska . After our first 2 hours on the river, the rain begins to fall. Fortunately, it remains a light misty rain until we removed our rafts…then the thunder starts. We make the bus ride back to the top and get out of our suits…under them we are totally dry. Once we get our shoes back on, we begin to warm up quickly. The smiles are wide and the excitement high as we relive each rapid. It was a once in a life time event. Live fully!!