Recently GiftTree treated it’s employees to a white water rafting trip with Wet Planet on the White Salmon River.
The days leading up to the trip the office was buzzing with nervous chatter; what should we expect? Would it be safe? Do I have to wear a wetsuit?? (Okay the last one might have just come from me…) I walked around assuring myself that OF COURSE it was safe, what a silly question that was. It was going to be like floating on a bed down a calming river, site-seeing! Even on the drive up, which is only about an hour and a half from the office, I felt cool, calm and collected. Not a worry in my mind! Everyone met and gathered at the Wet Planet headquarters which is a small gift shop with a large front deck and several very friendly, free-range doggies. We sat in the sun, petting dogs and lubing up with sun block waiting for our turn to file into the bus and head up to the river. Still, I was nerve-free even as I watched a few trucks putt up the road with a stack of no-nonsense rafts tied to their tops. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite like a bed, but I’m sure it’s going to be like a scenic float down a pristine river–no worries!
About this time a boisterous and comical guide came out to fill us in on how the day would proceed. First, we were to wiggle into our wetsuits ( not as bad as I thought it would be!), then booties, life-vests and helmets. We then all gathered around a fully inflated raft, docked in the grass, and prepared for a lesson on proper rafting technique. It was here, looking around at everyone in full rafting-regalia that I felt my first twinge of nerves. Whoa-buddy, this was real. There’s no backing out now! Thankfully Devon, the guide with with comical-chops, was there to take my mind off impending death. He ran through the do’s and don’t’s of white water rafting and assured us we’d all come back alive….maybe. He’s being funny, right?! Finally we were told to load up! One by one our group of 33 filed into the white school bus that smelled faintly of old gym socks and textbooks. Our journey officially began. We were told to pair up in groups of 6 (my group was Jennifer–Director of Awesome and my boss, Wendi–Queen of All Things Warehouse, Carrie–Master of the HR domain, Mike–Husband to HR Master and finally, Evan–Mini HR Master) and then matched up with our guide.
My group of six was paired with Kat, a tall, slender and wet-suit clad woman. Kat was pleasant as peach pie and kept everything simple for my now reeling mind to take it. We were seated in our raft, still not yet anywhere near the river and I started to question my state of sanity. White water rafting?! Are you kidding me?! I can’t even go down escalators! (No joke, I really can’t) And here I was, about to pontoon down a raging river!
We were warned for the 5th time that we were entering the river at phase III and IV rapids. Three and four?! Oh my god! What does that even mean?! The only thoughts racing through my head as we were instructed to heave the raft down to the river were; “I wonder what they will tell my next of kin? She did not look like a beached whale, we promise.'” We hit the trail leading down to the river and discovered the niftiest contraption ever! Metal rails descended down the trail, zigzagging back and forth and GET THIS, were to slide the raft down to the river. The sheer genius of this almost over-shadowed the fact I was surely marching to my watery grave. Almost. I began spewing words from my mouth, the way I do when I’m nervous. “Sooo, what did you have for breakfast? I had a cereal bar. It was good. I like marshmallows. This one time when I was 4 I caught a fish. I heard about this new bill congress is trying to pass, let me tell you ALL about it! Blah blah blah blah.” Luckily for every one else in the group the moment I saw the churning rapids my mouth shut down, but I’m sure the look in my eyes screamed, “PANIC, PANIC, PANIC.”
I actually turned to flee at this point, the only thing stopping me were the three other rafts sliding down the rails behind me, blocking any route of escape. Blast! Alright, the only way to go was in. I can do this, I can do this. I stepped in with one foot and instantly flopped down and hugged the sides of the raft, slowly wiggling myself into place. So much for not looking like a beached whale! I was handed my oar and I clutched it like I’d never clutched anything before, all the while hunkering down and preparing for the worse. Kat screamed “EVERYONE ROW FORWARD!!!” Oh god. Here we go!
The first 5 minutes are kind of a blur. The raft bucked and dipped, cold water splashed and poured as I rowed like my life depended on it. I stared down whirling, white peaked swells and fought through seething currents of angry water and came out smiling! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! The rest of the trip had some truly amazing sites, several more rapids to conquer as well as a few peaceful stretches we were able to stretch out and relax through. And for the real adrenaline junkies, half way through the trip we pulled over at a bridge, suspended 25 feet above the river, and everyone was given the opportunity to jump. I sat, watching co-worker after co-worker plunge feet first into the chilly water and miraculously they all came up smiling and scrambling to do it again. I figured I’d come this far, I might as well try my luck at bridge-jumping. I fumbled up the hill and onto the bridge then inched my way to the edge. I debated for a good 8 minutes before I came to the conclusion that maybe I should overcome my fear of heights on the escalator and THEN move onto bridges.
At the end of the trip we pulled the raft out of the water and they were loaded back on to trucks while we filed back on to the white bus and started the very short trek back to the gift shop where we changed into dry clothes and were treated to a delicious BBQ hosted by unbelievably friendly people.
I never would have guessed that I would have found a new favorite hobby in white water rafting, but this really was an absolutely amazing day! I can not wait till I can go again and next time I’m definitely going to jump!
Thank you so much, GiftTree!! This is a memory I will never forget!