“Crowd Rafting” By Chad Robert Parker

I loved river rafting with my family down the Snake River in Jackson Hole. I highly recommend it. They didn’t supply a river guide, which made my mom a little uneasy, upon learning we would face some Class III rapids. She was reassured by seeing families being told that unless it was a Class IV or higher, kids of all ages were making the run. Our company was composed mostly of adults.

We stationed ourselves with experienced paddlers on the outside and the others in the middle. There were a few upsy-daisy moments when your stomach falls to the floor then raises to your throat. Waves splashed against the hot plastic. The day was blazing hot and the breeze through our hair was welcome. The main current keeps you steadily pacing downstream whether your boat is in a spin or not. We opted to paddle hard with the nose usually pointing forward in case we headed for the bank. Before we knew it we were near the biggest wave below a highway view of onlookers. We’d seen it when we drove in, but the ride had lulled us into a mistaken security and the nose of our raft was not pointing correctly.

Sideways we went. The crowd grabbed the attention of those around them. You could hear their anticipation, expecting this would not end well for us. Some uninitiated before us had flipped out of their boats, but far too few. Our pride was on the line. My dad calmed the troops. “Steady. Keep paddling on the right.” He beckoned to me, on the left, sitting on the opposite back corner from him to wait. “When I say, put your oar in deep.” As much as everyone was paddling the raft was righting its path straight into the massive wave, still the hull wasn’t turning head on. I followed my orders and at the last moment thrust my oar along with my dad’s in as a rudder. We floated straight and true and didn’t take a swim. Cheers rose up from our boat followed by sighs of disappointment from above.

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