June 20, 2002
by Chris Feeney
I need another outdoor hobby like I need another hole in my head. I guess two mouths would be okay, then no one could complain about me talking with my mouth full. Anyway I've got a new pursuit, one that might just rank up there with fishing (I know that's almost sacrilegious to say). This past week my family and I traveled to the state of Washington for a wedding. The bride and groom were gracious enough to schedule a little R & R for the weary travelers from Missouri in the form of a trip down the Methow (pronounced Met-How - they kept correcting me) River.
When I first heard the plans I was expecting a peaceful canoe ride or maybe a half-day float trip. But about a week before the vacation began the news surfaced that this was a white-water rafting adventure. I'll have to admit I was a little unsure of this agenda. I'm the type that thinks it's silly to jump out of a perfectly good airplane to skydive. So why would I deliberately get into a boat that was going to travel through rough water? Most people abandon ship at this point, instead we were manning the life boats so that we could head into the dangerous waters.
But after the 10 minute safety speech about how only a few people had been killed doing this and that it really didn't hurt to smash into the rocks if you fell out of the boat because your body was numb from the 40-degree water, I was raring to go.
Until this trip my idea of cold water was when the wife "accidentally" started the dishwasher while I was in the shower, sucking away all the hot water and leaving me screaming a high-pitched plea for heat. After taking a little dip in the river during the rafting trip I felt like I could have left the water and jumped in a deep freeze to warm up.
Once over the initial shock of the freezing water and the fatality statistics I boarded our air-filled rubber raft with four others hoping that friends back home wouldn't one day be referring to me as Gilligan, or worse yet the Titanic. We didn't get much time to think about what we were doing as our guide waited about two seconds before shouting out rowing commands as we hit the first little bunch of rapids. A splash or two of water brought your senses to life and then the battle was on as you paddled back and forth trying to steer the boat, and more importantly trying to keep it a float.
A couple runs through the thick stuff and I was a changed man. My smile was beaming and my paddle was working overtime as our fun-loving group worked hard to push our boat into the thickest rapids for even more fun. Believe it or not we even abandoned ship at one point to get a real feel for the water as well as the massive strength of the rapids and the current. That was real fun, but when you first hit the frigid waves it truly sucks all the wind from you, making getting a breath of air tougher than some people like. I guess that's why when we hit the second stretch of "calmer" water no one took the guide up on the offer to go for another swim.
I don't know if I can do the rafting justice in words, other than to say you simply must try it for yourself. It sort of resembles a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs, only there is a real chance of falling off the ride (just ask my wife). Top it all off with the most amazing backdrops of snow covered mountains, and rocky cliff sides surrounded by a beautiful blue sky and you'll start to get the picture.
I didn't even get a chance to try the fishing out and I know the hunting must be awesome out there as we saw literally hundreds of mule and white tail deer as well as lots of quail (just like ours except with a tear drop feather cap) and ruffed grouse. Sounds like I'll have to go back out and take advantage of the wonderful Burrus hospitality in the near future.