White Water

Our guide, Kylen, Creighton, Carson, Lynn, Sarah Scott and Emerson Cook, and our foreign exchange sister Eleonore Jonckheere brave the Ocoee rapids. 

For some, Labor Day weekend can bring the blessing of relaxation. Three whole days with no commitments. Plenty of time to catnap in the warm weather, maybe finish a summer read.

For others, the three-day weekend is the perfect opportunity for a vacation. Some clock out a little early on Friday, hit the road as soon as they can. Maybe their suitcase was already in the trunk. They soak up the sun and sights before they have to return to the desk Tuesday morning. 

This year, my family joined the latter camp. We have always been an adventurous bunch. A family friend once described us as the “going-est” family she knew because we are always trying new things. 

On Labor Day weekend, my parents, sisters and I converged in Chattanooga to take a white water rafting trip down the Ocoee River. 

I had rafted down the Ocoee before, but each time is thrilling in a new way. Every trip is different depending on the height of the river, the weather that day and the guide. Some guides like to play it safe, but I have had guides who abandoned our raft mid-river to do a backflip off a rock. 

This time our guide, Kylen, was the perfect balance. We never fell out of the raft, but she still showed us a few tricks. 

We got off to a rocky start. Literally. We got stuck on a rock. 

When my family play Head’s Up, we are so in-sync you would think we could read each others’ minds, but when it comes to paddling that synchronicity was nowhere to be found.   

Our guide had us shift all of our weight to one side of the raft so she could budge us off. Then we had to immediately climb back into our seats without losing our grip on the paddles.  

We found our rhythm after that, and we had plenty of fun going down the later rapids like “Table Saw” and “Diamond Splitter.”

We had one first-timer in our group. Eleonore, the foreign exchange student staying with my family, had never been white water rafting before.

To ensure she had the best experience possible, we let her have the honor of “riding the bull,” or sitting on the front of the raft as we go down a rapid. 

I think she enjoyed it. She hasn’t submitted a request to live with a new host family yet, so she probably enjoyed it. 

Come Tuesday morning, I may have been a little sore and a little sunburnt, but I wouldn’t trade my wild weekend with my family for a calm staycation. 

Everybody needs time to relax, but it’s the adventures, the white water excursions and road trips, that stand out in my memories.

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