Youth Group Rafts Down Class I, II and II Rapids in Western Mass.
On Wednesday, August 31st, 11 Youth and 3 chaperones ventured 3 hours northwest to Charlemont, Mass for a day of White Water Rafting! Some of our Youth had never rafted before so there were tons of different emotions when everyone met at the church at 6:15 am. You’d think at such an early time, the Youth would have gone back to bed in the car. WRONG. They were all super excited to be with their friends, on their way to do a super fun activity and of course, eat donuts. Donuts make everything better.
We made it up to Crab Apple White Water on the Deerfield River and it was go time! Electronics were left in the car, liability waivers were passed in and water gear was on. We got fitted for our helmets, life jackets and paddles then hopped in a school bus and drove 10 miles up river. When we got to the bank, our group divided into two groups, boarded the rafts and got into the water!
First, we got acclimated with paddling. How to hold the paddle, stay in sync with one another and listen to the different commands our leader would say to us. The first challenge was paddling directly into rapids where we tried to “surf” in the tide. Something along the lines of getting stuck in the rip tide where we would just stay there and coast…while getting soaking wet in the process. Pretty cool! After we got used to our positions and paddles, we paddled down a scenic area that was not too challenging. During this time, Youth were allowed to get out of the raft and float along the river. It was important to stay close to the raft because the current could take a person down stream faster than the raft. We learned that we had to show chins and tows while floating. This was so that our feet/legs wouldn’t touch or get caught along brush or rocks while floating in the water.
It was time to get back in the rafts because it was time to navigate through various rapids, slam into rocks purposely and spin around as fast as we could. No sooner did we know it was time for lunch. We tied up and enjoyed a picnic along the river, which included sandwiches (with various fixings), chips and yummy brownies. We boarded back into our rafts for what would be the wettest portion of the trip (unless you already had gotten in the water). It was time for water fights and wheelies! Each raft was allowed two buckets and the opportunity to dowse each other with water (opposite rafts of course). It was very chilly, especially on an overcast day. We also did something called wheelies. Where everyone in the raft would go to the stern (back) of the raft and lean backwards. The instructor/guide had a rope and pulled the raft upward! Literally 90 degree perpendicular to the river! We had to tuck our feet in the raft to prevent us from falling out. Those at the very back of the raft were literally laying down in the water. It was crazy cool and terrifying all at the same time!
No sooner did we find ourselves at the end of the 10-mile course…and just like that, it was over. We got out of the rafts, boarded the bus again and headed back to camp. Once we arrived, we changed into dry clothes and jumped back in the van to head home.
There were many takeaways from this particular excursion. Youth got to bond with one another while working together towards a common goal. This activity required muscle, stamina and a willing attitude. The guide relied on all of us, and all of us, relied on one another. It’s pretty neat how that worked out. We got to be vulnerable with one another. We showed our fears, whether it was in anticipation of going through the Class III rapid and doing it wrong, the high likelihood of falling out of the raft or getting soaking wet and uncomfortable. We could be real and honest with one another. We were also able to cheer on and encourage others when we were brave and confident.
All in all, the trip was great! The Youth had fun laughing, being out in nature and swimming together!