Paddle Harder!!!! (The Informal Rafting Trip Report)

The actual “moment” of no turning back. I was out of the raft less than a second later.

There are a few dozen sayings about confronting fear by just doing whatever you’re afraid of. But I swear there is nothing quite like the millisecond right before you know it’s going to happen. You’re too far in to back out, just far enough out to have one final memorable fleeting thought cross your mind, and then it happens. Bam. One foot is already out of a perfectly good airplane, you’re just about to eat a frog leg, hold a massive python, take your first word in front of an audience of 500… or get quite epically dumped out of a raft into Class IV whitewater. I did mention I’m terrified of water in my last post, right?

In a great effort to confront my water terror (and to not be the lame kid in the group) this past Friday, the adventure quartet (Rob, myself, Eric, and Lori), Eric’s brother Chris, and group friend Carin made our way far north to West Forks, Maine for our third annual white water rafting trip with U.S. Rafting. They’re a pretty phenomenal adventure outfitter up there totally worth checking out. Now, while the official review of U.S. Rafting will come next early next week completely loaded with a ton of videos, I figured this trip deserved a less formal trip report as well.

Yeah… that’s the actual view from the site at sunset. Jealous yet?

Getting to West Forks isn’t a short drive. According to Google Maps, it’s four and half hours to just get from where I live to West Forks. It can never be done without traffic, a stop to Cabella’s (for those unfamiliar with this store, think of your favorite outdoor retailer… way bigger), and lunch. We also added in a quick stop to Delorme where Eric’s dad is CEO to check out their massive Guinness World Record holding “Eartha” – a 41.5 foot in diameter spinning globe that occupies their lobby.

Once we finally made it to West Forks, then there was the drive to the campground (Indian Pond Campground) that you’ll never stumble across by accident, which is rather unfortunate. Half the campground is right on the pond and trust me… you won’t want to leave. Even though some people might be totally thrown off by the lack of running water, electricity, flushable toilets, and cell phone reception – I love it.

He needs practice, but good effort!

Somehow after a few years of these group camping trips, we just about have this entire camp set up down to a science, so we always somehow manage to get tents up in record time, the cooking area entirely prepped and ready to go for one of many surprisingly satisfying dinners, and a nice fire ready to burn. This year though I decided to throw in a new requirement to site layout: a Gibbon slackline. Everyone looked really skeptical while I setting it up, but it turned out to be quite a hit the first night (and the second too). (Tip to newbie slackliners: Grab a drink you don’t want to spill – doesn’t need to be alcoholic. Somehow the combination of focusing on not spilling your favorite beverage seems to make for a better learning curve. Who knew!)

After a dinner of marinated steak tips, rice pilaf, and an array of New England beers, we figured it was probably time to break out the games. The big hit of the trip was a truly awful game called Cards Against Humanity. If you’re familiar with Apples to Apples, it’s along the same lines but generally really offensive, inappropriate, and best kept away from minors and grandparents. It’s so worth playing. Bahaha! I’m honestly surprised no one wandered on to our campsite to tell us to stop shouting the things we were finding hilarious…

Anyways, Saturday morning finally rolled around and it was time hit the Kennebec River. I won’t elaborate much on the rafting part right now, but it was a complete and utter blast and I wasn’t forced to face my fear of water to any great extent that day. Saturday night was more of the same debauchery – slacklining, highly offensive card games, and perfecting the art of marshmallow toasting.

Now Sunday was a different story. We were hoping to get the same guide (Jeremy) as we had had on Saturday as he was all around awesome (even though I think he was initially highly skeptical of us), but it wasn’t a guarantee. The moment we heard “Lori’s group. You’re with Jeremy”, we knew we were in for an even more adventurous day than the one before. We’d be tackling the Dead River on a high release day, and that meant all sorts of fun lay ahead of us, and oh did it. Needless to say, I faced my fear of water. I also got to face my fear of briefly not knowing where someone in my group was when they fell out into a really bad rapid. So. Much. Fun.

Rob and I in front of Moxie Falls

Anyways, after two very intense but very different days of rafting (that you’ll find out all about early next week with amazing videos and review) we woke up Monday morning feeling like we had been through an industrial washing machine full of rocks, trampled by elephants, and paddled two dozen miles (oh wait… we had done that). It was time to make a hot breakfast, pack up the camp, and head out.

Before leaving the area for good though, we did make a quick stop to Moxie Falls. Most of the group had never been, but we had heard rumors that there’s usually a pretty decent waterfall there so we figured it was worth checking out. It was! If you happen to be up in the area with any of the adventure outfitters, be sure to visit.

Anyways, be on the lookout early next week for the review of U.S. Rafting trips on both the Kennebec River and Dead River. It’s going to be a good one!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what my memorable fleeting thought was right before joining the Dead River white water swim team:

“But I don’t wanna go swimming!!!”

Yep, I’m a cool kid.

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!