Posted by: lylescott89 | July 6, 2012

Franklin NC Day 7: Rafting on the Nantahala

Hey kids,

Donna and I discovered the fun of white water rafting back in 1999.  We took our first trip down the Nantahala River that year.  The river was fairly mild with class 2 rapids and one class 3 at the end.  We enjoyed it very much and were determined to raft again.  A few years later we were in Canada and took a trip down the Kicking Horse River in British Columbia.  It was much more strenuous with class 3 & 4 rapids.  We had the greatest time ever and since I was sitting in the front of the boat I think I drank about ½ of the river that day.  The water was bitterly cold as it was glacier fed.  At the end of the trip our guide asked for a volunteer to hop out and help lead the raft to shore.  Since I was already soaking wet and freezing I volunteered.  Our guide told me that I could now tell everyone I swam in a glacier fed river.  I asked him if he knew the temperature and he said it was, at best, 5 degrees Celsius.  (About 41 degrees Fahrenheit)  Even through the wetsuit it was dang cold.  We decided that we would raft again the next summer, but then came Adam and everything changed.

So when Adam finally became old enough to go on a rafting trip (other than a float down a calm river, aka boring) we decided we would start him off at the same place where we had started all those years ago.  When we awoke that morning Adam was beyond excited.  Our trip was not until 1:30 so we decided to take a leisurely drive, check in and have some lunch prior to our trip.  We started the morning with those tasty waffles, gathered up the gear and left the house about 10:30.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) was a mere 12 miles away, but Meagan informed us it would be about an hour long drive.  An hour for 12 miles may seem a bit odd, but when you think about the curvy mountain road we had to take and the slower speed we had to go for safety you understand.  When we finally arrived we found one (that’s right, one) open spot in the lot to park.  So we took it and went to the NOC desk to check in.  We had reservations and had already paid so all we needed to do was fill out the “we will not hold you liable if we die” forms and turn them in.  The cute girl at the desk checked us in and told us to meet, ready to go, at the green flag at 1:20.  She informed us to lock up valuables in the car and they would put our car keys in a lock box until we returned.

So we walked across the bridge to a restaurant called The River’s End.  It was, in fact, the same restaurant we had dined at back in 1999.  I remembered that they had delicious burgers so I went with that again.  I can confirm that they still delicious burgers.  We were seated right by the window and were able to watch kayakers and rafters finishing up their adventures.  It was relaxing.  Adam was anxious for the trip and the time could not go fast enough for him.  Kind of like me at work.

After lunch Donna and I changed into our suits for the rafting trip (Adam had been wearing his all day.  I told you he was excited) and waited at the green flag.  After hearing our name butchered by the extremely hot girl who was getting everyone together we went to put on our safety vests.  As we walked over there I told the hot girl that I had an Epipen.  I had read in the instructions that our guide would keep it in a waterproof box on our trip.  I asked her who I needed to give it to and she said she would take it and make sure it got to our guide.  (Remember this)

Once we had our vests on securely we went over to watch the safety film and hear the safety lecture from this guy that looked exactly like you would expect a guy that worked at a rafting company would look like.  If you ever saw the show “Reaper”, think of the character of Sock and you get the idea.  We were then handed our paddles and boarded the bus for trip to the “put-in”.  (I could have sworn they said we were going to the puddin’, but I was quickly corrected)

We arrived and were separated into our groups.  It would be the three of us plus two guys (a father and his adult son) and a guide.  We were introduced to our guide, Danny, and he was great.  Danny was really good with all of us, especially Adam.  We felt that we were going to have a great journey.  Then Sock came over to our group and asked if he could speak with me alone.  I could not even imagine what he wanted.  He took me aside and put his hand on my shoulder and said “Dude, I’m really sorry.  Your Epipen got left back at the outpost.  I’m so sorry Dude, but don’t worry because Danny has a couple in the raft already.  It’s not yours, but if you need it he has it.” I said it would be fine and then Sock promised me that he would do everything in his power to get mine back to me.  I thanked him, he shook my hand and I rejoined my group.  Frankly it was no big deal since the odds of me needing it were slim and I knew he’d get it back to me.  (He did)

Danny told us the water was about 50 degrees about the same time that I stepped in.  Yep, it was cold.  Danny said the river was running very well and that we should get splashed a lot.  So we all hopped in the raft and got ourselves seated and secured so that we would not fall out.  Thankfully we all knew the procedures in case we did fall out.  Adam had a big goofy grin on his face and was ready to go.  And a few moments later, off we went.

We came to the first rapids, which Danny said were called “Patton’s Run”.  He said next to it was “Jaws Rock” and we had to be careful.  Almost immediately I was splashed with the chilly water and Adam was laughing at me.  I love making my boy laugh.  Adam actually did great on the entire trip, which lasted about two hours.

As we continued along Danny continually called out the names of the rapids we were coming to and pointed out rocks and other things along the river.  But most importantly he told us when to row and when to stop.  Something the old guy on the raft (not me, the older old guy) had trouble with on several occasions.  It was an absolutely beautiful day for rafting.  The temperature was in the 70’s and the sun was shining.  Much of the river is covered by tall trees, but we could also see the mountains as we traveled.  It was quite a sight.  There were a few calm spots in the water in which we were able to take it all in.  Adam was not a big fan of these spots.

As we continued down river we came across a small camping area.  There were several tents and a small campfire was burning.  There were also some very scary people sitting around the fire in overalls without shirts.  Yes, it was a scene from Deliverance.  I could almost hear Dueling Banjos and I am pretty sure I did hear Ned Beatty squealing like a pig.  I was quite happy when we got past that.

A little further down the river we came to another slow spot and I looked again to my right and saw a pickup truck parked at the side of the road.  At the passenger door was a guy in jeans and no shirt looking much contended and a young woman in her underwear pulling up her jean shorts.  One could only imagine what we may have seen if we arrived just a few minutes earlier.  I said “well, that’s not something you see every day”.

Waiting for us at the end of our journey were the class 3 Nantahala Falls.  The epic conclusion to our adventure.  Adam was all ready for it and so was I.  As we approached the raft began traveling faster and faster.  It was exhilarating.  We began the journey down the falls and I was secretly hoping for a “Land of the Lost” moment.  (Marshall, Will and Holly…on a routine expedition…)  Alas, there was no earthquake at that moment and we made it through without incident.  We did however go down sort of sideways with me getting the worst of the splash.  Awesome!

Since we were the lead boat we had to stop and Danny was ready with the rope should any of the other rafters fall out at the falls.  No one did, though Adam was hoping to see at least one person fall, and we got back in our raft and floated to the “take-out”.  (I have no idea if they called it this or not, but it made perfect sense)  We got ourselves dried and put on some warm clothes and were ready for dinner.  Before we left I got my Epipen from Sock and went and gave Danny a nice tip for keeping us safe.

I wanted to get back to Franklin for dinner, but Donna and Adam were starving so we stopped at a place nearby.  We should have just stayed there and gone back to the River’s End because the place we went was awful.  Adam had wings, which were actually pretty good, but my chicken sandwich sucked and the service was abysmal.  I will not even mention the name of this place mostly because I have blocked it from my memory.  We were the only ones in there and I thought that was a bad sign when we arrived.  Turns out I was correct.

By the time we arrived back home it was getting dark and we were beat tired.  It was a great day (except for dinner) and Adam was already looking forward to his next rafting trip.  I have to admit that I was too.  The joy that was on Adam’s face during that trip was unforgettable.

Friday would be our last full day in Franklin.  What would we be doing?  Stay tuned.



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