An Unfortunate Day on the River

Author: Ireland Bramhall

Tags: Exploring, Finalist, North America, Pennsylvania, USA

Skin blistering heat. River water moving as slow as an act of Congress. Disappointment after every turn from hope that we would soon reach the end. Our family’s much anticipated white water rafting trip was undeniably unforgettable, just not in the way we were hoping for. Having an outdoorsy army veteran as a father is not easy for someone as unlucky in nature as I am. Exploring the wilderness has always been a difficult task for my city-savvy, girly self. I often trip, fall, run into branches, or get bitten by bugs when I’m outside; so, I should’ve expected the worst when my father proposed rafting on the Ohiopyle River in Pennsylvania. Although my brother and I weren’t thrilled about this idea, we decided to broaden our horizons. How bad could it be?

When we were dropped off at the entry point with prepackaged lunches, life vests, paddles, and our raft, we anticipated an adventurous few hours on the river. With high spirits, we embarked on our journey. We marvelled at the natural wonders as we went- rocks bigger than our car, the ancient Allegheny forest, and the blue, cloudless sky. Paddling the heavy rubber raft was harder than expected due to the abnormally shallow level of the water. Repeatedly, our raft would get beached on rocks, causing my already exhausted father to jump out and push us past the obstacle. About forty-five minutes into our trek, the July sun began to take its toll.  As the temperature increased, so did our complaining. The hot, black rubber raft would serve as our jail cell for the next few hours. My younger brother, Christian, who was only eight years old at the time, was so uncomfortable that he sat on the floor of the boat and used his life jacket as a shield from the sun. Our patience had run out, so from this point forward, all we could do was keep paddling and hope that we were reaching the end of the river. Little did we know, we had only reached the halfway point of our “fun, family day”.

We finally found a shady spot along the river so we decided to stop for lunch. We were worn out. Lunch was not very satisfying as it was prepackaged by the river outfitters. We solemnly gnawed down our stale turkey sandwiches in silence. Looking at each other in desperation, we decided to take a rest and take advantage of the shade. Beyond tired, my father laid back, almost skimming the water with his hat. Now, this was no ordinary hat. As a proud veteran, he had spent the last couple years collecting military unit pins, insignia of military intelligence and rank, and various other things that were important to him. Judging by the downward spiral of the day, it was no surprise that as he closed his eyes and rested, the decorated hat unknowingly slipped off his head and began sinking into the river we had come to hate. For my usually positive father, this was the last straw.

As we returned to our miserable journey, we hoped that the end was around every corner. Another family passed us, seemingly enjoying their leisurely river cruise, and described a unique, massive rock that marked the exit point which wasn’t that far away. Six gruelling hours later, we found the boulder and pathetically trudged up the hill to turn in our raft. We walked away with blistered skin, exhausted bodies, and only a single shred of dignity. My advice to anyone planning an exciting, white water rafting trip, is to come well prepared with plenty of sunblock, low expectations, and a positive attitude.