Ever since I was in school, I was always the kid who was scared to step out of my comfort zone. I used to envy the other kids who would be able to jump off makeshift ramps on their bikes or some daredevilry which would leave the onlookers in awe. It looked so liberating and terrifying at the same time, so I never really did try it.


Fast forward to today, nothing much has changed. I’m still the same ol’ scaredy cat who has to be pushed to get out there and do something, but little did I know that things were about to change and drastically.



How it started


I still remember that weekend after my birthday, my friend told me to keep my weekend plans open for a 1-day “vacation.’’ This is a person I’ve known for years, and I had complete faith in her that she wouldn’t pull off anything that could ruin my serene way of life. Or so I thought.


There were warning signs when she told me to pack swimming clothes, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought, probably Water World because it is pretty famous and I really like it. As we started driving, I realized we weren’t heading to Federal Heights. I saw Royal Gorge on the GPS – were we heading to whitewater rafting? Well, as fearful as I was, my friend assured me that this was one of the best whitewater outfitters in Colorado and I had nothing to worry!



Reaching the Epicenter


We landed at Echo Canyon positioned right by the Arkansas River on the outskirts of Canon City. To say that the view was breathtaking would’ve been an understatement. Echo Canyon’s whitewater expeditions in Colorado Springs had great reviews, my friend reassured me, and have been in the business for decades. The people we spoke to were courteous and the guide assigned to us was affable and informative as well.


We were there early so after we checked in we walked around the gorgeous valley and took in all the sights and sounds. We were then told to report to the desk to get geared up. We didn’t have much stuff to bring as we had left electronics back in the car.



The Adventure of a Lifetime


So, once we got geared up, our guide checked if we have all the safety equipment secured on us. He then briefed us about rafting commands like the forward and backward paddle, along with specific commands like ‘high side’ to lean against the higher side of the raft to keep it from flipping. We were put together with another group. After a quick meet and greet we headed off to the river and on our raft.



We boarded and took positions that our guide had assigned to us earlier and we were ready. The guide told us that this was a class 3 rapid which was intermediate in terms of the harshness and challenge of the raft. This also meant that a beginner like me would be able to take on this task with assistance. However, it also meant that intermediate-level rafters would enjoy it just as much. Apart from me, the rest of them had a decent amount of experience at this.


While I was jittery earlier, as we tackled a few turns, I began to grow more confident. Having a guide really helps as he kept an eye on me and told me what I was doing wrong. A rule of thumb is ‘if you aren’t paddling, you’d better be holding on to something!’


One of our paddler tribe folk got thrown overboard, but the guide took matters into his own hands, literally, and threw him a z-drag kit. A z-drag kit is a bag with a length of long rope with one end attached to the raft. I know it sounds dramatic, falling overboard into the water, but this is where the expertise of the guide came through. He hoisted the paddler quickly and safely walked him through what he was actually trying to do.


The rest of the journey was a lot of fun with all of us coordinating to overcome obstacles and getting safely through checkpoints. It was exhilarating to indulge in “team work” to get through the harder parts of the river and seal it with the high-five after. When we got to shore, we all did feel like a tighter-knit unit as well as had the time of our lives.



Winding up


From a trembling first time rafter to someone who wants to get out there at the slightest excuse, I have come a full circle, and it’s definitely a good thing. Being stuck behind a desk all day then heading back home to the couch is not conducive for stress relief. Getting closer to nature can help a great deal at alleviating the strain of everyday life. I hope my personal account encourages you to get out of the house and head off on a vacation sooner rather than later. Though it might not seem so at the outset, trust me, we all need it!


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Jennifer Anders is a freelance travel writer who enjoys

exploring off-the-beaten-path locations around the world.

She loves hiking national parks and photographing wildlife.

You'll also find her eating plenty of local street food.