A raft full of holes

Published 11:50 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The whitewater community has many interesting characters. From old river hippies to thrill seeking youngsters, they all seem to enjoy the thrill of following the water falling down the mountains in boats. 


The many different types of boats one can see on the river can be a sign of the intent of the thrill seeker. 

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Tubing is normally the first foray into whitewater for future enthusiasts. Many of you have probably taken a leisurely float down the Green River. Tubing is mainly for those that want to relax with constant changing scenery. Some would argue the most exciting part of a Green River float is the drive down Green River Cove Road’s endless hairpin turns. 


Where most folks put in the river to tube, they will see groups of kayakers getting out of the river. Just upstream is a section of whitewater that is world famous. Every year, people from around the globe travel to race the “Green River Narrows.”


You won’t see inner-tubes floating down “The Narrows.” Large waterfalls and mazes of boulders require skilled paddlers to pick their way down the river to avoid dangerous consequences. 


I was once a whitewater kayaker that craved big drops and huge waves.  Naturally, I found a summer job that included those things as perks. 


For multiple summers I guided people down the Nantahala River outside of Bryson City. What was a relatively tame river in my eyes provided thrills and laughs for first time river runners throughout the summer. 


After a two decade break, last week I tried guiding again with my parents, wife, and two children. The cold water and splashy waves filled our raft with smiles and laughs. 


Being the guide, I had to boss my wife and parents around which is out of character. When making an order to paddle forward, I was tempted to say, “All forward….please!”


When I use to try to scare Boy Scouts as a raft guide, I would yell, “Paddle forward like your life depends on it, because it does!” While the Nantahala is relatively tame, it did claim a couple of lives in the years I worked there. 


Some parents think my wife and I are crazy for taking kids rafting or tent camping in bear country. “Aren’t you worried about their safety?” is a common refrain. 


Of course we are worried about their safety. But, more people are dying of sedentary lifestyles fueled by LED screens and air conditioning than rafting deaths. 


My eight year old daughter showed little fear throughout the three hour adventure. Mainly she was mesmerized by the floor of the raft. The floor is inflated and holes along the bottom of the raft allow water to drain. The idea of floating down a river in a raft full of holes blew her mind. 


Rivers can be a welcome escape from the summer heat and barrage of LED screens in our daily life. Whether you float down them in a tube, kayak, or a raft full of holes, the endeavor will leave you with lasting memories and an appreciation of the mountains we call home.

The Hunt family on a recent rafting trip