Wednesday, August 18, 2004 –
The next morning, Dad and Jeff woke up early to go tour the park. Believe it or not, I talked mom into white water rafting on the Nenana River near the park entrance. This would be her first time ever rafting … and in Alaska!
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure Mom would actually go through with the rafting. In fact, I was a little bit nervous about rafting through the freezing cold water in central Alaska. Mom asked a lot of questions during the pre-departure briefing and she was getting a little nervous. However, I told her that I would not let her fall out of the raft.
The rafting trip with Nenana Rafting adventures began just outside the park and lasted about three hours. When we pulled on our dry suits – the first time I have ever worn one – I could tell that I would stay warm. In fact, I wanted to jump in the water right then. Mom felt like she would stay warm too.
Of course we started with a few “warm-up rapids” before getting to several Class 3s. Was that a smile I saw on mom’s face after the first rapid? She was laughing and paddling! During the trip we had several opportunities to change positions in the boat. I moved up to the front through several class 4s which was a wild ride! Mom didn’t quite want to be in the very front, but she did alternate between the middle and back.
We shot through several deep canyons where we saw a number of Dall sheep and mountain goats. We passed through some rapids and under a large arc bridge where people would bungee jump. At one point, our guide told us we could jump in a gentle section of the river and float feet first (we were wearing helmets). Mom thought another guy and me were crazy to do it, but it felt nice and cool.
After we swam to re-board the raft, we passed a few more intense sections. One section even had a Class 5 – which I had only experienced once before on the Chattooga River on the South Carolina/ Georgia border. I sat in the front and actually got knocked into the air. It felt a bit like riding a bronco!
After finishing the rafting, we took off our dry suits, and loaded the rafts back on the trailer behind our guide’s van. Then we drove back to the company’s offices to change clothes. It was a fantastic rafting trip and Mom had a great time. What bragging rights to say her first rafting adventure was in Alaska!
Overall, I was glad that I didn’t go on the hike. The smoke had bothered me the day before, and there wasn’t any smoke inside the river canyons. Jeff and Dad said they had a good hike when they returned, but they said the smoke had bothered them some.
That evening we had dinner one last time at the Creekside Café. After going to bed, I woke up during the middle of the night and went outside to catch the Aurora Borealis. I saw the magical lights illuminating the sky in surreal moving mist. It was extraordinary!