White Water Rafting - Dangerous Ride
Ocoee River Level 3-4
Ocoee River in Great Smoky Mountains
The great Smoky Mountains are gorgeous in the spring. My husband, Steve, and I spent our honeymoon in a log cabin in the mountains. We were blissfully happy. Each day was perfect the weather was made to order, Prior to our marriage I had made reservations for us to go white water rafting on the Ocoee River, which is the same river used for kayaking in the 1996 Olympics. Neither Steve nor I had been white water rafting previously and it sounded very exciting.
I have always been adventurous and love the outdoors. I have had systemic lupus erythematosus and osteoarthritis for many years which include bone and joint damage. Although I have limitations I try to live each day with eagerness for new adventure. I made a decision a long time ago as I came out of depression over my illness that I would live each day as fully as possible until I die.
On the third day of our honeymoon we left the cabin for our white water rafting trip. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and with scenery that was beyond spectacular. We arrived at the rafting center and listened carefully to all the instructions as we donned our gear that made us look a bit like alien creatures. We knew all the safety rules.
Rough water on the Ocee River
Arriving at the River
We arrived at the river and although it looked like rough water it seemed everyone was laughing and having a great time. After all we had life jackets and helmets, so what was there to worry about? There were many rafts and people from all age groups. There were 6 of us in the raft along with out guide.
My husband and I sat in the middle seats. As we put the raft in and started drifting down the river. I noticed our guide seemed somewhat inexperienced as we were getting bounced around quite a bit as we hit several rocks that were above the water line. However, I was laughing and having a great time until about halfway through our trip down the river.
Rafting Without the Raft
Suddenly our raft got caught on some flat rocks at the top of a small waterfall just before a series of rough rapids. I was in a center seat and water started rushing through the center of the raft taking me with it. My new husband tried to hold onto me but the water was too strong.
He was mortified and tried to jump out after me but they wouldn't let him. He couldn't have caught me anyway as I was traveling at a fast clip! I saw the fear in his face as I was swept away and quickly out of his site. I noticed our waterproof camera, grabbed it and put the rubber band handle around my wrist.
No other boats were near me. It was all I could do to miss the larger rocks sticking up from the water. I was being swept too quickly to grab onto them. I remembered out instructions were to keep our feet up to prevent broken leg bones. As I have arthritis and wouldn't heal quickly from a break I knew it was important to follow their directions.
I started to feel panic as I wondered if I would be rescued or even live through this experience. I was breathing very fast and my heart was pounding. I started to purposefully slow down my breathing and I asked God to take care of me. It was a very simple prayer, "God help me. My life is in your hands." I pictured God's big hands around me. Almost as soon as I asked my Farther in Heaven to save me I felt an Inner peace and knew I was going to be okay. My breathing slowed down even more and I just worked to avoid the large rocks.
I was in the water for about a half a mile before I was rescued by another vote. They gave me a round of applause when they realized I saved my camera! Unfortunately the lower part of my body (my rear) met with many rocks just below the surface of the water. I came out of the water bruised but smiling, without broken bones.
My husband still looked frightened when he saw me until he knew I survived without permanent injuries. I sat on a pillow while we traveled for several days as the bruising was extensive.
I know the power of prayer was my salvation. I have learned that no matter what foolhardy mistakes I make, God is there to intervene. I certainly was not in control but God was! I have since heard of many people who experienced broken bones and other serious injuries including death while rafting on the Ocoee River, but when people tell me how lucky I am. I smile and say, "No, I'm Blessed."
© 2009 Pamela Oglesby
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