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Return of the Quasar (Day 5)

Updated on April 25, 2020
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Today, I took a day off from snowboarding and went whitewater rafting. It was my first time - HIGHLY unnerving!

To read the previous hub, Day 4, please visit this link:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Today is Activity Day, which means we do something else besides snowboarding. A variety of options were presented; shopping in Portland, seeing a movie in Sandy, bowling, and for the kids, roller skating. They also provided something they don’t always offer; whitewater rafting. Those who wanted to go had to sign up the day before. I’ve never been whitewater rafting. I was afraid it would be like riding a roller coaster, which terrified me. However, I was here to conquer my fears. So, though scared to death, I took a deep breath - and signed up.

Like all the other days, the weather was bright and hot. I wore shorts, a t-shirt, old snow goggles (which would stay on better than sunglasses), and sandals (aqua shoes would have been a better choice, but I hadn’t thought to bring them). We boarded the bus, which took us to Maupin.

View of Mt. Hood from the bus.
View of Mt. Hood from the bus.
Taking pictures with my camera in the two baggies Chris gave me.
Taking pictures with my camera in the two baggies Chris gave me.
Company of our destination.
Company of our destination.

“What class will we be going up to?” I asked Chris, who was sitting in front of me.

“Class III, maybe IV.”

“How high do the classes go?”

“Up to Class VI.”

Great – we’ll be going almost to the most extreme one! Maybe I’ll just wait it out at the shore.

“I wonder if anyone here has a waterproof camera, for taking pictures,” I said.

“Why don’t you take these?” answered Chris, handing me two plastic zip-lock baggies. “That should work for your camera, especially if it doesn’t fall in the river.”

“Thanks.” I put my camera in the two baggies, then practiced taking pictures with them. They came out foggy, but decent.

We arrived at River Drifters in town. The staff had us read and sign statements, then we re-boarded the bus and headed for the Deschutes River. We rode along it for several miles, and I looked at the rapids below. “That’s where we’re going to be rafting,” one staff member explained.

Finally, the transports pulled into a parking lot by the river. We all got out and began heading towards the collection of inflatable rafts. We were outfitted with life vests, then given directions: “We’ll seat you so the weight in the raft is equally distributed. Paddle only when your leader tells you to. There will be times when he says paddle forward, or backward, or only one side of the raft do it, so it can turn. If your raft flips over and you’re underneath, walk with your hands until you reach the edge.”

What have I gotten myself into? True, I’ve come a long way since being a klutzy child who couldn’t swim, no matter how many lessons I had – in fact, at the risk of bragging, I’ll say I’m a very good swimmer – but I had no desire to be trapped beneath a raft in a raging river, unable to breathe. “What are the chances of the raft flipping over?” I asked.

“Not very high, but you never know; that’s why I’m giving the warning.”

I sighed with relief. Still, though, perhaps I should change my mind and wait this one out? Right when I was about to say something towards that end, the Lead informed us we would not be returning to this parking lot.

My fate was sealed!!!

Rollin' on the River...

We began boarding the rafts. Dragging my feet due to anxiety, I wound up on the last one. There were eight of us altogether. Much to my dismay, it turned out we were to sit on the edge of the raft, rather than on benches inside. I was placed in the very back, next to the guide; his name tag stated his name was Steve. Two preteen sisters sat near the front, and the other riders were guys in their mid-teens. The Lead gave the raft a shove, and we were off. It bobbed gently in the calm waters, heading towards some rapids. I clenched my whole body, but we wound up sailing over them so smoothly, one could barely notice.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I told Steve.

“Yeah, it’s fun,” he answered. “Is this your first time?”

“Yes it is.”

“Where are you from?”

“I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. No large rivers there.” We both laughed.

“But the water is a lot nicer, isn’t it? This river is 50 degrees. How do you like it?”

I carefully leaned over and stuck my hand in. “Actually, I don’t think it’s that bad. Sure it’s cold, but this weather is scorching. How hot is it – 90 degrees?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“That makes the water refreshing. In Hawaii, they don’t heat their pools, but it doesn’t get much colder than 70. A lot of people complain, but it doesn’t bother me. The ocean is between 75 and 80 degrees.”

“I think 70 is a bit cold, myself.”

I was surprised. “Really? Even with this hot weather? In Hawaii, it rarely gets above 85.”

“That must be nice.”

“I’m particularly interested in your hot springs,” I went on. “We have some on the Big Island, but it’s too warm to really enjoy them. I want to go to one here when it’s cold. There’s one I’m dying to visit; it’s at Paulina Lake. You dig a hole, and it fills with hot water. Have you been there?”

“No I haven’t. I’ve heard of it though; it’s pronounced Paul - EYE – nuh”

“Paul - EYE – nuh,” I repeated. “It sounds like a fascinating place. The lake sits in the middle of a caldera, and as you walk to it, your footsteps fill with hot water. They advise you to bring a shovel and bucket and walk to the lake before digging your hot spring, because the water is very hot; you’ll want to scoop water from the ice cold lake into it with the bucket.”

“Do you know the story behind it?” he asked me.

I confessed I didn’t.

“Paulina was a Native American chief from the Northern Paiute tribe,” he explained. “Back in the 1850s and 1860s, he terrorized the place with his band of warriors. That’s why to this day, a lot of land features are named after him.”

“Interesting!” I exclaimed.

We were nearing some rapids, which appeared far more turbulent than the previous ones. Steve looked me square in the eye. “I’m like a dog,” he said. “I can smell fear from a mile away. I sense you’re scared, so I’m having you ride The Bull first.”

“Uh – what is The Bull?”

“That means sitting on the front edge of the raft while we go through the rapids.”

“Are you crazy?!

“No I’m not,” he said, dead serious.

“But how do I get up there?”

“You walk down the middle.”

“Won’t that tip the raft over? We’re already perfectly balanced as it is.”

“It won’t tip over. It would take a lot to make that happen.”

“What if I fall out?”

“You won’t – unless you want to. Even then, you’re wearing a life vest. You can always climb back in.”

Everyone on the raft had heard our conversation, and now all those kids were staring at me; the only adult camper. They wanted to see if this old lady was really going to go through with it! The humiliation of backing down in front of them overcame my fear. I stood and, carefully stepping over the benches, strode to the front. I sat down on the poofy rim of the raft.

“You have to face forward,” Steve told me.

I straddled the rim, then struggled to bring my other leg over. I fell backwards into the raft.

“Sit on the very edge, and hold on to that strap in the middle,” Steve instructed.

We had already reached the rapids; the raft was bucking so much, I couldn’t get back up on the rim. I rode it out on my back with my legs in the air. The kids laughed, and I joined in. Though I wasn’t successful, I had saved face because I’d attempted it.

We reached a calm section, and I returned to my seat in the back. Steve told all of us to paddle forwards. “What class rapids was that?” I asked him.

“That was a Class II,” he said.

So it would get worse. I felt nervous, but it wasn’t as if he was going to make me get up there again.

“Here comes a Class III,” Steve announced. “Who wants to ride The Bull this time?”

One of the sisters raised her hand. ”I do!”

“Ok, you take it.”

I was surprised. Was he really going to let such a little kid do that?

Confidently she climbed over the front. The rapids splashed water all over us, especially her, but she rode it out without falling once. I began to relax. It wasn’t so bad after all, if she could handle it that well.

We rowed intermittently, not enough to get tired. Several other rafts floated around us, and the only problem was avoiding running into one. We paddled mainly to prevent that from happening.

Each camper took his turn riding The Bull whenever we reached rapids. They all ranked Classes II and III. “Is being splashed by the cold water bothering you?” Steve asked me.

“Not at all! It’s a relief, under this baking sun,” I answered.

We reached an especially large pool of still deep water. A guy from a neighboring raft stood on the edge, towards the rear. I stared, expecting the raft to tip over, but it didn’t. He did a backflip into the water.

“You should have stopped him! You know that’s not allowed!” Steve snapped to the guide on that raft, who pretended not to hear him.

I was roasting; my clothes had already dried from the last set of rapids. “It’s ok for us to go in the water, isn’t it?” I asked Steve.

“Yeah, just don’t stand on the edge of the raft. Why, you want to go in?”

“Yes, I do.”

I had everyone’s attention again. I swung both legs over the rim and slid into the river. The cold water greatly relieved the burning sensation on my skin. Because I was wearing the life vest, floating along was very easy. However, I didn’t float as fast as the raft, and my legs were pulled in front of me, placing me in a sitting position and making it difficult to swim, and I had to pinch my toes together to hang on to my flip flop sandals. I clung to the edge of the raft and worked my way to the front. “How is it?” one of the guys asked me.

“Fabulous! Refreshing!” I told him. “That was great how that guy did that backflip. I wish I could do that.”

“My sister and I just started gymnastics,” one of the girls told me.

“That’s wonderful. I did a little gymnastics when I was in middle school. I was never any good, but I got so I was able to do a backbend and pull myself up from it. Because of that, I could do a crude form of a front walkover, by attempting a handstand and toppling over into a backbend, then coming up. Unfortunately, I didn’t continue it, so I can’t do it now. I’m working on it though. So whatever skills you girls acquire, make sure you practice them the rest of your life; that way, you’ll always have them.”

“That’s a good idea. Thanks,” they said.

“You need to get back in the raft,” Steve told me. “We’re approaching the Class IV section.”

I was ready anyway, since I was starting to feel cold. I let myself drift to the rear, then, with some difficulty, clambered in. The approaching rapids appeared as turbulent as the preceding ones, but went on much longer. We arrived, and the raft bucked and splashed water like crazy. “Paddle backwards!” Steve ordered us, and we did. Sometimes he would have one side paddle, and sometimes the other, to keep us from spinning. We weathered the rapids with no one falling out. Class IV is actually fun! I’m not sure I could handle Class V though, and forget Class VI, which is waterfalls!

We reached a calm stretch once again. “We have two more rapids,” Steve announced. “Has everyone had a turn?”

“Yes,” we all answered.

“Who would like to go a second time?”

Several guys raised their hands. I turned to Steve. “I’d like a second chance, since I got over my fear. I’ll go after one of the guys, if that’s ok.”


Steve chose one of the guys to ride The Bull, then we approached what was to be the last rapids. Before Steve could announce it, the kids all turned and asked me if I wanted a second chance. “Sure, thanks,” I said, walking up. The gleam on their faces showed watching me try again was worth them skipping a second chance.

The last rapids were again a Class II. I fell backwards a couple times in the process, but for the most part, managed to stay on the rim. At least I didn’t fall forwards and get run over by the raft! Actually, the way things were situated, that would have been difficult anyway.

Journey's End

The last 10 minutes were easy drifting. We were completely dry by the time we finally joined the other rafts, banking on the sandy shore. We climbed out, laughing. I’m so glad I faced my fears and decided to go through with this! I’m definitely doing it again!

Some staff members were there to meet us, and they said the busses were on their way to pick us up. A number of campers had left some of their things on the bus; we were assured they’d still be there. So we hung out, walking around and exploring the beach. We still wore our life jackets; some people went wading and swimming. I chose not to, wanting to be completely dry when I boarded the bus.

Finally the busses came, and we all rode back to Maupin, where we turned in our life jackets. We arrived at High Cascade in time for dinner. Tonight, we adults were supposed to have dinner with the pros. Finally I was going to get to meet them – I hadn’t seen any all week.

Once back at camp, Chris and I walked back to Creekside Chalet to meet the others. A couple of cooks were in the kitchen, preparing dinner. None of the pros had arrived yet. I was particularly keen to meet Scott Stevens, who had helped me rock the halfpipe on a skateboard back in 2009. He had long been a coach at High Cascade, and was now a big enough pro to have his own feature session.

Vince asked me, “Has anyone ever teased you about the Dolly Parton song, “Jolene?”

“Yes, a long time ago, about the time it first came out,” I told him. I remembered at Pinecrest, Counselor Chuck Haenny had sung it to me.

“What do you think about it?”

“Actually, I have a snowboarding video that features it. We can look at it, while we’re waiting for dinner.” I went upstairs and brought down one of the videos I’d taken with me to camp, Follow Me Around by Mac Dawg Productions. We all gathered around and watched it. “There’s my guy!” I exclaimed when DCP came on. “Actually, they’re all my guys. I love beefcake snowboarders.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place to meet them,” said Chad. You notice how there are a lot more men here than women?”

“Right,” I answered. “Usually the males outnumber the females by 3 to 1, but this session, it’s more like 9 to 1.”

“Yeah, that’s a drag, trying to meet women at camp,” he agreed.

“I think it would be a great idea for HCSC to spend an Activity Day at the ice rink in Portland,” I said. You notice most figure skaters are women and girls? The snowboarders can get together with them. They can reciprocate by spending an Activity Day up here.”

“That’s a great idea!” answered several guys.

I didn’t mention that in spite of the odds here greatly favoring the women, most of the men were taken. I’ve noticed that was also the case, the two previous times I came to adult camp. I remembered the ski club I was a member of when I lived in Silicon Valley; Inskiers. The men there outnumbered the women by 2 to 1, and everyone was single, because that was a requirement. Apparently, snowboard camp was not a good place to man-hunt; I would have to find a singles ski club for that. I wondered if any were in the Portland area. Most likely there was, but I would have to move to Portland first. So it was back to the old dilemma of living where I had opportunities.

The cooks announced that dinner was ready, and we all went outside to the patio for the feast. Still, no pros came. The whole time we were eating, and the drinks we had afterwards, they never arrived. Aw, shucks!

We talked about our day. Most of the others went shopping in the city, so they didn’t have any real adventures to share. They were impressed that I was brave enough to try whitewater rafting for the first time, especially among a bunch of kids! “How old are you, if you don’t mind?” Krista asked me.

“I’m 53. I’ll be 54 in a month,” I answered.

“Ooh!” several others exclaimed, before they could stop themselves.

Krista said, “That means you’re…” she trailed off, embarrassed.

“I’m the oldest one here? I’m cool with it. Five years ago, when I went to Windell’s Holiday Camp, I was the oldest there, too. Older than owner Tim Windell, even. Long as I can keep up, I don’t see it as a problem. I discovered on my own that people reach their endurance peak at 40; I’m still trying to figure out how long they can hold on to it.”

“Yeah, I remember you saying that. You really made my day,” Chris told me.

“I hope I’m as vibrant as you are when I reach 53!” Krista said, fervently, and several others joined in agreement. I felt very pleased. I had blurted out the truth because I could see that I wasn’t going to be connecting with any guys this session. Besides, I don’t like lying about my age; dishonesty can’t possibly lead to anything good, plus it enhances ageism.

“That’s the highest compliment I can receive,” I told Krista. “Thank you!”

The sun set, the air turned cold, and we all went to bed.

To read the next hub, Day 6, please visit this link:

© 2016 Yoleen Lucas


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