No offense to my Maine based readers, but I think your state should be sold to Canada, and its for one simple, stupid, selfish reason: because I almost died there. I bet you think I’m exaggerating this little tidbit, but I’m not.
About 8 years ago, a big group of friends from high school (about 18 of us) went camping & white water rafting on the Dead River in Maine. Why I agreed to this will always be a mystery to me. My best friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun, the guy I liked would be there and I figured I could sneak into his tent, I love S’mores and don’t mind peeing in the woods, so why not?
The first day was fun, despite some trouble actually getting out of RI. It was a beautiful day, we set up camp, played Frisbee, drank some beers and grilled. The campsite had a bathroom with a shower, and I abandoned my tent to sneak into my crush’s. What could go wrong?
We woke up to pouring rain, along with lightning in the distance. I hate thunderstorms, like hide under the covers and cry hate them. But I didn’t see the lightning, so I didn’t freak. Next came the humiliating experience of getting into a wetsuit, which dashed any hope of sneaking back into the crush’s tent that night. And the long bus ride to the start of our rafting journey.
We divided up into groups of 6. Our boat had 4 girls and 2 boys, and, despite the fact the guides said this was a bad idea, none of the other boys would join in. They thought we’d wimp out and skip the rapids. Had I known skipping rapids was an option, I would have been all over that.
Off we went, with Vic as our guide. He promised he had never had a boat flip over. He also explained that if you fell out of the boat, you should try to hold onto your paddle, put your legs up so you don’t get a foot stuck in a rock, and wait for another boat to pick you up. The person would basically pull you into their boat so you fell onto them, and you would hang out there until the rapids ended, the boats eddied, and you returned to your boat. I thought, “No way. I’ll just wait until my boat picks me up. I’m not falling on a stranger.”
We paddled along until the beginning of the first rapid. Somehow Vic fell off the raft, as did the crush. We got them back in safely, and then the entire raft flipped over. All of us were dumped into the water. I came up to see Vic on top of the overturned boat, blowing his whistle. I though, “Oh good, the Coast Guard is coming.” Then I went under again. The next time I came up, I saw Vic again. This time, he was yelling, “Oh God, we’re fucked.” Inspiring, huh?
Thankfully, someone picked my fat butt out of the water — onto a raft with double its capacity. Still in the rapids. Then I thought, “What if this raft flips? Who will save us?” Finally we eddied, and got back to our raft & Vic. I was just starting to think, “Oh good, I lost my paddle. I’ll just relax until the trip is over.” Then someone handed me a paddle. Bastid.
The Dead had swelled due to the rains, and was about a class IV. I don’t really know what that means, but I know it means “not easy.” There were three large sets of rapids to conquer. Clearly, we failed at the first set. We all managed to stay in the raft through the second set, though my ex-best friend sat paralyzed in fear, refusing to paddle. We had one more set to conquer, “Three Mile Rapids,” and we were home free, back to our burgers and beer.
But we flipped again, right at the beginning of the rapids. And this time I was sure I was going to die. I don’t remember much about this set of rapids, other than going under and not remembering coming up. I was sure this was the end. I also didn’t understand why the kayak-er taking video wouldn’t save me. You can see the six of us clearly bobbing down the river in panic on the video. I’m so glad I bought it.
Finally, we were all rescued and returned back to our raft, where we informed Vic that we would get out of the raft and walk through the woods rather than going though another set of death water. Luckily, we were at the end, and could float back to the buses in peace, fear, and curiosity over having to pee when we entered the river, but no longer having to pee, and not actually remembering peeing.
We nursed our aches & fears with Captain & Cokes and a hot shower. The next day we packed up our stuff in the pouring rain & mud, loaded the cars with my best friend & her broken foot, and headed out of Maine, never to return again. Have fun with Canada, eh?