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Whitewater Moments, Inspired by a Photo

September 5, 2019

Another Way for week of August 30, 2919

Whitewater Moments, Inspired by a Photo

With summer winding down very quickly now, I hope you are as full of special and even magical summer moments as I am.

Photo of a photo: from l to r: Stuart; nephew Jamie; sis-in-law Debbe; brother Terry, in front, red hat; nephew Jeremy; yours truly; sister Pert; in back ex-bro-in-law–still a family friend–Stan and navigator for the day.

When I was at my mother’s retirement apartment this July, an old photo brought back a very special moment and trip when our extended family (my siblings, parents, and grandchildren) went on our very first whitewater rafting trip, circa 1990. We ventured out on the pretty rambunctious Nantahala River in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I would say enjoyed, but not everyone experienced the fast-moving river equally!

First of all, my parents weren’t up to it—just like now I don’t think my husband and I are quite up to it anymore. Also, the children under the age of eight were not allowed on that level of rapids, so Grandpa and Grandma took them on some other touristy outings nearby. Over the years, many us were thrilled to navigate four different U.S. rivers with various groupings of family members.

That first trip, we were all quite green except maybe my then-brother-in-law who apparently looked strong and river-wise enough to be appointed as navigation guide on our particular raft.

In the photo, all of our faces tell stories. I stared at Mom’s photo for quite a while, taken professionally by the rafting company. It brings back a flood of emotions from the trip, and memories of family. Those photos always cost an arm and a leg of course, but they mean so much later.

In the picture, I’m sitting near the front of the raft, oar in hand but leaning back as we were told to do when riding a large rapid. My mouth is wide open: not in horror or fear, but in glee for the adrenaline rush and amazement that we were in real whitewater. One sister is right behind me, and while she looks happy and excited, she looks a bit calmer—I think she had done river rafting before—certainly had many more outdoor adventurous trips than I. My youngest brother and my husband were at the very front of the raft, and their faces reflect more serious caution, perhaps because as fathers and husbands, they were feeling the weight of what we had gotten ourselves into. Would we all come out ok? Not hurt? All alive? Those thoughts passed through all of our minds at times, I know, except maybe the two children in the middle of the raft. Another raft held other cousins and another sister and her husband.

My two nephews—my brother’s only sons—have pure happiness on their faces; they did not need to help do the heavy lifting of rowing the raft (the older one may have held an oar, but he didn’t have the strength his dad or uncles had). His younger brother and the youngest on the raft, about age nine, is totally protected in the middle of the boat and just along for the fun—reflected on his face. Back of him is his mother—my sister-in-law, whose face speaks volumes. She told us later she was praying the whole time, “Dear-God-if-you-get-us-out-of-this-I-will-never-try-this-again.” She was a great sport. My brother-in-law at the very rear also had quite a serious look, reflecting probably the weight of his responsibility to help us steer the craft safely through the waters.

We did make it securely off the river although in the years to come, had some close scrapes where some of us slipped out of a raft and downriver, but safely recovered and climbed back in. I must add that in retrospect, and knowing a young man who did die rafting a Colorado river, I am ever more grateful for the safety we experienced as we rowed in God’s amazing and awe-inspiring world. God imagined and created an outdoor world that beckons and begs us to love and care for it, recognizing not only the majesty of nature, but the mind and Being behind it all.


Have you had any white knuckle moments—whether on whitewater or not?

Share your stories here, we’d love to hear. 🙂

Or send comments to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  




  1. Athanasia permalink

    I would never do that. My experiences occur repeatedly every winter when the snow and ice comes along. I don’t need manufactured white knuckle experiences.

    • Athanasia, sorry I overlooked your response–although I remember reading it. I love your line “manufactured white knuckle experiences.” But I get your point–driving on snow and ice for months on end is not fun.

  2. Athanasia permalink

    I have never done anything like this and never will. Congratulations to you for your bravery, though in the past. My white knuckle experiences come annually and soon due to driving on snow and ice. I don’t need to have manufactured experiences. 🙂

  3. Athanasia–how great to hear from you again. I was hoping you weren’t ill or off line. At any rate, I can understand you getting plenty of white knuckle experiences driving on snow and ice (how true!), no need to pay to go down a river in a blown up raft. I hear you! I’m glad we were able to do what we did, but now is the season for different adventures. Blessings!

    • Hi, just busy. The gardens, canning, 5 grandchildren, summer company, etc. Winter and spring are my quieter seasons. I

  4. We’ve taken our children tubing down the Ichatucknee River in Florida, but by ourselves went rafting down the Chatooga River (sp?) in SE Tennessee. Nothing higher than 3-4 level rapids. I’d classify it as a white-knuckle experience.

  5. Two rivers qualifies you as experienced! Three and four level rapids were plenty for me as well. The one pictured was probably a 4.

    Your excitement comes too often from hurricanes in the area, it seems. Glad you weren’t hit any harder than you were and my heart too goes out to the folks in the Bahamas. Thanks for checking in here amid more important things!

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