Ithacranium is the IC Honors Program blog, created and edited by students. The blog, which originated as a newsletter in spring of 2010, is updated weekly with new and relevant content.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Elizabeth Schwartzer and Christina DiCIllo, Class of 2013
I am not a particularly outdoorsy type. My paralyzing fear of stinging/biting insects (bees, wasps, hornets, the occasional horsefly) tends to limit my tolerance of the outdoors to practically zero. Not to mention, despite the fact that I am 75% Italian, I seem to have inherited the Polish skin in the family, meaning that .25 seconds in the sun can result in severe sunburn. Yeah, it’s a joy.
But, for one magnificent day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and venture outside for an extended period of time, on a boat. Into rapids. I had never done anything remotely like whitewater rafting before. I live near Niagara Falls, so I’m usually looking at the water/rapids, not paddling through them. But, being a senior, I decided that this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. It’s all about trying new things right?
Unlike Christina, I am fairly outdoorsy. I’ve spent the last three summers on the waterfront of a summer camp, and despite the fact that I’m mostly German and English, my skin takes on a lovely Mediterranean glow during the summer months. The sound of buzzing bees doesn’t send me running (hey, it’s a legitimate fear!), and in general, I love spending time outside, especially on the water.
With my camp, I had been rafting three times before (although on the Kennebec in Maine), and loved it. When I got the email saying there was going to be another Honors Rafting Trip this year, I leapt at the chance; we could start our senior year off with a bang, and I could show Christina how much fun water sports could be.
5:45 am on a Saturday is an ungodly early hour to be up for a college student (or for anyone, for that matter). The promise of delicious Wegman’s bagels and a catnap on the bus lured us out of bed and onto the bus, where everyone promptly passed out. 2 hours later, we arrived in Watertown, NY, surprised to see that the starting point for Adirondack River Outfitters was in fact, in the middle of the city. After equipment distribution (During which one of the lovely employees decided to sweetly inform me that this was a rather aggressive introduction to rafting…)and a safety lecture (filled with the usual raft guide humor and terrified looks from Christina), we were on our way.
The trip starts with a few mild rapids that get you used to the idea of what whitewater rafting is. If you find these too intimidating, they’ll let you disembark and you’re off the hook. The water level of the river was relatively low, so these rapids weren’t crazy. Nobody chickened out, and on we paddled. (and I mean paddled. A lot. I was expecting whirlpool after whirlpool, waterfall after waterfall, near death experience after near death experience. Thankfully, this was not so). The expert river guides gave a rundown of what to expect before each rapid, as well as the safest way to swim the rapid in case of ejection from the boat.
After each successful navigation of a rapid, a ‘paddle check’ was called, where we would lift our paddles in triumph with a great cheer! One boat may have even done the ever classy ‘Hoo-rah’ as their cheer. Well played, sirs, well played. Highlights on the river included ‘surfing’; jumping off a (very short) ledge into the current, letting it carry you downstream; swimming in the calmer areas; and (purposefully) maneuvering the raft into a hydraulic, holding on for dear life, and hoping the boat doesn’t tip over. (The mid-day snacks of tortillas with peanut butter, honey, and cereal were delicious, too!) Our skilled boat of Honorites navigated the river like pros and avoided tossing anyone out, flipping, and other catastrophes (though a bee did land on my shoulder and stayed there for a good 30 seconds of pure terror. A boat buddy managed to vanquish the beast (read: get it off me) and I recovered from a near heart attack).
Sadly, the day ended too soon, and after a tow boat ride to a launch ramp, we headed back to ARO headquarters, where we were treated to a barbecue of epic proportions (though they were lacking in round foods). We bused back to Ithaca, reminiscing about our experiences the entire time. Definitely an awesome start to the school year, and especially to our senior year. We can’t wait to see what the other Honors trips have in store!