Alaskan White Water Adventure by Megan
It was about three summers ago that my family packed up our raft, gear, food and ourselves for a white water adventure. We planned to float down the Copper River from Chitina to Cordova. It would take us about six days. The river was fast, wide and powerful. It was also very cold because the water came from the many glaciers that surrounded us on the mountains.
When we started out, it was a warm sunny day in August with only a few clouds in the sky. It isn't safe to travel the rivers alone in case you run into trouble so we went with some friends. First we had to make all the arrangements and pack all our stuff. Our Suburban was stuffed to the ceiling with only a little bit of room left for me and my brothers. Next we drove for six hours to Chitina where we dropped off the rafts and gear. Then my Dad and the other man drove for seven more hours to drop off our car in Valdez. Then back again to the put-in site. My mom inflated the rafts, fed us lunch and packed up the raft. (She packs better than my dad.) When my dad returned we were all ready to float.
First we floated into Woods Canyon where the water boils and swirls into whirlpools that are bigger than our 15-foot raft! It was mystical and beautiful. I could just imagine some kind of large underwater monster holding his breath under us and when he couldnąt hold it any longer, some of his breath would escape to the surface of the river and bubble, making the river look like it was boiling. We would stay away from the whirlpools because we didn't want to get sucked in or even just go round and round for a very long time.
Then it started to rain. It got colder and colder and we could see our breath. We made camp early that night so we could build a big fire and have something hot to eat. That night close to midnight I heard a ruffling noise and woke my dad up. My mom was already awake because of a terrible smell and from the howling winds beating against our tent. Before long we were all awake. Someone started to talk but my dad said, "Shhhhhh." We huddled together. What was outside our tent? Could it be a bear? My dad reached beside his sleeping bag and pulled out his shotgun, just in case. We all sat very still . . . listening to the wind and the rain and whatever else was outside our tent. We wanted to plug our noses. We waited and waited, thinking if a bear was outside, that it might go away if we would just sit very quiet and still. Then we remembered that we were all so tired after dinner that we forgot to put the leftover spaghetti in the cooler. Could a bear have smelled it and then come into our camp looking for a midnight snack? And if he was really hungry, would he want more? Then my brother started to panic and cry. He had disobeyed our camping rule of no food in the tent and had his coat pocket full of beef jerky. Well, that settled that. If the bear was still hungry, he'd eat my brother along with the beef jerky!
It seemed we sat there for hours. The smell got stronger and a strange noise was right on the other side of the tent door. We were trapped! There was no way out. My dad, holding his gun pointing up, was ready to protect us. Then finally, he said, "Plug your ears," and he shot the rifle right through the top of the tent! Then everything went silent. Even the wind seemed to slow. The smell was gone. When our friends in the other tent heard the gunshot, they came running to see what happened. They thought a bear had punctured a pontoon on our raft and caused it to explode like a popped balloon. We looked around but there was no sight of a bear. The spaghetti sauce was still sitting there, just like we left it. We put it in the airtight cooler that was about 50 feet away from our tent. Then we all tried to get some sleep.
The next three days it continued to rain and rain. Even so, it was beautiful. Everything was so green and the mountains shot up out of the water, reaching for the sky. White snow still sat on top of blue glaciers. We never saw any other people, our whole trip - just us and the wilderness. Each night we set up camp, our things got a little wetter, until the fifth night almost everything we had was soaking wet! We huddled under a tarp, eating trail mix and hot cocoa, trying to keep warm. My mom and dad would take turns rowing to warm up. We were surprisingly calm. I think we were all a little afraid of hypothermia. That's when your body gets so cold that it slowly starts to shut down until you just go to sleep and die. Every morning we made sure we didn't forget to have our prayers. We were going to need them.
Finally, only one more day until we were at our "take out" spot. This was the most difficult part of the river because all that cold water in the river narrowed into a channel and then flowed into Miles Lake. There was one big hole that could flip a raft easily and so we were on the lookout for it. Because so much water piled up at this spot, the waves rose to over 18 feet. My dad held onto me, my brothers held onto the raft, and my mom rowed and rowed, keeping the front of the raft turned into the waves. We went down between them and up again, turning always into the wave so the crest of the wave wouldn't crash into our raft, soaking us even more. It was really fun going up and down and we whooped and hollered! It was also kind of scary because the raft in front of us completely disappeared in between the waves.
Now we had to row across the lake to get to our take out. Ice chunks from the glaciers were floating beside us! We were shivering. We were relieved. We were almost back to civilization and clothes dryers and pizza! A family friend would be there waiting for us with a warm car to take us to the Alaska Ferry where we would travel from Cordova to Valdez to pick up our car and then head back home.
But first we had to locate our take out place from some special maps my mom had. We looked and looked but the "take out" wasn't there! The water level of the river had risen so high there wasn't anywhere to pull off. We passed the area we were looking for and went under the old Million Dollar Bridge so we were right in front of Child's Glacier. The glacier sounded like thunder as big chunks fell into the river. As they fell, they pushed water toward the shore on the other side. It was really neat and really scary. Some men in military camouflage clothes were standing on the shore looking at us like we were crazy. They said, "This is not a good place to take out!" We yelled, "We know!" But there wasn't any other place for a long way and we needed to catch a ferry that night. We reached the shore, jumped out, and tried to pull the raft out of the water. Just then we heard a huge thundering sound as a piece of ice fell. My dad yelled at us to get out of the raft and run up the bank to higher ground. As the wave approached shore, it got bigger and bigger. My dad grabbed the rope of the raft and ran up the bank also. As the wave hit the shore and the raft, my dad pulled on the rope real hard and with the wave's help we pulled the raft up the bank 12 feet.
Hurry, hurry, unstrap and unpack our gear before another big wave comes up even farther. We did it! After we packed all our gear into our friend's pickup truck, we only had about 15 minutes to watch the glacier in front of us. Now that we were safe, it was awesome! Someday we will return.