It was Father's Day, Sunday June 22nd and we had just left an inspiring worship service and we were ready to load up the car and hit the road! All six of us had expectations for this trip, a weekend of family bonding, nature and river rafting. We were headed into the Cherokee National Forest to raft down the Ocoee River. It was a special trip in honor of the head of our household, whom had just completed his MBA program, celebrated a birthday and it was Father's Day! What more could we ask for, the open road, beautiful scenery and happy children sitting quietly in the family van watching a movie!
Or so we thought. After about 4 bathroom stops and only an hour into our trip the kids were becoming loopy. Anxious to lay eyes on the cabin we had reserved and see this river we would be taking on we were ready to be out of the car. And then we entered the forest. A vast and unending stretch of green lay before us with snake like roads winding through the trees, the river on one side and enormous bedrock on the other. Breathtaking! We were all enthralled.
As we drove up the gravel road under the rickety old railroad tracks we passed the "cabins". Now, I have done some primitive camping in my lifetime, and I have stayed in cabins and let me just say these were neither. Jared and I put on our best game face and headed into check in. We were befuddled when we had called to make this reservation and no credit card was required and even more dumbfounded when we arrived and the lady said, "Keys are down there, should be ready, not sure, enjoy!". What? Should be ready, alright here we go kiddos. Nothing could have prepared us for the sight of that rickety old, trailer trying to be a cabin. Flies were everywhere, 8 bags of trash were laying around the camp fire pit, the sheets had not been changed since the 70's, and let's just say that the floors, I wasn't sure they were safe to walk on. Needless to say, Jared and I were trying not to let our disapproval show through and we were determined to have some quality time with our family in God's country. So we did what any one would do and piled the kids in the van and headed for the nearest hotel with air conditioning!
This lead us on a tour through the forest once again. No cabins available, minimum two night stay required, no cabins on site yet, etc. You get the picture! We traveled to the highway about 20 miles away from the river and found a hotel. There were no signs for Embassy Suites, Comfort Inn, not even a Best Western or Motel 6, but what we did find was a small Inn with air conditioning and new beds. We arrived! After a trip to Dollar General for some supplies and a not so great fast food like dinner we set up our game stations Hanson style. Checkers in one corner, Uno in the other and a ring toss somewhere between the two. You would have thought we hit the jackpot. The kids were completely engaged and on a mission to beat Mom at Uno. What a night!
Let's just say that what had seemed to be a series of events leading Jared to give us the Clark Griswold speech, you know the one about having so much fun we were going to need plastic surgery to take the smiles off of our faces, well he was at that point. All we could do was laugh. And when we woke up the next morning ready to face the rapids we had all experienced a good night sleep with no bugs. Only there was a storm brewing and we weren't sure that we would be able to be on the water. Just a minor glitch, again.
We unloaded the kids, the cooler, the sunscreen, the camera and the hats and made our way to be debriefed on rafting rules and guidelines. Oars in hand and life jackets on we made the trek to the drop off point and piled in the raft. Our driver quickly told us where to sit and after a shove, we were on the river. Woo hoo! Only problem was that William was clinging for dear life to my leg and crying and Gillian was shaking so badly I think the raft was rocking. Oh well, what was that we said about the experience of a life time? At least we know they will remember this forever. I hope.
A quick recap of our first, class 1 rafting experience, me in awe of the beauty on the river, the clean air smell, Jared jumping out of the boat trying not to float away every time we were stuck on a rock, Gillian focused on paddling, William screaming, "dudes" whenever we were about to go the wrong way, Makenzie at the front of the boat laughing and Delaney screaming with joy every time we found white water. Two and a half hours later we accomplished our task.
And on the way home when we shared our highs and lows of our adventure all of us were confident in the fact that rafting was for sure the high. Mission accomplished.