As an intern for ROW Adventures, I was excited to hear that part of the learning experience would be getting out on the river and going on trips to “understand” the product. How could I complain? Spending time on the water, enjoying nature, and building friendships with guides and guests alike is what I love best.
I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so when the opportunity arose to raft the Lochsa - the most challenging river we run here at ROW - I was ecstatic. My parents had taken this same adventure years ago when I was little, and I’d heard them talk about it many times. Afterall, it’s known to be some of the best whitewater in the country, with over 40 major rapids in just about 20 river miles.
The night before I drove down to the lodge in Syringa, the trip meeting point, I dreamt of running the river. It was one of those really vivid dreams, and I remember paddling through wave after wave and waking up like a kid on Christmas morning knowing the real adventure was just a day away. When I arrived in Syringa with my coworker, Mikayla, the sun was just setting and the air was still warm as we pitched our tent in guide camp. Talking with the guides about their day on the river only made the anticipation – and nervous excitement – build, as I started to get a better idea of just how big the river would be!
It was a restless night, and I woke up every few hours filled with anxious energy. Sunday morning – THE day – I stepped out from my tent into the cool, fresh air and smiled at the realization that this is my job. That day, I’d get to share in one of the country’s whitewater jewels as part of my internship. How blessed could I be?
We met in the café breezeway at 9 am, and background music set the mood as Chris, our Lochsa manager, introduced the day’s guides. We geared up with wetsuits, splash jackets, and helmets after a short orientation and filed onto the bus for a ride upriver to the put-in.
Lochsa means rough water in Nez Perce for a reason. As we drove, the guides cracked corny jokes and pointed out the numerous rapids we’d run that day. Names like Termination, Ten Pin Alley, and the infamous Lochsa Falls guaranteed an amazing day on the water. You know if it looks big from the bus, it’ll be huge in the raft!
The ride seemed to last a while, as I was so ready to get on the river. When we reached the put-in, everyone pitched in to help carry the rafts down to the bank, and we listened to a safety talk before heading out. Right off the bat, the excitement started as we paddled through our first set of rapids. Kirk, our guide, instructed us on the basic commands.
The day was filled with rapid after rapid, and I saw it all from one of the front seats of the raft. Deep holes, roller coaster waves, and walls of water in constant succession made for one of the most exciting times I’ve ever spent on the river. We stopped after a couple hours for a great hot lunch, and afterwards, the second stretch of water proved to be even more intense than the first!
My best memory has to be tumbling over Lochsa Falls into a deceptively deep hole and crashing through a wave that covered our entire raft. The force of the water was so strong, it knocked me out of my seat and towards the front thwart. When we emerged, I scrambled to get back in position and continue paddling as Kirk yelled out commands. My heart was pounding after we made it through and turned to watch the other boats follow.
By the time we got off the water and filed onto the bus, I was drained of physical energy yet somehow still buzzing with excitement. I guess that’s what the river does. It awakens that thrilling thirst for adventure that makes us feel alive.