Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tubing Antietam

So yesterday was the day... A month or so ago, I had posted a link to a site where you could learn more information about a tubing trip to Antietam. Voted best summer outdoor activity by Washingtonian Magazine, River & Trail Outfitter's tubing ride is 4-5 hours in length along the spring-fed stream, and I was very excited to go.

We had a group of 6 of us who were interested. Then Melissa's allergies prohibited her from going. Then Elizabeth and her hubby had to cancel. And then it looked like we were going to get thunderstorms. So, Tom, Michael and I talked it over on Friday evening and decided maybe we shouldn't go either. However, on their website, Tom noticed that there had to be 48 hours notice before you cancelled, so we were all a bit nervous about losing our money.

I got back from my WW meeting yesterday at 8 and called over to R&T to see if the tubes were still going despite the poor weather that was called for. John announced that they weren't expected to get storms, so we decided to go. A quick call to wake Tom up and we were on our way.

It was a very quick 2 hour ride from our house up to Knoxville, MD and the place was VERY easy to find--literally right off a main highway. We arrived and signed in, Michael cracking up the girl at the counter when we signed the "you are not holding R&T responsible for injuries" form by stating, "Well, I guess if I go blind today, it's all my fault." hahaha

We were directed down to the back, where we parked and climbed up on the little patio of the raft house and sat there. The people who worked there were scurrying about, loading buses with supplies. A man came over and introduced himself as Larry, stating he was the tubing guide along with his son Travis. So, we introduced ourselves and he asked us if we had any medical conditions. Ooooh boy. Now the fun begins, I thought. So, I pointed to Michael and Larry noticed the hearing aids and we set about making arrangements for them--we have a little waterproof tube for them and Larry said he'd put that in the first aid kit, which is supposed to be waterproof, and tuck the whole thing in his dry bag. Then we turn to the question of, "How's your vision? Any problem there?"

Ummm, yeah. And perhaps for a millisecond, there was a sense of panic that flitted across Larry's face. But only for the tiniest fraction of a second. Then he went in search of a rope, announcing that they'd lash our two tubes together so I could guide Michael down the river. Fine by me!

So they get that all set up, and then Larry comes back to ask about our lunch preferences. I started praying. As it turns out, the typical fare for these things is chicken, potato salad, and watermelon. I rather forcefully said to my husband, "You WILL eat chicken, RIGHT!?" He agreed to eat the chicken. We had left the house without him eating breakfast, so I knew he'd be hungry, but I also knew he wasn't eating potato salad and watermelon.

Finally everyone else arrived and we got ready to roll. We were on the bus and it turned out one of the guys on the bus was a vegetarian, so it was decided he'd eat Michael's salad and fruit and Michael would eat his chicken. WOO HOO!

We got the drop off point, and there was a fairly steep drop down to where we entered the creek. Larry went in front, I went in back, and we were able to get the General down in pretty short order. Our tubes were tossed down, lashed together, and we sat in them and went on down the river. And then a brief moment of panic crossed my face as I thought "Well, ooooooooookay, we're on our own, where the hell are we going!?"

Fortunately, Travis hopped in his canoe and adeptly caught up with us, giving our tubes a few pushes to keep us going. And in no time, the rest of the group had caught up with us. Then, a glitch. We got beached, Michael's tube stuck up on the bank and mine out in the water. And I could not explain to him that he needed to kick his feet out and push us off--mostly because he couldn't hear too much of what I was saying. So, the group floated past us, and then Larry glided up in his canoe and asked me if it wouldn't be easier if I had an oar? Well, sure, I figured, why not? I'm probably pretty handy with an oar. I grew up in canoe country, did some canoeing growing up, sure, I'll take an oar. I'll just use it to keep us away from branches and the banks and stuff.

Thus began a day like I have never had. I was using that oar for just about everything. Larry went behind us, since we spent most of our time going down backwards for some reason, and now and again, he'd say, "Susan, you've got a rock ahead" (no, not a rock head!) and I would look back, size up the situation, paddle with the oar a bit, and we'd make it around. The first time was pretty impressive. By the fifth or sixth time, Larry proclaimed, "You're pretty adept with that paddle." By the 20th or 30th time, Larry said, "If this was an Olympic sport, you'd have gold medal written all over you."

Because, you see, I was paddling with one oar while lying flat on my back in an innertube, shooting backwards, with the General in a second tube attached to me as essentially dead weight.

Before lunch, I only managed to smack him in the head once with the paddle. (I know Mike and Lesley are laughing about this--it turns out I'm really good at smacking him in the head completely accidentally with things like oars and doors and such!) The only real downside was that while we were drifting along, I started feeling like I was sinking a little bit. I looked down and the valve was open on my tube. Oops. So we plugged it back up and it was actually a bit more comfortable that way--I didn't have to hold my head up, I could just sort of sink into it.

We had lunch, and it was SO GOOD. I figured I was working out pretty good, so I just gave up and said, "Screw it, I'm eating what I want." I had 2 pieces of chicken, plus a glob of potato salad and a piece of watermelon. Michael decided to stage a hunger strike, which appeared to be about breaking Larry's heart, so I shoved a chicken leg into his hand and commanded him: EAT! He finished that one and Larry came by to find it if he wanted more. I said, "Give him another leg, Larry." Which he did and which the General ate. He was in my army now!

After lunch, we still had half the trip to go, so they loaded the General and I up and we started downstream again. This half of the trip was a bit more treacherous--many more rapids and obstacles to get around and under--I personally LOVED going under the low hanging tree branches. It was nice to be so close to nature that you could see the walking sticks, etc. right over your nose.

I was conserving my strength and Larry continued to guide me as to what to do, which direction to aim for, etc. As I was resting, I had my paddle laying straight down from my gut to my toes, not unlike Boromir when they send him over the falls. And I thought, "This is how I want to go--totally at peace with a paddle in my hand in case anyone gets out of line."

As we neared the end, I started really sinking in the water and we discovered the valve on my tube had yet again, come loose. And we were facing the final and long stretch of rapids. I was laying in water up to my waist. We closed the valve up again, and then the fun began--we were shooting the rapids (Class One, rather tame), my ass was dragging and hitting every damned rock in the creekbed, I'm trying to steer, Larry's attempting to give me direction, and the General is getting soaked from the splashing and got a paddle to the head again.

We reached the end of the first stretch and Larry was like, "You're down pretty low, try to get your feet under you and reposition the air in the tube." So I stuck my foot down, the General's tube promptly beached itself on the rock that was holding my foot in place, and held my foot at a funny angle, jammed between him and the tube. For the only time, I yelled "YOWCH!" and paddled his tube off.

I managed to get back on the tube somewhat and stayed on the rest of the way. We got to the end point and Larry and Travis pulled us in. Shooting the rapids was a BLAST, despite my butt taking the brunt of it. Larry got one of the other men on the trip to help him get Michael up the fairly steep hill back up to where the bus was going to pick us all up, and then Tom and I grabbed the tubes and headed up. And of course, the General made it up fine and dandy, and me, who is Miss Jellylegs anyway, fell.

We got back to the River and Trail Outfitters HQ and Larry threw his arms around me in a big bear hug and said he'd never seen anything like what I'd just done. I'll be honest, that boosted my self-confidence up about 300 light years. And I think it really boosted Michael's confidence that he was able to get up that hill at the end. He kept saying, "I can't believe I made it up that embankment. Did you see me go up that embankment?" Oh yes, I sure did, and it was amazing that he did it--it was at about a 60 degree angle from the beach, seemed like it was straight up! So I was really proud of him, and it shows how much progress he and I have made in the few short months we've been working on our health.

We got back at 5pm to the HQ and then were home by 7:00. The General was out like a light by 8:30 and I was done and sleeping before 9:00. We are both a little sore this morning, but we're both raving about doing it again.

The trip was so peaceful and at the same so exciting, it just felt so good to go and I'm thrilled we did decide to go after all. The three of us had a wonderful time and I am definitely, definitely, definitely (that's three definitelies) going to do it again next summer. Hopefully we can get more people into it next year! :-)

Go to to set up your own trip (I don't mind advertising for them--they were 100% amazing, every step of the way).

(Oh, and I got on the scale this morning, and despite fried chicken, potato salad, and 2 McD's burgers yesterday, I lost 2 pounds in the scope of yesterday's activities. I'll take it and run!)

3 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Cindy said...

I went tubing in Harper's Ferry a few years ago. Just a short hour long trip - not like yours. But yours sounds like fun.

Tubing isn't as easy as it sounds - oh, just float down a river. Especially when you have to have the General too! Sounds like a fun time. I'll have to keep that trip in mind to do maybe next year!

nettiemac said...

Sounds like a WONDERFUL time!!!!

Melissa said...

Mark your calendars....July....unless of course you have a baby then, I'm sure we can find a sitter....we'll go, there will be no pollen and we can all have fun! :)