By Ms Marie Berberea (TRADOC)June 23, 2011
Fort Sill, Okla. -- Soldiers, veterans and civilians got a taste of adventure through Fort Sill's Outdoor Recreation, and already they want more. The group said goodbye to the plains June 16 and hello to high altitude for a white water rafting trip in Buena Vista, Colo.
"On trips like this no one knows what to expect," said Lara Patterson, Outdoor Recreation program coordinator. "And it's always better than what you expect."
Patterson and Cara Bell, Outdoor Recreation Sports and Fitness management trainee, took it upon themselves to plan the over nine-hour trek to tackle some serious rapids.
The first stop was at Fort Carson where they teamed up with the Outdoor Recreation guides there.
"Fort Sill's program in terms of Outdoor Recreation, is great," said Trevor McConnell, Fort Carson Challenge
Course/Climbing Wall coordinator and recreation guide. "Even though Fort Sill may not have access to white water rafting and mountain biking, they still take advantage of other MWRs throughout the country and use the services of other areas."
The group's first task was to set up a campsite. Everyone went to work putting together their tents and laying out sleeping bags to crash in after a long day of rafting.
Then came the fun part-the safety briefing.
"Rule No. 1: stay in the boat," said McConnell. Of course, there were more rules just in case the first one was broken. The second rule was simply "don't stand up." The water, at that time, was moving at 3,360 cubic-feet per second making them Category 3 plus rapids. McConnell explained if a person stood in the water and became caught on something like a branch or a rock they could easily get pushed underwater and their safety would be endangered.
The "nose and toes" rule followed which meant, if and when someone fell into the rapids, the first thing they should focus on is picking their feet up so their toes were pointing to their nose.
As the group split into two and boarded their separate rafts, the second and third lessons were put into use. A Soldier from Fort Carson decided to join the trip and was unfortunate enough to be launched into the water.
"Our boat was just down the river we turned around to watch you guys go through "Raft Ripper" and he just went completely backwards off the back of the boat," said McConnell.
Immediately three men on board tried to retrieve him, which in theory is a great idea except the guide, Harmony McCoy, Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation assistant, still needed people to paddle so she could steer safely through and rescue the Soldier.
"They were still in the middle of the rapids when it happened but they were able to get him back in the boat, so that's a pretty good rescue all in all," said McConnell.
A collective sigh went through those aboard as they continued down the Arkansas River. Soon after, the group made it ashore for a quick pit stop in Salida which offered quality food and a lively festival.
Back at the campsite, extreme dry conditions forced everyone to gather around a set of cold stones where a fire would normally be.
"This just doesn't feel the same," was the consensus from the group, but everyone was relieved all the same to be in dry clothes after being splashed, or in some cases soaked in 40-degree water.
"It was pretty intense when we were hitting those waves," said Jennifer Lopez, Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation marketing assistant. "I was in the very front and the right side kept getting hit with water so it kept slapping me in the face. I told my husband, I'm going to have a red mark here in the end."
The sound of the river and the rays from an early morning sun slowly stirred everyone for the second day of rafting. A line of clothes was hanging on a nearby fence as everyone tried to dry them as much as possible before putting them on once again.
The rapids proved to be stronger and more extreme on the second stretch of river, but everyone was ready. Well, as ready as they could be.
Linda Goin, Network Enterprise Center systems analyst, was the second person to learn firsthand the importance of listening to the raft guide. When asked exactly how she fell into the water she simply said, "I have no recollection."
One thing is certain; she put her feet up and held on to her paddle. McConnell quickly pulled her onto the raft and the group kept trucking downstream.
With rushing water with names like Widow Maker, Devil's Suckhole and Sharks Tooth, everyone made sure their feet were secure. Fortunately everyone was still secure when it came to rapids with a much less menacing name such as Puppy Dog's Tail. The furious whitecaps almost launched the most senior, but liveliest, member of the trip -- Stan Parsons. He managed to stay in after waves crashed a few feet over his head and almost gave him an unwanted swimming lesson.
His son was sitting right across from him and was ready to come to his rescue if needed.
"I planned this trip for Father's Day for my dad," said Ralph Parsons, Personnel Control Facility escort. "I wanted to do something to get us back together and just have some one on one time. And he's having a great time."
Earlier in the day Stan's attitude for adventure was apparent when the guide said they were headed towards bigger waves. His reply: "The bigger the better."
After the trip was over the main question from those who took it was, "How come more people don't do this?"
Patterson said she plans on making high adventure trips like this quarterly with the next being a deep-sea fishing expedition.
"The food was good, the camping was good, the conversation was good, the rafting was good. It's just been a great trip," said Patterson.
"I'm already planning on going on another Outdoor Recreation trip in the winter and I'll probably come back on this one next year," said Parsons.