What A Day on the Kennebec With the Class of 2014 Taught Me

I have been thinking a lot about the value of teamwork and how that applies to a broad spectrum of experiences. The genesis of these thoughts was the glorious day I spent riding the Kennebec waves with the senior class as part of their Outdoor Experience trip.


After willingly subjecting ourselves to a screening of Jaws, our bus arrived at The Forks in Somerset County, ME. The Forks is the point of convergence for the Kennebec and Dead Rivers and is the home of Three Rivers Whitewater. We piled out of the bus, received our cabin assignments, and quickly unloaded our gear. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and we wanted to check out Moxie Falls before dinner.


Moxie Falls has one of the tallest single drops in the State of Maine.  After an easy 10-minute hike, a series of steps and handrails brought us to the edge of the Falls and a gorgeous view of the river, falls, and forest.  After 15 minutes, we headed back up the trail in search of the apparently elusive swimming hole.


The swimming hole turned out to be easy to find and a handful of brave souls, led by Carol Titterton, went for a swim.  It was not a particularly wonderful day, with overcast skies and cool temperatures, and the water temperature was chilly.  Most of the senior class chose to hang out on the bank of the river and watch the swimming from the warmth of their dry clothes.


In addition to the glorious views, our group received a great compliment from another group of hikers.  We were told that our students were remarkably polite, friendly, and helpful.  I had to agree.


We returned to The Forks for an evening of all-you-can-eat tacos, karaoke, and games.  The most athletic event was Twister and boy! was it athletic.  It combined a little Sumo wrestling, yoga, chess, and teamwork.  The winning teams were able to force their opponents into impossible positions.


After the evening’s events were concluded, we returned to the cabins to go to bed.  Actually, to be more accurate, we returned to the cabins at least.


The next morning, a tired group of seniors managed to get themselves to breakfast in time for our safety briefing.  It was a glorious day already and temperatures were predicted to be in the 80s and sunny throughout our rafting time.  The lead rafting guide walked us through all of the risk factors that could appear during our trip and the ways to avoid them.  We then donned our life vests, grabbed paddles, and climbed aboard buses to the start of the whitewater course.


Because the Kennebec is a dam-controlled river, the whitewater fun is created by water releases.  Our guide explained that the river is usually flowing at about 2000 cubic feet per second, but the whitewater release brings that up to 5000.  He described one cubic foot as the size of a chicken and had us envision 5000 chickens going by per second.


I was assigned to a great raft and had Emily Wasserman as my bow mate.  She and I were the only ones brave enough to take on the river first.  I would have been happy to give up my seat, in fact, I begged to give up my seat.  I had no takers.  So down the river we went.


Kenny, our guide, taught us the correct paddle strokes and encouraged us to paddle in sync.  This would provide us the greatest maneuverability and speed.   Before we entered a series of rapids, Kenny would tell us how we would maneuver the raft and then would begin yelling out his commands.


The first half of our rafting trip was the most exciting with a mixture of Class 3 and 4 rapids.  Kenny’s job was to position the raft in such a way that we would feel like we were in a giant flume with water spraying everywhere.  The thrill combined all the elements of a great amusement park ride: adrenaline pumping, nerves energized, and hysterical laughter all rolled into one experience.


After completing the upper part of the river, we were permitted to float through series of Class 2 rapids and swift water.  Just imagine our good fortune: the air temperature registered 84 and the water temperature was 69.  It was a cloudless sky and bright sun beating down on us.  It could not have been more perfect.


Since I am never one to miss an opportunity to draw a lesson from an experience, this rafting trip did not disappoint.  It was one of the rapids that made me realize that the teamwork aspect of rafting is like so many things in life.  If a rafting team doesn’t work all that hard, they will have a perfectly pleasant and fun ride down the river.  However, if a rafting team works really hard and concentrates on staying in sync, they will have the most thrilling ride possible.  I think this lesson can be applied to a lot of things in life.


Our day ended with a mellow float down the Kennebec followed by a picnic lunch.  It was a great way for me to get to know a bunch of the senior class and to spend a few days in the Maine outdoors.
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