My nerves build as we enter the meeting room at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. My co-worker Courtney O’Malley and I walk in to find a group of friendly people who look a lot more prepared for what is to come than us. Zoar, the company operating the trip, let us know that we do not want to wear anything cotton, and of course my shirt is 40% cotton and Courtney’s is too! They give us extra clothes and the wetsuit, and I have to figure out how to get changed. Once I have squeezed into the wetsuit I think to myself “I can’t even walk in this, how I am supposed to swim!” After we are all dressed and ready to go, we take the short ride to the entry point of the river.
At the entry point, we get briefed about what to do and not do on the journey. The guide tells us to never stand up in the river and we all laugh nervously, probably all thinking we would rather not have to use this piece of advice. If someone does fall in, we are supposed to grab them by the top of their lifejacket and yell, “I’m going to save your life” as you pull them backwards on to the boat.
Once in the boat, we are given directions on how we are to paddle. The people in the front control the pace and everyone follows suit behind them. This takes a lot of practice, but eventually we get the hang of it. As the first rapid approaches, a surge of fear and excitement rushes in at me as cool white water soaks my face and we are thrown around in a wave of roaring water. The next two rapids are even more intense with the boat tilting down sharply, and then in the next instant, going up just as sharp. My feet are jammed beneath the seat and side so tightly, I think I lose feeling in them for a while. I let out a half laugh, half cry with the mix of emotions I feel. By the end of the line, I can’t wait to go around again.
You’d think the second time around would be less exciting but the thrill of it all doesn’t change a bit. This river has been under my nose the whole time I’ve lived here, and I didn’t even know it. I will definitely be returning to the Concord River, and suggest you do the same!
See you on the river,