For her 35th birthday, Chris and I traveled from our (then) home in Orlando,
Florida to Helen, Georgia. Her mission to do something new and exciting each
birthday, led us to fulfill her desire to experience whitewater rafting.
To do this, we had made reservations with
Expeditions to float the Chattooga River. According to our research,
the Chattooga was rated in the top 10 for whitewater rafting, and May was
the ideal time to go, as winter snows melted, swelling the rivers.
We spent the night before and the night after our adventure in Helen, Georgia.
Helen is a beautiful little vacation town with a strong Swiss feel to it.
We got fortunate, in that our arrival coincided with a hot air balloon festival
and race. An awesomely beautiful and quiet town, filled with very nice people.
Also, near Helen was the Anna Ruby Falls. A gorgeous waterfall and well worth
the hike to see it.
On the day of our rafting trip, the sky was overcast and threatened to rain.
On hot days, you can make the trip in your swim clothes. At the end of May,
with the air still cool, and the water very cold, everyone in our group chose
the free wet suits Southeastern provided. After meeting and getting suited
up at the main office, we were driven by bus to the starting point. As we
got off the bus, guides who had been standing beside their rafts, approached
and welcomed us. There would be 4 to each boat, and we were teamed up with
another couple from Orlando. Our guide was Greg.... or as we came to name
him, Crazy Greg. We didn't know at the time, but would soon learn on our
own, that Greg liked to do things "different".
We set off where the river was very gentle, and Greg put us thru some practice
runs. The most important thing to learn, was more for the safety of those
around you, than for yourself. We were taught to keep both hands on the paddle,
with the hand facing the inside of the boat, always covering the end. Since
there were two photographers accompanying the group in kayak's, constantly
taking pictures of the groups going thru the falls, we were warned that evidence
would exist if we violated this rule. (In reality, many in the group broke
this rule, and all it meant was a good ribbing during the slide show at the
end of the day)
On our first fall, a little thing, we learned why Greg had earned his reputation.
While our raft floated around in circles, watching others take on the fall,
one by one, we were informed that while the others practiced the art of going
thru their first fall facing forward, we would go thru sideways. Nice! Nothing
like knowing this is not only going to be your first, but an extreme first
As the ride progressed the falls became larger and more extreme, and while
the others seemed to stick to the old face first down the falls mentality,
not our Greg. We went thru sideways, backwards, and occasionally, frontwards,
just like the others. The beauty surrounding this river was breathtaking
in areas. At one spot, the boats all stopped and we hiked a few hundred yards
to a hidden waterfall, that could have been a tourist attraction in its own
right, if it was not so remotely located. Interestingly enough, it was called
the Long Falls.
After lunch and some more rafting, we approached the final set. The
last waterfall, the granddaddy of them all, was the coup de grace. It was
in a rather dangerous spot in the river, where a class 3 fell into a pool
of swirling water, then over a class 4 fall. This was tricky and you could
tell the guides took this section a lot more serious than the rest. This
section of river had taken its fair share of inexperienced floaters, and
even cost the movie crew filming the classic 'Deliverance', a boat full of
Each boat went thru the class 4 one at a time, and was then tied to the shore,
until all of the boats were in the pool. Then each went over the class 5
fall, a 10 foot tall straight down drop. A lot of coaching was going on in
the boats around us and all were warned about the big rock that was in the
middle of the fall. Some guides advised their crews they would stir left
of the rock, while others were going right. Greg? Not Greg. He told us we
were going for the extreme rush. Straight over the rock!!
While many boats had dumped people in prior falls of the day, this one was
the dunker of them all. it was also the fall where guides had a secret bet
going on. Apparently the first two guides to get dunked, would be responsible
for cleaning up after lunch on the next day. We noticed that Greg had cleaned
up after our lunch earlier, and he admitted, he didn't do so well with the
rock the day before. Oh goodie.
Well, this is the photo of Greg hanging on, with Chris and I in front of
him, and the other members of our crew, submerged. And while others who had
taken the less risky approach, still ended up dumping members, or entire
boat loads, our crew never left the boat.
After mastering the last fall, the rafts pulled up to a beautiful spot, where
everyone was allowed to swim and dive off a huge boulder. A bus ride back,
a slide show where the photographers displayed their work and gave each of
us an opportunity to buy any prints we wanted, a warm shower, and the day
Chris and I both highly recommend whitewater rafting to anyone seeking a rush and except for our future skydiving adventure, the most excitement we had experienced to date.