An adventure in tubing

What a whirlwind this month has been! I spent most of it in Decorah for Dorian, which is truly the highlight of my year. Going to Decorah is like going home, really. It’s always so difficult to leave, and I end up crying at people. I try not to do it, but every year a few tears never fail to escape.

One of my favorite parts of this year’s camp happened after all the campers had gone home and everything had been packed up and stowed away until next year. Sunday, after our annual end-of-camp brunch, some of the counselors were able to stick around and spend a little more time together before we had to part ways. Thirteen of us decided to go tubing later that afternoon. Since it wasn’t too hot and the sun was mostly obscured by clouds, I went. (I tend to get sunburned just thinking about the sun, no matter what sunblock I use. This is also a fairly unusual decision for me, as I’m very non-athletic.)

We rented tubes at the bike shop and loaded the vehicles: some tubes in the bed of a truck, and others hanging out the windows of the vehicles. Our landing spot was right near the bike shop; we left towels and shoes in someone’s car there and drove the other vehicles to Chattahoochie County Park. (I made a map of the tubing route — nearly 2.5 miles of water time!)

So it was my first time tubing. I was one of the last to get in the water, and right away I got stuck in a current trying to take me back to land. I hadn’t figured out the paddling thing yet — still not quite sure on that, actually — so I sort of slipped off my tube (read: fell in the water), trudged through the muddy bottom where the current was going outward, and got back on. By that time I was already quite behind everyone else, but no matter. After probably 15 minutes of me lagging behind, one of the very experienced tubers (that doesn’t read right, but is meant to be “one who goes tubing” rather than “potato”) went upstream to tow me back to the group.

Not long after I finally rejoined the group, we came upon some swifter currents. And suddenly a bunch of us were headed for a large tree in the middle of the river. I was, thankfully, attached to someone up until the last moment, otherwise I’m not sure where I would have ended up. Somehow we managed to hit the tree where there was a small amount of clearance between it and the water; other than dragging my ear along the branch for a moment, I was fairly unscathed. All in all, we lost a pair of sunglasses, a pair of regular glasses and a tube, though we caught the tube shortly after and the rider was able to get back on.

It must not have been long after that, but I started lagging behind again and fell out of my tube completely again. After a while, I caught back up with the group by myself, though I’m still not quite sure how I managed it. This time I latched on to a few others, and we floated contentedly for quite a while. Until it came time to land. The current picks up again right about where we need to get out of the water (or else it’s a very long walk back to the bike shop to return the tubes).

Our group of four separated into two pairs; unfortunately for me, I was paired with the other first-time tuber (again, that doesn’t read right). So the experienced tubers managed to paddle toward shore, leaving my tubing buddy and I afloat and moving downriver. After a few moments, we worked out how to be a little more directional and purposeful with our paddling and managed to get to the opposite shore and clamber out. (As a point of reference, if you look at the map, the eastern end point was where the newbies landed. Everyone else managed to get out of the water before the bridge, nearly .2 mile sooner.

It was such a fun time. One of my friends — the one who’d decided at the end to let go of us newbies in order to land, but I won’t hold that against her — said that if she’d had that experience as her very first tubing adventure, she’d be terrified of having almost drowned. I, on the other hand, was completely exhilarated.

After I’d climbed out of the water and up the embankment, we made our way along the dike back to the bike shop to return our tubes. I felt so incredibly relaxed and wonderful and in tune with the world. I’m glad I shared the experience with these people — they’re so much like family now, even the ones whom I’ve only known since the beginning of the month.