|Kids piling onto a "ducky" on the New River, West Virginia.|
As could be expected, my concerns were largely unfounded. First, we were in good company. A half-dozen other kids, ranging in age from 8 to 14, were along to share the adventure. Nothing will make a kid bolder and more content than having a like-minded comrade to pal around with.
Second, our vehicle added to the fun, too. We were all paddling in one- and two-person rubber "duckys." These are inflatable rubber kayaks that float high in the water and negotiate obstacles the way bumper cars do. They bounce off rocks, turn on a dime, and self-bail themselves whenever they fill with water (which is often). Rather than sit in a raft and get bored watching the scenery go by, the duckys get you right down in the troughs of the waves. But they are so forgiving that even Walker, a nine-year old California boy, could paddle one solo through the rapids. Ariel and I paddled a tandem ducky. More than once, Ariel found herself in the bow looking up at a wave that briefly washed right over her.
Ariel seemed thrilled by it all. The best part was simply being on a river for three days. She and the other kids would swim in the long sections of calm water, and the guides would rig the duckys into diving boards for the kids to launch off mid-stream.
As for the whitewater, I would frequently ask Ariel how she liked it.
"It's great," she insisted. "I like the big waves."
I double-checked this with others who would watch us coming through the rapids. "What is Ariel's expression?" I would ask.
"It varies from terror to delight," one of the other parents told me. "Mostly delight."
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication