Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vacation to Utah

In early August (literally, the day after we flew home from San Diego), we took a trip back to Utah sans Greg.  It was madness with the timing and how travel weary we all felt.  We ended up staying 10 days - far longer than I wanted to be gone from home.  But there were friends to see and family reunions to attend.

So off we went!

#1 - The Bad Stuff

We had several disasters during the trip.  Big ones!  So big that I nearly packed up everything in the middle of the 10 days and headed home.  Fortunately, we also had a lot of blessings and a few minor miracles.  Andrew's sliced foot from San Diego re-opened 5 or 6 times.  Bubbs fell badly and for several hours in the InstaCare we thought he'd fractured his ankle.  I lost my car keys somewhere on the Sundance mountain in the middle of the night.

And worst of all... THIS happened. 

I blame this entirely on my own bad judgement.  I truly believed I could raft down the Provo River (a river that's slower than molasses) with my children and my father.  And without a guide.  

No. No.  No.

About half-way down our 5 mile run, we missed a very critical turn off and our raft was forced to go under 2 bridges.  We navigated the first one fine, but the second one (pictured above and below) was our downfall.  We couldn't get the raft straight between the two walls so our raft was pinned and flipped up on the post between the two rough currents.

I had only seconds before I was sucked under - just enough time to grab Bubbs.  When I surfaced about 10 feet down from our raft, Pretty Girl was crying out of reach from me.  Everything that was in our raft was now quickly floating away.  I saw the heads of my two oldest boys surface and heard my dad somewhere behind me yelling, "Rachael, get out!!  Get out of the river!!"

The bench where we surfaced was terrible - almost a straight, rocky cliff. So in my panic-induced haze, it took me a while to find a spot where I could place Bubbs.  My dad made it to my side and once they were both on this tiny speck of rock, I jumped back in the water to find my daughter.  She was now 25-50 yards down the river - still screaming - and clinging to a large rock.  It took me probably 1-2 minutes to get to her - moments where I was finally lucid enough to start praying.

On the way to get her, I saw James reach an exit point and climb to safety.  I yelled to ask him where Andrew was - he didn't know.  And while I rescued my daughter, James managed to hike BAREFOOT over the rocky hillside back upstream to where grandpa and Bubbs were recovering on the shore.

I think someone was helping my daughter because the rock she was clinging to was slippery.  I tried several times to grasp it to stop myself in the current but failed.  I was finally able to swing around her, grab her and angle to the shore.

At that point I was highly conscious of the fact that I hadn't seen Andrew get out of the water.  I had felt calm about it up until that point, but I was very quickly starting to freak out.  And then this wonderful man downstream shouted that his wife had helped Andrew into their tube and they was now floating around the next bend.

Our rescue was aided by an angel family visiting Utah from Oregon.  They helped carry Bubbs across the precarious cliff trail while I helped my dad - slipping several times along the way.  We were pretty much stranded because our raft was still wedged under water by the bridge and we were a good 3 miles away from Vivian Park - soaked, barefoot, cold and bleeding.  This angel family let me and my two youngest float with them down the rest of the way.  My dad (to the massive frustration of us all!!) insisted on walking back along the train tracks on the opposite side of the river.  James didn't want him to go alone, so I gave him my flipflops and he went with his grandpa.

In hindsight, I am grateful they walked back instead of taking the offered raft, because half way they met Andrew - who had exited on the opposite shore and was working his way back to where he knew we'd crashed.  I had fresh tears when I saw him waving enthusiastically to me on the opposite shore as I floated down.

Several things about our rescue I learned after it was all over.

#1 - I've never been so grateful that we were ALL wearing life jackets.  

#2 - James was paddling in the middle of the raft when we hit the bridge - subsequently, he was pinned between the post and the raft and was the last person to get out.  He was only able to leave by pushing upwards and jumping.  Mercifully, he was able to get out and he didn't hit any rocks when he landed.  

#3 - My kids are surprisingly adept under pressure.  In those horrible moments when our boat was quickly filling with water and mom had already been swept out, my boys had the sense to grab their brother's flipflops (they grabbed 1 each).  My daughter also saw her shoes floating away on the current and grabbed them.     

#3 - None of my children (with the exception of James' feet) were hurt.  My father's skin on his arm was shredded, bleeding badly.  And my legs were in horrible shape.  But none of my children were hurt.
#4 - All my children told me separately afterwards that they started praying and kept praying the entire time.  I know we were all helped massively because of it. 

I think we'll wait till next summer to attempt river rafting again - in any form.   

#2 - The Good Stuff

Everything else!  Playing with friends, visiting with grandparents, Hoopes reunion, going to the McKinnon cabin, Sundance play, Lagoon with the Astin family and riding Cannibal with James, and finally a few sweet baptisms.  We loved being with everyone! 

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