| Family Vacations, Summer 1996|
The Quicker Picker-Upper
Ponder the lowly kitchen sponge. This three-by-four-inch rectangle of pocked cellulose could prove your rafting salvation. Why? First-time rafters frequently have to be reminded that most river trips aren't the freshwater equivalent of driving the autobahn. On many rivers, rapids comprise maybe 20 percent of the trip. That leaves hours for gently floating along- about as nail-biting as a Sunday drive with your great aunt. "And if you're not prepared," says Katie Norton, a veteran rafter and mother of two, "young kids can get really bored on the flat stretches. They're used to BAM, BAM-stimulation. Try pointing out a nice view and they'll look at you like, 'Big whup.'" So Norton always packs a sponge. "It can get hot on the river," she says. "My kids can spend hours washing down themselves and the boat."
Another good calm-water diversion: Jump in the current and hold onto a raft's tie-line to hitch a ride. Older kids can also buzz around on their own in the small, inflatable kayaks that self-bail. Stopping for hikes is always recommended. But the river has its own social whirl, with all kinds of boat- and partner-swapping. This lets older kids assert some independence, while parents can nab some quality time together.
Spam It Ain't
You may be dreading nightly grub of mac and cheese or some frightening stew concoction, but here's a more typical river menu: grilled salmon with lyonnaise potatoes, Caesar salad, a bottle of merlot, and pineapple upside-down cake. The best part? Guides will tackle the pots and pans while you relax and ponder Orion's Belt.
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine