Clash of the Titans by Shelly Forster
Disclaimer: The photos in this article aren't from our specific trip. They're from the Osprey Rafting Co. gallery, and will give you an idea of how bodacious you may look on your own river run.
Last week I scheduled a weekend whitewater trip down the Wenatchee River with a local rafting company and, as the transaction closed, they said, “We’ll put you in a boat with our guide Zeus. You’ll know him when you see him.”
Hang on, I thought. Are we talking old Zeus or young Zeus? Was I entrusting my fate to a wrathful grandfather with flowing beard and a quiver of lightning bolts directed at rafters who did not pull their weight? Or were they suggesting that I would be running the Wenatchee with the hunky Zeus of golden curls and colossal muscles?
The day of departure arrived and, while I waited at the meeting spot to get suited up with appropriate gear, a humongous dude with flaxen curls and a clipboard sauntered up. Here was my answer, and here was the exchange that followed (this really happened, I swear): “Hi, are you Shelly?” he asked. “Yes. You must be Zeus,” I said, fawning. “I guess I’m in your boat.”
It soon became clear that this would be no ordinary raft trip. In fact, we, the rafters, were about to embark on a mission to Mount Olympus to be led, of course, by Zeus and his fellow life-jacketed Olympians Apollo, Poseidon, and Hephaestus. I asked whether this rafting company employed any Lady Olympians and was assured that yes, they do, but Aphrodite and Hera had left on an earlier excursion with rafts of adoring, slack-jawed men.
Our journey was not to be an easy one, and we learned that along the way we would encounter the perils of the Titans -- holes, whirlpools, and rapids. These dangers would do their best to launch us into the river and keep us from reaching Olympus. However, we also learned that should we paddle surely, swiftly, and in superb synchronicity we would successfully reach the hallowed, sandy shores of our dreams and be richly rewarded with hammocks, burgers, and s’mores at journey’s end. Outfitted with neoprene armor for warding off the whitewater Titans, we marched to the river for battle orders.
Preparing to launch.
Hephaestus, the most seasoned guide of the bunch, explained the rowing commands. Forward paddle! Back paddle! High side! We gorged our ears on his words, growing hungry with battle lust for the trip ahead. “Should the Titans snatch you from the boat”, he growled, “Float on your back and aim your feet downstream so you’ll bounce off rocks”.
We launched our crafts just upstream of the first Titan. I took the bow with Helme, a dimpled Finnish exchange student. Behind us sat her host parents---Cave Diver and Real Estate Czar---and their friend, the Indie Band-Aid. Could we have had a more stalwart crew? Zeus sat astern, oar in hand, ready to command from behind as we faced Tinley Falls.
We swiftly destroyed our first Titan, despite its notoriety as a Class IV rapid, then polished off the next in quick succession. We stabbed our oars into Triple Shot’s crest in lancing, synchronous motion. “Forward paddle!” roared our Olympian guides as we charged the rapids. All trepidation at facing the Class IVs---the fiercest of the Wenatchee River’s Titans---vanished as we vanquished the waves with nary a casualty. Not a dry head remained, but we had won the day, and earned a brief respite before running the next gauntlet.
We giddily rejoiced, amazed that our tiny inflatable boat actually got us through such tall waves. I later spoke with a fellow rafter about the first set of rapids and, although she admitted being terrified about approaching Tinley Falls, her fear evaporated when she saw how expertly the guides navigated the strongest rapids. We agreed that it was amazing that one being with so a small a lever could so safely and precisely move a boat full of people through such turbulent rapids. But honestly, should we expect anything less than miracles when left in the hands of Zeus and Poseidon?
After a short flat-water rest, the rapids came hot and heavy in the Class III Titan at Boulder Bend. Alas, it was no match for Zeus and company who, with lightning bolts sparking from plastic paddles, vanquished the monsters and led us ever closer to the burgers of Mount Olympus. We saluted the adoring public watching us from the Leavenworth Golf Course, and then made swift work of shredding the frothy foams of Happy Wave.
Onward we drifted through the doldrums of Peshastin Flats, a large territory unclaimed by either Olympians or Titans. This was a time for our group to lick our wounds and to talk of home, of music fests, and of the ethics of underwater shipwreck exploration. We grew restless without Titans to maim, and here I realized the importance of mounting this kind of rafting expedition with friends to save you from tedium during the slow float through these doldrums. I later asked Zeus if he’s had any horrible rafting trips, and he said that the only bad ones were the trips with boring people. Those who shell out cash for a commercial trip would be wise to bring along a few fun shipmates. I lacked the experience to know this prior to our trip but Fate had smiled upon me and teamed me up with Helme, Cave Diver, Real Estate, and Band-Aid. They were intriguing characters who became increasingly interesting by the river mile.
Helme the Brave mounted the bow in preparation for our next Titan, sure that her Finnish Rodeo Grip would keep her anchored to the craft as we battled Rock and Roll. But, no, she was no match for this treacherous Titan, and she was sucked into… Satan’s Eyeball! Satan held fair Helme in the clutches of his black hole and time warped and became meaningless --was it seconds or minutes that Helme was held captive? In the end Zeus would have nothing of it. Through the strength of his godly biceps he fished Helme out of that watery prison and deposited her back onto solid Hypalon.
Undeterred by her close call and knowing she had to tame inner demons by getting back on the horse, the maniacal Helme remounted the front of our raft. She was determined to earn her burger in the wettest, most dangerous way possible. She rode rodeo-style through two more rapids, falling, of course, into two more rapids. Zeus assured us this was a new record for anyone rafting to Olympus. The swims became so frequent he suspected that the grinning Finnish exchange student might have looked too deeply into Satan’s eyeball, lost her grip on the raft of sanity, and might now be jumping purposely into the rapids.
We packed many more adventures into the four-hour tour, including exploring a musty cave, portaging a dam, and getting knocked off a wave by raft demons using sorcery to look like Boy Scouts. Our battle concluded with a final gauntlet of Titans, including the long, rolling series of Class III waves and holes in Snowblind and the grand finale in Granny’s, which nearly caused our group to get sucked into a hole as we jumped to fish Helme out of the drink once again.
Drenched, shivering, and smelling like moldy life preservers, we finally sailed though calm waters to the beaches of Mt. Olympus. We rejoiced, knowing there were warm clothes to swaddle us, live music to enchant us, and local dignitaries to entertain us. Of course there were also those plump burgers… and we pronounced them delicious.
The Real Scoop:
The story above is obviously exaggerated to produce a fun tale, but does embody much truth about our adventure on the Wenatchee River. Osprey Rafting Company organized this "High Adventure" trip, and Osprey is the only company that shoots the Class IV rapids we encountered above Leavenworth. There are several other local companies that guide the Wenatchee River, but I can’t speak to the experience they provide. I can say that Osprey provided excellent service with this trip. I don’t think their guides are actually Greek gods (bummer, right?), but they do know their stuff, and competently guided us through some pretty fast waters. Although it took a while to get us organized, suited up, and out on the river, the initial chaos morphed into a trip that was safe, fun, and chock full of hospitality. Osprey thoughtfully crafts the whole day's experience, so not only was the ride a blast, it was also a nice touch to have dry clothes, lunch, and live music waiting at the take-out.
Finally, while the High Adventure trip is not cheap, it is almost a full day of entertainment with an intimate guided group. Every rafter I spoke to considered the trip a worthy bang for the buck, and many rafters on our trip were repeat offenders with Osprey.
Details, Details for High Adventure:
- Location: Meet at the Osprey Nest, at the corner of US-2 and Icicle Rd (Leavenworth). The put-in is on the lower Tumwater. Osprey shuttles all rafters from the take-out in Cashmere back to the Osprey Nest.
- Trip Length: 16 river miles (~4.5 hours)
- When to go: The Wenatchee River's rafting sweet spot is between 7,000 and 10,000 cfs. Higher levels wash out some of the rapids and holes, and lower levels may be less exciting for real adventure gluttons. The largest number of customers arrive in June when river levels are high and the air is warm enough to combat the shivers. However, you can raft the Wenatchee any time between April and Labor Day. Osprey, like many local companies, migrates over to the Titans of the Tieton for fall rafting.
- What to bring: Dry clothes, bathing suit, water, sunscreen. Paddles, wetsuits, dry jackets, and life jackets are provided.
- Cost: $94.26/person, plus a tip at your discretion.
- Different trips: The High Adventure trip is the longest ride and is for ages 16+. Osprey also has both shorter and more family-oriented trips (“Huck’s Adventure” is Class I & II, only). For maximum adventure, try the Happy Hour Float -- it offers two laps of the High-Adventure’s Class IV rapids.
Other stuff: Osprey also rents gear, including rafts, kayaks, paddle boards, inner tubes, and wet suits in summer and snow gear in winter. Call (509) 548-6800.
High Adventure is for rafters age 16+, but Osprey offers other trips designed for families and kids.