UCN Teens Complete Whitewater Rafting Trip

At dinner last night Dylan and I were talking about merit badges, and it occurred to me that if the UCN teen group gave out merit badges, the group that went on the Summer Teen Adventure trip would have earned many of them.  So many I stopped counting. 


As if successfully navigating Class V rapids with ‘the highest water the Lower New River has seen in decades’, in our own boat (just us and one guide), was not enough, here are some of the other daring feats:

  • Endured a frustrating delay in departure due to ‘paperwork’ issues
  • Collaborated personal space, positioning, equal access to snacks, music and individual tastes in the car
  • Explored a potentially sketchy restaurant in Zion Crossroads for lunch, after which our waitress and two patrons told me what a “nice, polite group of young people” they were
  • More car collaboration
  • Larissa, Maggie and Kaitlyn worked together to pitch an unfamiliar tent without assistance
  • Dylan pitched his tent, we think, about 45 seconds (maybe fewer)
  • All four of them helped Ari and I pitch our tents J
  • All told, we set up camp, with clothes lines and s’mores components in less than an hour
  • Climbed on (and tipped over one) giant inflatables in the lake, jumped off giant pyramids,

Zip-lined from a tower into the lake, went down a giant slide, jumped off a platform onto a ‘blob’, then were bounced off of it into the lake

  • Learned the fine arts of pizza folding and fire making from Ari
  • Created s’mores out of less than optimal ingredients (marshmallows and chocolate pieces were too big)


  • Got up at 6:00 AM
  • Gathered seemingly endless combinations of foot ware and clothing for our rafting trip
  • Displayed extreme responsibility regarding their own medical needs and equipment, (i.e. glasses, meds) without reminders
  • Retrieved helmets, paddles, and listened to lengthy, detailed and (somewhat) terrifying explanations about our white water rafting trip, while riding a rickety bus down a narrow road on the side of a mountain
  • Heard, repeatedly, that the water level on the river was extremely high, and getting higher by the minute – which was an extremely rare treat, but made navigation unpredictable (see ‘terrifying’, above)
  • Learned how to work as a team to paddle our raft forward, backward, and in circles
  • Climbed up and jumped of an 8 foot boulder into the river without hesitation
  • Rescued six members of another raft while their guide picked up two adults who would not jump
    • Let me repeat that: our teens pulled six adults into our raft until their guide could pick them up!
  • Jumped out of the raft and swam through Class III rapids, and got back in the raft
  • Navigated Class IV and V rapids, taking several direct slams in the face, and two torrential downpours
  • Rescued the paddles for three other rafters who were less successful in navigating the rapids
    • Let me repeat that: our teens helped retrieve the oars for three rafters who had capsized!

Dylan was knocked out of the boat during the highest rapid of the day, and, rather than panicking, he simply reached up and grabbed one of the handles, and the rest of us pulled him in.  Like he did it every day.

  • Let me repeat that: one of our teens was knocked out of the boat, calmly reached up and grabbed a handle in the middle of a Class V rapid, and the rest of us pulled him in!
  • Assisted our guide in unloading the raft, carrying it to the trailer, and rode the same rickety bus UP the side of a mountain on a very narrow road
  • Returned to a very wet campsite and figured out how to dry essential items for the night
  • More jumping, climbing, zip lining and ‘blobbing’ at the lake, during more torrential downpours
  • Conjured an excellent s’more making fire from wet wood, sloshed through wet grass and mud to shower, and slept in soggy tents


  • Got up at 6:00 AM
  • Gathered, sorted, and expertly packed (while somewhat grouchy due to lack of sleep and a wet campsite) drenched tents, clothes and gear into the van for the ride home.
  • Donned another helmet and heavy, complicated rappelling gear with about 47 straps, loops and carabiners
  • For the second time, displayed extreme responsibility regarding their own medical needs and equipment, (i.e. glasses, meds) without reminders
  • Rode yet another rickety bus up on a narrow road up the side of a steep mountain
  • Listened to complicated instructions about zip lining procedures and instructions
  • Jumped off a platform to be whizzed through the air by a cable and three straps
    • Let me repeat that:  willingly, and without hesitation, jumped off a platform into thin air to be carried at high speeds, great   heights and long lengths, over tree tops and rivers by a cable and three straps.
  • Did the above seven times, in between mountain up hikes in 100% humidity
  • Walked across a suspended rope bridge (with several gaps!!!) to a tower with a winding staircase
  • Free fell (some facing backward), off a platform straight down, to be bounced back up and careened to another height, then flew through the air without holding on, some upside down
  • Another rickety bus ride back up the mountain in heavy gear
  • More car collaboration, with stellar patience given the lack of sleep and being hot and sweaty
  • Rode home in relative peace
    • This time Ari received the merit badge for his expert driving this precious cargo through more torrential rainstorms, at times with almost 0% visibility!  
  • Arrived safely back at UCN, tired, dirty, sleepy (but not hungry!), without a single sharp word or lack of good will toward one another or their two teen advisors, who were equally tired, dirty, and sleepy!

How many merit badges do you count in all of that?  Teamwork, collaboration, patience, perseverance, bravery, risk-taking, inclusion, mentoring, self-advocacy, group advocacy, delayed gratification, dealing with disappointment, resourcefulness, compassion…..and the list goes on and on.

Oh, and just in case I didn’t say so, we also had LOTS of FUN!

Many thanks to Ari (and Angie and Rowan) for volunteering to come with us.  Teen guide extraordinaire.

Peggy Pickford

UCN Youth Coordinator