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Jan 2, 2009 | by Kevin Loughlin

I recently received this photo of a juvenile Green Woodpecker from an old friend in France. I have never been to France. However, nearly twenty years ago, before I became an “official” tour leader, I joined some friends on a whitewater rafting trip to West Virginia. We were joining about 30 other people on the bus trip for a weekend on the Cheat River. About 20 of the participants were from an Au Pair agency… post-college age women from all over the world.

I nearly died on that trip. It was still early in the season, and the rains and spring run-off had made the river very high and treacherous. Though my friends and I were experienced rafters, we were forced to take a guide with us from the rafting company. We had a few of the au pairs with us as well. The river was fast and at times seemed unpredictable. Long story short, at one point we hit a hydraulic –where the water dips over a submerged rock and comes back on itself forming a large wave on the other side. As we approached I looked to my right and noticed that our “river guide” had bailed out on us! The wave, when we hit it, was nearly 8 feet high! It flipped our raft and I was trapped underneath it, held for what seemed like forever by the force of the water. Somehow I managed to escape and catch my breath before being swept down river. The others who were farther forward… and quicker to give in and bail from the raft (smarter!) were fine, though cold and wet.
Later in the day I over heard an old man at the pull-out make an interesting comment, “Y’all see that raft that flipped? I’ been on this here river fer 20 years and ain’t never seen nothin‘ like that!” Obviously I, and they, all survived to raft again. Later the same day actually. Can you say death wish? Not really, just an adrenaline high.
Anyway, many of the au pairs became friends and we held many social events over the next few years (including more rafting trips) which included the au pairs or their annual replacements. One friend has now been happily married to a former au pairs for about 16 years now! Though I never married, one of the au pairs became a great friend. Carole has come back to the USA with her husband to visit a couple times, and she keeps inviting me to visit France. Which I promise someday I will. In the meantime, however, I will enjoy her garden birds through her images… and I promise to share more of them with you in the future!
Carole took the photo of the Green Woodpecker with a Canon 400D (Rebel).

2 Comments

  1. giggles on January 3, 2009 at 1:36 PM

    Oh Kevin, GO!! Life is too short! What are you waiting for! (Scary experience!)

  2. Carole on May 26, 2009 at 12:56 PM

    He is right, Kevin, comeover and enjoy your trip!
    Thank you, I am very proud that you put my picture on your blog, and I will do my best to send you others even better !
    Carole

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