The first annual moms–only rafting trip with Ray Higgins––aka “Chicks to the Chattooga”––was personally a life–changer for me. I knew some of the group that signed up casually and had never met others. A few were close friends who had dared me to go as hard as I had dared them. (A little known fact is that close female friends can be worse than fraternity boys when it comes to shaming each other.) In addition to the eleven brave souls (all female) who signed up, there was our fearless leader––Ray Higgins.

Beyond the limited, second–hand reporting from my husband and two boys (who had already experienced THE 7th Grade Trip), I had no idea what to expect. I’m not, strictly speaking, an “outdoorsy” person. Unless of course reading a book on the beach counts as “outdoorsy.” To say this trip was outside of my comfort zone would be to put it mildly, but “Hey! You only live once!” (or as the kids say these days “YOLO”). Truthfully, after hearing the tales and adventures from the people who have traveled with Ray on trips over the decades, I wanted to experience one for myself.

I cannot begin to explain everything that we did. I can tell you that Ray Higgins lived up to the legend. Over the 72 hours that the eleven of us followed Ray, we experienced fear (okay, terror), anticipation, surprise, excitement, exhilaration, elation, and pride. I think the pride and the joy that we all felt in the experience with one another and Ray will be a memory that stays with us down the years. Some of us surprised ourselves. Maybe Ray was a little surprised, too! Nobody cried, nobody lied, and nobody died––a typical Ray trip. I am still so happy that I had the blessing of bonding and sharing the trip with this group of Moms. This group bonded quickly on this trip for whatever reason, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we will continue to stay close forever. Who knew that rushing down a river in a helmet or sleeping in a tent could be fun? It must be because “Chicks to the Chattooga” have already started planning our next trip. That is the power of shared experience and stepping outside of our comfort zone––sometimes it can change your life. Or maybe it’s just Ray.

Deanna Funderburg