Active Life Whitewater rafting – wet and wild

Whitewater rafting – wet and wild

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Now that school’s out for the summer, Victor DiSilvestro has returned to his other element.

DiSilvestro, a chemistry teacher at Freeport High School, is spending the summer at his camp in the upper Kennebec River valley hamlet of Caratunk, and spending his days – as he has since 1999 – as a whitewater rafting guide for Northern Outdoors in West Forks. DiSilvestro, 61, also spends spring and late autumn weekends as a guide, but in the summertime, that’s his daily routine.

For baby boomers looking for new ways to experience the majesty and excitement of the great outdoors, whitewater rafting is just the ticket. It offers fun, thrills and a chance to enjoy nature for all types of people. And there are plenty of opportunities in Maine to try it.

DiSilvestro loves getting out into nature, and hanging out with other guides – including his two sons, Zach, 30, and Luke, 27.

“I got them into it,” DiSilvestro said. “I just like the camaraderie of the guides, just hanging out with young guides, some of whom I taught in Freeport. It’s exciting. When you’re doing it, that’s all you’re thinking about.”

DiSilvestro has been whitewater rafting for about half of his life. He had been teaching school in Ecuador and Pakistan in the 1980s, then returned to Maine in 1989, and bought his summer home in Caratunk.

“I was probably rafting every summer for about 10 years,” he said. “When we came back home, that’s when I trained to be a guide. I just enjoyed being out there. I enjoyed bringing my kids when they were little. I always thought, ‘I can do this.’ I remember going to the lodge on weekends and the place would be packed. It’s the biggest rafting company in Maine, and the original.”

DiSilvestro takes rafters on trips mostly out of The Forks, but on Dead River trips, as well. A typical Kennebec River rafting trip covers about 12 miles. Rafters head out on the world-class rapids at 10 a.m., and break for lunch at 11:30. The day ends at 2:30 p.m., and everybody gathers back at the Northern Outdoors lodge.

The rubber rafts are 14-16 feet long for the most part and hold eight or nine people, although some rafters use smaller ones. DiSilvestro loves going out with beginners.

“You have people holding on,” he said. “That’s the fun part – watching the reaction of the guests. Your job is to calm them down.

“The other nice thing about guiding is just staying in shape,” he said. “You’re always paddling. It’s like your own outdoors gym.”

DiSilvestro said he’s getting “toward the end” of his time as a whitewater rafting guide. But not as a rafter.

“I’ll live up there when I retire,” he said. “I’ll get my own raft and then just do some day trips.”

DiSilvestro has no problem recommending whitewater rafting to other baby boomers.

“I take people down the river who are in their 80s,” he said. “You just have to pick your days. It’s a great activity.”

Victor DiSilvestro gets ready to guide rafters down the upper stretches of the Kennebec River. DiSilvestro is a science teacher at Freeport High School. Courtesy photoMaine offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the excitement of whitewater rafting. Courtesy photo

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