Whitewater Rafting Part 3

This is part 3 (My Experience).

For Part 1 (My Story) click here

For Part 2 (Interview with a Master and What to Bring) click here

My Experience:

I had only seen white water rafting on T.V. I wasn’t sure what it entailed or what it was all about. My first experience white water rafting was when I organized a girl’s trip at Cache Creek, in Northern California. I didn’t understand what I was looking for in a trip. I ended up booking more of a party trip. It was an overnight camping trip, my friends “bestie” and “CC” were the girls who joined me. We parked at one end of the river and left our bags to be loaded by the staff. We were put into a 4-person boat. It was not self-bailing (more on this later), we were not given helmets or a guide. Then the guides gave us a quick instructional that was difficult to hear over the clamor of everyone getting situated.

We put on our life vests, were handed paddles and attempted to figure out what we got ourselves into. The section of Cache Creek we rafted were class three with some parts class two. Though considered mild, I would like to note, I felt unsafe without a helmet or a guide. The trip was fun overall. Going down the rapids, there was lots of music and drinking. Everyone was very social. We had a blast.

There were a few rapids that required attention but nothing extreme. Until we came upon the largest rapids on the trip. Our boat got stuck. As it was not self-bailing, it filled with water. The boat became wedged between two large rocks. We couldn’t get out by rocking the boat or pushing off with our paddles. None of us knew what to do, I got out of the boat and stood on the rock and kicked it out. That was stupid. I see that now. As the boat dislodged, I fell into the water. My friends in the boat were swept away from me, out of their control. I was being carried downstream, hitting each rock as I went. I was terrified I would hit my head. It hurt, it sucked. I was able to grab onto a tree branch as I was floating by (remember this is in rapids, I had no helmet, nor did I have what I felt was proper advice on what to do in this situation). So, there I was, water rushing past me, holding onto a tree branch. If I let go of the branch, I would be carried into a long stretch of jagged rocks (the shore was cliff-faced, I could not maneuver to the shore). Like a scene from a movie, a man and his friend saw me. One of the men jumped out of the boat, swam towards me and positioned his body under me. He took the hit of every rock on the way downstream, protecting me. He later told me he was in the army. I thanked him profusely as he caught up with his boat. I met up with my friends who were waiting for me at the end of that section of rapids.

Knowing then, what I know now, I would not have chosen this company. In my opinion, a helmet is necessary for beginners, and one was not made available to me. This trip was advertised as perfect for beginners, yet I felt the instruction beforehand left me grossly unprepared for the experience. Other than that incident though, we had a wonderful time.

The second time I went rafting was with a friend “Stanford.” He booked through a great company called “Whitewater Excitement.” This trip had a much more professional feel. The guide was in the boat with us the entire time. He gave us thoughtful instruction before and during the rafting trip. We wore proper equipment, and no one fell out of the boat. The rapids on this trip were more intense than the rapids at Cache Creek. This trip was along the South Fork of the American River.

 

At one point along the trip, I asked the guide if I could steer the boat through some rapids. The guide delightfully obliged. He told me I was the first person to kick him out of his chair. He instructed me on how to steer the boat. It was a blast.

When the rafting trip began, I was a bundle of nerves. I kept thinking, how I fell out of the boat my first trip. As the first few sets of rapids came up, I would cringe. As the trip progressed I realized, the guide had everything under control. I felt more and more comfortable which led to feeling full on excitement as we came across each set of rapids. I let go of my need to control the situation and trusted that I was in good hands. It worked. For me adventure is more than just something to do to have fun, it is therapeutic. It is a way to learn to let go and just enjoy life. If you have never been white water rafting, I encourage you to go out and find a reputable company with a knowledgeable guide. Then, just go and have fun.

 

Whitewater rafting Part 2

For Part 1 (My Story) Click Here

Talk with a master:

 

Erik Allen has been kayaking for 21 years and rafting for 19. He has been a professional guide for 19 years. Erik’s respect for the outdoors is his platform for showing love for the two most important things in his life, his religion and his family. He is often seen with his wife and children hiking, biking and rafting.

“One of the things I’ll think about is how beautiful and awesome it is to be on the river. Spiritually, I analyze how amazingly beautiful it is,” Erik said. “We are blessed to live in the Sierra’s, which has rivers, canyons, and lakes. We are privileged to live where we do. We have world class river systems. There is a bible verse talking about how the mountains flow down to the river. You can see it right here.”

Erik suggests researching and finding a reputable guide and to “just go.” He says, “Everyone has horror stories, and sure boats flip over, but everyone is fine. The biggest injury is usually just a scratched knee. There are two things I look for when booking a company, which one has the best lunch and I appreciate guides that are respectful. I like the guides that watch their language. But some companies are all about partying.  Investigate before you hire a company. But just go. Don’t go with the cheapest company; you get what you pay for.”

If you are a first timer, Erik suggests starting with the South Fork of the American River. “Do the gorge, that’s my personal favorite. It’s a slam dunk. As you advance, try Coloma down to Salmon Falls and explore other rivers.” He goes on to advise, “Stay on class three. It’s just fun. At that level, you need to be able to pull yourself into the boat on your own. Don’t do class four as a beginner. If you fall out, you have a higher potential for injury.”

Erik gives a basic description of each class. He describes class one as still water. Class two he says if you fall in you can maybe get hurt, but it is unlikely. Class three has an increased possibility of injury if you fall out of the boat, but he still considers this a safer place to start. Class four, you could get really hurt if you fall out. Class five you risk serious injury or death if you fall out of the boat. “It’s all about an injury related element,” he says. “I’ve been on big exciting class two rapids, even more exciting than class 4.”

 

What to bring:

Attire: You can raft year-round with the appropriate attire.

Sunscreen: Always, year-round.

Shoes: Wear a sandal with straps. You cannot go barefoot or wear flip-flops. At a minimum, you need shoes or sandals with a heel strap.

The company should provide:

Lunch: Erik suggests researching what is provided for lunch in advance. He notes a correlation between reputable companies offering a good lunch.

Helmet: When you the read My Experience portion of my segment on Whitewater rafting. I illustrate why I will never again choose a company that tells me, “I don’t need a helmet.”

Lifevest

Self-bailing boat: The first time I went rafting the boat was not self-bailing. I am an optimist, I find joy in most situations. It takes a lot to make me grumpy. But having to continually pull the heavy boat off to the shore to lift it and tip the water out, just plain sucked. The second time I went the boat was self-bailing. It was a totally different experience.

For Part 3 (My Experience) Click Here

White Water Rafting part 1

My story:

People often confuse my love of adventure with a love of adrenaline. The two are not linked. I consider myself an endurance athlete. I enjoy the slow, steady and thoughtful pace of a 100-mile bike ride. I feel a calmness when exerting my mental stamina on a 5-hour run.  During these activities, I keep control of my movements. Adrenaline is a different monster. It is releasing control. White Water Rafting tested my ability to let go and have fun.

When I go on trips, I am the one who makes the itinerary. I like to ensure before my spontaneous adventures; every variable is accounted for (yes, I hear the conundrum in that statement). I have often described myself as stable, yet free-spirited. White Water Rafting was a fun way to let go and have the adrenaline rush I often deny myself.

My discomfort with the unknown often stems from my unstable upbringing. After kindergarten, I never started or finished an academic year in the same school until my freshman year of high school. Every year, during the middle of the school year, my parents (divorced) would shuffle me between them or move. It has given me a profound need for stability. I struggle to accept things out of my control. Whitewater rafting, travel, surfing all of these adventures have helped me let go of the past hurt and embrace that which is beyond my control.

Through my adventures I am learning even when I am not in control, everything still turns out fine. I encourage those of you who are like I was, those who like to hold on to things they should let go—to do just that—let go. Put yourself out there and have an adventure. Whitewater rafting was an exhilarating way to relinquish that control. At the start of my trip down the American River, I was a ball of nerves. I was terrified I would fall out of the boat. The first few rapids I closed my eyes tightly and just wanted it to be over, then it was. And I was disappointed. I wanted more. Soon when I came upon a large rapid, all I could do was paddle and hope the guide knew what he was doing, and he did. As each rapid passed, I became calmer and more relaxed. I started enjoying the thrill of feeling the boat go up and over the water. I couldn’t control the boat; I just had to let go and trust the process.

After many years I have come to that conclusion in life. Sometimes you just have to relax and trust the normal process.

For Part 2 (Talk with a Master and What to Bring) Click Here

For Part 3 (My Experience) Click Here