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.”
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.