This is part 3 (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.