Whitewater Rafting in the Rain

A couple of years ago I organized a whitewater rafting trip with two of my friends. We went with this Gold Rush outfitter somewhere on American river. I can’t say that I was very thrilled by the experience – it was kind of expensive, we had to drive a lot, and this all for 2 hours of rafting itself. The river was like a highway (though it could be worse) with lots of boats and kayaks going at the same time. Bottom line – not very efficient use of time. I guess I’m not so into this so for me this didn’t have that much value. However, this kind of activity might still be enjoyable. Just the ratio of getting there to the process should be different.

So, this time around it was a bit different. My friend Girish found some deal a la grupon of 50% off on a half a day whitewater rafting with OARS outfitter. I guess not many people want to do this in April. Thus they were giving such generous coupons. But for me the price was just right. However, there is a reason why people don’t go whitewater rafting in April, especially this year. Due to a lot of snow that we were blessed with this year and still continuing rains the water flow in American River was huge. In fact, two people from our group even went skiing on Saturday before the trip. It didn’t change the rating though. I suppose the rating depends on the river rate of drop (or angle) rather than the amount of water flowing. Add to this the fact that the water is cold (well, it is always cold), so we had to rent wet suits for the occasion.

Since we had to meet our guide at 8AM there was no question on leaving Bay Area on Sunday. In this case we could do some travelling on Saturday. Going skiing wasn’t an option. I don’t particularly like downhill skiing (as it turned out) and especially not in this not cold weather. I was considering visiting some of the hot springs there, but they are quite a far off on the other side of the mountains. Plus, the shortest routes were still closed. As a result, we decided just to stay home Saturday, go to yoga, do some other things and leave after lunch. We could stay at the Mother Lode River Center, that conveniently had campgrounds, and start right in the morning.

We got to the River Center at about 6PM. It was still light. The area around it was very nice actually. Green hills with the road meandering though the canyon (highway 49 that connects 80 to 50) and sometimes crossing the large river. There were a couple of small towns. The places looked deserted. They said the it wasn’t in season, but I couldn’t understand if it was due to already closed ski season or not yet opened summer season. But anyways, we settled in the campground, which had gorgeous facilities – toilets, showers, huge open kitchen with stoves, hot water, and all sorts of tools and utensils, and went to find some decent open place to buy food for dinner. I didn’t expect the facilities in the campground to be so good, so I even brought my own stove which wasn’t necessary.

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We had a dinner of some shared food (there was a take out from some local place and Girish and Manaly brought some Indian pasta) and tea, swap some stories and went off to sleep.

It was raining half the night. On top of it that liver we ordered in the local restaurant didn’t go down well. I was worried about all that cold water – the river and the rain – and thus didn’t sleep that well.

Off we went after light breakfast. The weather was cloudy and a bit cold. It was just one other group that, it turned out, was doing a full day thing. Out Kiwi guide gave us all wet suits, some sort of waterproof top thingie (against the rain?), and helmets (not for the rain).

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Rita put on everything she had including gloves, boots, and rain pants. She was desperately trying to stay dry and warm (well, good luck with that).

The start of the run was from some other point on the river. They drove us in a van on some very windy road through the adjacent small towns. There was never really wilderness per se. More like rural area. Eventually we ended up in some sort of local park on the shore of that already roaring river.

After a short briefing about safety (no swinging with paddles, fall into the river – swim with legs up, etc) we were off. I was nervous. The river was cold and very strong. On top of it it was raining (oh, great). But after a bit it was fine. You begin to trust that it isn’t that easy to fall off from this boat and we seem to be fine and the guide knows what he is doing. Rita had a breakdown right from the start – some tiny waves made her dizzy (or maybe she was just afraid). The guide gave her some water and said that there is no way out other than continue. She eventually calmed down and seemed to enjoy the experience. At some point you get used to all this river. I’m not sure if I would actually like a full day thing. Perhaps a multi-day trip with backpacking where you use the river to get to some place that is otherwise difficult to get to. The funny thing about that wetsuit is that, since it is wet and not dry, the water gets through and stays in the most interesting place. Since we were sitting it was not really possible to get it out from there and thus it was king of cold.

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After the river part was over and we changed and dried the plan was to see some local parks. There was a park in Coloma that we passed on the way to the starting point. People were not really keen on doing some hiking, but they were fine with walking around the Coloma Gold Rush Historical park. There were some displays of that Gold digging machinery, even replicas of some original Chinese stores. We spend some time talking to the local blacksmith. That was all. After a below average lunch in Mel’s we went home.

Perhaps we’ll do this again, next year. Rita seemed to have liked it.

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