Monday, June 23, 2008

My Whitewater Experience

Warning: for all of you who plan on coming rafting with us, don't read this.

We took Uncle Duane and Aunt Karen and their three children (Emily, Kelly, and Porter) white-water rafting last Saturday. The day started with a roller-coaster drive ( really windy, narrow roads) to get to the Kings river "put-in" spot. Poor Kincheloe's were a bit nauseated after that.

It turned out to be a really hot day. The record June temperature for that area is 109 Degrees in 1963 and the day we went tied the record high! That snow run-off felt extraordinarily refreshing.

Spencer has been down the Kings River several times this year with different groups so he pretty much knows the river now and feels comfortable guiding it so it seemed like a good strong river to go on for my 1st time this year. Of course as you'll soon find out, if the crew doesn't paddle when it's told to, the ride can get pretty bumpy!

Spencer actually put our raft in a 1/4 mile up from the "put-in" location to get one more big rapid in. He put us immediately into the white-water action. It was intense.

I few memorable things happened in the first mile of our trip down the river.
First off, Porter fell out of the boat in the middle of some big rapids. Karen dropped her paddle in the river to save her son, naturally. She pulled him in the boat, and Spencer jumped into the rushing rapids to save his oar. We had no clue what to do so we just watched Spencer go down the rapids. Then he stood on a rock, waited for us to come down to him, and jumped into the boat. At this point he informed us, "I forgot to mention an important rule: Never let go of your paddle!!"

He also explained to us that we had a problem. Our boat was unusually floppy...very floppy. Because it was such a hot day, he blew one hundred degree air into the raft. When we put it in the cold snow melt, the raft lost some of that air( the cold water makes the hot air contract). So what this all means is that when we are going on a wave train, our raft bends in and then quickly bends out and then bends in again, causing all sorts of commotion for us on the raft who are trying to stay in the raft and out of the water. There were times when we would be flung off our seats a few inches and sometimes we couldn't make it back on our seat.
I think Kelly was the next to fall out.

It took a few mistakes in order for us to get used to communicating and knowing what we were supposed to be doing. Porter was a big help to us by chanting "Row! Row! Row! Row!" We would dig in when Spencer told us to and follow the rhythm of Porter's chant.

We had two big challenges (besides the obvious challenge of staying in the raft); Going around bends and avoiding rocks. The problem was that for the 1st several rapids everyone just froze up and stopped paddling when we hit big whitewater. We hit rocks and brush when we just didn't row hard enough to get out of the way.
We got stuck on about four rocks, but two of those times were scary. The first time we got stuck on a rock we all had to go "high-side" so the water wouldn't come gushing in on us or flip the raft. The worst stuck-on-a-rock experience was when we were pinned into these three boulders and water started pouring on us, so we abandoned ship. We were all standing on top of a big boulder not having a clue what to do from there. What we ended up doing was this: three people had to push the boat from the three different rocks, while one person bailed water out of boat. We must have been quite a sight for on-lookers on the banks of the river. How humiliating! Seven inexperienced rafters standing on a small boulder in the middle of a rushing river trying to figure out how to get out of their predicament. I wish I had snapped a shot! At long last, we "unstuck" the raft and had to jump back in the raft quick before the raft drifted away! Luckily that didn't happen.
The all-time worst fall-out was Spencer. Spencer got launched off the raft into a whirlpool. He was pulled under the water for about five seconds before he came to the surface. Then he struggled to get out of the cesspool, but it kept pulling him back in. He managed to get out while holding onto his paddle and his hat! We did lose his very expensive prescription sunglasses which he should not have been wearing in the first place. Grrr! I am just grateful that my love is alive! It was scary for me to watch him struggle like that! (It's funny because even though he was getting pulled back into the Hole he never let go of his paddle to be able to swim better...He must really not want to lose a paddle!) It took us a minute but we finally got the throw rope out and threw it to Spencer so we could tow him back in. He seemed pretty excited about the whole thing...Weird!
By the end of the trip, we had it down. We knew when we needed to row (when Spencer told us to), and when we needed to bail water, and we knew what to look out for.

My favorite part was being with family. It was fun to experience this with the Kincheloe's. They were such great troopers. Porter kept saying things like, "let's do this every weekend!" and "when can we go again?". Kelly and Emily were hilarious, and Karen and Duane were great sports, too. I was the naggy grouch of the group.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera along. But I do have a few battle wounds to show off!

I have no idea how I got this one on my knee. It looks bad, but my ankle feels worse.

I banged up my ankle on a boulder. Ouch! It's slightly bruised and swollen.

Will I go again? I will... only because Spencer, my brother, is coming to visit and I want to spend time with him and my sisters, Ashley and Allyson and my cousin, Jon. They all want to go. I'm not going to give up a day without them. I'm going. Then, I'm done rafting for a while.


Agnes said...

Sara you are such a GOOD SPORT...I don't know if I'd want to go for a REALLY long time. Spencer's experience sounded scary. I'm glad he's okay. I love how you described your bunch of inexperienced rafters on a boulder in the middle of rushing water...crazy! I can't believe it was so hot ! 109?! Wow! You'd think you were in AZ!

Lindsey said...

Ooooouuuch! What an adventure; we're glad you all got home alive:)

Clarke said...


Lani Marie Arnett said...

Yeah, this reminds me of taking white water rafting trips with Spencer and dad when we were in high school. Scary- I mean, thrilling! Good for you for being a good sport. Sarah- I loved the way you wrote it up! I miss you guys!

~Rashelly said...

wow, sounds like a blast! What a crazy trip!