Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rafting the American River

Like our forefathers before us, we celebrated our independence this Fourth of July by going whitewater rafting. On the recommendation of a co-worker, we opted to go down the Middle Fork American River, a 17-mile, Class 4 trip, suitable for the “active, fit and adventurous first-timer” (yup, that’s us!). Flowing through the Tahoe National Forest, we felt so removed from civilization, like we were the only people for miles around.

In the first six miles, we encountered numerous Class 3-4 rapids: as soon as we boarded our raft, we were greeted by Good Morning and Last Chance which certainly woke us up with cold splashes of water. Immediately after, we came across the infamous Class 4+ Tunnel Chute rapid, which drops 25 feet over the course of 100 feet. Our raft came into this rapid at an angle and we hit the first wall in such a way that our raft spun around a few times making it seem as if all of us were going to fall off the raft and have to swim down the rest of the 100 feet amidst boulders and crazy rapids. Fortunately, everyone managed to stay in the raft. By the time we hit the 25-foot water fall to our left, we were all very soaked and having the time of our lives. Tunnel Chute was followed by less intense Class 4 rapids such as the Submarine Hole and Kanaka.

For the next seven miles, the pace mellowed and we had time to gaze up at the beautiful lush forested canyon that surrounds the river. We didn’t see much wildlife, only some ducks and merganser and the occasional sunbathing turtle. One type of “wildlife” that we did see was the gold miners that still pan the rivers of California. We saw perhaps a dozen men, spread over the course of the river, hunting for gold. When asked “having any luck?” their invariable response was “a bit.” As gold sells for $1000 an ounce, “a bit” can add up to a pretty retirement fund fairly quick.

We stopped for lunch around 1pm and we were so impressed by the lunch that Tributary Water Tours provided for us – fresh fruits and vegetables, and sandwiches (with vegan options!). Our guide, Hatter, said that Tributary provides by far the best food of any company he’s worked for.

Another hour of mellow floating followed lunch but the trip ended with a bang as we encountered rapid after rapid after rapid without much of a break. The Chunder (Class 4) was an 8-foot drop and we watched with anticipation as the rafts before us disappeared down the rapids in screams of fear and excitement. This was quickly followed by Cleavage (Class 3-4), Upper Rucka-chucky (AKA, Up Chuck) (Class 4), Parallel Parking (Class 4), Ski Jump (Class 3-4), and Final Exam (Class 4). This last hour of rapids was so intense – intense but really fun. In between these rapids, we had to exit the raft as Hatter mastered the 35-foot drop of the Rucka-chucky (Class 6) rapids on his own (the commercial companies won’t take passengers over this fall).

What an awesome experience whitewater rafting was. We can’t wait to go again! While none of us fell over the raft, it certainly felt as if we could have fallen out any time. We credit our raft guide for a safe and wonderful trip – thanks Hatter!

1 comment:

Pia said...

WOW!! Seriously. I can't wait to go in March! Is March a good time of year to go? Let's go with Hatter or do you want to try another river? :)