Whitewater adventure: You have to do it!
Everyone needs to go on a whitewater adventure. You have to experience the thrill of splashing through whitewater and the laughter found at a riverside camp. I have been on many whitewater adventures, but I am always thankful to be on a new one. One needs to see the stars free from the city lights.
Go exploring with a raft
I love backpacking, ascending mountains, and rock climbing, but there is something special about exploring the great outdoors in a raft. It is breathtaking when you come around a river bend and see the magnitude of canyon walls. Whitewater rafting is a peaceful approach to the wilderness and its wildlife, and the deer can still approach the river bank and feel safe. I love watching the black bears feasting on berries content knowing that I am floating by.
However, you get the best of all worlds when you take a whitewater adventure. You can pull the boat over at any time and hike up a hill to catch a view. You can stop, climb up a rock face, and then jump back in your raft. Rivers offers many side hikes to hot springs, Indian Pitctagraphs, fields of wildflowers, and excellent views of the landscape.
Yet, unlike backpacking, you can cover more territory in less time. For example, I can cover 15 miles a day at a pedestrian pace on the Lower Klamath River. I have to work hard to hike 15 miles a day, especially if I try to go slow and take in the scenery.
Whitewater Adventures: Lower Klamath
I remember my first time floating the Lower Klamath River. I had heard about it from a friend and thought it would be fun to explore a new river. The river offers Class 3 rapids and great campsites to stargaze at night, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
I caught a glimpse of the first Class 3 rapids as I drove up to the boat ramp. It was a steep drop with boulders on each side, followed by an eddy to collect my gear should I flip my raft. My heart was racing as I launched. As I approached the rapid, the sound of the whitewater got louder.
“Let’s go!.” I shouted to my buddy.
We hit the shoot and went right over the steep drop. I steered the boat to miss the eddy so we could keep going down the river. Both of us were screaming with excitement. The moment was exhilarating to be on a new rapid on a new river, and that was just the first one for the day!
We quickly came to the next one, another Class 3. This one had us move left to enter into a tight shoot, move to the center to avoid a large boulder, and then push back towards the right to miss the hole. I maneuvered the boat to the left but didn’t get to the center of the river fast enough. Quickly we bounced off the boulder and began to spin. I could see that we were heading rapidly to the hole and pushed hard on the oars to keep us away from it.
“That was close, bro!” My buddy said as I breathed a sigh of relief.
A day of whitewater adventure
Each day of the trip was the same: exploring new rapids, joyful screaming, and heart-racing attempts to avoid flipping in new holes. At night we would retell our stories to each other, and I am sure the rapids became even more prominent in our minds the more beer we drank. It would always end with us spreading our bed mats over the ground away from the trees so we could catch a view of the stars.
Nothing beats sleeping under the stars and hearing the white noise of the river. Every once in a while, I could listen to an animal gingerly moving through the forest around me. It became a symphony when you mixed in the crackling sounds of the fire. The bats flying above me seemed to move in rhythm with the sounds as if they were the conductors. A river is a charming place.
I would get up just in time to see the fog lift and the sun peak over the hills in the morning. The stove would come to life as I made a cup of coffee. I would walk a short distance from camp, find a rock near the shoreline, and sip my coffee. It was my time to reflect on the previous day, life in general, and take in the moment.
I could smell the bacon cooking back on the stove, which triggered it was time to start moving. I love making breakfast on cast-iron pans on an old camp stove. There is just something rustic and simple about it. Food always tastes better when you are eating it outdoors.
It isn’t just about the rapids
Whitewater adventures don’t just offer grand rapids; they often provide slow-moving water to float. The Lower Klamath has a section we like to call the Swimming Pool. It is right after one of the biggest rapids in this section and is about a 1/4 mile long. The pool is surrounded by steep canyons and has a narrow entrance and exit, which turns it into a large eddy. We typically stop here for lunch and then spend some time floating in circles around the pool.
Sometimes it is nice to float and listen to nature around you. I have seen Osprey resting in their nest and Eagles perched in trees while meandering down a river. River Otters are especially fun to watch. If you are quiet enough, you will see turtles stay motionless on a rock.
Sometimes, I will elect to row the gear boat when I am guiding. It allows me time to be myself and with nature. I love the quietness of the morning, the crispness of the wind that blows up the river, and the feeling of the sun’s rays hitting me. Mornings are just another great thing that comes with whitewater adventures.
Going on a whitewater adventure is something I wish everyone had the chance to experience. The river tends to change a person. People slow down when they are on the river. I have seen timid people act brave, and isolated folks connect with their raft mates.
By the end of every guided trip, the clients I have taken hug each other like they have been friends for years. The clients started the trip as strangers, but by the end, they shared something powerful in common: a whitewater adventure.
As the river has shaped the banks it flows through, it has also shaped me.