This was the phrase we heard repeated all day long, from the mouth of our guide to
Today's New Activity: White Water Rafting!!
Groupon and Living Social have been good friends in the course of this project. If you are familiar with either of these sites, you know that all sorts of deals on all sorts of random activities are presented on a daily basis. When I saw the Living Social deal for Action Whitewater Adventures back in February (half price for a full-river trip down the south fork of the American River), I knew I had to jump on it.
I sent out an all points bulletin to former Barnes & Noble coworkers, suggesting we make it a reunion on the river. I was so happy that my friends Nessa, Benson & Joey signed up right away, with Peter and Brian following closely after. A couple of other friends were supposed to come, but events in the interim prevented that from happening. In the end our friend Jay was able to take one of their places, so it was a 7-person group for today's outing.
Now, I have to say that before I signed up for this trip, I hadn't given much thought to the fact that death by drowning is the most terrifying idea to me, and one that haunts me any time I meander even a little ways into the ocean. This is owing, I know, to a semi-traumatic and super embarrassing experience I had in a wave pool back when I was 9, and it's been that way ever since. It's something I'd like to change at some point, but at the same time I think a healthy fear of drowning is a good thing; it'll keep me from doing anything stupid.
Unless, of course, balancing on the edge of a raft moving quickly over class 3 rapids is considered stupid.
Make that mostly balancing.
On the very first rapid (named The Meat Grinder), we slammed into a jutting rock at a wicked scary angle and speed, and Jay, I, and Benson (in that cascading order) were launched from the raft and into the fast-moving water. I have to say that was probably the most terrifying moment of my life, partially because the lead guide had only 10 minutes earlier put the fear of death in us by imploring that we put our toes up in the water should we happen to fall in, unless we cared to get a foot stuck under a rock and be drowned by the rapids running over our heads. All I could think in that moment was 'don't die, don't die, why did I do this (?), don't die!'
I somehow was soon back at the raft's edge, where I was able to grab onto the oars the others were holding out for us, and Joey yanked me back into the raft. Jay and Benson had quickly made their ways back to the raft, and we were soon on our way again (mad props to Nessa for having the presence of mind to grab all three of our oars. We would have been pretty useless for the duration of the trip if she hadn't!).
Here is a sequence of pictures (taken by a local company that sells them for the price of one arm and one leg (thank you Benson and Joey for offering yours)) from a rapid that *didn't* manage to kick us all out of our boat. In fact nobody fell out for the rest of the day, following that first adventure 10 minutes in.
The only bummer about falling out of the raft so early into an 8-hour day on the river was that it put me on guard for a while. I was wondering if the whole day was going to be one big, stressed-out quest just to stay in the boat. It wasn't until after lunch that it finally sunk in how rare the falling out is and how manageable the act of staying in the raft actually was.
But anyway, one nice thing about doing the full-river option was that there was a lot of relaxing, down time as well (almost *too* much on the first leg). We talked and took in the nature and got to know our guide, Austin, a little bit. It was a clear and beautiful not-too-hot day, and the water--though cold--was refreshing. Most everyone jumped out for a swim now and then, but once I was safely back in the boat I was pretty committed to staying there ;)
I was also thankful that we had a full boat comprised solely of our group. There was one raft in our party (we pretty much stayed in the vicinity of the 5 other rafts our company took down the river that day) that contained a super obnoxious man who was the only one in the raft talking every time our raft came close enough to hear, and who never--in 8 hours--tired of splashing the people in the rafts passing by. I think their group was only three people, so the other 5 people in that raft were just randomly subjected to his incessant chatter. Yeah, I was pretty grateful for the friendly, happy, good-natured, non-obnoxious group that made it out for the trip!
When we got through the lower fork of the river, the current subsided and all the companies' rafts chilled out for a 20-minute jet ski tow back to the let-out point. We watched the river pass by and took in the experience and relaxed to near napping. A short bus ride back to camp and we were done for the day.
We put up camp and then met up with Benson and Joey in Placerville where, on Austin-the-river-guide's recommendation, we ate at Z Pie, a pot pie restaurant. They are worth checking out even if only for the experience of eating a pot pie that was not scalding hot in the center or else cooled down to the point where the crusts had hardened. They had two vegetarian options as well and everything was very reasonably priced.
After that we headed to Red Hawk Casino for a spell, where Benson, Peter, and Brian all won money, promptly using their winnings to treat us to pitchers at Austin's other recommendation--The Coloma Club. It was the only bar in town (only about a mile from our campsite--score!), but it was enough. It was actually one of the coolest little watering holes I've ever been to, with old wooden fixtures in the bar area, a good house band playing classic rock, and a huge patio lit by lamps and Christmas lights, where all the locals were hanging out and where Nessa and Brian schooled the crowd in a game called ladder golf.
All the way around, it was a great experience with great company. I'd love to do it again, now that I'd be more relaxed for the duration of the rafting and know the best spots to hit up afterward. Thanks to all you guys for making it truly memorable and for waiting until we were all safely inside the raft to pull out the cameras :)