Monday, August 16, 2010

Slow Water Float Trip

My Boy Child has been interested in going river rafting for quite some time now. He was, of course, imaging a white water adventure with Class 5 rapids, because that is the crazy sort of kid he is. I am not sure if there is an actual official age limit on insane rapids, but I sort of implied there might be. Although I'm fairly sure we'll be doing a fast river run at some point, I thought it might be wise to start on something a bit more mellow before my children hit the white water.

So, when a group we know told me they were taking a day trip down the Sacramento River, and invited us along, I told them that we were all over the chance. The Sacramento River is just a wee little mountain creek / river thing above Lake Shasta, but below Shasta Dam, it is a wide and flowing mass of really cold water. And, I do mean really, really cold. The water comes from the bottom of the lake so it is more than a might bit brisk. But, that worked out fine, as the air temperature was in the high 90's. I wouldn't recommend submerging in the frigid water, but for splashing and water fights, it was fun and refreshing. The pace of the river was also leisurely and relaxed, with only a few semi-fast moving sections to keep you paying attention- perfect for taking a bunch of kids down a river.

Before we even put the rental raft in, we were treated to a dismal and monotone safety talk by a very bored and fairly grumpy young man who told us at least 15 things that could cause us to die during our trip. It went something like "If you take off your life jacket and fall in the water, you'll probably get hypothermia and die... There's a big log in the middle of the river, and if you don't steer around it, you'll probably flip your raft over and die... If you hit one of the bridges when you go under them, you'll probably tear a hole in your raft and die..." I think he also had a few possible scenarios where we wouldn't actually die, but we might just end up paralyzed. We did our best to follow his safety suggestions, but truth be told, it was a little hard not to laugh at his lack of anything that resembled happiness or fun. Come on buddy- we were going river rafting- it was supposed to be a fun trip! We couldn't figure out what caused his gruff unpleasantness, or what he disliked about his job, but we decided it was probably better that he was at least just renting rafts rather than spreading his non-cheerfulness at a summer camp, or in customer service at some other venue. We were also glad it was a non- guided trip, so we wouldn't spend our entire afternoon being lectured on ways we could die.

In any case, we did keep our life vests on, and we managed to avoid the tree in the river and smashing into bridges. We didn't flip the rafts, and best of all, no one died. We did have a small problem when we tried to get ahead of the other raft in our group and hide in a cove in order to attack them with water cannons as they rounded the bend. We failed miserably at making it into the first few coves because our team paddling skills were not very advanced, and the coves happened to be at one of the few faster flowing sections of water. Then, when we finally got over into a cove, we underestimated how close the branches would be to our heads, and we sort of briefly got tangled up in tree branches and blackberry bushes. Thankfully, we didn't pop the raft and die.

But, we did run into a bazillion HUGE orb spiders in those bushes. It was like something out of a scary movie, only it wasn't dark. We got wrapped in the webs and, several spiders boarded the boat. We kept finding them as we floated downstream, and had to send them for swims. Although they are apparently non toxic to humans, they are just too freaky to share a small boat with. I tried my best to at least fling them as close as I could to the side of the river, but we weren't good enough paddlers, or calm enough with huge scary spiders up close to take them all the way to shore again. I felt slightly bad that they may or may not be good swimmers, but at least they would be fish food and there really were lots of them.

We were able to harvest a few tasty and fresh ripe blackberries, although most were hidden behind thick spider webs, and none of us wanted to reach past the glaring occupants. We were also treated to some fabulous views of nature and the fancy riverfront homes.

One big home we floated past had a friendly little sign facing the river that said "Warning- We DO NOT call 911."  Nice. Apparently, had we gotten into any of those situations we were warned about, those people wanted us to know that we'd better get ourselves out of the trouble, because they were not going to be of any help. We wondered what they would say if we did need help? "Too bad for you! It's not my problem you're drowning! Maybe, next time, you should listen to the raft rental guy...if you don't die." Who knows, maybe they were related to him. Our whole boat had a good laugh at their shared bad attitudes anyway.

It took us a couple of hours to reach our destination. We had plenty of time to observe fish, birds and nests, plants and trees along the river, as well as to have several water fights with our rival boat. All that sunshine and water naturally made us hungry, so we laid in the shade along the river bank at the end our trip eating snacks while waiting for the raft company to send the bus to take us and our gear back to our cars. The driver was a chatty fellow who actually seemed to like his job and his customers, and told us all about some local birds and other wildlife. His happiness was refreshing, and a nice finish to a very peaceful day. We saw a completely different side of the river and much more of its beauty while floating leisurely down it in a boat instead of driving past it on the highway at 65 miles an hour.

My husband has been talking about taking a several day raft / camp trip sometime, and now the kids are even more excited about the idea. I have a feeling we'll be reading Huck Finn again soon, and that more water adventures will be in our future.

Any ideas or suggestions for kid friendly water fun?