Friday, December 22, 2006

Snow on the Summit

Snow is here North Fork American waterfall after a stormand Donner Summit is clothed in a white wintery powder. The blessing is apparent to all the snow resorts, restaurants and snow-related retailers up on the summit. Finally, the snow is here building gradually. We're on our way up to Sugar Bowl this morning for a fun day of snowboarding and skiing with friends. Some of the teen rafting staff are on board today along with well-known sponsored skateboarders who have limited experience on the slopes. Liz will be giving some impromptu lessons to the neophytes.

Just remember that this is the snow that everyone will be on rafting and paddling come this springtime. Get in shape, get out on the slopes, the street or wherever, but just do.

The photo on the left was done by Big Poppa after last months rainstorms. The side creeks, tributaries and waterfalls were flowing. Each winter, we wait for the spring runoff...

Come paddle this spring on the North Fork American. W.E.T. River Trips wishes you a happy holiday and a safe vacation recreating outdoors. See you in 2007!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Big Brother

He was always ahead of you... always the benchmark. He couldn't help it. He was older and you looked up to him in more ways than one. At 6'4", he rose above you. You at 5'8". And through school, from 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th... senior year... the teachers compared you with him. He was on the dean's list; you barely made 3.0. He's now a doctor. You're an entrepreneur...

We'll see each other this Christmas. We'll all have drinks in the living room. Chit chat chit chat and then the guard comes down and your'e reminiscing over your youth. Remember that time when we rode our bikes down... it doesn't matter how the story goes. It's as universal as mankind. Your family connects you. They are the only people who really know you.

We did a river trip together a few years ago. A short trip, only 2 days or so. Just two men enjoying the water. Rafting and paddling through waves. That night, on the beach, we talked as two men. Small slights were forgotten as we gazed upward to a million stars. We talked through the night.

The ritual of breaking bread with a family... it's that same feeling. Gathering this Christmas night with young and old. Good food. Good family. We come together as a tribe of people with all sorts of foibles. All sorts of stories. Be patient. We must be patient and understand each other...

Then the night wears on and everyone sits down to this gourmand meal. We share food and memories and each other. He, once again, becomes the big brother. You become that small boy who admired him and loved him. Though pangs of jealousy may haunt us, we don't let it come between us anymore. Not on Christmas...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

SACOG -Tall Order

On the 16th of November, W.E.T. River Trips had the honor of attending SACOG's (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) Metropolitan Transportation Plan in one of the 8 region-wide meetings at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California. As a state-wide rafting business that draws people in cars to the Placer and El Dorado Co, it was important that we were represented. The MTP is a 28 year plan for improvements in a six-county region based on growth in population, housing and jobs. Eight locations with simultaneous telecasting with our meeting taking the lead. Intel provided the technology to simulcast the voting procedures with instant results shown as we voted on small clickers that each of us were given. Approximately 2,000 members were strewn across the region all meeting at the same time. From Davis in Yolo Co, Elk Grove, Natomas, Downtown Sacramento, Folsom, Placerville in El Dorado Co, Rocklin in Placer Co and Yuba/Sutter Co, the various locations of the meeting that evening were all held at the same time. Channel 3 - KCRA helped facilitate the production end with one of their anchors at the helm.

SACOG's MTP - Tall Order is an ambitious attempt to answer burning questions: How would you design traffic flow in your neighborhood? in your city? in the Sacramento region? Last spring, community members weighed-in on projects throughout the region with community meetings trying to address traffic flow and traffic solutions. One of the first questions asked on our evening was regarding prioritizing the anticipated $36 billion budget. The majority of the regions showed "Smart Growth" as a top priority along with "Environmental and Conservation" while "Economic Viability" shifted from 2nd to 3rd positions depending on the voting region. Smart Growth is an absolute first priority since smart growth addresses environmental and conservation efforts. High density livability will curtail the suburban sprawl that seems to be occurring in our beautiful foothills and Sierra Nevada. Smart growth also satisfies economic viability by bringing retail to high density areas instead of placing them in outskirts where no one lives. Leave the wilderness and agricultural lands intact instead of building and destroying them.

Anyone who has to travel from the Placer or Eldorado Co areas into and through Sacramento and on to the Bay Area has felt the traffic crunch. Daily commuters from the foothill areas and the valley are creating a terrible environmental impact throughout the region. We have to come up with solutions to address our population and our growth needs. Alternative modes of transportation were highlighted in almost every region and project area along with light rail, bus transport, trolleys, pedestrian-friendly design and auxiliary freeway lanes. Problems were many as few at each table could agree with specifics on each project. Most projects were limited due to budget constraints though all could agree that we'd like to take the best ideas and combine them.

In the city of Sacramento, Mayor Fargo, along with city council members Steve Cohn and Lauren Hammond showed their support by attending this important meeting. Rutsy Dupree of El Dorado County was also there at the helm. Many familiar faces showed up as Ed Cox from Alternative Mode of Transportation sat just behind us. A well-known advocate for bicycling trails and routes, he is a passionate bicyclist himself. Chris Wilson from ESIA (East Sacramento Improvement Association) and myself, both current members of the RAC committe for the 65th St Transit Village and many other neighborhood groups were in attendance.

The Tall Order is most definitely a tall one. $36 billion is just a drop in the bucket to address this very large region. Adding bridges, auxiliary freeway lanes, re-routing traffic flow for the eight regions will only help to improve our traffic and help to improve our daily lives. Make your voice heard and participate in your region to help the Metropolitan Traffic Plan. Meetings will be announced in your community and bookmark the SACOG websites.

SACOG has set up a special website showing the regional results from this historic meeting. Visit and have a voice in this MTP project.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sierra Snow is Here!

Traveling from the Tahoe area, California whitewater rafting is on my mind as the snow season has begun in the Sierras. Travel was sketchy yesterday as the summit was pounded by a great powdery snow. Lots of tourists were taken off guard as they vied for the chain monkeys to chain up the rental cars.

Ski resorts are up and running and our teen rafting staff is excited about snowboarding and skiing. I listen as they squirrel around arranging for rides and borrowing each others gear. Cell phone calls and myspace postings create a billboard of gear swap and ride announcements. Gloves and socks are always missing... buried under the gear weight of a summer season of rafting fun.

Will the rafting season be as intense as it has been the last two seasons? Watch for the snowpack as it rises with every storm. High water these past two rafting seasons was a mixed blessing of great water at times and too high of flows on some rivers. By this February, we should have a great idea of what's to come for flows on the rivers in California after evaluating the snowpack and weather patterns.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Big Poppa posts this story reflecting on the meaning of family, spirit and homecoming. Our children and families are the highlight today as we rejoice in all the family rafting trips that we have nurtured. W.E.T. River Trips is greatful to all the families who have come rafting with us and know that this story will ring in the hearts of many as we all sit down and give thanks for all of our loved ones this Thanksgiving day. Eat hearty and love each other and we'll see you all this season on the river!

At virtually every high school in America, there is a primal ritual of spirit, competition and socialization that is categorized as "Homecoming!" In my 30 years in public education, I've grown accustomed to Homecoming Week as a benchmark of the Fall semester. The event rallies around the concept of the returning football team after competing at another school's stadium. Prior to the game there are usually special dress-up days, spirit competitions, rallies, bonfires, the football game, and the main event...The Dance!

My teen daughter is at an all-girl's high school and it was odd that I began to hear talk of homecoming activities in the fall of her freshman year. Huh? Why? Where is the football team? Whose coming home?

During the next few weeks the events of Homecoming became all encompassing. Soon I was bringing building materials, paint, and pizza to hordes of girls working late into the night to decorate their respective class corner of the gym. I also found myself going to the local supermarket to buy cases of canned goods and buckets of coins for class competitions. I also watched as my daughter stressed-out over choreographing her class dance.

Just as the big rally came up, I made plans to attend...only to discover that Parents of Underclassmen Were Not Allowed. The Gym apparently could not hold the crowd.

This went on each year as the mystery built... until this year... I could finally attend... my daughter was finally a Senior. Since she choreographed the dance... I really wanted to go. Besides my wife and I needed to know what the heck was going on in that gym!

In the public schools, the Homecoming Rally is always a raucous affair and the spirit activities engage about maybe a third of the kids. I expected the same percentage of involvement in an all-girl school. I soon discovered, I didn't have a clue...

My wife and I arrived 45 minutes early... we had been warned to arrive early to get a decent seat. As we stepped into the Gym wearing our powder blue senior shirts, we scooted into the parent's section that was already filled to capacity. A helpful volunteer then moved us. 10 minutes later, another volunteer moved us again...

The young women arrived en-mass starting with the freshmen. The teens flooded into the gym to synchronized chants and cheers as did each subsequent class until the gym was filled with cheers raising the decibel levels to that of an international airport's runway the day before Thanksgiving. Miraculously, on cue, the gym became silent as a prayer was read and opening remarks were made.

The Gym then erupted into chants and the girls cheered as seemingly, the entire staff of the school participated in a dance and lip-synch performance that surveyed two decades of music. The teachers and staff were amazing and the girls cheered every nuance and inside joke.

Next it was each class' turn. Beginning with the freshmen, each group performed elaborate and spirited skits with songs and dance focused upon various forms of current popular music and incorporating their class mascots. With each class the gym went berserk. Not only did the girls cheer for themselves, they also cheered the other classes with equal vigor in a spirit of sportsmanship.

After the Seniors performed, the bleachers emptied and the teens filled the gym floor as they sang along to songs while watching a slide show of the week's events (I recall hearing Shania Twain's I Feel Like a Woman and a cover of Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me.) Then by some unknown cue the girls filed back into the bleachers and listened to congratulations and thanks as the Seniors were named the winners of the Homecoming competition.

The entire assemblage of girls then went to the quad for pizza, jump houses, and a live Emo-like band. The dance was the next night.... I was amazed that so much energy and volume was generated and controlled by a large mass of adolescent girls. I remarked to my wife that boys might not be able to contain themselves and might become aggressive in a similar environment; however, these girls channelled their energy into their voices and dance to celebrate their individuality and power.

As my wife and I left the gym 3 hours after we arrived, we were spent. We simply stood as witnesses to the event, yet, the power of these young women drew us in. We understood that these young women will have no problem with the world they face... enpowered without even realizing it; their right to the status quo is one they naturally expect.
Big Poppa sitting at the head of the table eating a turkey leg!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rafting, Rivers and Art

Rivers create funny alliances. There are aggro-amped paddlers; young guns who crash and burn through rapids, rocks and over waterfalls, and then there are river lovers who just want to enjoy a bouncing river ride and to write or create beautiful art. Jocks and artists together enjoying the same thing. Right-brain vs left-brain. Weird. Rivers do this to you. Everyone is strangely attracted to rivers...

The whole blog thing is a creative activity, or it's just diarrhea of the fingers tapping on keyboards everywhere. River blogs inspire just like rivers. Great and beautiful artwork is created from inspiration from great rivers and streams. Painters, photographers, sculpturers and writers have created works with the sole purpose to pay homage to rivers. In the Coloma/Lotus area, a place of serene beauty adjacent to the venerable South Fork American River, many artists have congregated there, so inspired by this river, that they have come to live there forever.

Photographer/artist - Betty Sederquist, painter - Robyn Magnuson Center, photographer - Paul Ratcliff and others create works so stunningly beautiful that you know the river gods had a hand in their work. Another Northern California artist, Phil Evans creates metal scuptures with river rocks. The sculptures are so fluid and modern and yet organic with smooth river rock precariously hanging from thin threads of metal as it flows gracefully into an unknown wave. These artists inspire me. A small art gallery in Lotus features many local artists and some who are very well-known, like Andie Thram, a graphic designer known for her beautiful flower illustrations. All have their inspiration from rivers and nature itself.

Northern California's public television recently had their 25th Silver Anniversary for the 2006 KVIE Art Auction. So many pieces were inspired by Northern California rivers and streams. Bebe McLeod's "Crystal Springs" watercolor; Margot Roessle-Best's "American River" watercolor, a juror selection; Simon Jean Lam's "Surprise Garden," a giclee print depicting a whimisical interpretation; Marjan Kluepfel's "Cobblestone Creek," a fiber wall hanging; Megan Bucko's "Fall in the Foothills," watercolor juror selection; Helen Plenert's "American River at Sailor Bar," acrylic on canvas; Barbara Beaudreau's "September Slough II", juror selection pastel; Marie Therese Brown's "American River," oil on canvas; Adrienne Hostetter's "Pond at Sailor Bar I," oil on canvas; Irene Lester's "Old Fair Oaks Bridge," giclee print depicting the urban American River; Jill Stewart's "American River, Discovery Park," oil on canvas; Elaine Bowe's "Life on the River," first place for watercolors; Gregory Kondos' "River Life," signed limited edition print; Jian Wang's "Dawn on the American River," oil on canvas; Larry Weldon's "River Home," digital print; and Beverly DeJarnett's "Serenity," acrylic on canvas; all artworks inspired by rivers.

Art and rivers connect everything. It is the soulful pursuit for something greater than oneself. Artists must create. Their inspiration causes them to stop everything so that they can "make" it happen. Their need to create surpasses all other needs. Be inspired when you enjoy their works and get on the river when you can!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I'm exhausted. We watched until 3 am the election results in California and switched back and forth to the internet for updates across the country. The Democrats have won the House and I can't be more pleased. Finally, an election that reflected our country's dissatisfaction with the current administration.

In California, results showed a bit different attitude; one that hopefully will sweep the nation. Here, we didn't vote party lines... It really was about the issues. Hordes of Democrats voted for Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican married to a full-fledged, Bostonian Kennedy. Democrats watched as he tried desparately to create a balanced budget. He got frustrated and brought the issues by way of a special election to the people in a stupid attempt to circumvent the legislature; and was defeated... and boy, did he find out that certain groups would not be bulldozed by the Austrian oak. He learned, though. He made amends. And he remade himself into a working partner with the Dems. Now, we hope his agenda in the upcoming months and years will keep the promises that he has made. Infrastructure, environment, education and the budget of California are essential programs to push this great state forward.

We need leaders, not kings; not fear-mongers and alarmists. We need moderates from both sides. We, the people, can no longer throw daggers at each other screaming about issues that are so personal that it doesn't belong in anyone else's business except their own. We need to talk about why our infrastructure here has become dangerous. In our Great Valley, we suffer from levees that are ancient and failing, while we build new development right next to them. We need to talk about sustainabilty of our resources; we can't all drive Hummers and suck up all the fuel in the world and then not understand why other nations despise us. We can't keep talking about immigration and watch big business hire them, exploit them and then watch them die from pesticide exposure, industrial accidents and medical neglect.

Last night was a revelation. There is hope. Not the hope of a Democratic House; but a hope that people are tired of the same dialogue that's come down from the top. We're tired of fear and we're tired of watching our lives erode, our freedoms disappear and our promise for the future turn grim. We owe it to each other to care for each other and to lend a hand when people are in need. That is a true Christian value. And my friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Aethiest, Buddhist, Quaker, etc all place that same value in their hearts as well.
Peace Out

Friday, November 03, 2006

W.E.T. Blogger Problems

First, I want to apologize to all the webmasters out there who have our feed on their sites. I am sure that most of you are aware of the reoccurring problems that Blogger experienced these past few days. W.E.T. River Trips official company blog was updated to a beta version that reeked havoc on our posts! Over on Momentum River Expeditions, the posts showed up with the conversion date and bumped everyone else's posts out. Also, California Whitewater Rafting was showing 15 of our current posts all at once, also bumping everyone else out. Geesh, what a nightmare. This is a test post to see if Blogger worked everything out. If not, we're back to square one.

The blog is currently showing up correctly if you go to our regular link at either or Either one will take you there.

We're going to post now... hope it works. If not, we are really sorry about the inconvenience to the feeds. We have faith that Google will fix it!
iBetty Networks

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Purists vs Extreme

Well, did we start a dialogue with the paddling and surfing community with our last post on rafting news! We had received info on the APT circuit for tow-in surfers. Tow-in surfers are not paddling out into the waves. They are dragged out towards monstrous waves because you can't paddle using human power to get through the hellacious currents. Motorized watercraft or even helicopters are used to break through the coastal waves and out into mega-waves of epic proportions. This is not for the weekend surfer.

Purists decry the use of motorized, smelly contraptions that are used to get those tow-in surfers to the waves. Surfers are in two camps over the subject, much like kayakers, skiers, snowboarders and rafters. Purists are looking at the natural formations of any sport. Is a water park the same as a kayak run through Giant's Gap? Is a boulder strewn river that has been dynamited for safety the same as rafting through a potentially dangerous rapid? Is a snowpark the same as wilderness backcountry snowboarding?

Extreme sports have graduated into different camps because of participants' skills. Surfers such as Laird Hamilton have accomplished so much in regular surfing that the temptation to push it to the extreme levels is warranted. They need to get to the bigger waves. And yes, sponsorship monies are definitely attracted to the extreme levels of any sport. Look at kayaking. Kayakers used to be happy with a successful run down Class 5 rivers. Then sport boats came out and the same run was pushed to a more extreme level so kayakers could do tricks. Then kayakers went over falls and drops, and now, kayaking is so extreme that rivers have been abandoned for creeks.

It's a dilemma. In order to educate people on how precious our environmental resources are, we end up promoting the extreme levels of each sport in order to draw money, sponsors and public support. How do we keep the excitement of any extreme sport without the extreme participants? It makes good copy for news releases and it definitely piques the interest of the outdoor public.

Friday, October 27, 2006

North Fork American River

During this winter, watch the flow charts for the popular North Fork American Class 4+ run after a storm or heavy rain. You'll see the flows come up and you'll also see the kayakers arrive. I came across a very cool blog site from a Japanese paddler that lives in Davis, California. Check out his North Fork description with his kayak pictures.

I just love surfing the net for blogs and news items about rafting.north fork american paddlers It keeps me close to the action when the season is over. California Whitewater Rafting is a description site full of info on California rivers. Check out Kevsmom for a recent description about a "Mystery Run." These are true blue lovers of rivers. Even when the commercial rafting scene is over, everyone who paddles still comes out whenever there's a drop or a rapid to negotiate. It's a habit and an addiction. Also, check out CaCreeks' website for general river descriptions for kayakers and paddlers. Lots to check out here and lots of pictures to see.

New rafting sites pop up everyday, but, I have a tendency to use the ones mentioned on a regular basis. W.E.T. River Trips' rafting news has become popular as well as their company rafting blog for California rafting information and updates.

Over at the American River website, the well-known forum was finally "done-in" by the nasty spammers. But, in its demise, comes a beautiful news page with lots of updates on the South Fork American and the American River in general. So many talented bloggers, news agents, webdesigners and webmasters are creating great resources for our industry. The more, the better in order to promote rafting, kayaking, and paddling for our California whitewater industry.
Post by iBetty Networks

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Get Out and VOTE!

As we put away our rafts and paddles for the winter, we encourage you to get out there and vote next month. This election is critical. There are several candidates and propositions that will impact all of our lives. From the govenor's race to your local campaigns, get off the couch and vote. For those of you who love rivers as much as we do, we ask you to pay close attention to candidates who have a history of voting for the environment. This is not an issue of right or left or Democrat or Republican. It is not "radical" to vote for the environment; au contraire, it is actually a conservative decision.

Definition of Conservative: favoring or adhering to a restrained style or opinion; to conserve or preserve; favoring traditional views and values; moderate and cautious. Conservative people think about the future. Conservative people saw what happened with high gasoline prices and gas guzzling vehicles. It is the Conservative who understands that our resources are few and it is a conservative approach to try and handle these resources properly to ensure their availability for the future. That's conservative.

Pay attention: it's about your future and your children's lives. We all need to breathe, we all need to eat and we all need to get from one place to another. It is up to us to vote intelligently without thinking of our own pocketbook. Vote as if you cared about your fellow human beings and this planet. And if you belong to a particular religious affliation, pray to your God and ask if it is truely right to vote for money. Or is it better to vote with the poor, the downtrodden (sounds like our Statue of Liberty!) and the weak. Your answer and your vote will impact many lives. And I pray that you do the right thing and vote with your heart.
W.E.T. River Trips

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Raft/Kayak Infrastructure Integration

Current technology is demanding that the auto industry create smart cars to help navigate the roadways of America. The buzz word is VII known to techies as Vehicle Infrastructure Integration. A fancy term for smart cars. GPS navigation systems, internet access, voice controls, iPod and satellite radio, and onboard devices to communicate with other vehicles and sources help to navigate the roadways and obstacles are already here. Soon everyone's car will have the same technology...

I was wondering... what if kayaks and rafts had this same technology? Think... navigate the toughest river using a navigation system that you could program based on your own skill set. If you are a novice kayaker or rafter, you could program your boat to run conservatively with no possible flips or wraps. Or you could run like Tao with drops and rad moves through the rapids. Imagine being able to run an unknown, virgin river run without scouting! The GPS would do that for you. You could communicate downstream with other rafts or kayaks to find out if there was trouble ahead that the navigation system didn't pick-up. Or you could just have a conversation comparing your runs.

See it. The smart car takes you to the river without you having any knowledge of the run. The car drives you there knowing which washed-out road lies ahead. At the put-in, the car offloads all your equipment without any labor on your part. And then the same technology pumps up your raft or rigs your kayak. All the while, you are slipping into your wetsuit and lifejacket without a single moment wasted in preparing your equipment. As the raft self inflates or the kayak rigs its own foot mounts, you slide in when ready. You then push a few buttons on your paddle and the craft proceeds downstream. In front of you is a navigation screen with speech recognition. Over the din of the whitewater, you shout "Class 4." The boat then gives you all the Class 4 techniques to run any rapid. You paddle; but the boat corrects any errors on your part. This leaves you with plenty of opportunity to take photographs or just enjoy the view. The tunnel vision view of navigating a river disappears as you no longer worry about the safety aspect of paddling any river.

Then on shore, the smart cooler with its high tech refrigeration system operates so well that ice cream could be served on day 12 of a Grand Canyon trip. On the inside of the cooler is a screen telling you what items are perishing or still eatable. And on the same screen, the river menus pop-up suggesting ways to cook what's still left in the cooler. No thinking or planning involved. Then over to the kitchen set-up where the stove quickly cooks any meal with no fuel; just a solar source. We're talking the simplest food scene in the history of rafting or boating. No more arguing about meals on river trips!

On the side of the river, monitoring stations allowing WiFi access allowing all the systems on your boat to communicate with a source to allow you to have a stress-free time on the river. Think of the porta-potty system that could be developed. No mess, no stink... wow! Everything recycled on the spot and broken down into its most simplest form.

So Kayak or Raft Infrastructure Integration or K/RII may be coming soon... and we can't wait until it's here... NOT!
Silly post from the bored: W.E.T. office staff...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Team Building Sessions

School's giving way too much work. This goon would rather not work so hard. The incoming students look so young and blissful... unaware that SAT's are just around the corner. It's the end of the rafting season and October is peeking its scarey cold head around the corner. Like a jack-o-lantern, it can make you smile or it can put the fear of God in you. I've seen October hot for 25 days, and I've experienced it when the snow fell and buried the summit. No sooner do you put away the summer clothes, then to have the weather change again back into the high 80's. The cool breeze and muted light tells us Fall is approaching.

A few rafting companies are out there on the South Fork American, enjoying solitude with whitewater rapids. Seems like a lot of corporate groups are out doing their team-building thing. What's that anyway? You got to work as a team when you're paddling together. It's obvious. What better way to teach and create a cooperative group?

Team building is based on experiential training. The philosophy is one of comparative teaching as it is applied to business and education training. Why sit in an office with your "team" talking about "working together," creating a cohesive working group with the sole purpose to successfully implement a goal or project when you can demonstrate that focus by rafting or climbing or hiking in wilderness areas. How better to show that training by paddling together and successfully running a rapid without flipping? That's real team building training! And that's why so many corperate groups are out right now doing just that.

Friday, September 22, 2006

FINALLY! Back to normal...

Latest info from California State Parks is a welcoming notice about the Middle Fork American river. No more fires, access road is open and the flow is ramping up at the dam. Good boatable levels will be available for the Middle Fork this weekend!

Scheduled cut-off dates for this river is October 2nd. No word yet for scheduled releases on the South Fork. Odd... usually, by the first week of September, the utilities and water managers have already sent word to our laisons about late summer and fall flows. South Fork American has been flowing though last Sunday there was an abrupt surprise as we all waited for a flow that never came...

Yesterday, several of our representatives testified about the SMUD relicensing on the South Fork river. Hopefully, after today, we'll be given some sort of notice about October flows.

Seems so strange that a reservoir as full as that, experiencing two years of unprecedented high water; that we should even be talking about unpredictable flows for Fall!

W.E.T. River Trips will be ending our season on October 1st (now that the Middle Fork is up and running!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

What do Guides do in their Off Season?

Just in from our "vacationing" field guides... Saul, senior headguide for W.E.T. River Trips is staying in Southern California surfing and boarding near the beaches of San Diego. Here's his account of his beginner surfing days...

"I went body boarding last week and got hammered pretty good... I still have water in my ears and none of the surfers have any idea how to get it out beyond using "swimmers ear", and blowing the ears with a hair dryer set to "Cool". Maybe, I'm not cut out for this type of sport...

The re-occuring thought with body boarding or surfing was how the water just didn't feel clean. Salt aside, the funk felt like surfing the Upper Klamath in late August. Also, I know wiping out in Freight Train (Cal Salmon) sucks, but it still felt safer than wiping out on an ocean wave, and having the surfboard and you getting recycled in the washout. Maybe I'm just too used to the rounded river rocks and rubber rafts. Oh and another thing, waiting for a wave.... why don't you just drive up to a wave, jump on your board and surf. Why wait? Surprisingly, its not a bro fest..."
Saul "The Man"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

2006 California Rafting ends Sept 30th!

Oooh la la! Time to put the rafts away until next year! What a great year it was, too... we have never had so many people on our trips ever in the history of W.E.T. River Trips. Our guests came from all walks of life... from high tech geekville to jocks galore, we had men, women, children, teens, grandparents, corporate groups and everything in between. The great thing though was that no matter who you were, where you came from, the color of your skin, your religion or non-religion, your sexual orientation, your political party designation, groovers, hippies, yuppies and just plain ol' folks... we enjoyed them all!

Upcoming fall trips will be mostly on the South Fork American and there are several outfitters who will be pumping out trips in October. For us, we are taking a well-deserved break after Sept 30th as we watch our guide staff take off for West Virginia's Gauley season, ski patrol in the Sierras, Costa Rica rafting, back to school and other seasonal winter jobs. I am going on a hiatus to recuperate from the dry droll of paperwork. Lots of government reports and documents will be processed as we end our rafting season in California.

Bookmark our website or this blog page for upcoming information on California rafting and California whitewater rafting. Pray for lots of snow (well... maybe, not as much as last year!) in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 2007 rafting season will be here before you know it!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Days = Fall Trips!

Happy days are here at last... actually, I'm talking about the end of this season! It's not as if we are rejoicing the inevitable end of our 2006 rafting season, but boy, was it a long one. With two back-to-back years of high flows raging in March through early June, the season was an intense juggling game of booking trips, cancelling them because of high flows, switching people to other rivers and implementing trips in adverse conditions that wore us out by end of July... and here we are in late August... looking forward to our October vacation...

American River rafting companies will offer fall trips through September. Fall is gorgeous in the foothills. Warm days, blue skies and cool nights highlight trips in September. Back to school discounts and other incentives will be offered by most rafting outfitters. Some of the best rafting trips occur now when the crowds are gone and the river is again showing its beautiful face...

Next week, is Labor Day weekend! Put away the white shoes and drag out your fall clothes. This long weekend will highlight the South Fork American and Middle Fork American trips. Grab a friend and join California rafting outfitters on the many rivers still running this coming month!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Business of Rafting & Random Thoughts

The business of rafting is almost a misnomer since most of us got into this because of a love of rivers, rafting and the outdoors. We want to share this love and introduce this activity to other people. Sharing this joy is almost a religious calling... the rivers beckon, we hear and we go. To be in this business is a positive thing. We sell joy... we sell excitement. We sell an experience not compared to much. And it is an activity shared with many types of users. With skiing, you have to accomplish it on your own. You know, ya put on the skis and ya have to go downhill by yourself. You can't depend on anyone else, but yourself. With rafting, the beginner, the timid, the less athletic person who is spiritually and mentally ready can go rafting and conquer their fear and accomplish quite a feat in conjunction with a team. A team of like-minded individuals who are guided by professional paddlers.

The business end is filled with politics. We're governed by several agencies on our rivers that include the county, the state, the feds and others. That's a lot of agencies duplicating essentially the same paperwork and resources to mandate the same rules and regulations. We have a lobbying group who takes care of protecting our industry from overly zealous politicians in DC. We have environmental groups who look after our precious resources and help us to keep rivers flowing. We work with the utilities who control dam releases on some of our rivers as we negotiate for flows much like agriculture and municipalities... yes, water is our number one precious resource in the state of California...

Recently, we took down a group of middle school kids from a Bay Area youth group. Back to back overnighters for the entire week, and each day approximately 50 kids ranging from 12 to 14 yrs rafted the venerable South Fork American River. The kids enjoyed themselves immensely. Most were definitely priviledged young people, living a bountiful life of good schools, great neighborhoods and wonderful opportunities. Do they know how lucky they are? Do they know how many children their age that never see a tree or experience a naturally moving stream? Living in an urban setting doesn't prevent you from experiencing these things, but money does. Money for activities like this. What I'd like to ask is that those of you who have the resources; check your communities. See if there are organizations who offer outdoor activities to inner city kids... and then donate your money to them. Support them. Help them to introduce these opportunities to the less priviledge. Every year, we take our resources and donate to these groups who could never afford these trips...

W.E.T. River Trips started out as a rafting company dedicated to at-risk youth. From those beginnings, we set out to introduce the team-building aspects of rafting and paddling to those youth groups. We see it as a constitutional right that everyone enjoy a part of their lives in the great outdoors. From those introductions, young people will connect to nature and will understand how important it is to place yourself in the universe. You matter. You can make a difference. And as future voters, they will have a deep connection to saving or preserving these places in our world...

Speaking of connecting, I had some readers who were upset with the tone of the Maddox blog. Didn't like Maddox or didn't like his politics. Ok. So, don't read him...? Nothing prevents anyone from reading anyone's website or blog. And, where is your sense of humor? I like reading anything that gives me a good belly laugh. The kind where you're sitting in your chair and your head rolls back and a big ha ha comes exploding out somewhere deep from your gut. I like reading this stuff... even when it's politically incorrect... sometimes that's the funniest.

My friend who writes political blogs says some pretty damning things and I get such a kick out of his bravery and courage to post inflammmatory words about this current administration. It's flippin' funny that anyone could get so emotionally disturbed about such posts. Remember it's an opinion... a United States of America Constitutional right to write about anything we want. And that's why we all blog. The only thing that I see as a problem is that perhaps some of us and you may only read the opinions that we agree or concur with. That is limiting and could be perceived as narrow-minded. So, I even read political blogs about things that I disagree with so that I can be informed and know what the "opposition" thinks. It's important to have a balanced view. Most of us are opinionated and have a political view, but I think the majority of us all have the same hopes and dreams... a good life, loving family, the ability to make a good living and support your loved ones, a safe place to live... see we are all alike.

I am definitely a liberal leaning to the left... but only slightly to the left, because I also pay taxes and am raising children and I worry about "bad" stuff happening to my family. So political parties really don't offer much for me anymore. I've been a registered Democrat for a long time, mom was a Republican and dad was a Kennedy Democrat... so for me, political parties just don't seem important anymore. I vote for specific issues, and I vote for people who seem to have the common sense necessary to make decisions based on sound reasoning and people's well-being. So I might not vote for a Democratic candidate just because I'm a Democrat. Or I might not vote for a bond issue because I see wasteful spending in an area which is upsetting. Or, I might not vote for the liberal politician because his environmental record sucks. But there are some things that are quite automatic for me... I will vote against unbridled development in agricultural and wilderness areas. I will vote against this administration's attempts to destroy our National Parks and rivers. Because once it's gone, people, it is gone forever. And that's not what we want to leave as a legacy for our children.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


AB 1234 is a new law put in place this year. AB 1234 requires that "all local agencies that provide compensation, salary, or stipend to, or reimburses the expenses of, members of a legislative body must provide ethics training to local agency officials by January 1, 2007, and every two years thereafter. This includes not only the governing body of a local agency, but also any commission, committee, board or other body of a local agency where permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory..." California Fair Political Practices Commission

Whoa... that means me. Yesterday, I participated in the ethics training given to Sacramento City Council members and all the rest of us who sit on boards and advisory committees. Sitting in the plush new digs of the council chamber, a representative presented a long program regarding ethics and politics. Ethics is an interesting word similar to the word morals. Similar but subtley different; here are the definitions:

1. A set of principles of right conduct. A theory or a system of moral values.
2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.
Definition from Free Dictionary

1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation.
5. Having psychological rather than physical or tangible effects: a moral victory; moral support.
6. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: a moral certainty.
1. The lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, a story, or an event.
2. A concisely expressed precept or general truth; a maxim.
3. morals Rules or habits of conduct, especially of sexual conduct, with reference to standards of right and wrong: a person of loose morals; a decline in the public morals.
Definitions by Free Dictionary

A good example is the quandry that one of our legislators is facing. His spouse collected monies legally, but the public is wondering if it was morally or ethically challenged. Hmmm... listening to the speaker, I was struck with a sense of pride. This is a presentation of ethics and how it relates to governing agencies and boards and yet, I realize how much a piece of legislation like this could impact how the public and the political glitterati behave for the future. Bribes, compensation, conflict-of-interest, nepotism are all in the back of each of our minds as we watched the videos on compromising situations that scripted actors presented. There were also several videos of real-life examples where political figures were destroyed due to their compromises and unethical behavior. There was an interesting example regarding one of the environmental groups and environmental management. And lots of examples about developers trying to circumvent the planning process and how agency members can be propositioned
to perhaps, look the other way when making environmental decisions.

I loved the test example given to us and let me paraphrase this,"...if you don't want to read about it in the paper; then you probably don't want to do it!" In other words, an entity offering rewards, goods or gifts is a red flag and ya'll should be running as fast as you can away from the offer.

Our legislators, our administration could definitely take a lesson here... The Dolittle's, Bushies' and others may understand that ethics, legalities must be adhered to when governing, but if the general public feels that a moral or ethical compromise has been implemented; then maybe ya shouldn' have dun dat! I'll be watching my and my legislators' every step as it relates to my rivers and my citizenship.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rafting Guides

The American River team is getting grouchy. I think everyone is really tired especially after that last heatwave. Our crew has been working since mid-March nonstop through very high water, all kinds of weather and tough rapids. Everyone is tired. So it isn't surprising that the team is picking on each other. What did the fight start over? G. made a silly comment and then J. got upset. Soon the two guys were in each other's face comparing work ethic and execution... it escalated until J. shoved G. and then big daddy S. stepped-in to break it up. "That's enough! Both of you...knock it off!" yelled S. "Get back to work." and then it was over. Hugs and handshakes and it was soon forgotten.

The guides work really hard. They work through bad (cold, wet or heat) weather, with paddlers who have very limited skills, and raft in conditions that could test even the most diligent soldier. They are a team. Unlike a sports team, they never know who is coming aboard their "court." It could be a rabid group of young dudes amping on paddling with the bravado of a class 5 veteran. Or it could be young kids and grandma with no paddling skills at all. The guides are taking care of people as if they were their own children. Corraling them and signing them in at the meeting site and then quickly placing them onto the bus and then dressing them into their lifejackets ...they are like substitute parents sending the kids off to the school of whitewater!

W.E.T. had the guide party last week at Poor Red's. Everyone came except for G. who got sick from the overwhelming heat wave. He forgot to drink plenty of water that day. Even the vets forget sometimes. Poor Red's was basically deserted since it was a Sunday night and the crew arrived rather late after a long day of rafting. This restaurant is famous for its ambiance and ribs and its incredible Golden Cadillacs. S. drove and was the designated driver which allowed the entire crew a free pass to an unbridled drinking fest. Golden Cadillacs for everyone! Soon cheers and toasts brought everyone to their feet as silliness reigned over the night. Toast for the best guide paddler. Toast for the most improved rookie. Toast for the best flip during high water. Toast to the company. On and on it went and soon guides were hugging each other and swearing their undying love for the company and each other... it's a lovefest... it's a team...

Only 2 more months to go and the guides are planning their exits soon. Some will be going back to school, some will be going on to the Gauley River in West Virginia and some will be back up at the ski resorts for winter fun. Some will be joining international trips throughout the world on to Costa Rica, South America, New Zealand and other exotic locales. Ahhh, what a life. A guide's life is full of dreams, of rivers and adventure... go on... you know you're jealous.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Maddox? will he RAFT?

Lots of excitement over here; I can die now. I met Maddox. The one and only. He with the Che Guevera-look, caped and crowned with the eyepatch of a pirate... you know the one... the best page in the universe. I got pictures and everything! "Snooze and Revue" interviewed us, but I just read the article.. my name is NOT mentioned... but who cares.. I met him... now I can read his book.. "The Alphabet of Manliness." The harsh blogs and words on his website and in his books and comics don't reveal the true gracious intelligence of the man... ok, so he's a little like Howard Stern... but much more interesting... but I digress... the gallery was full of young techno geeks all paying homage to his holiness... or his oneliness... as he is a genius and holder of all things true... we invited him to go rafting in the next few weeks... but that's a secret... oops.

It's flippin' hot... I mean really hot. 108 degrees is unreal, but why are we bitchin'? When people are actually dying in their ugly heat. I mean those of us here in California. Rafting, hanging on the beach and rivers. Surfing waves and staying cool. There were over 1,000 people on the river this past weekend on the South Fork American. Way too many "hot" people. All arrived sweaty and excited; dripping with the salty flow from their pores. Lots of families, corporate groups (does anyone golf anymore?) and gobs of friends came out to join us.

Rich came out with his son, Riley who is a high schooler of 14 years old. Rich was one of the original owners of W.E.T. River Trips with partner, Steve. Rich originally started out as an "old school" guide for Outdoors Unlimited when they had the permits on the American River, Tuolumne and Stanislaus. Now OU is strictly on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Rich and Steve were both school teachers specializing in high-risk students... you know, the kind of kids you're trying to make sure that your kids don't hang around with. Anyway, they rode down the river on Sunday with favorite W.E.T. guide Maggie-Mro. Pistol-packing hot, and the flow came up rather slowly in the morning.

Boat after boat rafted down the SoFo freeway as the rigatta bounced through rapids and the guests squealed with delight. Cooling and refreshing, the cold water felt just right. I love rafting. My soul needs it. If ever there was an entity called "god," he is here... right next to me; sitting on the rocks; hanging in the sky; and bouncing with me in the boats. Gotta be... just gotta...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Monday Office Blues: Rather be Rafting!

What a weird day of calls.

A caller today was griping about non-receipt of their email confirmation. First we asked about their email address to check if we had a typo. No, the email address was correct. The gentleman became very aggravated with our staff member. He started complaining that he should have received the email immediately. Then we asked if the email might have been hiding in their spam folders. I don't know, was the answer. Please check your junk and spam folders first. A long silence proceeded with a sigh. Hmmm. Is the email there? Oh, there it is, came the reply. No apologies for yelling at us. Not even an acknowledgement that we did do our job promptly in the first place.

Is this you? Do you nit pick at your desk all day? Yelling at the underlings; demanding perfection... are you this guy? When you're at a restaurant, do you request or demand items from the server? Are you unforgiving when the retailer across the counter accidentally makes an error on your order? Look in the mirror... have you become this person? If so, you need to go rafting. You need to go outdoors. Get out of the box and enjoy a slower pace; a less demanding life.

I'm downsizing. I want a smaller house. I want a smaller car that sucks less gas. I don't want to be rich; just happy and be able to send my kids through college... and have enough to enjoy the rest of my life... just want to slow it down a bit...

I'm heading for a California rafting trip for a couple of days. Just me and a few friends to enjoy ourselves on a beautiful river out in the wilderness. Not much time... just two days of fun and relaxation. Enough time to just refresh and renew my head before I face another Monday office blues...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Whitewater Rafting vs Raftin'

I really need to go whitewater rafting... stuck in the office, in front of the computer, working for the paycheck that's never enough; I really need to be on the river... Fourth of July has come and gone and I read news reports of the crazies in Sacramento on the Lower American River.

The urban giant flows through Sacramento and attracts the most hideous group of hillbilly idiots during the 4th. With IQ's lower than a potato (sorry to all the french fry lovers) the 4th draws the young and stupid out for "fun in the sun" with their inner tubes and plastic rafts, except it usually means the cops are out in droves trying to prevent the idiots from harming themselves and each other.Summer rafting trips

American River trips

What a contrast... what a difference it makes to go from that scene to the beauty and challenge on the South Fork American River or the wilderness trip on the Middle Fork American. There, W.E.T. River Trips took several families, groups and corporate trips on various whitewater sections of those rivers during the long four day holiday (did
anyone work on Monday?). No alcohol is ever permitted on the rafts and it really makes a difference in the way people conduct themselves. Paddling participants are really into the beauty and serenity of the river itself. More reflect on the challenges of the whitewater and how to negotiate the difficult rapids. The focus is on the river; not drinking or drugging yourself to oblivion.

Our professional whitewater guides enjoy the youthful exhuberance of rafting teens and newcomers who bring new eyes to the river. Those people are given an opportunity to really appreciate nature and the true beauty of dynamic rivers. Now, I'm not saying that the urban river in Sacramento is not beautiful... au contraire mon amis... it is one of the jewels of California. That broad river meandering through the state capitol in Sacramento has inspired more artists and paddlers than probably any river in the state. It's just that hooligans have disrespected its soul and have desecrated its face with slovenly behavior, dumping garbage and waste on the beautiful beaches and water. I'd like to grab all those people and drag them up to the whitewater sections just an hour from Sac... just to show them what real rafters do: respect the river, challenge it on its own value and preserve its natural state as much as possible.

Whitewater rafting has changed so many people's minds about the process of rafting. More people have had life altering changes because of a simple rafting trip. I've seen our guests challenge whitewater rapids, love the sport so much, that they go out and buy an inflatable kayak to paddle on urban rivers and other waterways throughout the country. It is a soulful endeavor and I really need to get my "fix" soon. I need to be out there paddling, rocking with the raft over the waves, lazily floating under Mr Sun and challenging a whitewater rapid. Summer is definitely here. And hopefully, the shameful behavior in the valley will either be legislated away or the river gods will finally put a stop to it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rafting Clients & Outfitters

We're in full swing on our American River rafting trips. Commercial rafting companies are busy with reservations, scheduling, employees and guides and the rafting clientele. I just got off the phone with a fellow outfitter who was grousing about unprepared clients. What's a rafting outfitter to do? Here are suggestions on how to make life smoother for you, the rafter and us, the outfitter:
  • Take some time to read the websites: It helps to at least look at the pricing and the basic river descriptions
  • Have paper & pen when you call: Take notes, you're talking to several rafting companies & we all have different logistics
  • When making a reservation: Have your credit card in your hand and not out in the car in the parking lot across the street
  • Ask questions: Let us answer them
  • Have lunch before you call: Chewing, slurping may interfere with your lousy cell phone reception
  • Have a calendar with you when you call: Or at least have some dates in mind
  • When making a reservation: Use a credit card that's not maxed out or w/a limited credit line... like $0
  • If you have a question about your reservation: Know your confirmation number or at least, the date of the trip & the name of the river
  • Identify yourself by the reservation name & not as "charlie": We file by reservation name"
  • Don't brag: We know you're a class 5 rafter, but you have your 8 yr old kid w/you, so take our suggestions on appropriate trips
  • Don't complain about heat: We're dripping sweat over the fire you asked us to build
  • Don't ask for refunds on no-shows: Having a major hangover is not a good excuse
  • If you're late: Don't be surprised when the other paddlers boo hiss when you board the bus
  • When boarding the rafts: Don't announce that you're allergic to water & you hate rafting
  • And finally: Don't forget to have fun... it's a rafting trip; not a freeway of road rage.
Notes from the W.E.T. gallery of sarcasm!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Toilet Bowl is Back::Middle Fork American!

The toilet bowl is back! The Middle Fork American was run last Sunday with a great group of hardy paddlers. Earlier reports from our kayaking crew, led us to believe that the flow gauge was a few hundred cfs off the mark. Everyone, including California State Parks could not get a read on the actual river flows. -Taking the advice of our kayakers and 'ol school guides, we figured the flow out to be just below 1,300 cfs.

Saul, a 12-year veteran led the team and here's his eyewitness report for California rafting: "Heads up for changes out there on the Middle Fork American! My first trip down the Middle Fork this year was last Sunday on June 11th. I’ve worked for 12 years out there (on this river), and have seen many changes the river has been through, but this year it’s exceptional. The flow that day varied from 1,100 - 1,300 cfs, and starting at the very first rapid, 'Good Morning,' it was noticeably different. The rapid seems to start further downstream, and is more chunky and less of a wave train.

As with any first trip of the year, scouting is a good idea. We decided to scout the 'Tunnel Chute' to see if that geologically new rapid had changed during the winter floods. It had... the entrance has widened, making the top left-hand turn more pronounced. The biggest new feature is a big pillow coming off the top left wall. Avoid that , but don’t go too far right or you will tube-stand on the right, or pinball to the left and tube-stand/wrap there... like I did. No get-downs until you make the turn. Just like old times. (Note from W.E.T.: back in the 80's & early 90's, this rapid was like this) The rest of the read-and-run rapids remain read and runnable, but to those guides who have memorized the river; there are new beach shifts, and islands where there were none before. Also 'Cathedral' has changed and isn’t what it once was. Cathedral Rapid is two rapids downstream from the Tunnel Chute, right below the cave on the left, and it used to have a hole at the top, and then pillow into the side of the river right wall (looks like it has an imprint of a cathedral on it) making a left turn off the pillow. A huge island has popped up in the middle of the river diverting much of the water and making the hole at the top less significant. The rapid was never a big deal, but it was a fun soaker of a hole.

There seems to be a lot more water going to the right at 'Ruck-A-Chucky,' and since there were no guard lines up, we portaged the waterfall. Most of the portage path is gone, but its still better than back in the old days. There is a large boulder where passengers load back up making that a back-log problem for 12 people, it could be a mess when there are more. It looks like slight changes in the rocks below the guide-jump rock, but the water was high at that point. The rapids after Ruck-A-Chucky remain the same, but the high water line at Parallel Parking should be used. All in all, it was nice to be the only boats on a weekend, maybe these changes will lower the use and keep the Middle Fork American more pristine." Saul G. Senior Headguide::Official Post from the Field

We also got an update from California State Parks at the Auburn Recreation District regarding the calibration of the gauge:

"The Placer County Water Agency has advised us that as of Monday 6/12 at approximately 2 pm, a correction was made to the CDEC flow website as the result of a recalibration, adjusting the flow chart to read the same as the PCWA gauge station at Horseshoe Bar. The level at the time was between 1500 and 1550 cfs. The relation of actual cfs to the reading on the website AT THIS LEVEL should be considered accurate according to the PCWA.

However because the river channel has changed, more recalibrations need to be made for OTHER flow levels. Until this is done, please be aware that the readings on the CDEC site will become increasingly inaccurate if levels rise or fall outside of the 1500 cfs range (for example down to 1200 or up to 1800) at Horseshoe Bar." CA State Parks Post

Time for the MoFo! Keep in mind, with the new changes, athletic users should only raft this run. Especially keep in mind the portage situations. People need to be sure-footed and agile while scrambling over uneven ground. This is the "E" in W.E.T.; it's EXPEDITION-style rafting like in the good old days!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Summer Rafting: Family Trips

June is in full swing and the kids are out of school. And with a promise of summer coming, families are starting to come out of the deep fog of school events, graduation, the big-day-college-dorm-move, and kicking the kids out to the curb... time to think about summer vacation with family and friends. With last month's high flows, W.E.T. River Trips asked our paddlers to wait until the flows came down before rafting with younger children. Now's the time for families to start booking reservations for the rest of our summer rafting season.

American River trips
have great flows appropriate for outdoor families. On our favorite family run, the South Fork American will be at its all time best. No low water bump and grind this year. Great flows of 1500 cfs to 3000 cfs will attract many first timers to the best whitewater river trip in California this year. The SoFo was nature-designed for beginners and intermediates. The river is beautiful, long and a great attraction for quick 1 day trips, 2 day camp trips, or 2 day wilderness trips on BLM lands. For teens ages 14 and up, we highly recommend families to take a break over to another favorite wilderness trip on the Middle Fork American. MoFo should be runnable throughout July, August, September, and, maybe even October! California rafting will be at its prime throughout this summer season.

Start planning for the family rafting trips.
Save money by checking out Target's new outdoor offerings. Inexpensive sleeping bags and outdoor equipment will help save the family's budget. Drug stores will have sales on sunscreen, bug repellant, chapstick, flashlights and the ever-so-useful ziplock baggies. REI, the one-stop outdoor equipment store has everything that a family will need for their rafting and camping needs. High quality and bargain prices attract the serious outdoor family with REI's house brand. Preparing in advance will take the sting out of the budget from last minute purchases.

Get off the couch... everyone! Take the kids for a walk in the evening and work up to a brisk walk. Then move it into the day time to start acclimating to the hot weather. Remember rafting and camping outdoors will put you in the sun for 4 to 6 hours. If you have access to pool; start swimming. Work your upper body and legs for paddling and balance skills for rafting. All these preparations will help you to have a great time in the outdoors.

Then call your favorite rafting company and get your reservations soon. With the biggest snowpack and the longest season, this summer's rafting trips will satisfy all the members of your family and friends!

Friday, May 26, 2006

NoFo Last Sunday FINALLY!

North Fork American was kicking last Sunday. Another late put-in with the flow on the downside at around 2,700 cfs. Most of our guests were great paddlers and in good shape. Only trouble we had was a language barrier. How do the guides manage guests who may have a language barrier? Basic commands are easy to relay during the safety talk through interpreters and sign language; but how do you convey all the nuances of every situation ie, falling out of a boat, high-side, flips, wraps, swimming to an eddy, etc etc. As the safety talk unfolded, each guide takes his guests into his raft and continues with more conversations involving safety and their individual styles of guiding. Each question was greeted with nods and acknowledgements as the guides ran down commands and indiosyncracies of their own particular guiding techniques.

One thing that would really help is letting us know that there may be a language barrier. It would give us an opportunity to make sure that the interpreter was there during the safety talks. Though our international participants on our trips may speak English, I wonder how many really understand all the information for our whitewater rafting trips. We ask trip leaders to give us a heads-up and also help us during the safety talks by clarifying those nuances with their friends and our guests.

This upcoming Memorial Day Weekend looks like a busy one for the American River outfitters. All three forks are looking good. The Middle Fork American is still a bit high, but both the North Fork American and South Fork are looking like great runs this weekend.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Heard some rumblings from the peanut gallery... the crew is getting antsy to get back over to the North Fork American. We've been conservative and the guides are whining. The commercial cut-off for our company is 3,000 cfs though we've all been over there at 4,500 cfs. We just can't risk commercial clients who trust us to make the decisions for them. So we wait as the flows bounce around. Last Wednesday, the crew went over and had a blast.. just a little over 3,000 cfs since the side-creeks were kicking in.

Saul, Zack, Josh and others went over and did a late put in on the downside of the flow. The people loved the late put-in's and not getting up at the crack of dawn. The morning flows have been above safe levels but by late afternoon, the naturally flowing river drops so that a run can sneak in. The crew was back at the warehouse unloaded and unpacked by 7:00 pm... before dark. Some of the rapids were sticky as Zack could attest to the nice little swim he had at beefy Chamberlain Falls. Saul had a nice entry and felt a little stick in the hole... surf action! FUN!

Drew and his yak buddies went over to do the Rubicon run. We're talking sketch. Expert run only,... yeh yeh... they're all expert runs... but I'm not sh... kidding you... this is on the verge of nuts. They had estimated the flow extrapolating the data, figuring the numbers. So they went. Naa ah. Mistake. Drew got hammered in a swim in the first 1/2 mile. He wisely chose to hike out along with other expert kayakers. Limitations. That's what it's all about for the hardcore paddlers. Testing the limits.

Back to commercial stuff... busy weekend coming up and weather is predicting some crazy sh... stuff. From 98 degrees back to 70 degrees... and a possibility of snow? Wha', are they kidding me? Unreal. At least, the cooler weather will slow this melt down. How do we explain this crazy flow pattern to our paying customers? I feel the frustration coming on as each caller in their sweet innocence try to decipher flow charts, web advice and try to apply all of this to every river system. Keep in mind that each river is unique. Each river has its on variables and parameters. One river at 9,000cfs is crazy fun while another is just deadly; and another river at 400 cfs is more deadly than when it's at 3,000cfs. Huh? That's right. Don't try to look at numbers and classifications. They are only numbers and attempts to describe what mortals call rivers. But rivers are a dynamic entity only described by gods and dieties... always changing, always hiding its primal face. We lowly mortals can only attempt to describe each circumstance as we apply it to this watery force...

Over in the urban world of rivers, there's been an awful rash of unneccesary drownings from sheer stupidity. Just yesterday, a young kid near West Sac tried swimming in the Sacramento River near Discovery Park. He was overcome and disappeared into the murky mess. No lifejacket, no wetsuit... And those kids up near Placerville who were hiking around and rock hopping above the rapids; kind of like Russian roulette, you know? That kid ended up falling off a rock and disappearing into the rush of water. And in Sacramento, a group of total hillbillies took their plastic raft that was designed for a swimming pool into the Lower American. No lifejackets, no wetsuits. Overturned in a flash and nearly drowned. And what about the mom who let her kid go down with her inexperienced friend on a raging river in a rubber ducky with no lifejackets or wetsuits? Come on people. Get a clue. I'm sick to the core of my being when I hear about stuff like this. If you can't go with a professional outfitter at least protect yourself and wear a damn lifejacket. And parents, warn your kids to stay away from the edges of moving water unless they are wearing a lifejacket.

As professional outfitters, we go overboard with safety and implementation. We have to. We have your lives in our hands. Our industry takes this responsibility extremely seriously... and believe me, we'd rather our clients be pissed at us when we cancel a trip due to unsafe levels than to have them get hurt. So when you get the call or the email cancellation, appreciate that your pro outfitter is one that makes your safety their first priority and not the bottom line.
A rant from the manager

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mike's Story: Man and his Paddle!

Mike started rafting a couple of years ago. He came on a few of our trips as a paddling client. He started contacting us to get on trips as a lone reservation. He was hooked on rafting. We started referring him to other outfitter's trips because we could tell he really loved rafting & when we get that type of client we want ot share our love of rivers, too. He did all three forks of the American River with W.E.T., the Merced, Tuolumne, Yuba, Cherry Creek and many other rivers in California. He was seriously hooked. This year, he approached our staff and asked to actually train in our guide school! W.E.T. has a funny guide school... not really open to the public. If you can get passed the front desk, you'll probably get accepted into the guide school. Mike was welcomed and invited to join the 2006 guide school this early spring. Here is his personal story...

"Spring break 2006 will live in my memory for the rest of my life. In the weeks and days coming up to this time, I was filled with excitement and fear. I was heading off to guide school, but this was no run of the mill guide school. You needed to be invited and no slackers were going to make the grade. I had been a commercial paddler many times, but I knew it was different being a guide. How different? Who knows? The real question was; can I do it? I know it has to be harder than it looks. I hate to fail. I told myself I was going to embrace the challenge. Fortunately, I had paddled commercially with a great group of people and I was lucky to be accepted to a well-regarded tightly knit company's education program! At least I knew I had good support. Once I arrived at guide school, more apprehension overcame me. Will I be able to pull this off? Can I really get a boat down the river? Fortunately there were a great group of folks around to show all of us trainees/newbies the ropes. Andrew (lead guide instructor for W.E.T.), Zak, Maggie, Saul, Jonny, Justin, Ryan, Jason and many others who I have probably forgot to mention, and for that I apologize.

The first day was a blur. We all got to know each other a bit and get oriented with the great South Fork American River. I told myself long prior to the school, when the opportunity came about to be the “guide,” I was going to jump on it. Well the first try was ferrying the raft over to our great spot at Camp Lotus. What a humbling experience!!! So damn hard! Well, I told myself I was still going to jump on the stick when the next opportunity came about. Well…I did not have to wait long, the next morning the offer came to lead our crew of newbies from Chili Bar, and I seized the moment. I blurted out, “I will do it” with as much confidence as possible, but inside I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing! If I screw this up I will be in the starring role of an upcoming campfire story for who knows how long." Fear was truly a factor. Fortunately, I had a great crew, Gavin, Josh and Jeff paddled on command and somehow the river gods took it easy on me. I also knew Eric our safety kyaker had our back, thank god! We made it through the Chili Bar section without incident, but after that experience I knew just how good the vet’s really were; they made it look so easy (I so want to make it look easy).

The rest of the days were filled with various adventures. Drew was/is always trying to give us various swimming experiences, such as good swims at Blue House, Chutes & Ladders or any other good drop (all a bunch of fun). Then, there is the Guide Olympic drills we put together. Again, this just goes to show you veteran technique will always beat inexperienced enthusiasm. To Drew and his crew, one day, maybe I can get you! Drew, I still want to get you on the golf course. Then, there are the days where some folks decided taking the “right” line at Fowler's Rock would be cool. Well, I think that resulted in an “epic” swim. Thank god the SFA and the river gods can be so forgiving. Speed forward and you get those days I am convinced to take a 13 ft boat at over 6,500 cfs down the SFA (R2 style). What the hell did I get myself into? I do know this, moves need to be made very early, or you will be swimming the hole at the end of Meatgrinder and doing the taco in the hole at Maya (BTW, this SUCKS!!!!). After many fun-filled days, my fear has dropped slightly, but I have an amazing respect for the river. I also crave additional experiences. I want to hone my skills, become a better guide and really earn the title “professional.” I want to be able to bring my love of the river to others just as the great crew at W.E.T. River Trips has done for myself. I have just completed the first chapter of a life long adventure, oh what fun it should be. Thank you all for contributing to a great time and I look forward to working with you!

Mike; our official newest trainee on staff::

Thursday, May 04, 2006

'06 Flow Predictions from State & Feds

Snowpack and flow updates were presented yesterday to the South Fork American outfitters by a joint meeting of agencies that included El Dorado County, California State Parks and Bureau of Land Management. Flow predictions and safety issues were addressed for California's rafting industry. Some outfitters sent representatives while other companies were represented by the actual owners; Steve Liles of W.E.T. River Trips, Norm Schoenhoff of Whitewater Excitement and Scott Armstrong of AllOutdoors were participants of this discussion. Safety in numbers ie. travel in groups, extra gear such as "cold kit" for addressing hypothermia, safety kayakers and/or safety oarboat escorts, and minimum age requirements for youth participation were addressed by each outfitter or representativel.

A handout was presented outlining historical averages and predictions based on water content of the snow pack. Here is a brief outline of what was presented and a "prediction" of what's to come.

2006 Flow Predictions (click here for the chart/table)

Keep in mind that other factors weigh in such as future storms, high day and evening temperatures, etc. Also, each river has its own set of parameters and variables. You can run 10,000 cfs on the South Fork American, but you can't do that on the North Fork American. You can run low flows on the Tuolumne in late summer, but you can't do that on the Kaweah. Call the outfitter and ask about flows. Most of the long time outfitters in the state have a good instinct about what their rivers will flow based on past experiences. Just ask, discuss and this year, make sure that the athletic paddlers are participating during the early season high flows. Have lesser athletic users paddle during mid-June, July, Aug, Sept & Oct. AND for all you high water, big water junkies; get your splash on now!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

...on the American River

The bethren of the American River... the outfitters stick close together. No matter what back-stabbing crap goes on in the business end of this industry, or the crazy misdirects on the internet or the reality-show-type alliances, we support each other on the water.

I got the call in the office about an hour before our 3 boats were about to take-off from Camp Lotus. The crew was starting the 2nd day of a 2 day weekend trip and had just finished breakfast with a great group of people celebrating a 40th birthday party rafting trip on the South Fork American River. The crew was just bidding farewell to our field manager as he was taking off on his motorcyle after making a delivery of food, when that call came in. The call was immediately noted as the desparation of the voice sunk in. The other rafting company, we'll call them "Brand X", had somehow lost a reservation in their system. It doesn't matter how it happened; with today's technology, it could have been something as simple as a typo. The voice sounded so upset and so desparate. Don't worry, I said, we will take care of these people. I hung up and realized that we had just took on this other rafting company's predicament. Hmmm... maybe I spoke too soon!

I called Steve, got a hold of him even though he had his motorcycle helmet on; he heard his cell ring. I said, "Turn around, "Brand X" company lost a reservation and W.E.T.'s going to help them out. He turned around, grabbed a non-working guide and got another boat out of the warehouse. Then we had to go pick up these people who were meeting at the other rafting company's location. Enroute, our wetsuit dude, put together another 4 suits for these added people. Meanwhile, the food buyer added some more foodstuff to the existing lunch for the added paddlers. All was smooth except for one giant missing ingredient. The bus driver!

Now, we had to rearrange the shuttle because those extra four people from "Brand X" exceeded the spaces for the van. Call Tim for bus shuttle. No answer. Call his cell. No answer. Arrrgghhhh! Okey, drive back to Sac, get the other vehicle and drive back up the hill... at $3.10 per gallon! Ack!

As I slapped my forehead in frustration, I wondered out loud: why did I say yes? Why didn't I just let the other outfitter deal with their own problem? Why? Because, we all love river rafting, and we all want to see the clientele, our enthusiastic paddlers have a great time. No, it did not matter, at that moment, that these weren't our customers. It didn't matter that "Brand X" was one of our competitors. It didn't even matter the extra costs to our company or even the aggravation of our own customers (we had to make them wait a bit to accommodate the timing). What mattered was getting all these people on the water for the time of their lives... because, you see, the more people have a great time river rafting will be the same people who will talk about it to their loved ones, their family and friends and their collegues. They probably won't even remember who the heck took them down the river! But, they will remember the river. They will remember that awesome first rapid and they will be back... and maybe with us next time or maybe with another outfitter. All that matters is that we've help convert more people to the sport and recreation of rafting. And that's all that matters.