Thursday, March 30, 2006

Life is Short

Blah... the rain has stopped... for a little while at least. Just in time before the collective goes bonkers. It's been hard to write this week... a week full of sadness and despair. Last weekend, an old friend of this company experienced a horrific incident that keeps reminding me of how small and petty our daily annoyances really are. She is a retired ARTA guide from the late 70's & early 80's and also worked for W.E.T. during the mid-80's. A long time community member of the Lotus-Coloma Valley near the South Fork American River, she was in the Sacramento area celebrating a family birthday party at a local chain restaurant... how benign, how common an event...

Leaving the busy restaurant, filled with high school prom parties and their own large birthday gathering, she exited the parking area only to go back in for a bathroom break. Her brother continued behind her in his own car with his wife and two children. When she came out, a horrific scene unfolded. A crazed, meth-head, deranged freak, for no reason, had shot her beloved brother in the head. A surreal scene of CSI gore unfolded as she desparately tried to help with his critical wounds. A slow-motion nightmare, a screaming wife and our friend kicked into the lifesaving gears of a river guide who is trained in wilderness and emergency medicine.

We got the news the next morning by phone, after reading about the incident in our local newspaper... oh, yeh, another drive-by shooting. Next. Probably gang related, so the mind thinks, as we continued through our morning read. It was only after, when I heard the real news, that I went back to read the story again. A father/husband was also shot by the same insane gunman, and he died at the scene. A well-known cameraman in the local Sacramento media, he was enjoying a date night with his wife while his son was in the same restaurant celebrating prom night just a few tables from the birthday celebration. Another man was shot near a hamburger restaurant and was released yesterday. Our friend's brother; he remains in critical condition.

We ask this small community of river rafters, guides, rafting companies and all the peripheral associations to this watery world to stop briefly for a small moment and send your prayers to their devasted family... and then, grab your loved ones and hold them tight and put away petty differences, stupid arguments and love them dearly and completely. Life is just too short.
W.E.T. River Trips

Friday, March 24, 2006

Spring Rafting Requires Wetsuits

Prepare yourself for cool weather rafting this spring. We suggest that if you are a serious whitewater paddler, then as an enthusiast, you should consider purchasing a wetsuit for active water sports. A dive suit is not appropriate since the thickness of the neoprene will chafe and irritate your skin while you are vigorously paddling whitewater rapids. A good whitewater wetsuit is approximately 3 - 5 mm (3/16th inch for very cold weather) thick. Also, don't buy a wetsuit with arms. Again, you need the arms to be free enough for vigorous paddling. Ask for a "farmer john wetsuit." Yee, haw! It's a wetsuit that looks like a denim overall except it is very fitted (no arms and one piece).

Under your wetsuit, you should wear a synthetic fabric such as Capilene or even an old polyester sweater. And in very cold water conditions, you might even layer an additional synthetic fleece (thicker fabric) over the Capilene t-shirt. Most rafting outfitters provide the wetsuit, but we suggest that you add the additional layers. Besides, cold neoprene feels kind of clammy! Several resources are available for these items. Your local sportswear stores will carry these items in various price ranges. At REI, you can get high tech fabrics that will help insulate you for a great price. Online, visit Patagonia for more pricey items, though the price is worth it. I still have my original Patagonia fleece jacket from the 80's and it still looks good.

Additionally, over all those layers, we'll put on the splash jacket (waterproof pullover) and add the lifejacket. For your feet, a pair of tennis shoes with wool/synthetic or neoprene socks will help keep those toes warm. Most rafting companies now use self-bailing rafts so your feet are not swimming in water all day. But remember, in Class 4 or higher, you'll be wet most of the time! (Pun intended...)
W.E.T. Rafting Consultants

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

First Rafting Trip for 2006

First rafting trip on the North Fork American started this past weekend. Here's an update on the changes on the river: It’s true… the sun shines in March. (it’s been awhile) Sunday, March 19th on the North Fork of the American … it was a beautiful day...

The flow was about 1,500 cfs and the water was translucent jade and every tributary and every water fall was gushing ! The canyon looked like it had been scrubbed; the rock walls were bright and tumbled clean. The rumors of flows over 25k cfs during the December storms were true: gravel bars and major rocks had been moved and rearranged. Most rapids were unchanged with the exception of Staircase and Bogus Thunder. Staircase has a easier entrance with the same outflow… way fun!!! ... and Bogus has a single “clean” line at moderate flow vs. the previous two options. There will be a “cheat” slot on the far left at higher flows but Bogus Thunder will continue to live up to its reputation and deliver key excitement.

Headguides, Saul, Jason, Jonny, Maggie, Zackie, Robbie, and Justin all came out for the opener! Perfect (nearly perfect…because the River Gods hear everything) runs were had by all! Thanks to Guy and the kayakers from SOC who paddled along with our team.

With the movement of gravel bars , the river now splits where it formerly had a single slot (ergo: just downstream of the Ponderosa Bridge) and the take-out at Upper Clementine is a huge gravel bar with a fresh deposit of about three feet of river cobble, boulders, and gravel. The dirt roads are still a mess with small slides and downed trees; however, they are the same and passable (at least on the Northfork). The Driver’s Flat Road (Middle Fork) is a wreck with major slides and debris; however, State Parks and CDF are working on it now with the understanding that the road will be passable in time for the Middle Fork season!

With over 14 feet of fresh snow and without the eminent threat of torrential warm rains, this Spring (and Summer) whitewater season looks to be epic!

An official "Big Pappa" post!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Family Rafting Trips

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The March storms keep coming in and can you believe it, the ski resorts are even growing weary of the snow. I took a walk yesterday around town, breathing the cold air and enjoying the springtime bloom around Sacramento during a break from the storms... daffodils and tulips were all fighting to stay upright after being pummeled by the incessant rain. I went to the store, dropped off the mail, did biz at the bank and just took it slow. Rain sprinkled gently as I picked up the pace; I didn't want to get caught under the blackening sky! Talk to some locals as we huddled in deep conversation about neighborhood politics and what our kids were doing. Enjoyable and refreshing, the walk cleared my head and took me to other places where the river runs free and wild. Believe me, it's necessary to have these moments to yourself. A time to think and dream. No wonder a good walk is so important during our hectic lives.

My friends and I are getting together for several vacation planning sessions. Some of us will be doing the college tours and visiting different campuses in California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, New York and other states throughout the country. I write this with a sense of melancholy. Our kids are all grown-up. They are soon leaving the proverbial nest... the comfort zone of parental love and protection. Where did the time go? Was our lives so hectic that we lost precious time with them? Did we miss out on important moments that we can't get back? I so want to shake time away and go back just for a few more moments with them as children. I miss those early family rafting trips when the kids were younger!

Our family will be joining several others for a summer rafting trip. The teens are griping about traveling with their folks, but I can see that they are looking forward to a "last time" with the oldsters. You see, they, too, are secretly scared of embarking on the real world. Nothing can really prepare them for what they will be encountering. We can only do our best and squeeze a few more precious moments with our children. I know this river trip with them will be imprinted in our hearts forever.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

California Rafters Salute West Virginia Rafting!

Rafting has begun in California. W.E.T. River Trips encourages paddlers to visit whitewater rivers throughout the USA. Here's info on West Virginia Whitewater Rafting: From the early spring till the leaves drop in the fall, West Virginia offers exciting fun on many rivers. Whitewater rafting enthusiasts from all over are drawn to the Mountain State to find the natural adventures they crave and to enjoy the peace of the beautiful hill country. And the range of rivers offers something for everyone from first-time families to thrashing extremists.

In the spring the New River and the Gauley River benefit from the early season rain. The New River at times flows at over 30,000 cfs during this time of year. Lucky whitewater addicts will also find bigger water in the spring on the Gauley River then during the famed fall dam releases.

Memorial Day weekend brings the unofficial start of summer and the most popular time to enjoy a day on the river. Between the end of May and the beginning of September the New River Gorge attracts both vacationers and those just looking for a cool weekend getaway from the cities. The New River treats visitors to West Virginia with varied faces throughout the summer. From a quick express trip to an overnight trip with riverside camping, trips on the New River can be tailored to the traveler’s needs. Families with younger children can bring little ones as young as 6 on the upper section of the new. And for more excitement, outfitters like Appalachian Wildwaters move the New River to a World-Class rafting trip with their “Double Run” which runs paths through the rapids which “go-for-it”.

The New River is not the only option for West Virginia whitewater rafting in the summertime. The nearby Gauley continues to run and depending on the water levels provide a thrilling trip in small rafts or ducks. Ducks are single-person inflatable boats which are open like a canoe but are paddled like a kayak. During typical summer water levels ducks are the craft of choice for others West Virginia Rivers like the Cheat and the Shenandoah.

While whitewater rafting is the most popular summertime activity the New River area of West Virginia offers many recreational opportunities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and fishing. And near by are other attractions from a Civil War Battlefield, an Exhibition Coal Mine and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail which offers a chance to try out off-road ATV riding.

After Labor Day weekend the season in West Virginia is called “Gauley Season”. Over six weekends the Army Corp of Engineers starts to draw down the water level of Summersville Lake with the result being some of the best whitewater rafting anywhere. Whitewater rafting fans from around the world come to the Upper Gauley to be challenged with the Big V. The Upper Gauley boasts five Class V rapids in a 9 mile stretch of beautiful river gorge. Of course the whitewater rafting fun continues on the Middle and Lower sections with popular rapids like “Enders”, “Heaven Help You” and “Pure Screaming Hell”. The Fall Gauley offers everything from express trips to a full 26 mile marathon. Riverside camping is also available for an unforgettable overnight experience.

The New River continues to offer whitewater rafting fun through the Fall. But of all the New River Fall trips only on the third Saturday of October can you watch BASE Jumpers parachute off of the New River Gorge Bridge. The annual Bridge Day celebrates the 886 foot span and being in a raft on the river beneath is a truly unique way to experience the festivities.

No matter the time of year you want to go whitewater rafting, if you just want to come for a quick getaway or a full vacation, West Virginia promises you lots of river excitement.
Thanks to West Virginia Whitewater Rafting for this post!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Spring is Knockin'!

Up to 10 feet of new snow has dropped with six inches of snow at 1000 ft. The North Fork American, Middle Fork, and South Fork American Rivers (Class V, IV, and III respectively) are dusted in a new form of whitewater....SNOW!!! The high Sierra is deep and fluffy: Kirkwood has over 20 ft. on top of the mountain!

The native Red Bud trees are starting to bloom all through the foothills. Highway 96 along the Trinity on the way to the California Salmon and Scott Rivers is lined with a blazing border of magenta. The bloom is now set against a backdrop of blinding white snow and the rivers are beginning to swell... it's time for the 2006 California Whitewater rafting season to begin.

It's an amazing time to experience the outdoors in California... snowboard in the morning and catch a quick afternoon run on the North Fork American on the way home. Or... take a full day on the slopes and drop into another day of whitewater. In about 10 days, you can take your pick of runs as the low elevation snow run's off and paves the way for the real deal: full-on Sierra melt down!!!! Toss in the Trinity Alps, Lower Cascades, and count in the East Slope of the Sierras and call it all-good. The North Fork, California Salmon and Scott and the rest will ramp-up and run solid throughout the Spring... the snowpack is that good!

W.E.T. River Trips is ready. We're on the American River, Cal Salmon, South Fork and North Fork American and Scott in the next three weeks. The gear is dusted of, the rigs are ready, and rumour is: a few guides have even hit the gym!
Thanks to "Big Pappa" for this post!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rafting and Dottie Awards!

Congratulations goes out to! Donna McMaster's American River site has just won the annual Dottie Awards. Dan Bolster from El Dorado County Parks and Recreation received the award in her behalf today in Sacramento. Her site has been around since the late 90's and is a descriptive website of information and photographs about the South Fork American, Middle Fork American and North Fork American rivers. Some of the beautiful photographs are from a local artist and photographer, Betty Sederquist. On the site is a complete list of rafting outfitters for the American River. W.E.T. River Trips congratulates her on her award!

California rafting trips on the American River will be starting next week. Give us a call for reservations on this beautiful river system. 2006 river rafting season has started!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rafting and the Melt Cycle

March comes in "like a lion!" Storm after storm has hit California with low elevation snow. More snow equals more runoff for rafting trips. Here's what we hope for, of course, for optimum flows on the American River and other rivers in California. We have a nice, slow warming this spring so that we don't flood Sacramento and other outlaying areas. A slow warm-up will bring a gradual melt cycle where the rivers will be higher than summer flows for those of us who crave more intense whitewater rapids. With a slower melt cycle, Mother Nature produces a longer season for the rafting and paddling community.

Rivers like the North Fork American will benefit since that system has no dams and depend on the melt cycle. Today's flow shows a big bump up because of recent rains and should not be seen as the normal flow. Commercially, we like to run between 1,000 cfs to 2,500 cfs though we have had river trips at 3,000 cfs with very experienced padders.

Group rafting trips have already started organizing for the summer months. Because Saturdays are the prime dates, we ask those of you who are organizing to keep that in mind. In other words, Saturdays are the most popular, so try to book early. Keep in mind, too, that we run everyday, so there's something for everyone. We know that it is hard to organize a group of people when our worlds seem to be filled with "procrastinators," but with our new online store, we hope that it will relieve some of the organizors duties.