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!