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.