Years ago, the company my husband worked for paid for its employees to go on a rafting trip down the American River. These are guided rafting trips, so we had a guide who made sure we didn’t die. Even though it’s a lot of physical work, you don’t have to use your brain too much. As you can see by this picture, we just sat back and let the guide maneuver us over the edge of a waterfall.
Anyway, river rafting with a guide is A LOT of fun. I highly recommend it. Since we had so much fun on the guided rafting trip, my husband and I were itching to go again. Later that summer, my husband arranged for us to do a two person rafting trip down Cache Creek. I was a bit wary. You see, I had prior experience with self-guided rafting and it didn’t go so well. Years ago, my mom and Jim (see: Midget Cowboy) took us on a self-guided rafting trip along with the folks from a church Jim was attending (this was before Jim became a warlock). It was one of those experiences where you come away thinking, “We shoulda just stayed home and watched TV.” Jim decided he was going to act as the rudder, while the rest of us did the grunt work. If Jim is your captain, you’re f******. That phrase should be on t-shirts. Anyway, we got hung up on a large boulder and I saw that look in my mom’s eyes that said, “Why did I have children? Maybe I’ll make my children not be alive any more.” I don’t know how we survived.
We eventually got off the boulder. We probably got stuck on ten others before the trip was over. For some reason, my mom never took us rafting again.
Anyway, Cache Creek is located in Yolo County, which should’ve been a big red flag, but back then YOLO wasn’t a thing. We stayed at a hotel in a small meth town nearby. If you don’t know what a meth town is, it’s basically a place where there’s a bunch of methies walking around. Simple as that. A lot of them looked like teenagers, which is too bad, because if a methy teenager kills you, there’s a good chance they’ll be released at age 18, plus their juvenile record will be sealed. There’s just not a lot of justice if a teenager kills you.
Since it was late in the summer, the water level was low, which meant the current wasn’t very strong, which meant lots of paddling and lots of boulders and obstacles in the way. It wasn’t too bad in the beginning. They warned us ahead of time that there is only one larger rapid, a class III called Mother. A class III is considered intermediate, so you shouldn’t drown or sustain serious injuries crossing it. However, due to the low water level, it was going to be bumpier than usual. I noticed early on that the rafts they equipped us with didn’t have anywhere to tuck your feet to help hold you in place. Not good.
I don’t remember how long it took for us to reach Mother, but if I had to guess, I would say at least an hour. The scary thing about this rapid is that you don’t get to have a good look at it before you reach it. It’s hidden around a bend and there’s a lot of trees and shrubbery that block it from view. The procedure is that you hold back and let those in front of you go, then once they’re out of sight, you go full steam ahead. I had a very very very bad feeling going into it. I don’t know if my “bad feelings” sabotaged me or if it was my actual intuition forecasting my demise. Either way, Mother whooped me good.
All I remember is hitting rocks and bouncing out of the raft (I was sitting in back). Mother has a drop, which caused me to bounce and fall backwards into the water. If there had been pockets to tuck my feet, I would not be telling this story. All I remember is taking air, hitting the back of the raft, then sinking into the rapids.
My husband, the survivor whose memory isn’t clouded with panic, remembers a few minor details. He says he remembers getting hit with water and that we hit some “bumpy parts.”
Suddenly he was sitting in the back of the raft with my feet tucked under his armpits.
He figured he was drowning me by keeping hold of my feet, so he let me go. My husband says, “I had to make a split second decision.” If my husband is making a split second decision, watch out.
I’m one of those people that hyperventilates when exposed to extremely cold water. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My body just decides to let out a few donkey-like gasps without my permission. I’ve accidentally stepped into a cold shower and my dumb lungs start gasping for air. Anyway, I was not afraid of drowning, I just sounded like I was drowning. The rapids weren’t that bad, plus I was wearing a life vest. This is what I was afraid of happening:
If you fall out of a raft, the protocol is to float in a sitting position with your feet out front so you can kick off the rocks in your way. You ever try to kick an asteroid coming at you? There were boulders everywhere and I was traveling toward them at warp speed. It was like Battletoads Turbo Tunnel. Let me throw another metaphor your way. You know that dumb thing people do when they stab a knife between their fingers all fast-like? Well, instead of fingers, imagine its my legs and instead of a knife, it’s a sledgehammer. That’s how I felt. I also have a bad right knee due to many years of power lifting. If you were to x-ray my knee, you would probably see an old egg shell and some chewing gum connecting two dried out twigs. I was certain I would hit one of these rocks and my fragile egg shell knee would explode like confetti.
By the way, while I was getting knocked around in Boulder City, there was an audience watching my struggle from a giant rock. I bet I made their day. They probably hang out there for hours, waiting for the drama to unfold. Glad to be of service.
Once the meat grinder was over, I see my husband off to the left, holding out his oar. He looked a little too casual. When you’re scared, you don’t want to see this expression on your rescuer’s face:
For the record, even though I’m the wiener in this story, my husband is generally the Frodo in the relationship. I’m Sam.
So, anyway, thank goodness, I make it to the raft because there was another round of rock slamming about 20 feet down the river.
We get out and sit on a rock for awhile so I can dry off and calm down. I was shaking like an idiot chihuahua. From the rock, I got to watch everyone, including children, make it through without falling out. If just one child fell out, I would’ve felt much better about myself.
Once I calmed down, we got back in the raft and headed to the end point. I assumed it would be another 30 minutes of paddling. Wrong. The current came to a halt about a quarter mile down from there. We were out there for at least four days, grunting away, dying. Trust me, you don’t want to die in Cache Creek. I just wanted to get out of there and cry into a McChicken meal. Once we finally reached civilization, they brought out a laptop to show you the great pictures they took of you going down Mother. They were (are?) probably the worst pictures of me in existence. You would think seeing someone make their peace with God would be a beautiful sight, but it’s not. I gave up the ghost for a few seconds, which left my physical body looking like a hollowed out Carolyn. I’m sure I looked more attractive when I was pooping out my son.
My husband wanted to buy the pictures, but I wouldn’t let him. My pride got in the way. I regret it. If there’s a moral to this story, I guess it’s that you should just buy the pictures. Laugh about it later. Also, don’t go on self-guided rafting trips at the end of the summer. Or ever.
Here are some dudes going down Mother. Makes me feel good knowing I’m not the only loser out there. These guys are doing it in June. We went at the end of August, so the water level was much lower, which means that I’m much braver than these guys.