Orlando Bingles’ Western Adventure: Day 11

by Bingle on Jun.13, 2008, under Richard Bingle Family

Today was scheduled to be our white water rafting trip on the Kings River. We had been unsure for weeks whether we would actually be able to go as they wouldn’t allow Alyssa to go if the river was running too high and rough from the spring runoff, but the last communication we had with them they made it sound like she would be able to go after all. Karen didn’t want to be late and due to the remote location of their base camp we weren’t sure how long it would take us to drive there in the morning. Turned out that we arrived over an hour and a half early and needed to sit around and wait for the other two people that were rafting that day.

There was a bit of a scare when our guide, Ruben, asked if it would be a problem if Alyssa and Amber went in the supply raft with the other guide so that the other two folks (experienced rafters) could go with Karen, Ashley, and me so that those folks could get the “full experience”. We were finally able to convince him that the girls would freak out at that prospect and it would not turn out well for anyone. Since the girl who usually took pictures from shore had managed to lock herself out of the shack with her equipment in it and they had an extra guide in for the crowd they were to have the next day (140 people!), they filled the second raft with those two (plus a guide) instead.

Our second scare came when it was time to put on the wetsuits we would need while on the river. The river runs very cold, and going without a wetsuit just isn’t an option. The problem was that they didn’t have a wetsuit that was anywhere near the right size for Alyssa. Despite having asked us a month before for everyone’s height and weight, the smallest wetsuit that they had was at least 3 sizes too big for Alyssa. An uncomfortable wetsuit isn’t much fun (or much use), so this got Alyssa pretty upset and it took us a while to get her calmed down enough to get her to pay attention to Ruben’s safety talk (and convince Ruben that she wouldn’t freak out on the raft).

The third scare was the ride up from the base camp to where we would be launching. I had thought the ride up from Selma had been bad, but it was nothing compared to this. The road turned from a winding on the edge of the mountain no guardrail almost two lane road (complete with a single dashed yellow line down the center – probably because the road was too narrow for double yellow lines and not that they expected anyone to attempt a pass on it) to a winding on the edge of the mountain no guardrail one lane dirt path. To add to the excitement the windshield wipers on the truck Ruben was driving wouldn’t turn off and the windshield had dried bugs, pollen, etc. on it. He ended up driving the 10 miles fiddling with the wiper knob and complaining about the “fingernails on a chalkboard” sound that the wipers were making, eating his breakfast as he drove. It got even more exciting when a school bus one of the other rafting companies used came down the mountain the other way and Ruben pulled the truck over to the very edge.


Then it was finally time to get onto the water. Karen and I took the front (with Alyssa sitting between us) with Ashley and Amber in the middle row. Ruben used a set of oars rigged in the stern instead of a paddle. After a few more minutes of instructions we were off and were almost instantly soaked by the first set of rapids. With the oars rigged in the stern, we didn’t have to do too much paddling (which was nice) and we quickly rafted through about 15 rapids before stopping for lunch on a very rocky beach.


Alyssa got cold during lunch (mostly because her wetstuit was just way too big) but tried to be a trooper for us. Probably the most interesting thing about lunch was that they had forgotten the paper cups for the lemonade they had brought in one of those big cylindrical cooler things, so they ended up hanging the thing from a tree and we had to drink by sticking our head under the spigot. Karen quickly dubbed it “Gravity Juice”. After lunch Alyssa road in between Ashley and Amber (I think because she thought she would get less wet there – I had seemed to be taking the brunt of most of the water coming into the raft). Not 5 minutes later we hit a rapids that practically launched her and knocked Ashley and Amber to the floor of the raft and soaked her (missing me for once). While initially a shock to her that almost started the tears flowing again, she got back up on the air filled cross tube that was functioning as their seat and smiled. We continued our trip down the river with Ruben telling the same made up story for how each rapids with an animal name had gotten its name (the bored animal watching the rafters from the edge jumped in, got its feet caught, and drowned). I think Amber counted 32 rapids in all.

Our final scare came when we passed by the base camp and went through the final set of (short) rapids. We hit one pocket in such a way that I almost launched myself out of the raft. I’m sure that if I hadn’t had my feet wedged in under the tubes of the raft I would have gone head first into the water. It turned out that Ruben didn’t even notice because he had slipped the same time I had and thought he was going to get his leg broken by the rigging for the oars . But in the end, we were all safe and soon had our rafts ashore.

We ended up “recovering” at the base camp for about an hour (eating some snacks, looking at the many butterflies that seemed to like a 20 foot section of a path in the camp, and in general warming back up) before heading back to our our hotel in Selma. We took a quick dip in the pool (it was cold, but not quite as cold as the river had been) before calling it a night.

Next stop, King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks!

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