Weeks ago I posted about my upcoming white water rafting trip through Indigo Creek Outfitters on the Upper Klamath river. It was going to be a new (and much needed) experience for me, and I was all kinds of nervous and excited.
Well, I went on the trip and it was absolutely amazing. It’s the sort of adventure that’s really difficult to put into words because there are so many of aspects of the outing that deserve attention, however I have the attention span of a goldfish, so I’ll keep it short-ish and sweet.
June 13th was the day of the trip and I woke up to my 6am alarm that morning, looked outside and saw major cloud-cover. REALLY? That’s exactly what I get for complaining about how warm it was leading up to the trip. It was cold. It was drizzling. Lovely. Half asleep, I packed a bag for the day which contained about three sets of clothes because I had no clue what I should wear. Do I wear shorts? They said to wear shorts, but it’s freakin’ cold outside and who wears shorts when it’s cold? Indigo said to wear a non-cotton shirt, but is a cotton blend okay? I packed an extra long-sleeve shirt just in case, and clothes to change into afterward. What I later learned is that it doesn’t really matter what you wear on this trip because you’re going to be wet the entire time anyways.
After grabbing some coffee to help with the whole “one eye not wanting to open” problem I was experiencing, I made my way to the Indigo Creek Outfitters rafting center. I spent the whole morning worrying about being late, but I actually wound up arriving early, which was totally cool because there was a platter of bagels, lox, and cream cheese there to greet me when I arrived. That’s not a meal I want to rush through. I want to sit and enjoy that beautiful combination of flavors as one should, so arriving early completely worked to my advantage. But I wouldn’t suggest that everyone make it a point to arrive earlier than the scheduled meeting time of 8:30am. While I was busy devouring the platter, two other girls arrived from Portland that would be going on the trip with me. I was initially worried that these girls were going to be rafting experts who will have no patience for my weak arms and potty-mouth, but they were in the same boat (raft, ha!) as me. This was their first time experiencing major rapids and they were just as nervous and excited as I was.
After introductions and feasting, it was time to get down to business. Nick, our spectacled guide, sat us gals down and went over safety procedures. My favorite part of it all was when we were going over rescue options for someone who found themselves out of the raft and in the water. There’s this bag of rope thing that they basically throw at you, which you grab onto, and then they pull you back into the raft. Nick, being a funny man, let us know that he will be aiming for our faces if he wound up needing to chuck the rope bag. The way he said it was really funny, but in all honesty, he will most definitely be aiming for our faces because we need to see that thing and GRAB IT before we’re swept downstream. Part of me thinks that he was secretly hoping he’d get to throw something at my face for hogging the breakfast platter. Who knows, but fair enough, Nick, fair enough. After our safety meeting, we fitted our life vests and helmets, and loaded up.
The ride to the river was… bumpy. Hilariously bumpy. At one point I was talking to everyone and I could hear (and feel) my voice quiver from the vibrations. Southern Oregon is so gorgeous, so we had some pretty amazing views on the way there. Everyone was so happy to be exactly where they were, on the way to the river, that the conversation was fun and it felt like I’d known these people for a lifetime. The trip to the put-in went by quickly and was enjoyable. We got to know each other during the ride. I learned that the Portland girls own an aerial and circus school called Night Flight where they put on performances and offer classes to those who are interested in getting bendy mid-air. Nick lived in the south, found white water, and has been chasing it ever since. He began his career on the river in a kayak, but decided to tone down the thrill-seeking and switch to a vessel that’s much safer: a raft. Nick absolutely loves his job and considers himself quite lucky to get paid to do something he would be doing regardless. The man has it good!
As I mentioned before, the weather took a turn that day, so it was a bit chilly. Our guide made sure to pack wetsuits for us and windbreakers. After putting on a wetsuit upon arrival, I joked that I needed to get one to wear underneath form-fitting clothes…nothing sucks it all in like a tight wetsuit! With wet-suits, windbreakers, life vests and helmets on, we were ready to load into the raft! HERE WE GO!
Nick gave us a lesson on following paddling commands during the first part of the float where the water was relatively calm. His instructions were simple: just paddle when he tells you to. Easy enough. It wasn’t long before we experienced our first splash of water to the face. Despite the weather being less than ideal, I was surprised by how warm the water was. Also, the wetsuit and windbreaker Indigo brought along provided enough warmth to keep us all comfortable. The Upper Klamath at one moment will have you peacefully floating along and then minutes later you’ll be riding on a bucking-bronco raft. After the first couple smaller rapids, we had our game faces on and were ready. Our first big rapid, Caldera, was going to be a doozy! It’s the real deal. Nick parked the raft, and we hopped out to take a short hike to a spot that overlooks it. Now, when I saw this rapid I was thinking — there’s no way. This thing is a WILD BEAST! It’s a sharp class IV and THANK GOODNESS I’m on a raft with a guide who could manage it with his eyes closed. As we turned around to head back to our transport, the girls and I shared a nervous laugh. Back in the raft, approaching Caldera, is when I became a bit worried. What did I sign up for? Seriously. Who do I think I am? Within seconds we were thrust into Caldera’s fury and the time for apprehension was over. To my surprise, once in the throws of it, I didn’t want it to end. Our big, burly raft was thrown every-which way. In between taking blows of water to the face, Nick yelled at us to give him four paddle strokes, and then moments later, three more. There were times I couldn’t even reach the water because we were tilted so far to one side. With a foot wedged in, keeping me balanced and in the raft, I resisted the urge to stand…I felt that comfortable and secure. As we made our way through Caldera, I couldn’t help but laugh the entire time. I’m actually doing it! It’s happening, and like I predicted, it was exactly what I needed and wanted. This trip is incredible. Absolutely incredible. We exited the rapid and I would have given anything to turn the raft around to do it over again. Thankfully for us, there was more fun ahead.
After that first major rapid, there was a shift. The girls and I went from being nervous to being purely determined. Once our game faces were put on, they stayed on. But that didn’t prevent us from sharing a few jokes and going over how awesome this trip had already been thus far. The rapids kept coming: there was Satan’s Gate, and then Hell’s Corner. Each were just as gnarly and thrilling as the previous. We wanted more and more, but alas, a girl’s gotta eat! We pulled over, tied the raft up, and set up lunch. I was shocked by the awesome spread that Nick set out for us. We had sandwiches with meats and cheeses to choose from. There was also fruit, hummus, tortilla chips and salsa. Plus chocolate bars and cookies. We ate like ravenous little animals. We didn’t want plates. We didn’t want napkins. We wanted to get the food in and head back out there.
The second half of the trip was as beautiful and exciting as the first. When we set off after lunch, we were confident. We felt seasoned and prepared. Lack of confidence and trepidation was long gone, and we were left with nothing but pure elation and gratitude. Who do I think I am? Ha! I’m Amanda and I just conquered class IV rapids with style and ease! I think they call that “steez” in the rafting world.
As we floated towards the river bank at the end of our wild ride, I could see the Indigo Creek van, our chariot, waiting to take us back to Ashland. It was a bittersweet moment actually. I really didn’t want to go back. There aren’t rapids in downtown Ashland, but ya know, there’s food…and beer, and I think we’d all earned a cold one. I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy that pint knowing I stepped outside my comfort zone to confirm my suspicion: Only southern Oregon can turn an antsy, indoorsy southern Californian into a composed raging water fiend, and Ashland businesses like Indigo Creek Outfitters are more than happy facilitating it.