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Adventures on the Kings River with Kings River Expeditions

IN THE July 31 ISSUE

FROM THE 2010 Articles,
andArts & Entertainment,
andBrian Wall,
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by Brian Wall

KRE basecampHere in the San Joaquin Valley, we are surrounded by a wealth of natural wonders. From the majestic Sierra Nevada to the breathtaking Pacific Ocean, we have access to some incredible opportunities that travelers from across the globe come to experience! Among these is the upper Kings River, offering thrill-seekers a Class 3 whitewater rafting experience. On July 26th, I tasted the adrenaline myself under the care and guidance of Kings River Expeditions (KRE).

According to Google Maps, my drive from Reedley should have been one and a half hours but my little Nissan got me there 20 minutes earlier! The road winds so some Dramamine may be helpful for those with weaker stomachs.

Upon arrival at Twin Pines campground, there are no immediate signs of KRE but, as you reach the back of the camp, you realize they have a significant presence there. You enter their premises by walking through a framed entrance and soon approach a large tented meeting/dining area on the left. To the right, is a volleyball court and campsites along the river. I entered the meeting/dining area and was directed to check-in with Chad, the camp host. Breakfast was being prepared for the two-day adventurers but my package only included coffee, orange juice, and water.

The trip orientation was conducted by Steve (25 years of experience with KRE) and was clear, interesting, entertaining at times and a bit unnerving! After orientation, we were dismissed to prepare for departure. When the bell rang, we loaded into two rudimentary white busses and began our 55-minute ride to our entry point along the river.

The bus ride was perhaps the worst part of the experience. It is a slow ascent up a rough and rocky dirt road. In my case, this was exacerbated by an over-indulgence of coffee, orange juice and water. Keep this in mind if you suffer from “Tiny Bladder” as there are no bathrooms once you leave camp. This was omitted from the orientation, as was the proper protocol if in fact you can’t hold it for 4 hours!

We were assigned rafts at the put-in point with 6 to 7 people per raft. I was fortunate to be grouped with a family that personally knew our guide, Travis “Rabbit” Bybee (former defensive player for the Fresno State hockey team). The guy’s a riot and cut loose with our group because of their existing friendships.

On a rafting trip, you expect to navigate some exciting rapids, get soaked and enjoy the adventure; any experienced rafting team can offer that. The icing on the cake is the extra twists KRE adds to the trip. At times, we were spinning in circles, cascading backwards, standing or attempting other stunts. Bybee gathered us all to the back of the raft for a “surprise” at one point then used our collective weight to capsize the raft! Our proudest moment was when we formed a three-high pyramid on the raft: a “first” according to Bybee (this we did in calm waters, of course). There’s also a friendly rivalry among the guides that adds to the fun. There were interspersed water fights, raft collisions and other practical jokes — all good-intentioned and well-received.

The trip ended with a satisfying BBQ lunch. I enjoyed the company of my raft-mates again, and they all agreed they’d come back every weekend if they could!

I happily recommend KRE to anybody interested in a whitewater rafting excursion. Everybody clearly had a good time, including the guides, and the whole operation is well-coordinated. To make your trip even better, consider some of these additional suggestions:

  1. Get the drive out of the way and camp the night before.
  2. Look for the $99 special. There’s no breakfast or free t-shirt but the savings are well worth it. Additionally, you’ll occasionally find extra savings on groupon.com according to a raft-mate of mine.
  3. Be prepared for no cell service. Bybee said the KRE staff have access to a pricey satellite phone but they’re otherwise isolated from the outside world.
  4. If you forgot anything on your way, the last stop for supplies is Doyal’s Market in Piedra.
  5. Bring river-appropriate footware as you can’t go barefoot or wear flip-flops. Sandals with an ankle strap work well. You can also rent footwear from KRE for $4.
  6. Apply sunblock liberally! Even with SPF-50, I got a slight burn.
  7. Secure your glasses or leave them in your car. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose them to the river.
  8. Bring some extra cash for keepsakes. One item is a $45 photo CD of your group navigating the rapids.
  9. Go with friends and family as it’s just not the same by yourself.
  10. Tell your guide your comfort level for excitement. They know the rapids extremely well and can cater to your preferences.
  11. Have fun!

Brian Wall lives in Reedley with his wife, Sheryl, and their daughter, Kiana. He is a professional software developer and has a B.S. degree in Ag Business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Tara WilsonNo Gravatar July 31, 2010 at 11:11pm

It sounds like a lot of fun! Maybe not something I would do, because I’m scared, but I can see the draw of it! :)


.-= A recent submission from Tara: Dog Training: What’s Next? =-.

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