High waters lead to tubing adventure

As we drove up the mountain, I couldn’t wait to raft calmly down the river, but little did I know that with a little bit of rain, the river would be flowing faster than ever before. I’ve been to Kern River before, but never has it been this high and fast moving.

“Will we even be able to swim?” my little cousin asked sadly. That’s what we were all wondering. In the past summers, we had been able to walk across the river. This time, we couldn’t even see the bottom.

“Alright, we’ll take a run down the long run. Then we’ll see how safe it is for everyone,” my Dad said. “We” meaning him, my dad’s friend and my grandpa.

“Skylar, you can come with us,” my dad surprised me by inviting me to go. It wasn’t a big deal. Everyone knew I was a good swimmer, far better than even my dad.

“Sure,” I said, looking back at the river, “But, I want to wear a life jacket this time. Just in case.”

It surprised me even more when even my dad put on a life jacket. It’s proof that we didn’t really know what we were getting into yet.

“Everyone ready to go?”

“Yeah,” I said before turning to my cousin. “If I end up in the hospital, make sure everyone brings me chocolate … no. The see’s candy chocolate, got it?” She nodded and off I went.

“Alright, Skylar and I will take the kayak,” my dad planned as we unloaded the rafts.

As soon as we were on the river, it was no problem. Everything was just how we remembered it … until we actually started paddling.

Since the river was moving so fast, it was cold too. My dad’s paddle would splash water onto me. It felt like ice water, but soon the temperature of the water was forgotten when we started getting into the rapids.

The first few were tiny little bumps that we actually enjoyed going over. Then we got to, what we call, the waterfall. The “waterfall” isn’t an actual waterfall, but it is a sort of drop off where the rocks on the bottom of the river make an angle. Last summer, we remembered, it was a little tricky going down that part because we were always getting stuck on the rock on the way down, but this time, with the water flowing swiftly, it sure sounded like a waterfall. We carefully chose the way to go and once we were there, there was no going back.

It was only a mere three foot drop off one of the rocks and then down into the first big rapid. We braced ourselves but made sure to keep us straight. If we were turned even a bit to the side, we would flip over, but luckily we made it through, no problem.

Mostly everything was fine after that, but then we got to the hardest part in the whole run. It was the biggest rapid any of us had ever gone through.

“Make sure to keep us straight!” my dad yelled quickly as we paddled with all of our might. There was a certain way that you had to go on this rapid; otherwise, you would definitely flip over, and this was the rapid that would pull you back under.

The drop was unexpected. We knew it was going to be a bit of a drop, but we didn’t know that with the water level changed. It would be almost a full five foot drop. We braced ourselves once again as we hit the water, still in the kayak.

“We did it!” We cheered. Everyone had made it down safely.

“I think everyone can make it down just fine.” my dad declared, and with that we made more runs down the river.

The whole day, I was the only one that did not flip on the last big rapid. Everyone else at least flipped over once. At the end of the day, most of the family got tired and didn’t want to go down the river anymore except for my dad, my little cousin, my dad’s friend and me.

“One more time?” I asked, and my little cousin agreed. The two adults agreed with us, but to ride safely, my little cousin had to ride with my dad’s friend, and I had to ride with my dad like I had at the very beginning of the day.

So off we went on another run. It was all going fine, but then we got to the biggest rapid.

We were already too far to the right, and we both knew it.

“Get us over!” my dad yelled, but it was already too late. We had turned too much and before we knew it, we were both thrown into the water.

I knew what I had to do. I immediately started kicking, which resulted in me kicking a rock. I could feel the water churning, trying to pull me back under, but I never faltered. I kept kicking until I reached the top.

As I surfaced, my dad finally was able to grab my arm and pull me up more. The water moved us quickly into the side where we climbed onto the rocks and waited until our boat stopped spinning in the rapid.

When it did return to us, it was flipped over and the water suctioned it so that we needed a lot of strength to push it back onto the right side again.

“I didn’t drop the paddle. I didn’t drop the paddle.” I kept saying as I lay in the kayak, holding said paddle and trying to catch my breath. It was definitely a breath taking experience.

Later, we told and retold the tragic story of how my dad broke my perfect streak of never flipping over.

“But it was still good experiance, at least I know what to do when I flip over now,” I admitted.

In the morning, right before we had to leave the campground, we went down the river once more. This time, everything went perfect and no one flipped. It was the perfect end to our camping trip.

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