A weekend on the river moves time only as fast as its current
By Meggan Wenbourne
A couple weeks back, my partner and I found ourselves driving through the night from Santa Cruz to Big Flat in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. With an alpine arrival (ha, I just made that up) of 0230, it was all we could do to actually find our sleeping bags, let alone crawl into them along the banks of the Trinity River. Four hours later we were up and looking forward to a day on the river.
This particular section of river is a Class III river with five or six rapids of that class and a handful of other awesome rapids within a six mile distance. Several companies guide on this section of river and coexist with one another quite nicely each season.
With one hard shell still strapped to my roof and a rented inflatable kayak in tow, we ventured up to a put in about a mile below the normal commercial drop point to start our decent. There was a mellow breeze starting already, which I was thankful for as forecasts were looking to near triple digits for the weekend. Two inflatable kayaks and two hard shells completed our group and away we went.
The water was cold, but the refreshing kind of cold, not the awful, painful cold. We were warned that the largest of the rapids, Hell Hole, would probably toss us because it is known for eating IKs on a regular basis.
The Trinity River is a dam released river and the days we were there flow rates were to take a dive from 1200cfs (cubic feet per second) to 700cfs, so we really did not know what kind of river we were going to be paddling.
Awesome, beautiful rapids came and went with each paddle stroke and then things got exciting. Hell Hole was coming up and was introduced with a smaller rapid called Hell’s Gate. You, as the paddler, have a solid minute to think about the fact that you are probably going to swim through a giant hole and freeze just a little bit. With the most familiar individuals to the river in front, it was my turn to make the drop. I followed the most obvious line I could and remember taking one last big breath before I was completely engulfed in white water.
And then … I stayed in my boat! I turned around to stare down the hole I thought was going to swallow me whole and gave a very proud smile and sigh of relief. Although there is relatively low danger with this particular rapid (not always the case), it is never fun to know you are going to swim, so I was very thankful that my incredible skill and poise kept me in my kayak (yup … skill and poise … ha!). We all managed to make it through with style and had an awesome rest of the descent. Some awesome wave trains and a few large rapids later and we were back at the banks of our campground.
After a much needed lunch break, we geared up for round two. This time we would be in a raft with all our friends and a river pup, too! The rapids were just as fun and we had no swimmers. The river pup had some air time, but she faired incredibly well and there was nothing but smiles all around. The times spent on a river with great friends, new and old, are some of my most treasured experiences still to this day.
Happy paddling. And don’t forget to pack out your trash!
Meggan Wenbourne is an avid outdoorswoman. She spends her time traveling to the mountains from the coastline almost every weekend to get lost in the pine trees, rocks and rivers of the Sierra Nevada range. Her favorite activities include rock climbing, SUP paddling, kayaking, mountain biking, camping and the occasional backpacking trip. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and paddling off the coast, training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.