Last weekend, some friends and I went where many a men & women have gone before, but it’s still fun to talk about. Bakersfield. More importantly what we did while there. We traversed the rage-iest of frigid waters seeking that ultimate rush of adrenaline. We went…White. Water. Rafting.
This was my first time on any sort of rapids outside of a theme park’s manmade one and it was awesome! If you want the anticipation and excitement to begin hours before you hit water, I highly suggest accidentally not realizing how far Bakersfield is from Los Angeles. Weave in between traffic at 95 mph for 2 hours straight to arrive 30 seconds before your assigned bus pulls out of the River’s End Rafting Company parking lot without you in it. Adventure at it’s finest!
The Kern River is a 5-minute bus ride from the RER headquarters off little old Hwy 178. Once waterside, there's a briefing of how to’s and what if’s before breaking into groups of 7. Our river guide’s name was Joe - a knowledgeable, fun dude with a dry sense of humor.
Despite a few rapids and a dozen or so dips, the Kern River is pretty calm - great for beginners. Though this varies on given water levels and the time of year. We all squealed approaching the first rapid. If one of my teammates didn’t have lightning reflexes to save me I would have dipped like a roast beef sandwich in au jus.
It’s funny. You do absolutely anything in your power not to fly out of the raft. You lean inward like the water has leprosy or wedge your feet in between the raft’s crevices - hanging on for dear life. But as soon as Joe announces we can hop out and swim suddenly we're Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn splashin' around in a river before it’s back to painting fences.
The trip lasted about 2 hours with a few surprises along the way that I don’t want to spoil for anyone. But I can say at the end of it all my cheeks were sore from smiling. And sunburn. RER also offers a half-day river exploration for anyone interested in more time on the water.
Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before the Trip:
1. You actually sit on the sides of the raft. Having this knowledge doesn’t change anything. I just thought it was interesting.
2. The oars are harder to push through the water than it looks. Again this doesn’t change anything. Or start push-ups now and tear through the water.
3. Wear water shoes or no shoes. The only water-resistant shoes my land-dwelling, totally unprepared friends are I own are flip-flops. While they did stay on our feet it would have been easier without them. Ask your guide to keep your shoes on the bus if you don’t have water shoes.
After rafting up an appetite we found the perfect spot nearby for burgers and shakes at the 1950’s style diner, Moo’s Creamery. Bacon bits in a shake?! Need I say more?