Adventure on the River Kern, part I

The grey raft returns “Cindy!” my mom exclaimed as she looked up from cleaning the campsite. She was obviously happy and a bit surprised to see me.

“Your dad has been asking for you. He says he ‘wants his Cindy’.”

Dad gave me a look. He looked tired and a little darker after swimming in the river for most of the day.

“You guys shouldn’t have gone down the river… You don’t know how worried we’ve been.”

As he continued, Danny walked up, still wearing his life jacket and holding a bright yellow inner tube.

He went on with his fatherly duty and did his best to knock some sense into his two eldest children.

“I’ve been here all day and every time I saw someone rafting or kayaking down the river, they were all wearing helmets and life jackets. Those guys are experienced, they know what they’re doing! You guys went down without life jackets, helmets, or even a clue about what you were doing. You’re very lucky you were all able to walk back in one piece.

“You don’t know how helpless I’ve felt sitting here. I had no idea whether you guys, your cousins or Heather and Lindsay were safe.”

My mom continued cleaning up. Danny and I stood silently listening to our father, something quite rare. Dad was right and we were reckless. We’d just added a half dozen more canas to his salt and pepper hair.

Dad spoke from more than just the worried father’s point of view. He also spoke from experience. When I was 8 years old, we made one of many Labor Day weekend trips out to Kern River. I remember rafting down with him, my mom, and two cousins. We all had life jackets, except for my dad who had a false sense of courage partly due to several beers.

We pulled our yellow and blue raft up the river toward a fork. The western fork was much more rough, but we tackled it anyway. We had some trouble. We got lodged between two rocks, my dad got out and tried to dislodge us, but at that moment was pushed by the current and slammed against a boulder. The alcohol numbed the pain that day, but he was out of commission for a week thereafter and could not move. His ribs were been bruised.

“It could have been worse,” dad finished after recounting the story.

I knew he was right. There was a reason the river was called Killer Kern, but I didn’t regret the decision I made earlier that afternoon when Rene asked, “we’re going to raft down the river in a little bit, do you want to come?”

Note: originally posted at my blog…


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