Water Sports at the Malibu Pier — one of the top surfing spots in the world Right along the Pacific Coast Highway up a way from Santa Monica — or over the mountains from the 101, a bit south of Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road — is the Malibu Pier, Surfrider Beach, and the Malibu Surf Shack.

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[clearboth] The Malibu Surf Shack is pretty much across the street from the Pier. This small, friendly shop is chock full of hanging surf boards and wet suits. Outside are large  stashes of Surfboards, Boogie Boards and Stand Up Paddle Boards awaiting rental. In a truck across the street is a selection of single and tandem kayaks. [clearboth]

Malibu_Paddling22Kayaking in Malibu’s Pacific Ocean

If you’ve never kayaked in the ocean it can look a bit daunting. Unlike a lake, there are waves many months of the year. (I’d forgotten that fact when I set out to do this.) The guys from the Surf Shack allayed my fears. The first bit of water, about 1/4 way out to the end of the pier has the waves, but then you’re quickly behind them. To get out there, you wait as the waves pass. They come in sets, so after a set you get into your kayak and paddle out quickly. From there on there are no worries. The staff at the surf shop will tell you about the number of waves in a set and give you directions. In December the water is smoother, so you won’t even have to think about waves. Soon it struck me that I was on the other side of the pier, out in the ocean, behind a bunch of surfers, watching as the waves formed between our kayak and the surfers, enjoying the show as they rode in on the waves. (There was some fancy doubles-riding going on, too!) If you rent the kayak for two hours you can head up the coast enough to see some nice kelp beds. The water is particularly clear in the winter months. You may also be treated to a show of playful dolphins. While there, the owner and staff talked me into some more adventure —Stand Up Paddle Boards! (I’d never even heard of these.) Apparently they’ve been known in Hawaii for ages but are new to the US just in the past few years. These are large boards on which you can lie down, kneel, sit, or stand. As with the kayak, you get out past the wavy part. I did this by paddling out on my knees with my butt resting on the board, as did the others I saw. Once past that point, you can get up on your knees and then stand. The paddle is one-sided and has a long handle. You paddle a bit on one side then the other. wasn’t up to standing up fully, but not for fear of falling into the water. (In fact, the water was so inviting that I went in after bringing my board in.) Several others were on the water, out behind the surfers and proceeding up the coast, making it seem effortless. [hr]

Food by the Malibu Pier

Malibu is also a great place to enjoy a great meal. One of my favorite casual places — The Fish Grill — is right there, right below the Malibu Surf Shack. There’s also the Beachcomber on the pier. They have a nice brunch, and a great clam chowder. You can sit inside, sit on the boardwalk, or sit by the bar. And if you bring a group you might love their private tiki room. If you prefer a casual burger and shake, there’s Ruby’s Dinner at the end of the pier. [hr] Malibu_stand-up26Don’t let the end of the summer season and name autumn put you off of our coastline’s fabulous water sports! If you’re reading this in October or even early November, or plan to visit around then, and are thinking you miss this opportunity, don’t lament. It may actually be the best time to enjoy our Pacific Ocean and relaxation such as kayaking. The summer crowds are gone. Parking is free and easy along PCH. With the air not so warm and the water having actually warmed up in August, the water is more enjoyable and not shockingly cold. The water is clearer in winter, too. [clearboth] [hr]  

Lessons, Pricing & Location

Malibu_KayakAtPier15Malibu Surf Shack 22935 Pacific Coast Hwy. Malibu, CA 90265 [clearboth]
If you’re not familiar with a water sport, you can always learn. The Malibu Surf Shack has lessons — and guided kayak rides. Activities/Rentals — Summer Rates 2010 (EDIT) Surfboard Rentals: $xx for the day Boogie Board Rentals: $xx for the day Stand Up Paddle Boards: $xx for 2 hrs. Single Kayaks: $xx for the day Tandem Kayaks: $xx for the day In addition to rentals, the Malibu Surf Shack has group activities: Guided Stand Up Paddle Group, Stand Up Paddle Board Lessons, Guided Kayak Group, and Surf Lessons. Malibu Surf Shack Group Activities  Guided Stand Up Paddle Group Sunday mornings at 10 — $45 Guided Kayak Group Saturday mornings at 10 — $35 Surf Lessons $100 for 1 1/2 hours including wet suit and board Stand Up Paddle Board Lessons $100 for 1 hour including board and paddle

Activities/Rentals — Winter Rates ’09 Surfboard Rentals: $25 for the day Boogie Board Rentals: $15 for the day Stand Up Paddle Boards: $40 for 2 hrs. Single Kayaks: $20 for the day Tandem Kayaks: $25 for the day

Other coastal sport areas

Malibu_waving17You can kayak or board just about anywhere along the coast. Head up to Ventura, down to Marina del Rey or Newport Beach. Catalina has great kayaking too (but it costs a lot to get there). [clearboth]]]>

BigBear_DebBehindBoard14Big Bear Lake: A Perfect Summer Break Cooler air, wakeboarding or touring, and so much more

About 2½ hours from Los Angeles…

by Deborah Shadovitz with Muna Deriane When the Los Angeles area’s summer heat gets to you, or you simply need an easy vacation, consider a trip to Big Bear. The air’s about 20 degrees cooler and it’s only about 2½ hours away. The tree-lined mountains are magnificent scenery and the lake is beautiful. You’ll get to breath deeply and truly relax. You can’t help but feel rejuvenated up there and the variety of activities may surprise you. [clearboth] With 22 miles of shoreline and a south side that expands into the mountains, there are plenty of accommodations to choose from. We opted for the charming Adirondack-inspired, full service hotel, the Northwoods Resort, conveniently located close to the lake and most of what we planned to do. Big Bear was larger than we expected. We realized that because being great for both summer and winter sports, the homes and guest accommodations are not just around the lake but extend to the feet of the mountains.

Wakeboarding! with Designated Wake Sports

Planning to water-ski, we contacted Desi Hauer, owner ofDesignated Wake Sports, and although he rents water skis, he suggested we discover wakeboarding — a cross between water skiing, surfing, and skateboarding. BigBear_Desi5Once on the competition class boat, we asked Desi to ride first, so we could watch. Chris, his childhood friend turned co-instructor drove. Desi reclined in the water, board under his feet, and grabbed the tow handle. The boat started and pulled him up. I noticed it was much like water-skiing. Desi did flips and spins like a pro. Then the guys showed us what to do, explaining exactly what to expect, demonstrating with the towrope fastened atop the boat. Then, sizing us up and asking whether we’d lead with our right foot or left, Desi adjusted spacing and angle of our boots, which were fastened to our boards. Stepping on the boat’s deck, I slipped into the boots. Feet secured to the board, I felt like a plastic army man. It was uncomfortable and scary. But it was also time to get into the water. Tow handle in hand, Chris on the throttle, I let the instructions fall out of my mind, retaining their gist. I reclined in the water, bent my knees, let the souls of my feet rise in front of me, clenched the tow handle, breathed deeply, said a prayer, then said “ready.” The boat started. The rope tightened and I felt it pulling me. Forward… up… was I really doing this? Too much pull… ouch… let go! Down into the water. Muna held up the red flag to signal that a person was in the water as Chris circled back. I felt I hadn’t gotten past a squat, but Desi declared it a great start. We discussed it. Time to try again. And this time… yes! I got up! For some brief shining moments I was wakeboarding. Until, I’m told, I tried to point my foot… Desi explained that I should have ridden for a while to get more used to the stance before turning. On my third try, which went pretty much the same, I realized how physical wakeboarding is. After my fourth I was ready for a break, which according to the guys, is typical. I’d like to dazzle you with stories of how we spent the next hour riding with wind romantically blowing our hair, but the truth is that this must wait until next time. However, as we are both over 40 and not particularly athletic, that both of us stood up several times was an incredible feeling to take away from this weekend getaway. We learned first-hand that with a little instruction from Designated Wake Sports, even novices can walk away with a true wakeboarding experience.
Want to try wakeboarding? Designated Wake Sports operates out of Pleasure Point Marina. Best value is the half-day (four hours) with five riders. They also offer other tow-behind rides. Call to inquire or book, even day-of, as the office is not always staffed. Designated Wake Sports 603 Landlock Landing Road Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-556-3345 DesignatedWakeSports.com

Water Slide, Alpine Slide, GoCarts and More

We both find water slides alluring, but not the long lines at large water parks, so we appreciated getting our water slide fix here on the Magic Mountain Alpine Water Slide. Also here, is the quarter-mile Alpine Slide, pretty much a bobsled, but you ride a wheeled dolly down the long, winding track. When was the last time you went speeding downhill, hugging banked curves, simply enjoying speed without worry of crashing? Speaking of speed without crashing, we had a blast speeding around on the 5.5 horsepower Go-Cart rides. The Go-Carts are a fun driving experience for children of course, but I think Muna and I had just as much fun on them. As we sped around we noticed a family we’d met earlier was there too, enjoying the 18-hole miniature golf course and the small arcade. Big Bear’s Magic Mountain is fun for all ages. This moderately sized amusement park will keep you and your entire family entertained. Wanna ride? The hours vary by season and there are several pricing plans, so visit their site for info. Magic Mountain 800 Wildrose Lane Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-4626 AlpineSlideBigBear.com [hr]

Scenic Sky Chair and Mountain Biking at Snow Summit 

BigBear_fromChairliftOutside of ski season, the Snow Summit ski lift slows down to become a 15-minute scenic ride enabling you to get off at the top to enjoy a casual meal and stunning views. We were surprised to see mountain bikes, but learned that when there’s no snow this is a mountain biker’s paradise. There are more trails than you can ride in one day and many outstanding single-track trails. We saw entire families, some with young children, on bikes. Riders start out on one of the main US Forest Service trails that traverse the mountainside, then branch to other roads that lead in many directions. Asking if people brought their own bikes, we learned there are rentals and were told a great place to rent well-maintained bikes from is Bear Valley Bikes.
Want a Lift? Lift hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Snow Summit 880 Summit Blvd. Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-5766 BigBearMountainResorts.com

Surprisingly Excellent Theater

BigBear_Oz1Little did we know that in a town we considered a resort or ski town, we’d find a thriving full-time community and a serious theater group brimming with professional talent that produces off-Broadway, nearly Broadway, quality plays replete with fabulous costumes and continually changing sets. One member of the Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) actually came from Broadway, another from professional LA theater. As impressed as we were with the Wizard of Oz production itself, the sense of commitment to this community — even from those who only live in Big Bear half-year or have recently moved there — was equally impressive and inspiring. If you can get to Big Bear during a show’s run, it’s worth the trip or is a perfect way to top off your active day. Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) (909) 585-5505 BigBearTheater.org [hr]

Big Bear Off-Road Adventures

BigBear_OffRoad Picked up at our hotel, we climbed into an old Swiss army truck for a ride up the dusty mountain, over some challenging roads and into the old mining areas. This 2½ hour Big Bear Off-Road Adventures tour let us really get to know the Big Bear Mountains. Our guide, Jim, regaled us with many stories of Big Bear’s history. We learned about its gold rush of the 1860/70s (California’s second largest), the once-existing mining town of Belleville, which nearly became county seat, and saw current-day gold stakes. BIgBear_OffRoadMt [clearright] Minus the tram, parts of this trip felt like we were on the Universal Studios Backlot Tour learning how this scenic and pristine land served as the backdrop to numerous well-known movies and television shows. Muna captured it well saying, “I could almost hear the theme song to Bonanza as I imagined the Cartwrights heading down the mountainside to the Ponderosa when shown that shot’s location.” Eventually, we found ourselves looking down not at the lake as earlier, but at the desert. In the distance we saw where other mining — for calcium carbonate — still goes on.    
Taking a land tour Big Bear Off-Road Adventures offers several tours. Our tip: Bring water and snacks. Big Bear Off-Road Adventures 909-585-1036 OffRoadAdventure.com

Kayaking, Paddle Boating, Motoring and more

BigBear_PleasurePointMarinaThe beautiful lake continued to call to us, so we rented some boats at Pleasure Point Marina. The marina is on Metcalf Bay in a 5 mph zone, making it a nice place to rent from, enabling people to get the feel of their boats in the protected area you see here on the left, then venture out past the docks into the lake. We played around in the battery powered water cannon boats a bit and imagined families enjoying water fights in them. We also took a spin in canopied pedal boats, which are great for leisurely hanging out on the water. Then we tried single kayaks and fell in love with kayaking — enjoying the quiet, hearing only the sound of our oars pull the water as we paddled across the lake, exploring. Finally, we couldn’t resist the pontoon boat.   BigBear_PleasurePointMarina2 [clearright] After an operation lesson, we were off toward the lake’s fast section. We’d been around the lake several times, from the water and the road, but it was a whole new joy to be zipping around on our own whims. [clearboth]
Want to go boating? Kayaks come in single or double and are easy to use. Pontoon boats vary by size accommodating 4-12 people and the longer you rent it for, the better the deal. Split amongst a group of people, they’re pretty much the same per person cost as a man-powered boat. Heather and the crew are at the marina 7 a.m – 7 p.m. to answer questions or rent you a boat. Pleasure Point Marina 603 Landlock Landing Road Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-2455 PleasurePointBBL.com
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Lake Tour on Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat

BigBear_PaddleHaving toured the mountains and given all of our muscles a workout, we headed to Pine Knot Marina for a gentle 1½ hour tour from the water on the Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat. Whether peering through the large windows inside the boat or sitting outside on the upper deck, you’ll find this relaxing. We learned some of the stories about the lake, the people, and the events that have shaped the recent history of the area. It’s an easy way to get out on Big Bear Lake.
Want to Ride? The tour runs at 2 p.m. daily. Call to learn of other tour times and of Twilight Cruises with music and appetizers. Ask for Captain Matt to arrange a special group package. (Sometimes children’s groups even have “Bugs Bunny” as a tour guide.) Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat 400 Pine Knot Avenue Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-8129
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Other things to do

There’s much more to do in Big Bear. Moonridge Animal Park is a unique sanctuary that takes in orphaned or injured animals and is home to over 89 species. There’s also the Big Bear Historical Museum, horseback riding, guided mountain biking, hiking, fishing, parasailing, a solar observatory, and even more. You can easily visit as a day trip. But with so much to do, and with hotel rates so reasonable, you’ll want to stay at least a couple of days. However long your visit to Big Bear, you’ll feel better for it.

Learn more about vacationing in Big Bear, California

Learn more at BigBear.com. [hr] [clearboth]

Where We Stayed & Ate

We stayed at Northwoods Resort, a 4-story hotel and beautiful conference center with onsite restaurant, heated pool and Jacuzzi, ample parking, and friendly staff. Our pool-facing room had double beds with benches at the foot of each, chairs, a small refrigerator and coffee maker, a separate bathroom area, a patio and plenty of space. (Some have fireplaces.) There are also video games and immediately accessible free wi-fi. Stillwells, the restaurant, has an upscale menu and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a short walk (.1mile) to the popular strip of shops and eateries where we had great burgers at Desi’s In The Village. (Yes, Desi, our wakeboarding instructor.) Pine Knot Marina is a nice .4 mile walk (east), the slides are just .6 miles (west), and Pleasure Point Marina is 2 miles (west). Northwoods Resort struck us as a great pace to book a large family gathering, wedding or business event. Northwoods Resort 40650 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-3121 NorthwoodsResort.com
Desi’s In The Village 40766 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-3374



Kernville & Lake Isabella: Things to do besides rafting This is page 2 of 3 of our article about rafting on the Kern River. Kernville is a tiny town that borders the river. Aside from private homes that reach into the mountains, it’s pretty much a small town center and one other street. You won’t find large hotels or chains here. Think cabins, B&B, small eateries, and local-only businesses. Kernville is about getting away and experiencing nature. One business owner said, “one of the attractions of Kern County is that you can hurt yourself. It’s kind of wild and unregulated.”

Things to Do

On Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella lies between the Lower and Upper Kern. It is actually a reservoir with an ever-changing water level. Trying to get to the lake for recreation, you’re likely to drive right past it, puzzling over where the entrance to the activity is. This is not a built-up resort full of rental stands and food concessions. [caption id="attachment_674" align="alignright" width="357"]kern-North_Fork_Marina North Fork Marina before the summer season started.[/caption] There are plenty of rugged campgrounds right around the lake, two marinas — and that’s it. Because of the ever-changing water level and the desire to keep the area natural, the U.S. Forest Service won’t permit permanent structures. (In case it matters to you, this is porta-potty land.) The two marinas on the lake — North Fork Marina (below) and French Gulch — are the only buildings on the lake and they’re literally on the lake, fully afloat. Activities on Lake Isabella are largely uncontrolled, except for diligent lake patrol helping keep you safe. There are no regulations for 2-stroke engines, so people enjoy wave runners. You’ll find people fishing, sailing, wind surfing, kite surfing, kayaking and water-skiing all together. If you own a boat, you’re welcome to bring it. Boat permits are required. You can purchase a permit at French Gulch Marina. For the rest of us, there are reasonably-priced rentals available at the two marinas. Owners Deb and Bill Chase, who started as vacationers from Los Angeles, have about 70 water vehicles for rent. They offer pontoon boats (great for parties or groups), fishing boats, wave runners and hard-shell kayaks for rent, and some inflatables for sale. With rentals, help or supplies from the marinas, Lake Isabella can be a great place for a party or company get-away. Deb Chace is known for creating large customized events for children, adults, and special-needs groups.
North Fork Marina and French Gulch Owned by Bill and Deb Chase Northforkmarina.com Open year-round. (760)-376-1812 FrenchGulchMarina.com Open year-round. (760) 379-8774 Note: The marinas move, so phone for directions.

Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby

The 22nd Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will take place April 16-18, 2011 and offer over $250,000 in prizes. Derby.KernRiverValley.com

A note about signage

Once you’re outside of Kernville proper — in the in the parks/camping/historic areas — signage is scarce because the US Forest Service wants to keep things natural. Be sure to get clear directions to all things that are off of main roads. For example, told about a mine to visit, we listened to directions, found the small sign on the side of the road and think we turned off at the correct point, but after that there were no signs. We never did find the mine.

Things to Do In Kernville

Our time in Kernville was too short so we didn’t get to experience as much as we could have. Thus, these are just a few things your family might enjoy right in Kernville.

Kern Valley Museum

Kernville, originally called Whiskey Flat, was the true Wild West. The Kern Valley Museum, run by the Kern River Valley Historical Society, and located right in town, is full of items and stories from the days of prospectors and miners, saloon patrons, shootings, and outlaws. I liked the story of a bar fight that led to an Ore discovery and the creation of another mine, with both men becoming partners! The museum has mining equipment, stuff from old movie days, the story of the Isabella Dam, and even prehistoric artifacts.
Admission is Free Open 10-4 Thursday-Saturday. If you can’t get there during museum hours, come over anyway and enjoy the items and info that are out front. Kern Valley Museum 49 Big Blue Road Kernville, CA 93238 KernValleyMuseum.org (760) 376-6683

Visit a Mine

This sounds like a fun thing to do with children. Be sure to get directions though. We can’t tell you about a visit because we never found one.

Fish Hatchery

The Fish Hatchery on Sierra Way is also said to be an interesting visit. The river is known for its Rainbow and Golden Trout.

Camp at Frandy Park

[caption id="attachment_670" align="alignright" width="347"]kern-Frandy, view from Kernville Inn This view of Frandy and the River is from the Kernville Inn[/caption] The Frandy Park campground is literally along the Kern River, and right downtown. In our article about rafting the Kern River, we talk about the rafting rental facilities that we’ve enjoyed. But there’s also the camp ground aspect. There is tent camping as well as RV. Frandy.net [clearboth]

Enjoy the Water

I can’t provide details of the water activities and water safety here, but Lorrie and I saw families enjoying the shores of the Kern, right in town and at Frandy Park. We were told there was a safe swimming area not far from the center of town. The KRV Novelty Company, located right in town, sold inflatables and can likely give advice. Please refer back to the bottom of our rafting article for info about them. [hr]

Things to Do Near Kernville

The Kern Valley Golf Course

On the way into Kernville from Bakersfield — two miles west of Kernville on Highway 155 — you’ll pass a very unpretentious-looking entrance to a PGA rated, Par 72 course and driving range. It’s open all year, 7 days a week. Men’s Tees are rated as 68.0 / Slope 106 Women’s Tee are rated as 71.3 / Slope 116 Our golf columnists have not played this course yet. KernValley.com/news/kvgolf.htm (760) 376-2828

Silver City Ghost Town Silver City Ghost Town

Silver City Ghost Town, a collection of historic local Kern Valley structures, is located south of Lake Isabella in Bodfish, California. We have not been there to tell you about it, but it may be fun for kids. 3829 Lake Isabella Blvd. Bodfish, CA 93205 LakeIsabella.net/SilverCity Map  

Giant Sequoia National Monument Trail of a Hundred Giants

45 miles northwest of Kernville is near the Southern Gateway to the giant sequoias. Some trails can be driven by car. Access depends upon weather. We have not been there to tell you about it. KernValley.com/news/trail100.htm

Horseback Riding

Sorry we can’t shed any light on this but we can offer it as a suggestion that you can look into. [hr]




White water rafting in Southern California!

About 21/2 hours north of Los Angeles, 60 miles NE of Bakersfield…

  by Deborah S. Shadovitz As my friends and I meandered down a slower part of the River Kern on a warm summer day, I found myself thinking it’s a pity that every American doesn’t get to raft this beautiful river through this magnificent canyon. Rafting is a perfect shared experience: relaxation, flowing water, sun, great food, and the rewarding feeling of getting past hurdles because of teamwork. [clearboth]   Since the mid 1970s, the Kern River has been a prime spot for rafting. One reason is Lake Isabella, which sits below the Upper Kern holding water to feed the Lower Kern. The River Kern rafting season begins in April when the snows atop Mt Whitney melt into the Upper Kern, filling it and making it an active adventure. It ends around the end of August, when the water in the Lower Kern becomes too shallow. There are several ways you can experience rafting on the Kern, water levels dictating your options and the specifics of your trip.
  • There’s the 3-mile Lickety Split out of Kernville.
  • For experienced rafters there’s the Thunder Run on the Upper Kern in April/May while the snow melt creates fast-running water.
  • There are half, full, or two-day trips on the Lower Kern.
The Lickety Split, 3-mile run on the Upper Kern, is a good, quick introduction to rafting. This is adventurous when the snow’s melting in April/May; mellow and great for young families starting in June. With Kern River rafting legend Chuck Richards, at the helm, my friend and I ran the Lickety Split when the water was high in mid-May and it was a rushing 40-minute adventure. Later in the summer, it can take 1½ hours and be a fun-filled but relaxing day. Because there are seven rafting companies commercially doing this run and it’s relatively short, even during the busy season, you should be able to get into it without a reservation. For example, you can just show up at Frandy Park, right along the river in Kernville, to ride with Kern River Tours or Eagle Rafting. You can’t show up too late in the day to make the run though, so it’s still best to call ahead. For a fuller rafting experience, especially after May, you’ll want to be on the Lower Kern. There are four companies you can choose between for that. The U.S. Forest Service restricts the number of tour licenses to keep river traffic down, and also limits the number of people each company can launch each day, so you’ll need to reserve this ahead of time, at least calling a day ahead. At times a portion of the river may run too fast or is too shallow. Your guides will adjust your trip to accomodate the river, so you may get out or your rafts and be driven past those areas. You may then re-run some portion instead. Interestingly, you may not even recognize a re-run area because the river is never exactly the same.

White Water Classes

You’ll hear the water described Class I-VI. This refers to the amount of white water — the speed, height and challenge of the water. Class I is calm, II gives you a bit of a kick, and IV will have that foamy white water coming up and hitting you. (V requires experience and VI is not runnable.)

Intro to Rafting with Kern River Tours

For my rafting introduction, I chose Kern River Tours because it’s the longest-running company there, it’s independently owned, and its managing owner Kenny Bushling is a Kernville native who began as a rafting guide himself in 1986. rafting-the-kern_OarsUp-026Two friends (Lorrie and Gary) and I did KRT’s two-day trip which gave us the opportunity to become familiar with rafting the first day, building to faster water the next. I’d liked that we stopped for lunch and also had opportunities to jump out of the rafts and swim. We rough camped, enjoying an excellent full-course dinner prepared by our guides. The 2nd day, after a heaty breakfast again prepared for us, we progressed further down the river and its Class III and IV waters. From the moment we arrived at the KRT office in Lake Isabella, we felt we were among friends and knew we were in for a great time. This trip was about socializing and enjoying being outdoors as much as rafting. Before we started out, we got a detailed paddling lesson, learning to power the oars by moving our back and abdominal muscles, rather than our arms. My friends and I manned one boat, while four strangers manned the other. (Because it was early in the season there were fewer of us and thus, fewer boats. Expect there to be five six-person boats when you go.) At the request of the other four men, who raft with KRT every year, KRT was even kind enough to bring along an inflatable kayak (IK) that we were all allowed to try. rafting-the-kern_calm-001Our guides, Scooter and Dave, were intimate with the river, its surroundings, and its history, sharing this information freely. As anticipated, the trip was both relaxing and exhilarating — totally enjoyable. At times we’d be in calm water and paddling was optional. Occasionally we’d approach rocks and our guide would instruct us on how to navigate around them. In the calmer waters, we enjoyed conversation, wild ducks, rare turtles, hawks, beavers, the famous Warblers of the Kern River Valley and glimpses of hot springs. [clearboth] Then… we’d hear the sound of rushing water and teasingly ask, “is that rapids we hear?” rafting-the-kern_019_6AOur guides had fun with this, sometimes implying danger by giving us the name of the rapid, such as Hari-Kari. Other times, they’d say, “we’re not going to tell you this one’s name until you get through it.” (Eat Rocks and Bleed, named by Chuck Richards was one of those.) Soon we’d see the white water ahead and be instructed on how to steer through, over or around the trees, rocks and drops. We’d be bouncing over rocks and waves, trying to make our paddles actually make any contact with the water — and at that moment icy cold foam would came right up into our faces. Happily, before we were even done laughing over the excitement of it, we were dry again.   rafting-the-kern_gary_010Much of the time, Lorrie and I manned our 12-foot raft alone with our guide because Gary was shooting the rapids solo in the kayak.   [clearboth] rafting-the-kern_019Lorrie and I particularly loved it when our guide, Dave, bumped us off boulders to spin us around. For that reason, Pinball was our favorite rapid. Lots of bumping and spinning! It was fun but didn’t threaten to toss us into the water. Lorrie and I did a great job of remaining in our raft, but I have to admit that while I didn’t fall out, I did fall into it as you can see here. If that sounds scary, it’s not. In fact, each time I slid down off the side of the raft and landed on the floor, I’d be laughing so hard I couldn’t get back up to paddle through. (And you want to be paddling. Your raft-mates need you to be paddling!) [clearboth] rafting-the-kern_montage [clearboth] [hr]

“Adventure Swim”

After breakfast in the morning, instead of going to the boats, the guys started up a hill. “Are you coming?” they called to me and Lorrie? “Where?” we asked. “To swim a rapid,” they replied. Yep, they were about to jump into the ice-cold morning water right before some white water and go floating through it. My response was a certain no. And a short hike later I was on the shore receiving instructions for how to not drown in the foam. The water was cold, the foam was scary, I had a strange habit of floating the wrong way, but thanks to the very nice one-time strangers, I made it through and celebrated. (Our guide escorted Lorrie, who is not one to shy away from a challenge either.) [hr]

Go Jump off a Cliff?

rafting-the-kern_jumprock_013_12ASometime on the second afternoon, we pulled over for a break. Or so I thought. Until the four guys, and Gary, started up the rock in this photo…. This was one adventure Lorrie and I passed on, but the guys all got a charge out of it! rafting-the-kern_jump [clearright][hr]


The four former college-buddies in the other raft were doing this trip with KRT for the fifth year in a row and love this one weekend a year where they get to be boys again. As we traversed the water, I realized what a great experience this would be for families. It’s a perfect shared experience: relaxation, flowing water, sun, great food, and the rewarding feeling of getting past hurdles because of teamwork. I found myself thinking it’s a pity that every American doesn’t get to raft this beautiful river through this magnificent canyon. [clearboth] [hr]

Rough Camping (and cell phones)

rafting-the-kern_campingDue to Forest Service rules, there are no permanent structures along the river so all overnight rafting involves rough camping. Rough camping is tent camping without running water and electricity. With KRT it’s not terribly rough though. We brought our own tents and sleeping bags or blankets. KRT provided nice pads to sleep on. In lieu of running water, KRT provides a foot-pumped washing area so we can wash hands and face. (Swimming takes the place of a shower on this trip.) We’re talking porta potties rather than flush toilets. There’s nothing rough about the food with KRT! They’ve got an entire kitchen area set up and cook up quite a spread for dinner and breakfast. (Lunch is a terrific spread too, but isn’t part of the camping experience.) If you have any worries about hauling your tent, sleeping bag, towels, and clothing, don’t. When you arrive at the KRT offices, you park your car and hand over your stuff. The team carefully loads it into a trailer and transports it for you. They even took my iPhone for me so I’d have it at night — just so I could call some friends and tell them what they were missing. (AT&T works in the Kern area. Verizon and Sprint doesn’t.) [hr]

The Upper Kern Lickety Split

Although we’d intended for our two-day trip to be our maiden rafting voyage, Lorrie and I had a surprise initiation — in the Upper Kern as it ran fast! To learn about the area, we met with the one-and-only legendary Chuck Richards, who is commonly consdered the first to take people down the Kern in rafts. The water was running fast, and Chuck was in the mood for some excitement. So he had a talk with his pal Janet Sharp, the nice co-owner of Eagle Rafting, and after a short bus ride, we “put in” at the top of the Lickety Split run. The first time I realized we were heading directly into waves of white splashing water — and stopping to get out wasn’t an option —I thought, “what am I doing here?!” But we were with Chuck Richards — the living legend of the Kern River, the old-hat rafter who loved the thrills and excitement — and certainly knows what he is doing. “Go! Go!, Go!” Chuck commanded. Per Chuck’s instruction, we kept on “paddling though.” When our paddles could reach the water that is! Half the time we were on such a crest that our oars couldn’t reach the water, even as we perched on the edge of the raft and tried to lean. Then the wave would dip, our oars would reach below the surface and we’d feel our strokes propel us. Soon we reached calm — well calmer — water. How exhilarating! Forty mostly breathless minutes later, we stepped up on the Frandy Park beach and said “wow!” We headed to our hotel, the Kern River Inn, to shower and then to the Kern River Brewery for a much-needed burger and home-brewed beer.

About the rafting companies we experienced

Kern River Tours KernRiverTours.com 2712 Mayfair, Lake Isabella, CA 93240 [map] With an office in Frandy Park, as well. 800-844-RAFT Eagle Rafting EagleRafting.com In Frandy Park: 11252 Kernville Rd, Kernville, CA 93238 [map] 800-375-7395 Note: The Google map of Frandy Park appears to place the park oddly. Perhaps that is due to the size of the park. [hr]

Clothing for Rafting in So Cal

You’ll want the right shorts or pants for this! I brilliantly did a run in a short polyester skirt and the hem rubbing under my legs was quite uncomfortable. I strongly suspect that denim shorts would be as uncomfortable. I strongly recomend you were quick-drying board shorts. I also recommend water shoes. Sneakers will quickly stay wet and remain wet and soggy. And a hat or sun visor or sun glasses, plus sun screen. If you’re camping overnight bring a wind breaker as well in case it gets cool. KRV Novelty Company, smack in the center of Kernville sells everything you’ll need to make your stay at the river fun. Owner Lucian Whitman gave great advice. I was able to choose from a selection of inexpensive board shorts there. Lorrie was also able to pick up rafting shoes there. KRV Novelty Company 11101 Kernville Road, Kernville CA 93238 (Across from the Kernville Inn and Frandy Park) The Kern River Tours (KRT) office in Lake Isabella, also sells these basics, as does it’s Frandy Park location.

More about White Water Rafting

If you’d like to understand white water more, here are some resources. Don’t let some of these references scare you off — unless you’re thinking of running a river without a guide.