My Kern river intertubing experience! SO here it goes! Last weekend my ward had our 3rd annual retreat! This time around we went camping at the Kern river! We also had planned an intertubing trip on the river with lunch downstream at the park where we could also play sports etc and just hang out for the day! President Pinkston has been to this particular campsite before and tubed the river and stuff and said that it would be about 45 min to an hour to tube from our campsite to the park! Easy enough that would mean we could go probably like 4 trips down. We didnt quite have enough life jackets or intertubes for all 60 or so of us there was camping so we were going to go in groups. The first group would go then they would shuttle the jackets adn tubes back up to the campsite and the second group could go and then the 3rd and 4th groups would be from whoever wanted to go again etc! Because I already have a bad knee and so forth and was our official first aid person on the trip I decided I only wanted to go once, so I figured I should go in the first group. I knew I probably shouldn't go at all but I had never been intertubing and wanted to try it out. I figured I would go once and not anything after that! This way I would be at the park and be able to hang out and have fun and be there for first aid. WHile everyone else continued to ride the river! SO I had my life jacket on and got my intertube (we had actual large truck tubes...not river tubes with handles and stuff so they all had a valve stem on them and so forth....) We went to the river with the first group and we were off. THey asked Mike and Brandon to kinda lead the group off in the start and atay in front and President Walden was going to follow up the rear incase of problems etc. I got on my tube and my butt kept falling in the hole! SO then with my jacket on and my butt sinking I was not in a good position. I couldn't control myself or do anythign and was definately uncomfortable to be on the river for the next hour or so. I continued to try and figure out a good way to sit and struggled a lot! I was kinda getting a little better and hit my first big "drop" and went down. I stayed on my tube and looked towards the shore when I got down and one of the guys from my ward Kevin was right there. He made a notion like taking a picture (I wish he really had a camera because it woudve been a good shot) Anyways where I came down I kinda got stuck in a smei whirlpool like state. It seemed like whichever rock I tried to push off of sent me back towards where I had just come from! It was a little frustrating and I thought I should just give up now! ( I wish I wouldve listened to myself) Kevin was tryign to tell me how to get away from the rocks but I couldnt understand what he was saying. Around the same time P Walden came up behind me but saw me and was able to stop himself before coming down on top of me! :) whoo! He too was trying to give me advice to get away! I kept struggling! Finally I just kinda jumped into the water from my tube and got away then was going to get back on. P Walden was trying to give me advice and I told him I was falling into my tube hole too much! He traded me his tube so I could se if I liked it better. I did because it kinda had an airbubble so the one side was inflated slightly more and so it helped keep me upright better on the tube and I wasnt falling in so much! I was ready to continue! P Walden told me to stay in front of him and he was giving me some advice on how to be a better tuber! He was telling me to stay towards the center of the river more because it is generally deeper and the current would be a little faster as well. He was telling me how to get through the rough spots, keep my body straight and my feet in front of me. to stay one the tube and not in the tube etc. I was trying to do all he was saying. I would let the water carry me and try not to resist much etc and for some reason the current liked pushing me to the sides where the water was shallower and rockier and slower! SO then he would tell me to stay in the middle! It was hard! With the way the tube was inflated to keep the bigger side in the back in meant I had to have the valve stem in the front. To keep from being punctured by it I kept it facing downward. But then everytime it would hit a rock the other part of it (where it was connected to the tube) was being driven up into my behind! SO I knew that was going to leave a bruise. I continued to struggle with the water and the currents and the rocks. I even got going once and the current took me slightly to the right side of the water where I got stopped by a fallen tree in the water! I thought I cut my leg on it but it ended up only being a few scratches! No matter what I did to try and stay in the middle the river sent me to the rocks! It seemed like I was destined to struggle! Then I came over one part of the rapids and over a rock (one of the few that I didnt get stuck on) but when I came over it my legs went down and my foot got caught in between two rocks and my leg was completely bent. That didn't help my knee at all! The water was moving pretty swiftly at that point and I was kinda stuck for a minute or so, but I got myself free and kept going. Then we hit the first of several areas where the water was deep but not moving so you basically had to swim through it. Many people just did like a backstroke while lying backwards on their tubes... my arms were too short for this and my knee was already getting sore so kicking was a little tough as well. P Walden came along and he was doing the backstroke thing and let me hold his foot so he was pulling me along with him! I felt like such a burden and felt like a loser! I really didnt want him to have to do any extra work on my behalf but I didn't have much choice in the situation he was already having to slow down to keep behind me! Previous to this I had been praying to get through it and stuff so I knew he was an answer to my prayers! As bad as I felt I knew Heavenly FAther was looking out for me! There was several prayers said by me on the river that day! As well as many tears shed! I felt like I should've given up in the beginning like I wanted too! So we continued in this manner for awhile. He would pull me during the slower parts and encourage and aid me in the "rapids" But as long as I sorta stayed towards the middle I was moving along pretty well, but then the river sent me off to find an obstacle! I managed to find all the rocks and get stuck frequently! But with P Walden telling me all along to keep moving!
We got to another bigger rapid and I went down. I was doing alright than I lost my tube and continued down the big rocks in just my jacket! I was glad I had it at that point and was thankful I didn't hit my head or lose my sunglasses or my contacts! I got carried downstream a good ways without my tube! (I lost my tube twice during the day) I didnt want P Walden to see my tube and not me and to get worried and managed to stop myself on a rock. I was hoping my tube would come to me but it seemed to like where it was and was staying put! UGH! Then some kid that was there with his family saw me and saw my tube and swam it to me! I was so thankful for that and I continued to go. I was into a slower water again and P Walden was behind me so I was kicking and kinda swimming as much as I could on my own. At some point during this whole ordeal I got stuck again on some rocks and when I leaned back to try and unwedge my tube from the rocks I managed to get my hair stuck behind me between my tube and a rock! I think I ripped some of it out trying to get unwedged! Then it was some more swifter rapid type water again! I was doing better now though and was able to handle it more because P Walden had been instructing me so I was improving. But then we hit some lower water again and a lot of rocks and while going through the cap came off the stem of my tube and I started losing air! But I was in another slower area again so I rolled over and put my tube around my waist and got the stem blocked so that it wouldnt leak and was swimming along trying to save my air. At some point I had asked someone about how much further to the park and she told me several more miles! I was getting to a spot where I thought I surely must have been a few miles by then so I thought if I save my air I can probably make it. Then I started feeling stuff around my feet. It was kinda like when you get kelp around your feet at the beach, but it wasnt as big and thick, but there was lots of it and it was really slimy and GROSS!! But I was mostly only feeling it with my feet so I tried not to kick as much and kept going. THen it seemed like I might be in a spot where i could maybe stand and walk so I tried. I wound up knee deep in that slimy MUCK!! It really slowed me down because not only did it feel absolutely GROSS but it was thick! When I looked it was all black and kinda looked like sand in the water but it was really disgusting! P Walden had caught up to me again and was telling me to keep going and I explained to him my tube was flat and I was knee deep in grossness! So he traded me tubes again! (He really was like a Savior to me that day!) He continued by just swimming wearing only his vest.
At some point we had asked another person how much further and he told me like 30 more min and to just lay back and relax that I was almost there and had a few more really good rapids to go! I told him I was done relaxing that I had been going for way too long already! (at several points in time I was beginning to think that the 2nd group was going to come up behind me and pass me up!) I told him where I had started and he was kinda surprised! Anyways we came to another rapid and P Walden asked me if I wanted to ride it on the tube or walk along side on the shore... I told him I was ready to get to that bridge! And I got on and went! He told me later that I took that rapid (which was one of the worst) like a pro and that I did really well! I did manage to stay on that time! But on the way down I hit my backside on several rocks and I had hit pretty hard. One time I thought I might have broken my tailbone! It was that bad! The water stayed pretty good for a little bit so I was about 10 min down the river. I knew P Walden had gotten out but I never saw him get back in the water. I was looking for him in the water and onshore and didnt see him anywhere. I got to an area with more rocks again and was stuck in the middle of the river! The water was moving pretty swiftly but the rocks were kinda high and so i wasnt moving along too well on them on the tube! But they were super close together and covered in algae so they were slippery and I couldnt really walk to the side. I kept slipping and my knee was already hurting. I had been on the river for like 5 hours at this point in time and was exhausted! I knew I was dehydrated because I didnt have anything to drink and we had eaten breakfast more than 6 hours before this! After that last big rapid and hitting myself I was sore and didnt want to do any more! I knew I was like 15-20 min from the park but I felt like I couldnt continue! Especially knowing I had at least one more big rapid to go! I shed some more tears and prayed again and was looking for P Walden to be able to help me and I didnt see him anywhere! I know I sat there for probably close to 10 min and knew I had to do something. Finally I laid on top of the tube on my stomach and bent my knees keeping my legs out f the water so they wouldnt drag and just went for it. I managed to get off the rocks and felt so relieved! As soon as I could I found a good spot and worked my way to the side and got out of the water! I wanted so much to finish the tubing but was done! I knew I couldnt make it to the bridge/park at that point! I was done!
I looked for P Walden again so that I could give him the tube if he wanted and to tell him I was going to walk the rest of the way but I still didnt see him! I tried to stay as close to teh shore as possible so he could maybe see me but it wasnt very far downstream before the trail led away from the water a little bit and actually put me into a campground. SO I made sure I kept a view of the water from where I was walking and I continued to walk. I got through the campsite and the trail continued but it was covered with trees and stuff and I couldnt really see the water so I didnt feel right about it. I knew at that point that nobody knew I had left the water and I didnt know where the trail would lead and I didnt want to get lost. I found another more open trail and even though it was away from the water it lead to several sets of stairs. I could tell the stairs led up towards some of the local hotels. I remembered that because there was to be several groups going down teh river there should be shuttle cars going back and forth between the camp and the park. so I knew if I could get up to the road somehow then maybe I would be seen. So I was hiking wearing my water shoes that were falling apart a little (and I almost lost a few times so I was glad I still had them) and I unzipped and unbuckled my life jacket, I put my intertube across my shoulder and under one arm and started hiking! I followed trails as much as I could and when I got to some stairs I started climbing. Of course the ones I went up were old and went to the ruins of some old building so I got to a point where there was no trail and no steps but a approx 4 foot wall. I got up some rocks and onto the wall and continued and foudn some more steps. Then another small wall and eventually got to the road and continued. I was walking on the road and watching for familiar cars! It had been about 20-30 min since I left the water and my knee was even more sore now from the hiking and all the steps and inclines but I was on the road now so it was better. (it was already swollen a little when I was in the water) I knew where I was going and knew I was close to getting there. I walked for a bit and then I saw a truck turn on a road up a little bit ahead of me, and P Pinkston got out and walked to me and took my jacket and tube! P Anderson was driving and I got in the truck! I felt so relieved! I was so thankful to have been found! I got some water and when P Anderson asked if I was ok I kinda started crying! Mostly I was just overwhelemed and completely exhausted. He told me that he had driven up and down about 4-5 times looking for me. I told them I had enough of the water and hiked to the road because I figured I was more apt to be found (and I was found , P Pinkston said it had been the right thing to do) I told them I had been with P Walden and about getting separated and not knowing where he had gone so they went to try to find him. )he showed up tubeless on the river I guess just before I had gotten there and he got worried when people told him I wasnt there yet) P Anderson and Pinkston dropped me off at the park and told me to have one of the guys get me some ice for me knee. I sat down by Laura and she was like "have you eaten yet?" and I (still having a good since of humor despite all that had happened) I said "yeah during the last like 5+ hours on the water caught a fish and had some sushi" the people around at the time Laura and I had a good laugh about that! She had meant to ask if someone had gotten me food yet but nobody had so she helped me make a sandwich. I drank like 4 or 5 bottles of water and ate my sandwich while icing my knee. Apparantly everyone else got down the river at least an hour before me and so they were pretty worried! :) Someone got a picture of me with one of the ward cameras right after I arrived and I think I had just sat down at the table.... so I am pretty sure it will look pretty bad because it should show exactly how exhausted I was! And how sunburned my face was and just overall not a good time for a photo!
All in all I survived the trip! When they realized after a couple hours that nobody from the first group was arriving at teh park yet they had shuttled the rest of the group down to the park and they used what tubes and jackets were left and did shorter runs. So of course all the people in the first group were sleeping on the grass at thepark when i arrived and everyone else was playing sports! You could tell who was done in for! Because I had been "lost" and with my knee and stuff I got out of having to do dinner (it was relief society responsibility to cook that night) but I felt guilty for not helping. But P Anderson told me I was not to help and was to ice/elevate my knee! So thats what I did (while writing a letter) I wound up with 2 major bruises on my behind from the valve stem and the rocks, and my face was completely sunburned from 5 hours on my back on the water! And I had shorts on and sprayed my legs with sunscreen but they rode up in the water on the tubes, so above my knees on the tops of my thighs got burned too! So I was pretty banged up and sore that night! It was hard to get comfortable to sleep for several days.... but I am slowly feeling better!
That afternoon we were supposed to be going up to the Sequoia Nat'l forrest to look at the giant trees but everyone was so tired we waited and went on Sat morn after cleaning up camp before coming home! We walked the trail and everyone kept asking how my knee was doing. I was doing alright unless walking on an incline of any sort whether ascending or descending. It was my sunburned legs and the bruise on my tush that hurt more than anything! But overall it was an amazing trip! I had so much fun! I would totally do it again, but I would make sure I knew exactly how far I was going and the water conditions first! The water level must not be that low again for me to go! :) My bruise is super dark but isnt hurting as much now, and my face tanned really well! I was super brown, but that has since peeled off (I called it my peel-a-tan) I am still peeling a little on my legs and barely on my face. But I am just glad most of it is done peeling because it looked really gross!
So "in a nutshell" I was tried and tested but I overcame and I was thankful that I was not seriously injured! Heavenly Father was watching out for me that day! I was praying so much to just finish and then I would ask and be told I had a ways to go still but I know it was a trial I needed to overcome! I knew I was ok and would be ok! Its funny as I was praying on the river and crying and stuff I was remembering a part of my patriarchal blessing that says how I can overcome tribulations! It was such a powerful feeling of comfort! I knew I would make it ok and I did!