The nose of the raft went straight vertical as we hit the lip of a Class IV rapid. Then tilted on its side. In that instant I knew things were not going to plan. I saw Colin fall into the water. I was next. After one last attempt to right the raft, I took the plunge into the freezing cold rushing water. I gasped for air while being tossed by a relentless force nicknamed “Killer Kern” for an eternity. Between the lack of air and blurred vision, a huge boulder popped out of nowhere and we both bounced off of it. Shortly after the boulder, the river calmed down. Colin and I made eye contact, checked our Brolos, and started laughing. What a great start to what would turn into a trip that we would never forget.
Hey guys I am Tri, a Brolonation member and childhood friend of Colin’s. We went on this white water rafting trip for my 30th birthday and learned a lot about the whole experience. We wanted to share our trip so that you can plan yours or join us on our next one (It’s going to be lit!) with Kern River Outfitters!!!
The Kern River is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and runs for over 160 miles. White water rafting was on my bucket list so it was a no brainer that I needed to cross it off during this trip. Kern River Outfitters is one of only three companies that have a permit to raft down the Kern River and every review I read about them was positive. I decided on a two-day rafting trip that included meals and overnight accommodations. The two-day trip was $350 plus taxes and fees which is a bit pricey but most things on people’s bucket list are. The Kern River Outfitter’s website explains everything that you need to know about your trip and what to bring. They break down the day so you get a good idea of how things are going to be. They are also very quick to respond to emails and calls about any questions. They’ve been doing this for a long time and it really shows. They’ve seen it all and they are ready for any special requests that you might have. We would definitely support these guys again.
Fast forward to the day of the trip, we got to the Kern River Outfitters office where we checked in and waited for other members of our group. Our group was very small. Colin and I were joined by a lovely couple from England. They were here in California on vacation and white water rafting was on their bucket list too. We loaded up our sleeping gear, change of clothes, phones and everything else that we didn’t need on the raft into a trailer that would bring it to our overnight campsite.
Brolo Tip #1: You can have them transport as much stuff as you want to the campsite. Take advantage of this. You can bring coolers and all the alcohol that your heart (and liver) desire.
Then they set us up with wetsuits, personal floatation devices (aka life jackets) and helmets. The weather was very hot when we went. Temperatures were in the high 80’s so it seemed kind of crazy to wear a wetsuit but I highly recommend it. The wetsuits are “Farmer John” style so they are basically like overalls. It’s a one piece suit that covers your legs and the top part is like a tank top. Keep in mind that the river is freshly melted snow so it is very cold. You can always splash yourself to cool down if you get too hot but you can’t avoid the water if you’re too cold. The pants also help protect your legs from rubbing against the raft and sunburns! The guides gave us helmets that had GoPro mounts (after we asked) so we could record the trip.
After we suited up, we hopped into a van that took us to the raft launch. We unloaded the rafts and then received a quick training on everything we needed to know about rafting such as safety rules, commands, and the river layout. Then we took off! With all of the recent rainfall and snow, the river was flowing faster than it has in nearly a decade. Even with all of that water, the classification of the rapids remained the same. Rapids are classified from Class I to Class VI. Class I is slow moving water. Class II was quicker water but not necessarily rapids. Class III is considered moderate with waves. Class IV is when it starts to get fun with larger waves, drops, quick turns and obstacles. This is the highest class we would see on this trip and is the highest you want to go on your first time rafting. Kern River has Class V and Class VI Rapids but stayed away from those.
We started our trip slowly with some Class II and III rapids to refine our timing to the commands. While we cruised down a Class II rapid, our guide told us that we could hop in the water and float down the river.
Brolo Tip #2: Float the rapids! So refreshing!
After tackling a few more Class III rapids, we stopped for lunch. The guides had everything planned down to a tee. Each guide knew what to do to make sure we were eating as quick as possible. In only a few minutes, they had a sandwich buffet ready for us to refuel that included three different types of meat, two types of bread, two types of cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, Dijon mustard and even sprouts. I think the sprouts were a special treat from one of the guides but it really made the sandwiches a lot better. The guides even provided cookies and other candy. After lunch and a little relaxation, we headed back onto the rafts. The rest of the day would include tougher Class III rapids and some Class IV rapids. On the first Class IV rapid, we hit a wave at a bad angle and our raft went vertical and then sideways. Colin and I were on the bottom side of the raft and fell overboard. The 15 seconds that we were out of the raft felt like a lifetime. It was such an adrenaline rush. We were quickly pulled up into another raft manned by other guides and transferred back to our raft. Throughout the whole ordeal, our Brolos kept our sunglasses on our face like champs. We were able to finish the rest of the day of Class IV rapids without falling in.
It was now time to set up our camp. We got to our campsite and tied the rafts up. The camp site that Kern River Outfitters operates is top notch. They have an amazing kitchen setup, tables to hang out at, port-a-potties that are cleaned every day, a fire pit, and a ton of places to sleep. We unloaded the trailer that contained all of our belongings and settled down while the guides started dinner. After a few short minutes, they brought out chips and a 7-layer dip as the appetizer and a pitcher of margaritas.
Not much longer, dinner was ready and it was amazing. I did not expect this caliber of food on a rafting trip. There was salad, pasta, garlic bread, vegetables, tri-tip, and chicken. Everything was delicious and there was plenty of food. After dinner and a few more drinks, the guides cleared our plates while we relaxed and picked out where we were going to sleep. They have wooden platforms spread out all over the campsite and since our group was so small, we each had our own section of the campsite. They provide small mattresses for the wooden platforms that were actually pretty comfortable. No tent is needed if it’s not raining. All you need is a sleeping bag and a pillow. So awesome to sleep right by the river.
After we picked out spots, the guides brought out a plate of brownies for dessert. Another unexpected treat from these guys. We all hung out around the fire pit for a few hours and got to know each other. Everyone had awesome stories about where they came from and how they ended up in Kern. The guides were an amazing group of guys that love what they do and love to have fun. It was non-stop laughter and such a cool experience to be able to sit under the stars and hang out with the people you floated down the river with.
Brolo Tip #3: Bring a nice camera if you want to take photos of the starry night. Kern River is far enough from light pollution and you can get some decent photos. These pictures were taken with an entry level Canon DSLR, a $50 lens and zero photography skills.
Brolo Tip #4: Party all night. Yes you will be tired from rafting all day but someone has to drink all of that alcohol from Tip #1. Don’t worry about being hungover for the next day. After the first day you will be a professional rafter and it will be easy. Plus if you puke in the raft, you can just wash it off with river water. PUKE AND RALLY!
The next morning, the guides had hot coffee and tea ready by 7am. Breakfast was served at 8am and it was another amazing meal. Eggs, potatoes, bagels with cream cheese and salmon, fruit, and bacon. The guides kept telling us that they spend two years at culinary school and only 6 months at guide school. I don’t think that’s true but it sure was believable. On the second day of rafting, we were joined by another group that was only doing a 1-day trip. The second day consisted mostly of Class III and a few class IV rapids. We came to a part of the river that was considered Class V so we had to get out of our rafts and carry them down past the insane rapid. This part of the river was crazy. There’s no way we would have survived that part. We stopped for lunch and had another great sandwich buffet. This spot was called “Jump Rock” and we were allowed to jump off of it into the river. Once again, the Brolo proved to be successful at keeping our sunglasses safe. The trip ended all too quickly but it was a great time and worth every penny.
Hope you enjoyed our story. Colin is planning to do this again but to the next level. Brolonation is going to buy out every raft, offset your expenses, and bring the party. Enter your email address below to get on our list for that trip. You will be notified first before the rest of Brolonation.
--Brolonation’s Asian Tank
P.S. We loved our trip with Kern River Outfitters. Go check them out if you haven’t rafted the Kern yet!