Highway 99 from Sacramento to Visalia, is class 5. Fast. Dangerous. It does something to our nerves. Perhaps it is just the loss of fresh mountain air in our lungs and the absence of all other life forms except for the speeding throng of humanity.
We wind our windows down as we exit in Visalia and wait for the faint scent of ripe oranges to creep into the cab of the truck. The sweet smell of water and life eventually overwhelms the grit of the road behind us.
Waking up to the looming mountains of the Sequoia National Park always makes the drive feel worth it. We pump up our rafts and drive 5 miles up the road to the Gateway, a restaurant just a couple of miles outside of the National Park. It is a funny scene. Squished between the expensive cars of tourists the 10 of us pile out of dusty cars in well worn river gear. This is the strangest way to put in, tip toe-ing by propane tanks behind the restaurant and throwing the boat over a man made stone wall into the middle of a rapid.
A crowd gathers like paparazzi as we bump down the steep and shallow drop that marks our entrance into an awesome day of rafting.
The Kaweah is unique. Looking upstream I can see the headwaters locked up in snow at around 13,000 feet. But it is not often that I look upstream. It is too easy to be distracted by the clear water, stunning rocks and features with epic names like Osterizer, Cyanotic and Suicide Falls. It is all just so perfect; social, fun, exciting and beautiful. I always feel lost out there, even in the midst of the charming riverside houses. The whole experience is so simultaneously wild and domestic, punctuated by eddying out and walking up the granite slab to eat lunch in the sun at Sierra Subs.
After four days of rafting and marveling in the groves of the Sequoias, it is hard to leave. Some don't, instead they stay until the snow melts away for the year. But home calls us and luckily it is equally as beautiful.
- Sarah V