Friday, July 21, 2017

July 20, 2017. Whitewater Rafting and Crystal Cave.

We were at the Foothills Visitors Center when they opened at 8 AM to get tickets for Crystal Cave for this afternoon. We could not go to the cave this morning because we had already signed up to go whitewater rafting on the Kaweah River.

Since we were not expected at the outfitters until 9:00 we drove to the post office--Toby's phone sent us to the closest one, but it was not open. There weren't any hours posted and there was a historical plaque next to it, but there were indeed mail slots inside with mail in them.

We stopped to take photos of some cool yard art on our way back.

We arrived back at Good Times Adventures on the Kaweah River in plenty of time.

They fitted us up with life jackets and helmets and checked each one to make sure we had a good fit.

We met our guides--John did most of the talking, and ended up in the raft with Dave, Toby and me.

The other 2 rafts were guided by Amicaya (owner of the company) and Mike.

We all piled into the van to ride to the beginning of the trip. They carried the rafts down the steep slope to the river and we started out with Gateway rapids, followed very quickly by Pumpkin Hollow rapids and then the chute! The rapids in this section of the Kaweah River are classified as 4+.

We were all told ahead of time that we would not be able to use cameras on this trip. So before I got in the raft I stowed my camera in the dry bag and we set out on our wild ride--16 rapids in all, including Suicide Falls and the Lone Ranger, named in honor of the Lone Ranger's stunt man who owned property overlooking this river.

These are views of the first 2 rapids, taken from the bridge you can see in the raft launching photo. I can't imagine attempting to raft this river without experienced guides! The riverfront property is largely inaccessible, being privately owned, so post-rafting photography was impossible. It was a very technical river, far beyond the rafting I've done on the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia and the Snake River in Wyoming. But what great fun it was!

After lunch we headed back into Sequoia National Park to go to Crystal Cave. We saw great views of the mountains today, including Moro Rock, which we ascended yesterday.

At Crystal Cave we first listened to a talk about safety, both for us and for the vulnerable animals and their environment inside the cave.

We each had to wipe our feet on a mat, and then rock them forward and back several times on a squishy disinfectant pad, then wipe them again before hiking the steep half mile trip down to the mouth of the cave.

Crystal Cave was marvelous! This is the only one of the more than 300 caves within Sequoia park that is open for tours. There are towering rooms, indirectly lit. Our guide Addison was knowledgeable and entertaining, and near the end of the tour we had some moments of total darkness and quiet when he turned off the lights and asked us to listen to the water dripping softly, as it has for hundreds of thousands of years in this very place.

It was after 6 PM when we hiked back up to the parking lot, and nearly 8 when we got back to Three Rivers. We went to River View Restaurant for dinner, and sat outside overlooking a part of the river that we'd come down earlier today. This was actually one of the milder sections! 

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