Friday, May 23, 2014

River Rafting on the Tuolumne (Northern California)

When I was rafting in Patagonia, there was an trainee who usually guides rafting trips in Northern California. I asked her what her favorite river in NorCal was, and she told me that Tuolumne River is special. Now that I'm moving, I decided to raft this river before I leave! Because of my time constraints, I went with a 1-day trip with All Outdoors Rafting. The meeting point for the Tuolumne trip is in a town called Groveland, close to the west entrance of Yosemite National Park. We took a van on a bumpy road to the put-in.

Tuolumne can be rafted in 1 day, or on a 2-day camping trip, where you go at a more leisurely pace and have time to hike. I decided to go the 17 miles in one day. We were told that this was a special time to visit the Tuolumne. Remember the Rim Fire last year that burnt 250,000 acres? Well, this is the first spring after that fire and you can see wild flowers growing in the now-open areas.
Yellow flowers all around! You won't see this view much longer. Soon the trees will grow and cover the area.
Tuolumne is a great rafting trip, with plenty of class IV rapids all around and even a class V. You start off with a class IV rapid right off the bat, The Rock Garden. The 1-day trip is exciting as you hit the rapids in a fast pace. We stopped midway for a sandwich lunch and some rest.

Here's a video of the class V rapids, Clavey Falls. It looks much tamer on the video, though! And everything always LOOKS alright as long as no one falls ...

We did have a swimmer on the class IV Ram's Head but alas, my GoPro wasn't on at that time!

Other highlights include the class IV Gray's Grindstone which is a mile long rocky rapids. If you're considering rafting in Northern California, I would highly recommend Tuolumne!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Getting PADI Certified in California: Pool Lesson at Beach Cities Scuba

I've finally gone and done it. I signed up for a PADI certification course. I was told that it takes longer to get certified in California. I don't know if that's true but basically here you have to do a classroom work (with quizzes and a final exam), a day of pool training, and 2 days of ocean dives (4 ocean dives total).

After going through the textbook and learning how to read dive table, we were ready for our pool training. I'm doing my course with Beach Cities Scuba, and the training takes place at their pool facility in Cypress.

So, pool training. It was hard. It was a long and grueling day (but hey, keep your eyes on the prize: your certification!)

The first thing you do is to set up and break down your gear 3 times as practice.
You put together the oxygen tank and BCD and regulator. They also give you a weight belt so you can sink despite the buoyancy in water.
When we signed up for the course (with a LivingSocial deal) there were options for beach dives (included) or boat dives ($115 extra per day). I was cheap so I thought I would do the beach dives, but then I put the gear on. The tank, and especially that weight belt ... It is super heavy! I don't know if I want to walk with all that heavy gear on, I'd rather just jump off of a boat with it on ...

We actually found a different deal which was more expensive but included boat dives. If only we had known earlier! Just keep that in mind when you sign up for a course ...

After setting up the gear, most of your day will be spent wearing it inside the pool. They have a swimming test, floating test, and go through many hypothetical emergency situations. Better to get used to it in a pool than in the ocean!

First is of course just getting used to controlling your buoyancy and breathing under water. Then you will practice taking your gears on and off inside the water, maskless breathing (where I pretty much panicked), how to switch to your buddy's alternate air source, and things like that. Some are things that you hopefully will never have to do but are good to know. I hated the maskless breathing but like I said, better here than in the ocean.

The day will go faster depending on how the class does, of course, but for us it took about 8 hours. But everyone got it done and so can you!

Next is the ocean dives, where we'll be under water for less time and get to see pretty fishies (hopefully). While it's hard, I think it's better to be thorough and know everything rather than doing those "express" courses. I can't wait to just do fun dives, as well, but safety is always first. Remember though.. do boat dives!