It’s always a strange sensation when two worlds collide. Two unlikely contenders for this are yoga and rafting. And yet we at Six Rivers Rafting manage to combine the two to lead a yoga and meditation white water rafting retreat – and let me tell you, unlikely or otherwise, these two join forces to create a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taking an enthusiastic group of guests and several amazing guides down a multi-day float on the Klamath river, we get a chance to stop and indulge in the beautiful nature surrounding us, meditating in forest glens and sandy beaches along the foothills of the marbled mountains, and doing yoga on the shore of the river- allowing the soundtrack of the water to guide our visualizations and thoughts.
It’s funny, how much overlap there is between the crowds that yoga and rafting draws. People who love the feeling of being present in their body, living in that magical space where you act upon only the situation that is in front of you- fully engaged in the moment and trusting yourself and those around you to handle just about anything. Our trip down the Klamath river is a class II-III float (with one IV-), which allows us to bask in the scenery around us while we still get some of that legendary northern california white water. Stretching and focusing in on our breathing during our two daily yoga sessions helps us shake out some of the stiffness and soreness that is always inevitable when on multi-day rafting trips. We are able to enjoy the movements, feeling ourselves get stronger and more flexible all at the same time because of how we engage our bodies in such versatile ways.
Between the rafting, fresh air and the yoga, everyone always agrees that we are ravenous by the time each meal rolls around. As guides, we set up 3 meals a day for our customers. Each morning begins with hot coffee, tea and hot chocolate paired with fresh fruit while we prepare our buffet-style breakfast. From bacon and eggs to blueberry pancakes, we make sure each and every morning that by the time breakfast is done we have full bellies and are ready to take on whatever the day throws our way. After breakfast, we have our first yoga and meditation session- spending about an hour waking up our bodies with sun salutations and syncing movement with breath. Then our yoga guide leads us through a guided meditation, centering us on our bodies natural rhythms and clearing our minds- putting us in the best possible headspace to take on the day. By the time our first yoga and meditation session is complete we are ready to hit the water, the other guides having loaded up all of the personal belongings and broken down camp to get everything strapped down into our boats.
Each day we break down our time on the water in two sections, before lunch and after lunch. Our first section continues until we find the perfect lunch spot. Between all our boats, we try to gauge when everyone is hungry and begin our hunt for the best beach to pull over on. Once we settle on the best spot we pull over and set up lunch while our guests explore the scenery, whether a rock filled creek or a waterfall hike, we set them loose on the nature surrounding us and let them enjoy soaking up the sights and sounds of the world that surrounds us daily but we so rarely take the time to enjoy. After a protein/veggie filled lunch, we take the time to lounge on the beach a bit before hopping back in the rafts. The second half of our daily time on the water is spent under the midday sun, so we make sure to linger in the shadier spots along the river banks- learning about the plant life native to the area and splashing around in the “fairy falls” (little waterfalls we can stick our heads under that are rumored to have been blessed by the fair folk, bestowing their luck on those brave enough to dip in their waters).
Once we have finished our time on the water, we start to look to find a spot to set up camp for the evening. Each evening we set up appetizers and cold beer and wine (or whiskey, for those who were feeling more frisky) in a shaded area for our guests to lounge in while waiting for dinner. Between the yoga and meditation, card games, and bocci ball, the guests always have an activity to look forward to should they want to participate. As so often happens, the later it gets and the brighter the campfire burns the more people start to open up. Telling childhood stories, sharing (mostly appropriate) jokes, giving in to that oh-so-very-human urge to bond over a fire as we have always done. We’ve started a little tradition to go over everyones “rose, bud and thorn” (ie, each person’s favorite moment of the day, something they are looking forward to the next day and something they would have avoided if possible).
Dinner is different each night, made up of locally sourced organic fruits, veggies and meats. My favorite dinner of our most recent trip consisted of grilled salmon, sauteed veggies (asparagus, mushrooms, onion, and zucchini), rice pilaf, caesar salad, and the best part (at least if you ask me) was dessert each night. Smores, fresh dutch oven made brownies, or pineapple upside down cake- we at Six Rivers aim to please. While our customers usually decide to use the tents we bring for them, us guides like to “cowboy camp” and sleep under the stars- I have a fond memory of spending about 45 minutes one night with our guests trying (and failing) to identify some of the more obscure constellations we don’t usually see due to light or smog pollution. Being on the river offers a much clearer picture of the millions and millions of stars that fill our night sky.
By the time the trip is over, a peculiar mixture of disappointment (that it’s over already) and longing for wifi seems to have usually washed over our guests (if for no other reason than to post the many many fantabulous photos we take on our trips). For the raft takeout we make sure everyone gets back to their cars (our shuttle driver takes all the cars from put in and drops them off for us at our end point), we load up our rafts on our trailer and pile into our rafting van to begin the trek home. On the drive back we reminisce, teasing each other and laughing at ourselves. Each trip we make a point to have reflective discussion about what we liked and what we can do better on our next trip. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of fulfillment when you know that your guests had a good time and felt taken care of paired with the sense of accomplishment that always comes with getting off the water after a fun and sun filled trip.