By Nina Martin
Old trip: Serious thrills on the white water
New trick: A toned-down ride for the whole family
Ever find yourself longing for the days when vacations included more adventure and adult conversation, and fewer bathroom breaks and mouse ears? There’s not much to be done about the pit stops, but once you make the drive up north to the Klamath River, there are rafting outfitters willing to work with large groups—so you and your friends and the kids and their friends can have a grand old time. The rush you get from seeing your offspring’s gleeful grins might just surpass any you’d experience tackling Class IV rapids without them.
PLAY: Owner-guide-yogi-teacher John McDermott of Mount Shasta–based rafting outfit River Dancers has a special talent for mak-ing people of every age and skill level—even the really big babies—feel safe and confident enough to have the time of their lives. He and his wife, Chantal, founded the company almost 15 years ago, and they run their family trips through the kid-friendliest stretch of the Klamath (they also offer more white-knuckle adventures through other parts of Northern California and Oregon). Pack your own sleeping bags and tents, which you’ll set up and take down, but River Dancers takes care of pretty much everything else. The ride starts in Happy Camp and covers 25 miles over the course of three days, during which you’ll pack in all of the following: camping, kayaking, swimming, exploring, eating Chantal’s excellent organic food, play-ing guitar, reading Captain Underpants around the campfire, and snoring to the music of crickets.
DINE: No one will want the weekend to end, so take the party to Yreka for one last, raucous dinner at Grandma’s House (good, hearty, well-priced food; lots of tchotchkes in the gift shop to charm little girls) before the five-hour drive back to the Bay Area. Or grab one of the 600 reasonably priced hotel rooms in town and take an extra day to explore Victorian-laden Yreka. Don’t mistake this remote town for backward–the locals refer to themselves as “greennecks,” rather than rednecks, because of two major projects: rehabbing the creek that runs through the town, and its bordering trail. Downtown, the Liberty Arts gallery and educational center has been a cultural institution for nearly a quarter century.