Ashley turned 30 years old this past Sunday! I'm so thankful for her and the ways we've been able to come alongside each other through our one-year of relationship. I'm excited to continue to grow with her, pursuing the heart of God more together, serving others together, and building a home and family together!
As a part of Ashley's month-long celebration of life, I put together an event with our friends to float down a segment of the Russian River in inner tubes. This is an activity that her and I have been wanting to do as individuals for a quite some time so doing it for her birthday was a dream come true for both of us.
I've never been tubing down a river before so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to do some research on logistics and to organize our friends. I came across this blog post to get a high-level idea of what to expect and how to plan. At the start of planning, I was going to ask each guest to rent inner tubes down at Johnson's Beach and that we'd float in Forestville from the Hacienda Bridge down to Russian River Pub, as the blog suggested.
But our friends Abby and Thomas, who've been before and say that tubing down the Russian River is one of their favorite activities ever, suggested that we start at Steelhead Beach and end at Mother's Beach, just short of a 2-mile journey that would take nearly 3 hours to complete (the current is super slow-moving).
Abby and Thomas also suggested that we buy our own inner tubes instead of renting them. If we decided to do even one additional trip to the river sometime in the future, that would pay for our inner tube purchases. They suggested a few items on Amazon, but I ended up getting a pair of the Intex River Run I Sport Lounge for Ashley and me (which, unbeknownst to me, was actually a very popular item on the river). I also picked up the Intex Mega Chill inflatable floating cooler to store drinks and food. A co-worker of mine also highly recommended getting a portable air pump that you could power with a car's AC adapter, so I got the LotFancy Portable Air Pump off of Amazon, too. Having one of these would save a lot of time (and a lot of breath) to blow up our inner tubes.
Ashley tends to go with wine so we picked up a few cans of Underwood wine at Trader Joe's and I snagged a couple of cans of Avery Brewing's Liliko'i Kepolo white ale, a perfect refreshing summer compliment with its hints of passionfruit. And on the morning of the trip, Ashley and I stopped over at a local grocery store to grab some sandwiches to eat on the river, along with watermelon slices and seaweed snacks. I also brought along a couple of trash bags to dispose of our empty cans, food wrappers, etc.
We had 11 people that came along, spread out over 3 cars. Originally, we were looking at chartering a Chariot to bring us to and from Russian River, but we couldn't justify the bottom-line cost (although I'd still consider this option for another local trip on another occasion). Our plan was to have all 3 cars meet at the start at Steelhead Beach, then have 2 cars drive down to the end at Mother's Beach to leave 1 of the cars there before driving back up to Steelhead Beach. This way we'd have a way to shuttle people back when we finished.
Steelhead Beach has a parking fee (at the time of this writing, $7) so have cash handy. When we parked in the parking lot, it was a little after 10:30AM. There was plenty of parking, but it was starting to fill up. All throughout, groups of friends and families were getting their inner tubes inflated, some by mouth and others by electric pump. It was sunny out and already starting to get warm, contrasted with the foggy and breezy city that we had just come from.
Once we were assembled with gear ready, we walked a short couple of minutes through the parking lot, through the park and down to the river bank. On the river were small groups of floats and canoeing groups passing us by from some point further up river. I dipped my foot into the water: it was cool but not freezing. It felt just right.
We tied up our inner tubes together to make a small flotilla and waded into the water and began our 3-hour tour.
The river wasn't too crowded. There were groups of canoes and other inner tube groups scattered throughout. Some groups were blasting music from water-resistant Bluetooth speakers, something I wish we had come prepared with. Families in canoes paddled past us throughout the trip, and some kids had water cannons to spray us with, which was fun and funny for the first blast, but then got annoying...
The river is generally shallow. Standing up the water would reach your hips in most spots. Other areas it was deep enough to have to tread water. The current is slow-moving, although some bends are a little faster than others. At one point, I had my drink can on a separate, small individual float and it got caught up in the flow. I got out to chase after it but it was getting carried away so fast by the current. I found myself getting dragged a little bit and getting carried further from the main group!
We snacked and drank along the way, tossing bags of snacks between our inner tubes but we stopped on a sandbar a couple of hours into the trip to have our lunches. Having the floating coolers really made all the difference to keep our drinks cool and sandwiches fresh. Bags of ice can help too, but the cool river water might be enough too.
I think our group found our new favorite local summer activity. We definitely had a blast and can't wait to go again!