I learned to whitewater kayak on the Kern river and it definitely holds a special place in my heart. So the annual Kern River Festival is an event that I will not miss - even if I have to drive six hours just to get down there. I made it down in time for a couple practice laps on Brush Creek Friday afternoon and the flow was perfect - a medium level that padded it out but still fairly non-consequential. On Saturday I did the Brush Creek race but skipped out on the slalom portion in order to get some pictures and video. The weather was perfect the whole weekend - warm enough to make the river rise 50% in two days. The extra flow made the slalom in the park challenging for those involved but it made the spectators quite comfortable.
One of the interesting things at the festival was the mix of people. Since I moved away from SoCal the visiting the Kern is always like a homecoming - a chance to see old friends and catch up on what's happened since last season. Though this year it seemed like fewer of the old guard were around - the people I started my career with being pulled away by other parts of their lives. But there were new friends around, SoCal boaters who are now the locals while I am a visitor. It's nice knowing that even as the players change the sense of family on the Kern remains. And while most paddling communities have their own sense of family the first family you are a part of is the one that shapes you most and the one where you always know you can return.