Every river has one. A rapid whose name makes you go “huh, I wonder what that’s about?”
To the north of us on the American river, you have “Barking Dogs, Honking Geese.” In Alaska, the famous Tat river features “Cat In The Washing Machine” rapid. Panther Creek has “Shuttle Driver Sucks” and the South Fork Salmon features “Flight Simulator.”
On the Kern River, we have Frank Lost His Shorts.
Frank Lost His Shorts is located at river mile 12.35 and on our Two Day Lower Kern rafting trips, we’ll come across it about ten minutes after pushing off from our campground on morning two. The rapid itself isn’t particularly interesting. There’s no smashing waves, no wrap rocks, and it’s not that long. From the guide’s seat, you do have to pay attention though because at lower flows it requires precise maneuvering around some rocks and if you make a mistake you and your crew will be high siding pretty quickly. Overall though, it’s not a terribly difficult Class III rapid.
The story goes back a number of years, pushing 20 maybe 30, but in essence either a guide or a guest had an out of raft experience at this rapid and when he (Frank) got pulled back into the raft he was fully intact except his shorts. Frank was a good sport and was laughing harder than everyone else. No one knew what to do and while we don’t have any rules that explicitily say you have to wear clothing while on our trips, you really can’t have a raft full of regular paddlers and one naked dude having a great time. So the solution was this: Frank took his shirt off, threaded his legs through the arm holes and pulled up the bottom of the shirt as if they were shorts. At lunch time, the guides got a call out to the office and someone ran down some shorts for him to wear to finish out the trip.
After that day, the rapid’s name was forever changed.
Very much of a tangent but an interesting item regarding rapid names on the Lower Kern is that many of the rapids originally had two names. The reason for this was way back, at the very beginning of rafting trips on the Kern river, there were two crews. One was led by Chuck Richards and the other by Rick Roberts. (Chuck Richards would eventually start Chuck Richards Whitwater, Rick Roberts would start Kern River Tours.) Both would run just one trip a week on the Lower Kern and they were overnights. Rick would launch his trips on Friday and get off the water on Saturday. Chuck would launch on Saturday and get off the water on Sunday. Because they infrequently overlapped, information including what they were calling rapids wasn’t often shared and hence, the dual rapid names.