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Blog Post 4

Posted On: 08 Dec 2014

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Canadian Rafting Adventures Blog

Hello and welcome to the Canadian rafting adventures’ blog! Inspired by the hundreds of stories and experiences that the crew and I have had and shared with each other over the years in the Rocky Mountains and around the world, it seems only fair to get some of these stories down on computer paper so you can have a read and hopefully enjoy the sometimes unbelievable escapades involved in the lives of a raft guide.  We have kept these blogs PG as best we can, so everyone can enjoy the tales. If you want to hear the uncensored version, you’ll have to come for a trip down the river with us and hear it from the horse’s mouth!  

We run white water rafting trips on the Highwood river in Alberta, close to Calgary, based out of the Stampede ranch.  We also run expedition raft trips in the Yukon and British Columbia.  Out of Whitehorse in the Yukon we raft down the Tatshenshini river which travels into BC and finishes in Alaska on the Alsek river. This is National Geographic’s #1 river trip in the world. From Smithers in BC we raft six days down the Babine river (known as the river of Grizzlies) into the Skeena river.  These are some of the best rivers in Canada and we feel it’s our obligation to share our passion and showcase these literally awesome and spectacular places with as many people as possible.

Until we see you on the river though, here are some stories of our adventures to wet your appetites! Pun intended.

Blog 1

Recent white water rafting adventures near radium hot springs in BC.

I wanted to start the blog with a recent story.  And at the start of June we found ourselves at Canadian rafting adventures’ old stomping ground, the Bobby burns river and the Spillimachine river just North of Radium in the Columbia valley, BC.  Back in 2011, Ben and Dave explored these rivers and started running raft trips in this wild and scenic place with Wakpa Wilderness Adventures.  After seeing them for the first time on the Canada day weekend, I now know why they went to so much effort to do so. 

We pulled up to camp after a few hours drive from Canmore past Radium and along some logging roads to be met with a huge empty field on a cliff side by the rivers edge with glorious views of Jubilee mountain, a large stack of firewood and not a person in sight on the Canada day weekend!  Such a rare thing as we all know. Our first objective was a few beers around the camp fires sharing stories about the past and what the river will bring in the morning.

Glorious sunshine presented itself the next day, making spirits even higher as we drove up to the Bobby burns put in along some old logging roads.  After only one short diversion to see the road end at burn piles of an old cut block, courtesy of a misleading, well driven corner and a hazy memory of previous trips up here 5 years ago, we made it to the put in by noon.  

We put our rafting and kayaking gear on and off we go down this grey and silty water that seems all so similar to the Kicking horse river in Golden.  It didn’t take long before the calm turned into a steady gradient with continuous grade 2 and 3 rapids that were splashy and fun.  Around each corner was another fun rapid and they kept building until we came to within a few km’s of the Bobbby Burns falls, which is a 40foot waterfall that is as powerful and intimidating as any I have seen. A good reason to scout the technical rapids just above to ensure we make the small eddy before the waterfall.

When you scout a rapid on a new river knowing there is huge consequence just a short distance below, it would surprise me to hear of anyone who doesn’t have the presence of at least a couple of butterflies in their bellies!  And needless to say they were there for all of us.  Luckily we are such a great set of heroic raft guides, that we made it through the rapid the right way up and nosed safely into the eddy ten feet above the deafening thunder of the drop below. A few minutes in awe of the beauty and fury of the waterfall were required before we got going on the portage which involved lowering the rafts down the side of the falls via a rope rappel and a Munter hitch.

We jumped back in the raft at the bottom after a quick snack and a reflection upon our place in the grand scheme of things and it was onwards towards the confluence of the Spillimachine.  The Bobby burns is the larger volume of the two rivers being around 100 cubic meters of water per second (cms), compared to the Spillimachine at around 30cms, however the Bobby takes on the Spillimachine name, as there are more tributaries on the latter.  The difference in the colour of the rivers is a sight for sore eyes and very cool to marvel at the clear green waters of the Spilli hitting the heavy silty murky grey of the Bobby.  But we cruised by and entered the last 45 minutes of exceptionally fun rapids.  With the added volume of the Spilli joining the already high water of the spring melt running down the Bobby, this section was filled with huge wave trains and lots of holes to pick and choose whether to hit or not.  It made for a fantastic last section creating smiles from ear to ear until we floated back to our campsite where we took the rafts out and shared a well deserved beer and a few sips of some good Scotch!

Spillimachine story to follow..

Keith’s blog joke of the day:

What’s the difference between a 12 inch pizza and a raft guide? A 12 inch pizza can feed a family of four.

Blog 2

White water rafting at 82 years old on the Nile river, Uganda

            When you think of the Nile river, it’s easy to imagine a beautiful, wide, calm river flowing through papyrus reeds leading you to Egypt.  But there is a section well known to the rafting and kayaking community just below Lake Victoria in Uganda that is world renowned for it’s amazing grade 5 white water! This is the section I was lucky enough to land a job with Adrift adventures in 2008, a couple of hours from the capital city of Kampala in the town of Jinja.

Everything I knew about white water so far was flipped on it’s head(literally) when I arrived in this beautiful and spectacular country for the season.  The biggest water I had ever seen with huge pulsating rapids that give you the shivers to simply gaze upon.  Once you get to know them, most of the rapids become a little less intimidating, with exception of the bad place, which is aptly named and is guaranteed to flip any raft that enters it – which happens on a daily basis when crews decide they’d prefer Wild over Mild as the choice is given to them.  But even so, the river has been known to humble even the most experienced and brave guides there are despite how familiar it may be to them.

It was here on the Nile that I had the pleasure of taking the oldest gentleman I have ever greeted into my raft.  At the grand age of 82, George arrived with a spring in his step and the intention of having the best time possible on the river. I will never forget the glint in his eye, that first time I gave the crew the option of going wild or mild at the second rapid of the day, ‘easy rider’.  “It has to be wild” was his reply along with the rest of the crew, “Are you sure about this George?” I felt forced to ask before we dropped in to this big beautiful hole that was as friendly as they get on the river, with no real consequence and 8 kayakers sitting below to pick up the pieces. “If I die while we are rafting, I’ll die a happy man” was his response. Fair enough. I couldn’t help but make certain with a bit more explaining of what will happen but there was no convincing him this wasn’t a good idea. So in we went.

If you’ve never experienced a flip before, it’s a strange and unusual mess of events that is disorientating, slightly scary (or terrifying depending on your perspective) and happens in the blink of an eye.  After being flung from the raft and slammed into the river, the power of the water releases you from its swirling grip, and you pop up to the surface feeling like you’ve been through a spin cycle in the washing machine and usually have no idea where you are and what happened, then you have a swim through some big waves until you are met by on of the local lads in their kayaks to give you a ride back to the raft!

It’s the guides job to stay with the raft and get on top to make sure you can see all your customers and make sure they are ok. After this flip I was up on top of the raft like a flash of lightening with my eyes searching desperately for the sight of George to ensure he was ok. It took a second for me to see him, but when I did, it brought me huge relief to see him with a massive smile on his face thrusting his thumbs in the air in sheer delight! Phew, glad we got away with that. Maybe he’ll be happy to call it a day for the wild side of things?

Well, I should have known that would never happen. Throughout the course of the day we chose (I should say insisted) to flip another 2 times, each one shoving my heart in my mouth at the thought of what could happen.  Yet I have to say, I’m glad I went through with the flips despite my better judgement telling me I shouldn’t, because the smile on Georges face that day will live in my memory forever and I know that his story of rafting the Nile will be told over and over again to faces of disbelief, until they see the photos and realise this guy has the lust for life that I can only hope and pray I have when I’m 65, never mind 82!  He was an inspirational bloke with an incredible passion for life and who I feel lucky to have met and shared this experience with.

It goes to show that age is just a number and if you look after yourself, there’s no limit to what you can do at any stage of your life.

Keith blog joke of the day:

Did you hear about the fire at the circus? It was in tents.