Trekking Tales: Rafting the Clearwater, Part 1

Wet suits in hand, 21 of us filed onto the yellow bus, two inflated rafts on the large trailer behind us

“It’s on my bucket list,” said bestest buddy Joan. “I want to go river rafting!”

“Yes, it is super,” I could assure her, since John and I, with visiting Aussie friend Pam had tried it in 2006, just a couple of weeks after we moved to Clearwater. Interior Whitewater Expeditions had taken us then too, on the 3-hour trip, so when I saw that company’s generous donations of a full day trip for silent auctions at two different events last year, I leapt into action with my pen – and subsequently, my cheque book.

These two potential tickets awaited use when Joan could get away one weekend this summer. When the August long weekend looked like the best time for her, her husband, and dog Max to visit from the Cariboo, I was dubious about being able to use my “free” tickets. “No problem!” owner Doug Trotter assured me. And no one even winced, when the girls booked us in, at my sturdy frame and aged appearance.

As the time approached, Joan phoned with half a dozen questions, to most of which I answered: “I don’t know.” Those gals behind the desk did know, patiently describing our upcoming voyage for me to share with my sailing buddy.

On the day itself, I, the “experienced” rafter, was anxious, but Joan’s feeling of excitement was contagious. “How about my bionic hip?” I asked, on reading the waiver.

“We’ll give you the best seat in the house,” guide Elijah (EJ) insisted. Indeed, everything went swimmingly from sign in to final drop-off.

Wet suits in hand, 21 of us filed onto the yellow bus, two inflated rafts on the large trailer behind us. Joan and I were in the back seat and I couldn’t help noticing that grey heads were absent anywhere in front of this. “Ever done this before?” asked our boat guide, Boz, as Claudia tucked in behind the steering wheel. “It’s quite easy actually. Just settle back into your seat.” With that giggle we were off, travelling along the bumpy, run-off damaged Clearwater River Road, with a stop to view Sabre Tooth Rapids – a class 4 (out of 6) rapid.

Having squeezed into wet suits, snugged into life jackets and donned helmets, we carried our tightly inflated raft down a steep slope to the sparkling clear ripples of the Clearwater River below the Forestry Campsite at km 24. Joan and I were shown into “princess” seats, where I remained throughout, sharing with a “prince” when my young buddy deserted me in favour of a paddle. I was right up front with the best possible view, while everyone else had the privilege of paddling! Boz gave precise instructions to his team for this, and opportunities for practice. Imperceptibly, our raft had already begun floating downstream, Elijah’s craft close behind.

A short time later, as we anticipated, Boz expertly directed our raft ashore at the foot of Grouse Creek. “Okay team. Now for the really hard work. The hike to Moul Falls takes 20-30 minutes and it’s a nice steep uphill walk!” And so it was. I’ve walked to Moul Falls many times, but never uphill in a wetsuit and even wetter shoes. Rainbows played at the foot of the falls, visible from wherever we stood to view the spraying water dropping from above our heads. People went both behind the falls and right down through that cold, intense veil into the pond at its base for this literally breath-taking experience. Having thus entertained the rest of the tourists who had mundanely hiked in from Clearwater Valley Road, we returned, downhill, to our waiting rafts, catching a glimpse of pretty McDiarmid Falls near the bottom.

 

 

 

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