Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who's bright idea was it ....

.... to go rafting? Bare with me, this is a long entry.

With visitors staying, we decided it would be a fine idea to borrow an inflatable raft and head off out of our hometown of Cochrane, showing off the beautiful and peaceful scenery of the Alberta foothills, and float down the Bow River.

My dear husband suggested we should enter the water at Ghost Lake (further upriver from Cochrane) and then float down to Cochrane. It should take about four hours.

I had the bright idea of putting the raft in at Cochrane and floating down to Calgary (following me so far?), and it's all their faults really because they agreed with me. So I am publicly absolving myself of any blame for what was to follow.

Now many intrepid and arguably better-informed people before us had achieved this journey - it's a popular pastime in the summer months to see all manner of boats along the water, some perhaps a little more river-worthy than others. Some not boats at all - just large rubber rings/tubes (warning! warning! stupidity alert!). Many are weighed down with (drinking) students, families with dogs, daring grandparents and/or toddlers and other water-loving mortals.

So it was our turn to join the Bow River hoi-polloi.

We packed picnics and enough fruit, chocolate and snacks to sink a battleship, with plenty of water, juice and cans of fizzy, sugar-laden chemicals. Life-jackets and layers, towels and band-aids, paddles and pumps and we were off.

We set off with a gentle breeze, light cloud cover and a good current. Perfect conditions for a leisurely afternoon messing about on the water. It was 1pm.

We marvelled at the birds of prey, the jumping fish and these clay nests clinging to the underside of the rocks - presumably belonging to all the swooping swifts we spied along the way.

Life was good, kids were excited, and suddenly my brother-in-law's bum was dangerously close to the water!

Ah ha - seems we had a slow puncture. OK - well, simply paddle to a shore to pump up the boat. It appeared one section out of the four that made up the raft had a wee hole - I mean, we tried to tell David to stop farting on it but no, he had to go and break the boat.

All done, re-inflated and we set off again. It seemed to take at least an hour to get out of view of our housing development because the river was meandering back and forth so much.

This messy photo, believe it or not, is a deer watching us suspiciously on the bank. Come on, look closer. See - obvious, isn't it?

After a while more, the river widened out. Considerably widened out. I had no idea the Bow River could get so wide. And what accompanies a wide river? Bugger all current, that's what. Time to start paddling a bit.

And a bit more.

Wave to the fisherman, who I now realise were watching us open-mouthed as the raft full of British nutters was creeping past them slower than a snail on crutches.

The lovely white grain store building in the distance took nearly 45 minutes to paddle past. Arms getting a bit tired, bum getting a bit sore, and one section of the boat still deflating.

And then the dreaded words uttered from a child's lips "Are we nearly there yet?"

My two girls by this time were getting a bit bored so jumped in the river for a swim. It was calm and clean if only barely above glacial temperatures. They enjoyed it but didn't last too long, and re-boarded our vessel as soggy, shivering heaps in need of towels and sunshine and more food.

Time to jolly up a bored and cranky 4-year old by pretending to throw him in. Luckily, infectious giggling ensued.

Once again we had to tend to the deflating section under David's backside, and paddled to a tiny bit of gravel about 4 inches wide so we could blow up the boat again. Everyone swapped places in the boat in order to balance up the muscles in both arms, even-up the numb bums and then just keep on paddling.

And paddling. Just a bit more, just round this next bend.

It's now nearly 4.30pm and the wind is in our faces and it feels like one paddle forwards, three paddles back.

The next bend is finally cleared and - oh shit - what the heck is that up ahead?

It's only a bloomin' dam. Blocking the whole river, with about a 20 foot drop in levels on the other side. Well, who put that there? No-one ever mentioned a dam!! Damn!! (And OK, OK - this is not THE dam, it's the Coulee Dam across the Columbia River in Washington, but I wanted you to pause for dramatic effect, alright? It sure felt just like this dam.)

To cut a looong 40 minutes short, we had to empty out the boat by draping backpacks, lunch bags and towels all over three tired and unamused children, and then the adults hauled the boat out of the water and carry it up a long gravel pathway.

By this time, of course, the sun was shining down brilliantly, turning the heat up on a gorgeous summer's evening, and those rafts are bloody heavy - I couldn't tell where the water stopped and the sweat started!

So by walking around the dam, back down the other side of the gravel hill, we were able to put the raft back into the water and keep on heading south to the area where we had parked up our second vehicle earlier in the day.

But at least the river had a current again 'cos I was too knackered to paddle anymore.

What started out as a potential 4-hour leisurely trip down the river turned into a six and a half hour marathon paddling session. Every morsel of food had been devoured, every drop of drink gulped down and every muscle I didn't know I had was aching.

BUT despite feeling about 87 years old the next day, it was a really great afternoon and a good adventure.

And next time ('cos there will be a next time) we'll put the boat in further up river at Ghost Lake and float down to Cochrane - just like someone had previously suggested, and has since reminded me several times, what a good idea that would have been, eh?


  1. Ah portaging the rapids, a noble Canadian activity. Rather you than me mate.

  2. What a great story you have to tell now! And you're braver than I am. Floating down a river would likely be the perfect way for me to end up as tomorrow's headline. "Local Nutjob Falls Out Of Inflatable Raft, Loses Pants. Film at 11!"

  3. You should have let us have your itinerary and we could have supplied pit-stop snacks and drinks on the way! Always fancied having a go at this so thanks for the instructions on how to go about it all!


  4. Do you not want your friends to visit again?? lol
    Good on ya for giving it a go! x

  5. What a blast! Definitly repeat for next summer!

  6. Hahahaha! Sounds great!

    Horseback riding, skiing, river rafting... what's next? I recommend some hot springs, a spa and room service!

  7. What you want now is to try white-water rafting in BC. Won't be as funny but a whole lot more exciting as you'll cover the same distance in 4.5 minutes. LOL
    (I can say that because I've never done it. Wouldn't even watch any friends or relatives do it.)
    living on the other side of Alberta


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