SEPTEMBER 23RD 2002 - THE NORTH SHORE NEWS
RIDING THE RAPIDS AT REO RAFTING RESORT!
Deep within my trunk, a time-worn duffel-bag conceals motley essentials for a whitewater-rafting weekend. A faded T-shirt with two holes and a blob of paint, curiously matching the kitchen cabinets. A pair of disintegrating sneakers, well beyond the curative power of “odour-eaters.” Sunblock. A swimsuit that will hang loose, and a bottle of Scotch, my preferred sedative – must be generational? The road to Hope is a bit of a yawn. RV centres, greenhouses, horses for rent. A flat straight road. A grey day. Cruise control. Loud jazz on the deck. Ninety minutes later; Dinotown; Bridal Falls; Skinny’s Grille – an oxymoron that fits right in with the kitschy road signs. Must be almost there.
In Hope, the Fraser River is foaming at break-neck speed. Tips of submerged trees dance in the rapids like a troupe of periscopes. No, no, save the Scotch for later! A warming climate change along the Gold Rush trail. Tunnels hewn through mountainsides. The river is brown and boiling, fed by roaring waterfalls. The Fraser Canyon is always awesome, but on a clear late spring day at full runoff – well. Yale, Spuzzum – passed in the blink of an eye. Sorry Dolores, no Starbucks around here. You’ll have to wait for that double mocha-java decaff-latte fix with two sprinkles and a swirl.
The word is out. The Nahatlatch is too high for safety. We’re going to run the Nicola. I change in the washroom at The Husky Station in Boston Bar. Two yellow school buses wait in the parking lot. Reo’s resort base is 15k’s up the other side of the river. We’ll return there later. Waivers are spread around like confetti. Wristbands detail services purchased by the wearer. Food. Accommodation. Number of rafting trips etc. Is this a sneaky way of identifying a washed-up body? I muse. Must be easier than analysing teeth!
The buses fill with around 50 people. It’s early in the season, on a busy weekend the numbers can swell to over three hundred. Bag lunches are handed around by upbeat staff. Introductions. Most of the group are in their 20’s. A fireman. A computer programmer. A social worker. A web designer who was here for his birthday last year and is returning to repeat the celebration with his tiny Cambodian girlfriend who giggles nervously. A surprising number are repeat visitors. “Great food”- “Experienced guides”- “Wait ‘til you see the hottub.” A Dutch girl. Two Americans. A Kiwi. An Australian.
We pull into the riverside park. Piles of helmets, wetsuits, lifejackets and a box of sneakers – sandals can wash off in the river – really? A 15-minute lecture on safety by one of 5 guides who resemble models for a biceps enhancer. Reassuring. Obviously not a weekend job for a hash slinger. These guys are Class 4 guides who live for the river.
Our rafts strain at their leashes. We board gingerly. More instruction – none of that namby-pamby motorised stuff. We are the power. No weak links please. The bow is for thrill seekers – first into the holes. One foot firmly in a fixed rubber pocket. Both hands on the paddle and we’re off. Wow what a rush. “Head for that hole” - “left side paddle like hell” – “right side back” - “hold on.” The young boy in “thrill seeker” position shoots in the air like a shaken champagne cork as we hit a wall of water. Our first overboard. Strong arms grab him. It’s surprisingly easy. We’ve had good instruction.
An hour later, a pause for a snack. Cookies, fresh fruit, pretzels all decorously laid out at the river’s edge. Glowing tanned faces. “Cool” “cruel” “wicked.” “You guys missed the biggest hole.” “He went overboard twice.” Rapids worth their salt are named: “Big Jack.” “The nozzle.” “Jaws.” “Down the drain.” “Lose yer lunch.” All self-explanatory. “OK it’s your turn Andrew.” As the sole representative of the grey-haired contingent, I had been happily meting out patronising comments. It’s time for revenge. I have no allies. I slide forward from my, cunningly secured, central position. “Both legs over the bow and hang on to the rope.” – This, from our guide who is built like Tarzan and once kayaked for Canada. Evil grins of anticipation all round. “Quick before we hit that hole.”
I’ll show ‘em. I hang on, relieved and triumphant with freshly flushed nostrils, still astride the slippery rubber tubing. The second hole, then the third. Invincible. Then it happened. In river-speak – “I was riding rodeo when we came roaring off a haystack and plunged, bow first, into a recirculating hydraulic!” No chance. I emerge, with all but my pride in tact, to be helped aboard by a couple of “paperweights” - the smallest but closest crewmembers whose efforts were further hampered by uncontrollable laughter.
Bryan Fogelman was the first man to rafttThe Nahatlatch in 1978. Armed with a degree in economics and a “big five” accounting firm job, he got bored. In 1986 he opened a whitewater guiding school. Being a stickler for safety, he drafted many of today’s strict regulations. A man with a dream, he developed the Reo Rafting Resort in 1990. Piece by piece. A water system. A generator. A sawmill. A dining platform overlooking his beloved river. A giant hottub. A firepit. A campsite. A volleyball court. Riverside “tent cabins” with comfortable beds, built in the workshop. You have to be a flexible to work here. Cook, comedian, carpenter. Brian is a bit of a legend in these parts and his guests and more than 20 staff who return year after year, intend that he remains so.
The web designer, with his tiny Cambodian girlfriend – the birthday boy - looked happily haggard. It had been the perfect evening. Too much to eat at dinner “Hey you can go back for thirds” – and he had. Too long in the hottub under the stars. Way too long round the firepit with old and new friends determined to celebrate. (Bring your own booze but don’t get rowdy, this is no place for yahoos). His face developed a greenish hue at the sight of breakfast. Fresh fruit, chocolate chip pancakes, sausages, grilled tomatoes and a mountain of scrambled eggs. He’s booked again for next year!
I re-pack my motley pile of essentials, and head up the steep rutted road. Fifteen kilometers to the main highway. Gushing waterfalls. Single lane bridges over deep gorges. Meadows ablaze with spring flowers. Horses lazily grazing. A train skirts The Fraser River below. “Bad Dad” ranch. Finally blacktop. North Bend, a tiny railway community with a 24-hour diner at the station – or so the sign says. Over the bridge to Boston Bar where it all began. “ You’ve gotta come back and dotThe Nahatlach – it’s - well – it’s just the best!” I’m sold.
IF YOU GO:
GETTING THERE: Around a 3 hour drive from Vancouver via Hope. Follow #1 Highway through the Fraser Canyon to Boston Bar. Cross the river. Turn right through North Bend and continue for around 15K –watch for the signs to Reo Rafting Resort.
THINGS TO TAKE: Alcohol is permitted but not available to purchase – Bring your own. A flashlight. Sunblock. A waterproof camera. A towel and toiletries for a camping weekend. Facilities are simple but clean. This resort is not deluxe - neither is the price! Basic equipment is provided free of charge- Some can be upgraded for a small fee ie. a “farmer john” to a full wet suit for chickens like me!
THINGS TO DO: Aromatherapy, rock rappelling, hiking, volleyball, kayaking, eating, relaxing.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Bring your own tent. Rent a riverside tent cabin, a teepee, or a self-contained cabin. PRICES: From $179 for a 2 day one night getaway including excellent meals. Multiple packages are available including rafting only. Check the website, email or phone.
CONTACT INFO: www.reorafting.com - email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel 604-461-7238 (outside Greater Vancouver toll free) 1-800-736 7238