By Aaron Wildenborg
We woke up to an alarm clock of breaking sticks interrupting the monotonous sound of the adjacent cascading rapid. Looking out from our sleeping bag cocoons, we saw the usual cloud of mosquitos residing under our rain flap. After smelling the aroma of the instructors’ coffee and hearing Brad’s cheery “Top o’the mornin’!” Lucas elected himself to grab the morning granola from the ‘bear’rels.
Breakfast in bed was delicious. After eating our quota of a little over a half pound of granola, we packed up, brushed our teeth and brought our canoes down to the river, loaded and set off.
Cool air and good-natured conversation helped the morning cruise by. After our daybreak row, we found a comfy rock on which to sunbathe and eat. We had some prime granola and midday rations of four granola bars each. After having our fill, we paddled to our first rapid of the day, a class 5.
A class 1 rapid is easily navigable and doesn’t need to be scouted.
A class 2 rapid is a little more technical and may be scouted.
A class 3 rapid is technical with high volumes of water and is very difficult in an open-top canoe, as the canoe will fill with water when you go plunging through the waves.
A class 4 rapid is not runnable in an open-top canoe and is a very technical rapid with high volumes of water.
A class 5 rapid has a high chance of death if a mistake is made and therefore is extremely technical.
Lastly, a class 6 rapid is not runnable by those who prefer to have a long life.
Since this rapid was a class 5, we opted to portage the 50 yards.
After hauling the canoes and gear on our shoulders, we reassembled in the water and carried on our merry way like the old beaver trappers of Canada. After a few miles, we parked our boats and scouted our second rapid of the day. We were a bit apprehensive, so we let Steve and Emily take the lead. They made it with no problems so we all jumped in and ran it with success.
A mile down, we inspected some hanging rocks before continuing to Goose Rapids, a combination of two class 2 rapids immediately followed by a class 5 rapid. We decided to portage. After a muddy 100-yard trek, we repacked and set off.
The next rapid, “Round the Bend,” was a class 2. We let Steve and Emily again demonstrate a smooth line through the rapid. Everyone else followed Steve’s line and received minimal water in their boats. Joe and I, on the other hand, were following Steve’s line except Brad was waving his hands and yelling to move closer to shore. We thought we should trust Brad’s instincts and were rewarded by ending up on the wrong side of a large rock in the river and were forced to bump and scrape our way down a narrow shoot next to shore. On the bright side, not a drop of water got in our boat.
A short way down the river we stopped above a high volume rapid. After scouting, we were still hesitant to try running it.
Brad decided to run the rapid and make it look easy. Unfortunately, he misjudged the power of the water and went sailing into the largest wave. Brad, Claire and the boat went into the wave, but only Brad and Claire surfaced. Surprisingly, they were still in the boat in what Brad proudly called a “submarine” move.
The group members looked at each other. It was clear the rest of us were up for portaging. We decided to do a “group portage,” which meant that we didn’t unpack our gear from the boats because it was only a 20-yard portage. Each person grabbed the gunnels of one boat and wrestled it down to an eddy below the rapid. After repeating this three times we set off again, this time with Brad and Claire dripping wet, thankful for the pleasant weather to dry off in.
Around the bend was “Crater Rapids,” a class 4 rapid. We portaged packs and boats about 40 yards.
Happy to be finished with our last portage of the day, we paddled eagerly to our last rapid, a class 1. We ran it smoothly and paddled to our destination, “Red Rock Café,” called such because of the rock wall across the site was a dull shade of red.
We started making dinner. We had brought fajita mix but no tortillas. After hearing the instructors complaining about lack of jigs for their fishing poles, we agreed to trade four fishing jigs for four tortillas. The fajitas were delicious, albeit not filling. Therefore, we cooked up some beef stroganoff to satisfy our appetite.
After we ate, washed dishes and swam, the instructors whipped out a tin can without a label. They opened it and inside was delicious caramel. You can boil a sealed can of condensed milk for an hour and a half and, voila, you have caramel. Everyone took a spoonful before jumping in sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep.