[Article first published in Vacay.ca on October 21, 2013]
SQUAMISH, BRITISH COLUMBIA — The guide tells our group, “You are going to fall in the water. Every one of you.” He does it with certainty and in a dead-serious tone of voice that sets me shaking. I don’t like being in water, unless it’s warm, contained, and with a bar I’m able to swim up to. Dropping into cold water that’s racing for Mexico and dotted with jagged rocks whose purpose appears to be to crack the bones of anyone unfortunate or foolish enough to splash into the rapids isn’t my thing and never will be.
As the guide details how he plans to retrieve each of us when we do fall into the chilly Cheakamus River — which he repeats again we are sure to do — I am thinking about hanging up my oar and making for higher ground. But a big part of a travel writer’s job description is attempting things not in one’s comfort zone, so readers like you can know what it’s really like before you set out for the adventure yourself. It’s kind of like the work a proxy would perform for medieval noblemen, tasting their food just to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.
So, for you, I undertook my first white-water rafting trip, a two-hour thrill ride that was far safer than anything I expected and gave me a new appreciation for the soft-core adventures Canada offers.
The family-friendly Cheakamus River trip is tame, with just enough passes through white-water rapids to give you a sense of the exhilaration serious rafters encounter. The tour was expertly handled by Canadian Outback Adventures, which in Squamish is based out of Executive Suites Hotel & Resort at Garibalidi Springs, a luxury property that’s a highlight in this city halfway between Vancouver and Whistler.
Squamish calls itself the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Besides the rafting, visitors can enjoy hikes through the temperate rainforest of the British Columbia coastline, including a challenging one-hour hike up the rockface called the Cheakamus Chief. Rock climbers take the more difficult route up the peak while scuba divers dip into the waters of the Howe Sound. On the river, there are passages that can test elite rafters and Canadian Outback Adventures offers a five-hour trek that will take you through those more difficult stretches of the Cheakamus.
If you’re like me, though, and are intimidated by water and white-water rafting, the shorter, more tame trip is one you have to try. Once I realized the guide was only toying with us and that no one was actually going to fall into the water, the anxiety swept away and the trip became another reason to adore British Columbia.
The scenery, from the foliage to the eagles flying overhead to the snowy Coastal Mountains in the distance, is awesome. The rafting takes some endurance but not much. The guides are not only fit and knowledgeable, they’ve got a wicked sense of humour, making sure they manoeuvre the raft through the rapids so everyone gets the experience of a big splash right in the face.
That was the most threatening thing about this trip. When it happened to me, I laughed, feeling foolish that I was nervous at all.