A week ago Saturday, my company sponsored an outing for the staff, a chance to bond and spend some time together outside of the office environment, a chance to partake in the beauty that is BC's wild places, a chance to have a bit of excitement..................a chance to thin down the office herd with a spot of white water rafting.
The venue for this little exercise was on the Squamish and Elaho Rivers which have a fair amount of class 3 and 4 rapids, keep in mind class 5 rapids are the most extreme. Anyways, we were all to meet up at Glacier Valley Farms at 9AM and spend the day lazily drifting down said rivers.
And since the venue was a bit past Squamish BC it also meant having a chance to have a bit of fun riding the Sea to Sky Highway, I hopped on board Connie and headed out around 7:30AM.
The Sea to Sky Highway was greatly improved for the 2010 Winter Games, and is still a fun ride and now you can actually get past crawling cagers instead of getting stuck behind them for mile after mind numbing mile. But the real joy came when I had to turn off the highway and onto Squamish Valley Road and found to my joy one of the sweetest riding roads I have ever had the pleasure to ride. Basically its just a simple two lane road with somewhat rough pavement, but it cuts through the forest and has almost nothing but twists and turns. And best yet, little to no traffic, I think I only had to overtake two or three cars during the 12 kilometre run from the highway to the meeting place.
I would of loved to have hammered down on it, but I keep it cool mainly because 1) I didn't know the road and had no idea what was behind the next bend, 2) I was in the backwoods of BC for all intensive purposes and didn't feel like running into a deer or even a hungry black bear and 3) it is an active logging truck route, and those boys REALLY DO OWN THE ROAD!!!!!
! The run from the highway to the farm took about 15 minutes and I was really working the gears and brakes and having time of my life and was sorely annoyed when I came up to my turn off a Glacier Valley Farms. I really didn't want to stop, just wanted to keep going and see where the road ended up. I did video a part of the trip back and will post it later once I have edited the video.
I met up with some of the office crew there, some whom I actually had overtaken on the ride up, but passed me again when I stopped off in Squamish to pick up a few items. Most were grumbling about being out of coffee, me on the other hand being a wise and grizzled biker type dude was well prepared, for sitting in my hard case was my travel mug brimming full of hot sweet coffee, so I sat back on the Connie and enjoyed a well deserved ciggie and hot cup of coffee.
Here are some of the jokers I work with, the walking crime against fashion in the blue tee and red shorts is Steve Nickels, aka Professor and he would play a major part in the trial by water later on in the day.
And here is a picture of one of the Glaciers that feed the two rivers, later we were told by the guide that the water in the rivers was just ice and snow 12 hours ago.....brrrrrrr......and that because of our unseasonably cold and wet spring/summer, the snow pack is still around and making the rivers even more fearsome then normal for this time of year.
If you take a look at the bottom of the second photo, you can see the edge of the glacier and while it doesn't look like much in the photo (I had to use full zoom on my little Kodak digicam to get it), it is actually an ice cliff measuring between 1 to 2 hundred feet in height and in places the depth of the ice behind the mountain is 500 feet deep. That's a hell of a lot of ice and water sitting up there, no wonder Canada has almost 1/3 of the worlds fresh water reserves within its borders.
As we were milling about waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, we learned, oh joy of joys, our guides had laid on a simple breakfast of home made muffins, fresh fruit and COFFEE!!!!!
for us, which made good ole Steve N a happy little camper. We walked down and indulged freely of the offerings. The muffins were fresh and warm right out of the oven and were so good I have to admit I had two, along with a banana and another cup of coffee.
While partaking of the goodies, another office mate arrived fully dressed up in a wetsuit. I figured that was pretty hard core as I was planning on making do with a pair of short, t-shirt and my fishing sneakers. Then Nancy and her winger Betty arrived also in wetsuits which sort of surprised me coz I didn't figure them to be divers. Then a guide told us to head to the changing room. Changing room? Why?.....oh....damn....bugger......they had wetsuits for us and we had to wear them. And me in a wetsuit is not a pretty sight at all.....(hope you haven't eaten lately)
Some people can carry off wearing a wetsuit, such as Nancy in red, Alister and girl in the purple.
On the other hand, it is most definitely not a good look on me.
While getting geared up, we were told not to wear anything cotton under the wetsuits, as cotton retains the cold. Bugger, I was wearing a cotton tee, shorts and knickers....so off went the shorts and tee, but I retained the knickers, wasn't about to go Regimental (also known incorrectly as going Commando) in some strange wetsuit.
After gearing up which given my size and that the wetsuit was still damp from its last use, was not an easy exercise. Had to get help zipping it up, we head to the bus that would take us to the rivers. But before boarding the bus, we were issued life vests and a plastic helmet. And yes, the life vest was still damp. I look at the thing and having some experience in the Navy with water, I didn't hold out much hope of it being actually able to hold me up out of the water, but I figured better a little help then nothing at all if I ended up going for an unplanned swim. As for the helmet, I put it on par with those next to useless novelty beanie caps some riders use, I opted to keep my Kelron cap on underneath for added protection and padding.
The ride up to the launching site took about 30 minutes and I found out had I kept riding up the road, I would of run out of pavement in about five minutes. Most of the ride was pretty bumpy and dusty as we traveled on a well pockmarked logging road in an old yellow school bus. When we arrived, we were issued our paddles and given a safety briefing and then head out on the river.
The first picture was of our group of five boats just after we negotiated our first class two rapid.
Then things started to get a little more interesting.
and even more interesting. Now, I have actually shot the rapids before in the past. But that was when I was 13 and in the Sea Scouts. My late father and I went down the Fraser River in canoe's wearing only life jacket. Neither of us had any experience at the time in canoe let alone in whitewater. But they say ignorance is bliss and I remember we both enjoyed the hell out of it. Today however, it is illegal for either the Sea Scouts or Sea Cadets to do that and you have to be qualified to shot the rapids.
I am the second blue helmet in the boat, Steve N is in front of me and Chris H another office mate was on the other side across from me. While we were all paddling like hell, I figured it was the guide with the big oars that was doing most of the work and keeping us upright and on course.
Shooting some class three and fours and having the time of my life.
After the first set of rapids, we pulled into a beach for a snack consisting of jujubes, watermelon, honeydew melon, pretzel sticks for salt along with rather weak ice-tea. Then it was back into boats for the monster.
Near as I can figure, I was catapulted out of the boat just after that shot. One split second I am having fun shooting a class four rapids, the next I am in the air and have no boat under my ample backside and then I am head straight to bottom of the river and looking into the faces of my raft mates and wondering why they had a look of absolute horror on their faces.
Now I have been trained in the past about what to do when you go over-board and not only am I good swimmer, but also have taken drown-proofing training. In the Canadian Navy that is when they toss you into the deep end of a swimming pool wearing sea boots, a heavy wool boiler suite and things over your hands that fill with water. All this kit is designed to weight you down and drag you to the bottom of the pool. Your task is get rid of the kit and not drown. I was a fast learner.
However, there is one thing about whitewater and that it is white coz it is mixing with air and is full of air bubbles. And air bubbles have an interesting effect on water, they actually decrease the buoyancy of water so that what use to float with the greatest of ease ie fat buggers like me, now sink to the bottom with alarming rapidity. Yes, I headed to the bottom like a proverbial stone. Luckily it wasn't that deep an I figure I could of probably stood up if it wasn't for the water pressure. I hit the bottom and kicked off to get back to the surface. Got to the surface and tried to grab a breath of air, only to have a wave break over me and all I got for my efforts was a lung full of water, now I was getting a tad bit worried. Looked around quickly and spotted my boat a ways away.
Okay, no problem, I've done body surfing in little rapids before, I simply have to get on my back, point my feet downstream and ride it out...only, I am sinking again and can't get my feet pointed the way I want. Hit bottom again and kick back up to the surface. This time the boat is close by so I swim as best I can towards it, still breathing in more water then air. The guide reached out his oar towards me, but fell short, one of the girls reaches out her paddle and I grab onto it....only she lets go of it...so there I am, in the middle of a class four rapid, in water and holding a paddle which is of no use to me, thinking bugger, I am going to drown here and my brother Larry is finally going to inherit my Connie.
Then Chris H. reached out his paddle and I got it, he dragged me back to the boat, I grab ahold of the safety line and he and Steve N. haul my soggy butt back on board just as we exited the rapids. And to prove that no good deed ever goes unpunished, poor old Chris H got hit just below his eye by one of the girls waving her paddle about.
Anyways, I am now safely back in the boat but still with a lungful of water, so I lay on my side and spend the next few minutes coughing up water and other nasty stuff. We still had a couple of class 2 and 3 rapids, so I just lay there resting and recovering. While laying there, one of the girls slipped off her seat and land butt first onto my face. Poor thing was utterly embarrassed and could not get up. I had to place my hands under her butt and give her a boost up. The guide is laughing and tells her she just made my day for me, to which I had to agree and told she now had to marry me. In the next picture, you can just make up my left eye as I sit on the bottom of the boat. The guy in the blue helmet is Steve N and the guy behind the fellow in the white helmet is Chris H. The pretty girl behind Chris H with the big grin and sunglasses is the one who sat on my face.
After we finished our trip down the river, we headed back to Glacier Valley Farms for a bbq lunch/supper. Seems I was the talk of the dinner table, no one else fell out of their boats and everyone was worried I might be hurt of something, but by then I was fine and back to normal, well as normal as a 50 something overweight kid can be.
After the bbq, everyone headed out, I stuck around a bit longer as I wanted to ride that lovely road without any traffic. So I settled back and enjoyed another ciggie and a cup of tea, then headed back to Connie. First thing I did was mount the Kodak on its stand so I could grab a video of the road, then gear up. And quickly wished I was back in the water, man it was HOT!!!!!! Fired up the Connie and noticed a strong smell of petrol which I put off to gas vapours being vented due to the heat. Got to the road and headed out.
Halfway down the road, the smell of gas got stronger and looked down to my left and noticed water spurting out from under my tank. Water? bugger that's not water, that bloody petrol and it is coming out fast enough to turn my engine casing flat black paint glossy. Quickly pull over, shut her down and jump off just in case it ignites. Pull the camera off the tank and notice I didn't hit the record button properly, so missed videoing the best parts of the road.
I let the engine cool down and the gas evaporate and go into my hard case. Luckily I still had the tools I was using a few weeks ago when I had to remove the tank to sort out an ignition problem. Checked the fuel line from the petcock to the filter and found it had split lengthwise from the end back about an inch and a half. No problem, can cut off the bad part and still have enough to make a connection. Only I have no knife or cutters with me. As I sit there on the side of the road, two, not one but two other riders go by me without stopping to help. Well, so much for the brotherhood of riders. Anyways I was able to flag down a passing Kaltire truck who was on his way to rescue a logging truck with a burst tyre and he had a knife. He helped fix the problem and was on his way, nice guy. Said he is buying an '83 Sportster and couldn't leave a biker in a jam.
Got back on the road and headed home. Long ride with lots of traffic, but at least no more petrol spewing out. When I got home, I found that my desktop had suffered a major and unfixable hard drive crash....and that was the end of my day. Luckily I still have my laptop, and have a new PC on order.
your somewhat soggy author,