As we coasted down the river I couldn’t help but look around like a small child standing in front of his stocking hung over the fireplace on Christmas morning; glassy eyed, knowing there were good things at hand, anticipating the excitement of what I might soon see.
The air was cool, the sky was blue and the mountains around us were dark, mysterious, and beautiful and covered in pines and waterfalls. The water beneath us was clear and cold. As we drifted ever further downstream the water began to run faster and there were whirl pools and giant rocks just under the surface pushed the water up and churned it over, suggesting more tumultuous currents ahead.
I looked around as my head began to wash over with a certain fear of the very near future; the faces on those around me suggested they were experiencing the same exhilarating feelings. My fiancée and my youngest daughter on the opposite side of the raft as me and one of my other daughters behind me, and our captain of this white water raft, only nineteen years old sat high at the rear of the craft, a huge twelve foot oar in each hand.
Even at his young age he expertly guided us through the bubbling and deftly flowing waters, he looked like he’d just stepped off of the beach with long blonde hair, tanned skin and necklaces of stone hung by hemp twine no doubt. He spoke with a fantastic thick accent, his name was Harry and he’d come to British Columbia from New Zealand. He was friendly, funny and precise. Each of us held a paddle of our own and under his command we would help pilot this huge rubber vessel over frightening rapids, spinning whirl pools and around massive rock outcroppings with little room for comfort.
Suddenly as Harry was spinning us stories of his desire to travel abroad to guide white water rafts he yelled out “get down”, each of us slid our outside leg off from the side of the boat and quickly planted ourselves on the bottom, our eyes wide and our breaths held we cut to the right, and the boat dipped violently downward, it felt as though we were falling and as water came flooding over the sides we frantically changed directions and the boat jumped from the surface of the water and landed precariously back into the fastly moving current, I look around and see my youngest daughter facing the wrong way and on her back; she had been thrown about like a leaf in the wind. When she found she was safe her face lit up with a mixture of residual fear and thrill.
That is how things went as we navigated the Clearwater River for a little over an hour; it was wonderful, scary and tense. When we reached a calm segment of the river Harry asked if we’d like to go for a dip since we were already soaked, so we all jumped overboard with elation and when we were submerged in the frigid glacial waters we gasped and begged for air. Then we all hooked our elbows together so as not to lose anyone, for a few moments it was stimulatingly refreshing. As soon as we began to move faster and faster Harry instructed we very quickly get back into the boat, this prompted a whole set of new logistical problems, like, how in hell do we do that!?
After one of us were able to climb aboard it was up to them to reach over and help by yanking those still in the water out by their life preserver, a difficult task for certain but one we all mastered hurriedly, for there were more rapids ahead of us and we would find ourselves cheering resolutely and celebrating our journey with high fives and gratitude at surviving, and finally opening the sleeves of our rain gear and fleece to let the water pour out when we made it ashore in the end.