What do you get when you take three aging babes;
one with a gimped shoulder, another a bum knee and a third who can't even swim, and plunk them on a whitewater raft heading down BC's Thompson River? The answer: healthy heart rates and gales of laughter.
The forecast called for rain, and though our yellow slickers will shield us from the downpour, they won't guard against the other impacts Mother Nature has in store. "Hang on tight, Team," Simon yells over the thunderous pounding, "and let's take on this big boy!"
Our Australian guide has more vigor than Crocodile Dundee, and we feel like his Olympic trainees when powering through the first mammoth wall of water known appropriately as 'The Shocker.' Gasps escape all twelve gaping mouths, and in spite of protective raingear, we're soon wetter than a dozen seagoing mariners. "It's time to shift, group," Simon calls out, after resurfacing to calmer swirls. With a mischievous grin, he circles the fuming vortex until we're once again at its electrifying start gate. And after shuffling forwards, we have two new brave hearts at the bow.
This procession of rotating to the front dunk-tank seats occurs throughout the day and while we hug tight
through white-tipped torrents and catapult waves like a pack of pole vaulters, we have a blast in more ways than one.
Even when confronted face to face with the wettest and wildest, Simon's knowledge and competency instills total confidence. His certified expertise is a universal standard that Kumsheen Rafting Resort maintains, and that's why since 1973 they've enticed over two hundred thousand riders to hop aboard.
The resort's home base is scenically terraced above
the raging torrents just six kilometers (4 miles) east of Lytton. Ponderosa Pines and sun-bleached sage embrace the property's quaint cabin tents that overlook the limestone cliffs of White Canyon. Each one is decked out with a fanfare of memorabilia that depicts their signature titles, such as Gold Miner's Shanty, Pit House, and The Last Spike. On the previous night, the three of us had shared Chinese Cabin, and were intrigued with its heirloom treasures and historic tales.
Apparently, back in 1860 when there was 'gold in them thar hills,'
Chinese flocked to the area from as far away as San Francisco and Hong Kong. Many hung out along the muddy shores of the Fraser at the area known as Yale Bar, and although their second-rate citizenship prevented personal claim staking, the clean up of gold dust remnants deemed quite profitable.
Within the comfy Kumsheen confines today, a wicker basket swaddles pottery remains that were uncovered at a nearby Chinese site; a strung up washboard unites with hallmark photos to depict the gold rush days and at night when the propane lantern emits a soft, translucent glow, the rumbling of nearby trains conjures visions of the bygone era.
After our morning of getting up close and personal with 'Shocker' and other heart-thumping rapids such as the 'Tunnels of Love,' we pull into Gold Pan Provincial Park for a bite of lunch and a bit of river reprieve. Sun rays sear through the thin cloud cover in time to dry out waterlogged windbreakers, and after devouring savory salads, chicken fajitas, and scrumptious carrot cake, it's time to go with the flow again.
"We're going to team up with another crew," Simon informs, as we all clamor back into our twenty-two foot inflatable.
"It's always a good idea to partner while plying through the last half of this course." Although nobody argues, we share looks of trepidation when we review the rescue process with another raft of wave warriors. All the while, Simon wears an impish grin.
At first, the ride is literally a breeze, and while drifting languidly through gentle swirls and easy-going currents, heat from the overhead sun provides a warm embrace. We brush up to steep-sided canyons where grand monoliths and weather-riveted hoodoos hover over us like watchful
sentinels. We pass by snaking railcars that trace the footsteps of time as they cleave their way through granite-gouged tunnels. And we ogle the kaleidoscope of wildlife that includes soaring eagles, mule deer and nimble big horn sheep.
The vistas are jaw-dropping and spectators along the highway stop to take in the beauty. They seem intrigued to watch us roll with the relaxing river. Maybe it's because, from their position, they can see what's coming up. "OK team, it's time to get a grip," Simon hollers with excitement, "and with both hands!" From our level viewpoint beyond the river's gentle gyrating, we catch sight of a horizon that fumes with white water. The boiling froth spews over what appears to be building-size boulders, and it unleashes a tremendous fury on whatever comes into its wake. We're next to be engulfed.
While following the leader and playing "Simon says," we experience white-knuckle fever while riding roller-coaster rapids that buck like a mechanical bull. We're gobbled up by the Jaws of Death, bumped and rinsed with the Washboard's spin, and sucked into Green Hole's vortex. The Garburator churns, Witches Cauldron boils, and the Terminator - well, you can guess how it feels. Throughout the day while challenging over twenty five such thrillers, our adrenaline flows faster than the surge as pounding hearts compete with the surf. As well as a thorough drenching, it's an adventure that instills a new-found feeling of exhilaration. For three aging babes, what more could we ask for?
Jane Cassie and husband-photographer, Brent, have been featured in Northwest Travel Magazine, North American Inns, Resorts & B&B Magazine, Spa Life Magazine, and INNspire Magazine as well as Canadian and US newspapers. Jane is co-owner/editor of Travel Writers' Tales
Jane Cassie: Ripping up the river, Thompson Okanagan Tourism: Gold panner (Dan Lybarger), Whitewater rafting on the Thompson (Alan Fortune) Whitewater rafting on the Thompson (Tom Ryan), Mountain goat (Don Weixel).
Thompson Okanagan Tourism: snowmobiling, Heli-sking (Mike Wiegele), snow covered mountain (Alan Fortune), snowmobiling, windsurfing (Don Weixl), canoeing (Alan Fortune), white water (Duncan Myers).