Right, so we’re picking up the story on Saturday, August 1. genet started us off with some excellent made-to-order breakfast sandwiches which were quite tasty. Once we got everyone fed, showered, and ready to go, we piled into two cars and drove…all of five minutes away. The good news is that it was to Wild and Scenic River Tours!
Genet has posted the pictures from this trip, and has done a great job captioning them. I’ll be linking to various pictures as we go, but here’s the whole gallery.
After some in depth research (read: intensive googling), we found that some of the best whitewater rafting to be found in the area was right around the corner from the cabin we were renting, on the Nooksack River. That section includes Class II and Class III rapids, so that seemed to be about the right speed for our group. We were booked for a 4-hour trip, with a nice lunch provided right on the river bank. Alas, kodi_pup was supposed to join us but had to bow out at the last minute due to work obligations. We missed him!
When we showed up we were introduced to Tyler, who owns Wild and Scenic. He struck me as a capable, laid back guy who loved what he was doing (and was a sharp businessman, too). They got us outfitted with wetsuits (necessary, since the water was mostly runoff from glaciers, and averaged about 45 degrees F), which fit with varying degrees of comfort, and helmets. We lined up for a group picture, then piled into the bus, which was, um, yeah. It got us there, anyway 🙂
When we reached the put-in we stood around for about 20-30 minutes as Tyler explained the equipment and basic safety procedures, including the Three Important Rules:
1. Stay in the boat.
2. Stay in the boat.
3. Don’t get out of the boat.
Of course he also reviewed what to do should you accidentally forget these three rules, too. For all that there was a lot of joking around, I really got the feeling these folks knew what we were doing and we were in good hands.
After all the explanations it was down to the boats. Takaza, Mirko, and I were in one boat with three other folks we didn’t know; Linnaeus, Roho, Genet, Aeto, and Frysco were in the other boat. They had one of their crew in an inflatable kayak running ahead of us as we went downstream; his job was to take pictures and video of our trip. Once we pushed off, we were in the thick of the rapids almost immediately. We bumped hard into a rock that sent me pitching across the raft into Takaza’s lap and almost shoving him out of the boat, but we recovered.
The rafting experience was amazing. There was more paddling than I expected, but it was usually in quick bursts. The guide in our boat would read the currents and direct us to row forward, back, right, or left so that we would be in the proper position to navigate through the rapids and avoid the worst of the obstacles – boulder, trees, sand bars, etc. Once we got the hang of paddling and anticipating the bumps and dips, it was quite an exhilarating ride.
We took a break by putting into an area out of the current and several of the Wild and Scenic crew jumped off a huge boulder into the frigid water. Linnaeus, Aeto, and Roho were nuts and took the plunge as well. Takaza and I opted not to 🙂
Then it was back to the rapids, and these were a bit more intense. Unfortunately, Genet became preoccupied and forgot the Three Important Rules and got bounced out of the raft. That set up a minor rescue operation where she unfortunately got dragged across the rocks a bit and got rather bruised and numb from the cold water. Fortunately, they get her back in the boat and we continued down the river.
We pulled up on a sand bar not long after and the third boat (with the Wild and Scenic staff in it) broke out the supplies they had brought: drinks, salmon and cream cheese, and deli sandwiches. We relaxed a bit and the warm sun took some of the chill off. The group got to see some fossils that had been found along the river, as well. After a bit, it was back onto the rafts, but this portion of the trip was much more sedate – mainly just a brisk trip down the river with minimal rapids but some really impressive scenery along the way. The trip was over too soon.
One of the more amusing things about the whole excursion was the staff. The fellow in the kayak was pretty funny and enjoyed showing off (the comment was made that he worked maybe 10% of the trip and got to screw around the other 90%); one of the more memorable fellows was a heavily-tattooed guy who was quite friendly and funny to talk to. Whenever we were along the road (mainly when putting in and taking the boats out), he would shout at passing cars, “RAFTING! RAFTING! RAFTING! WHY AREN’T YOU RAFTING?” As we rode back to our cars, we asked him if that form of advertising ever brought in anyone. His response was something like, “Well, not that I know of. But if someone did come in based on that, we know we’d get along with them!”
After the rafting trip we relaxed a bit back at the cabin and tried out the hot tub, which was judged to be quite acceptable. Then Aeto, Frysco, Linnaeus, Mirko, Roho, and I drove down the road a bit to Deming to find one of the important local venues I’d read about: The North Fork Brewery, Pizzeria, Beer Shrine and Wedding Chapel. There we sampled some of their beers (verdict: not bad, but they’re no Sailor Hagar’s), got some munchies, and chatted a bit. It was a nice way to relax after a strenuous afternoon.
Once we got back to the cabin, it was my turn for dinner: grilled Asian-marinated pork tenderloin, grilled asparagus with rosemary, lemon, and goat cheese, and grilled corn on the cob. It was quite tasty, and really capped an excellent day.
Still to come: Kayaking, Mountains, and the Wrap-Up