It was an unusual trip. A commercial trip, without customers. The trips clients had fully paid but cancelled at the last minute forgoing any refund. But we were doing the trip anyway. Weather the guests appreciated it or not all the rafts and guides that they had hired to go down the river still went.
Raft guides do not make good passengers. They don’t share boats well. We all want to steer. We certainly didn’t need three 18ft gear rafts for four people. But that is how it went down. Three rafts was the origonal plan but the guides wanted to give up their vessels. The excursiveness of the trip certainly raised some eyebrows from the fly fishermen observing on the trip as we passed.
The Babine river, known as the “River of the Grizzlies” is a six day trip featuring a long two day section of canyon read and run class III. My Canadian friends did their best to prime me for the rapids, but ended up distilling their advice to”Just make good decisions”. It certainly made a change from the regular redundant advice given during such sports of “just don’t fuck it up” It didn’t help my nerves when we encountered a group of kayakers in town who had been helicopter evacuated from a camp in the middle of the canyon the day before.
Canyon paddling can be intimidating. And the Babines canyon sections were known for being tight. Any more tight and the rafts literally not make it through. More than one spot required rafters to ship (pull in) their oars or risk loosing them. The crux of the river came in the form of sphincter II rapid. Such a pretty name… The full force of the river restricted through a tiny section magnifying considerably the force of currents inside. It looked to be a tricky piece of water. There also seemed to be no clean way through it. the main tongue led to a surging biol of water promising to do devilish things to kayak and raft. Clarky and Dave both demonstrated as much with thier rafts turning sideways and breaching. Keiths raft even stopped completely starting to float back up the rapid on top of the boil line. Knowing that everyone had hit and been turned about on the boil I was not surprised to perform the same maneuver.
Blue sky was in short supply during the trip. Luckily we had been primed with suitably grim weather reports any sunshine was a plus not expected. Still the 36 hours of straight rain was a little grim. But a liberal supply of paid for alcohol and a campfire increase morale considerably. The pre ordered and paid for $13 steaks weren’t bad either.
During one stop Dave and I went in search of an abandoned indian village. Pushing through the head high grasses of British Columbia my wetsuit was soon covered with an impressive collection of burrs and needles. I actually looked like I had grown fur. We did find the remnants of buildings but the rout to the village was so ardous that we ruled out it being a possibilly for customers.
After two days of read and run canyon completed I felt suitably kayaked out. Taking more of a back seat I stowed my kayak for the final two days. Tying the kayak to the top of Keiths raft we tried to merrily drink our way through the rain. In total we had one grizzly sighting which was slightly disappointing but luckily the most disappointing part of the trip. Because it truly is a privilege to raft with friends and have someone else pay for it.