Team Bad Idea Raft Against the Odds

Written by Annika Lennarz and Christoph Schilling

Annika out the gate:

Day 1: Trucky Truck on fire

After months of preparation involving hours and hours of fixing the raft, eating Fire Pizza, route planning, checking water levels, organizing schedules, and buying way too much food the night before, the Chilko rafting trip was finally going to happen!

The plan was to put-in on Chilko Lake, raft down the Chilko into the Chilcotin and into the Fraser and take out right before the Bridge River rapids.

The stoked crew consisted of Piotr, Artem, Christoph, Skyler and myself, as well as our trustworthy companions „Schorsch“(zee Jetta), „Trucky Truck“, the „RainCat“ (the raft) and several pretty good looking barrels.

faff1

At 9:00 on an August Saturday morning, Christoph, Artem, and I arrived at Piotr’s place where Trucky Truck was parked in front of the garage with a dismounted left back wheel and an uneasy feeling started to unsettle our moods on this hot and sunny day.

Apparently, the truck had just come back from the mechanic and in the morning Piotr had noticed a fluid leaking out in the back. Since the mechanic excluded a problem with the wheel bearing, Christoph simply cleaned up the wheel, brake shoes and drums and mounted it back on the truck, while the rest of us started with the „raft faff“ and the last little repairs and modifications. So far so good.

After securing the raft frame on Trucky Truck’s roof and packing all the essential equipment, which, under some protest, excluded Artem’s camping chair, into the cars, I am proud to say that we were ready to leave before noon.

faff2

We made it on the highway, however, before even crossing the toll bridge, the mission was aborted due to horrible sounds coming from the left back wheel on the truck. The Jetta crew also turned around and we all met back at Piotr’s place, where his expression was far from happy and we all started to worry whether the so badly anticipated trip was actually going to happen. Standing in the brutal summer heat at noon didn’t exactly improve our decision making.

The wheel and the sounds were examined again, it was hard to localize the noise, as it appeared and disappeared randomly. After reading through forums, calling people and discussing various options of finding a different car, we didn’t really know much more than before. In the meantime, we needed food, so Red Burrito and some chocolate ice cream had to do.

In the end we decided to give it another try, so Piotr and Christoph hopped into Trucky Truck and went ahead, to check the sounds again. Half an hour later, we got the call to follow and Skyler, Artem, and I started in zee Jetta. By then it was already around 16:30.

We drove all the way up to Yale without any incidents, where Christoph and I switched driving zee Jetta, since my jetlag decided to make itself noticeable and Skyler was now the passenger in the truck.

About 11 km before Lytton, Christoph, Artem and I stopped at the side of the road, when we realized that Trucky Truck had disappeared. While waiting there, we watched the dark smoke clouds from one of the many forest fires rising over the mountains.

After a couple of minutes, we decided to turn around and saw the truck driving slowly in our direction with its hazard lights on. There it was again, that uneasy feeling.

Piotr and Skyler told us, about the truck basically lighting on fire, horrible sounds and tons of smoke, since the wheel bearing literally exploded.

Tired and worried we slowly made it to Lytton, 2 hours before sunset and stopped at the Hyak rafting company. We ran into a young guy, who was just about to leave to a party at a campground, where he suggested we should talk to some people to find help. So we left the truck at the opposite side of the road of the rafting company and drove up to the party, where „Big Wave Dave“ welcomed us with „…and you only brought one chick?!“ He told us to talk to Kenny with his garage up on the hill, where the biggest art model of a Harley Davidson made of junk was visible right from where we were sitting. Despite the invitation to „smoke some shit and get drunk like ****“, we decided to drive right up to Kenny’s and try our luck.

When we entered the dusty road towards Kenny’s garage, we passed the giant Harley Davidson and dozens of big signs with witty quotes from Kenny himself. After passing a giant pair of boobs made of old silo tops, we parked and got out of zee Jetta. The place looked completely abandoned and, well, spooky. I was reminded of all kinds of horror movies, thinking this is how they always start. A bit confused we followed the sound of rain coming from the sprinklers on the garage roof, which worked as air conditioning on this extremely hot day. Even now, close to sunset it was way too hot.

Finally, we found Kenny, a 68 year old, skinny guy with short white hair and a kind face offering his help and his hydraulic press, should we manage to find the replacement parts to fix the wheel bearing.

The garage was one of the oddest places I had ever been to. The floor was covered in carpets, while plush monkeys, skeletons, and a giant statue of the green wicked witch were hanging from the ceiling or decorating the walls and shelves. A quad was parked next to a big American flag hanging from the side of one of the massive shelves. In the back I spotted a collection of books, some sort of encyclopedia and several pictures of „ladies“on motorbikes as well as some of James Dean and Marlon Brando.

kennys

A big dog looking pretty much like Scooby Doo, was constantly yearning for attention and harassing us, especially me.

When we drove back to the truck, we decided to make camp right there at the side of the dusty road. After a long discussion, we refused give up due to the truck being broken and the probability of a Lordco in Lillooet or Cache Creek having all the parts we needed available the next morning was depressingly small. Piotr made the call that we might as well try to get the bearing out that night. So, Christoph and Piotr started working on the truck, while Artem, Skyler and I started making dinner, after all we had tons, or rather barrels, of food.

Some homebrew later, the guys managed to take out the remains of the wheel bearing by slamming part of it on a spare raft seat supported by the road and pulling the other part out with a Russian bearing puller – Artem with a ratchet strap. Success! We called it a day, pitched our tents on the side of the road and passed out immediately.

 

Day 2: Never give up, never surrender

The next morning Piotr, Christoph and I took zee Jetta to drive to Lillooet hoping for a miracle that the Lordco in town would have all the spare parts we needed for the repair.

At 9:10 am we walked into the store, where Piotr placed the left-overs of the wheel bearing on the counter: “These are the remains of the wheel bearing of my 94 Toyota 4 runner. Can you help us?“. The guy behind the counter didn’t look surprised:„ Yep, I got all the parts right here. Your friends just called a few minutes ago“. Delighted we bought the parts, some break fluid and Piotr insisted on a hammer (add to cart).

After getting some 2x4s from the junk yard of a lumber store we had a quick breakfast at A&W and headed back. Straight to Kenny’s garage.

We were greeted by Kenny’s friendly face and the intrusive dog and started explaining our mission again. Kenny led us to the hydraulic press, which was standing in the back of his garage. So far so good.

press

With the help of an old rim, marked „no good“, Christoph and Piotr got down to work. My contribution consisted of holding things, finding things, and talking to Kenny about life and youth and other philosophical things. More importantly, I drove back to buy beer for Kenny and stopped by our „camp“ to give Skyler and Artem a chance to join the garage party, however, they insisted on guarding the truck in the stifling heat.

A couple of hours later and after Kenny took a picture of us to add to his amazing photo album made of wood panels, we headed back to camp. Of course, we bought more cold beer (Lucky “seemed” like a good idea) and ice cream on our way.

We found the guys crouching on the metal box in the last remaining shadowed corner not looking too happy. The cold Luckies revived them instantly and we all, well mostly Piotr and Christoph, got back to fixing the wheel-bearing while the rest of us cheered them on. Finally, the A-team soundtrack provided the epic stoke song for the great finale of the bearing fix! A moment to remember.

Energized, motivated and feeling invincible we loaded Trucky Truck and were back on the road in the scorching heat without air conditioning.

A while later we stopped at a local fruit shop to buy many many plumbs and other refreshing things and used the artificial irrigation for the vegetables as showers to cool down. We continued driving direction Big Bar Ferry where we were planning to leave zee Jetta for 5 days.

An hour before sunset we reached Kelly Lake and jumped in, where Piotr managed to hurt his back practicing swan dives. We kept going and reached the logging road with the setting sun which colored the sky into a beautiful mix of gold, purple and pink.

sunset1

In the dark, close to 23:00 we finally reached Big Bar Ferry and tried to find a safe spot to park the beaten-up, dust-covered „Schorsch“. We saw a flickering light from a TV coming out of a house where we suspected nested the ferry caretaker and decided to make ourselves noticeable by driving back and forth in front of the house since knocking on the door at this hour in the middle of nowhere did not seem to be the healthiest idea. Finally, a sinister looking, half naked native man with an obvious beer belly, black hair and beard stepped out to be greeted by Piotr’s friendly voice: „Good evening, please excuse our late disturbance. We are looking for a safe place to leave our car to go rafting.“

The not so friendly response “You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you!“, was followed by a throaty laughter. Looking at zee Jetta he added: „Doesn’t look like you could harm that one much more.“

After telling him more details about our trip and that we would be back in 5 days we parked zee Jetta further up, packed the rest of our things in Trucky Truck and all squeezed into it. We kept driving until we reached a spot to camp around 2 in the morning. Though disturbed by the lowing of several cows nearby we slept almost immediately.

 

Day 3: The road and some epic failure!

We woke up at 8:00 to a freezing but beautifully peaceful morning. After a quick breakfast and some complaints about the lowing of the cows from Christoph who wanted to convert them into steaks, we packed the box with our camping gear, tossed it back on the car roof, and squeezed ourselves back into the truck. Our excitement to reach Chilko lake this day made getting squeezed on the back seat more bearable.

Some time later, Artem decided that it was time for some music: „We need something epic! Piotr, Flight of the Concords?“

„Nooo, that’s too epic!“ Evidently, the phrase „too epic“doesn’t exist in Artem’s world: „Too epic?! It’s going in!“, and so we drove through the spectacular desert landscape along the Gang Ranch road when a shaggy and dusty black bear crossed our path and tried to hectically climb up the sandy embankment to our right. Admittedly, it was a relatively ugly bear, but it made us anticipate the wildlife we might see on the Chilko even more. Shortly after, we crossed the mighty Fraser and headed further north west.

A while after passing Gang Ranch we hit Farwell Canyon road which gave us a chance to scout the Farwell rapid on the Chilcotin right under the bridge. The white water did not look too big from that far above but we were well aware that one should not judge the size of a rapid from this distance, a lesson learned on the Bridge River Rapids. We admired the ice blue color of the river in the rough, sandy canyon landscape before our journey continued.

scouting

Heading further west along the Chilcotin-Bella Coola highway, in Hanceville we got some refreshments including the most undrinkable coffee in the world and some ice cream. Then Alexis Creek, where we made a mental note about the temptingly close distance between the liquor store and the section of the river we would be passing three days from now. Lastly, Tatla Lake, the last “civilized” point, where the gas station coffee is free and delicious.

Around 15:30, we finally arrived at Chilko Lake, which presented itself in all its crystal blue beauty in the sun. It was time to begin the raft faff!

raftonroof

The five of us began to move, unstrapped the paddles and the box and got the frame off the roof. Pontoons had to be inflated so everyone had to take turns in pumping them up until our arms were pumped and our backs hurt. In the meantime, the barrels and the box were packed and food, gear and beer sorted.

As we noticed the strong wind going downstream, we decided to mount the mast right away to test the sail. Fishers and guides from the commercial rafting company stopped by and were either excited and curious about our peculiar craft or seemed to doubt our sanity and ability. But that did not stop us! We geared up in our wetsuits, rash guards, boots and PFD’s and at 16:40 were ready to put in! Some of the spectators offered to take our group shot and then we were ready to go and prepared to hoist the home-made sail. Paddling out on the lake gave us first impression of the weight distribution on the raft. The full water canister strapped in front of the frame dragged the wooden planks under water, which we clearly had to change for the serious rapids awaiting us on the next day.

crew

We got moving into action – attached the spinaker lines, tried to bring the sail up in the strong wind… and failed epically! Of course we somehow managed to get the sail twisted in the sail bag and it got chaotic. I tried to hold on to the line while I was awkwardly holding a pack of chocolate muffins, which somehow ended up on my lap.

With Piotr’s: „Not happening guys! “, we had to admit that the wind was excessively strong and so we hectically packed away the sail to get back on our seats and ready to paddle. It was then we spotted the power line across the river a few 100m ahead. It got chaotic again. „We have to eddy out! Now! “. Undecided like a group of chickens, we first wanted to eddy out behind an island, but then headed direction shore where we eventually reached a safe spot. Disappointed we took down the mast and strapped it back to the inner side of the pontoons. Somehow I wondered why none of the spectators from before had mentioned that power line to us.

The mast faff had cost us about 30 minutes and so it was close to 17:30 when we continued our adventure. Despite the fact that our epic plan had literally been crossed by a power line and some strong wind, we appreciated finally being on the river. Thinking back to 36hrs ago, who would have thought we would make it to the Chilko at all. No, we were lucky to be here and we were pretty pleased with ourselves.

annika

Nevertheless, we had to abandon our original plan to make 45 km on the river on the first day but aimed for about 20 km before dark. While floating along the peaceful river and thinking about nothing bad, Skyler suddenly cursed as one of the brand new oars had chipped in the low water. It seemed like we had to keep on fighting against the odds to make our trip successful. At least the broken peace was still with us and we decided to fix it later in camp with some epoxy from our well-equipped repair kit.

25 km later, close to 21:00, we spotted a camping option on top of an embankment where we could eddy out and secure the raft for the night. The flat spot turned out to be an abandoned road along the river. The view was perfect and we had plenty of space to setup our cooking spot far away from our tents. Either way, I had my bear spray ready.

We admired the mountains in the west and started preparing our dinner once everyone managed to dig out the desired food out of the barrels which for the boys meant „Add pork fluff!“. Yes, we had not packed light, that’s for sure!

box

After dinner it was time to get back to work, after all, we had an oar to fix, even though, all of us were tired and desired nothing more than to crawl into our sleeping bags. It was dark but the eastern sky seemed to be illuminated by a reddish light, which Christoph, Piotr, and I obviously identified as some of the forest fires. A couple of minutes later Artem came back from the river: „Did you guys see the red moon? “. He laughed at us and made some comments about our silly speculation.

Piotr and Christoph fixed the oar with some epoxy while Artem and I stayed for moral support. The epoxied blade was then wrapped with a piece of metal, which was fixed with a screw. Here it was, the glorious moment for Piotr’s brand new hand-drill! Let’s not talk about weight here. However, it turned out that the chuck didn’t close far enough to fix the little drill bit Piotr had brought. As if this could have stopped him from using the tools he brought. No, certainly not Piotr! He simply wrapped some duct tape around the drill bit and continued to pre-drill. Drilling that hole seemed to take forever, but eventually the job was finished and we left the oar out to dry overnight.

 

Day 4: Bidwell and the White (five) Mile(s)

The next morning, we got up around 9:00 and started the day with a big breakfast to prepare ourselves for the long and exciting day. Then we had to do several fixes and modifications before plunging into our adventure. To avoid some of the seats from sliding on the frame, we filed a pit along their middle and the pontoons needed a few more pumps.

Once we were packed and done with strapping the barrels and the box back on the raft, I made some comments about Artem’s „milk-to-go“ cloth on his head. According to him he looked like a „milk-to-go“ representative, Skyler like a bushman, and myself like a pro-snowboarder.

At 12:30, we started our day. So much for starting early. A few kilometers down river we had an encounter with the gear boats of the commercial group, which was somewhere ahead of us. We decided to stop and have a quick chat. Once they were convinced that we didn’t require any help or anything that might require effort, they were nice enough to give us a heads up about a rapid upstream of Bidwell, where we had to barely avoid a hanging tree on the left, while staying away from a boulder on the right, behind which a tree was hiding in the water.

It wasn’t long before we approached that very rapid and spotted the tree reaching across the water from the left. „Right!“, the shouts started, since we had to avoid that tree! Everything happened too fast, we missed the tree on the left but went too far right and the giant boulder came closer rapidly. Artem on the oars managed to turn us at least slightly sideways but it was too late already and we crashed into the boulder with full impact. I had just enough time to pull my paddle out of the water before we got jarred by the collision. We had lost control of the raft when we realized that we sat right on the tree, we wanted to avoid. We didn’t get stuck though, as the force of the water made us slide down the tree on the frame with some horrible metallic scratching noises. Somehow we managed to eddy out right behind the rapid and caught our breath. Ok, this hadn’t been the best start, but we probably needed this wake-up call to remember what we were getting ourselves into. If the power of this rapid had caught us by surprise, what might happen in the White Mile? Or Bidwell? Looking at the faces around me, it seemed that thoughts like that were reflected on them while the noise of the rushing water surrounded us. Of course, a discussion started. Skyler said we went too far right, which was now pretty obvious and Piotr said, that he might have misunderstood the rafting guides before. I think we all were confused about which tree to avoid the most.

Amid the discussion, we failed to notice that we’d started to drift out of the eddy. The oar got closer and closer to a tree stump, almost like in slow motion and eventually hit it. It seemed like we all saw it happening. Piotr’s warning cry came too late and Artem hadn’t braced for impact. It was done, we broke the oar blade off completely (yes the one that had just been fixed the evening before).

Clearly, we had to collect our thoughts and calm down. It took Artem a while to swap in the spare oar, but eventually we were ready to go again.

eddy

Back on the river we anticipated Bidwell around every corner and eddied out quite frequently. Suddenly, we spotted a Grizzly with two cubs high up on the embankment to our left. Some of us had never seen a Grizzly before and were rather excited! Such a stunningly beautiful sight after the first little moments of bad luck eased our minds and we got more cheerful again. Not too long after the Grizzly, we saw a black bear with a cub, not to mention the rash of bald eagles that were almost everywhere.

Time passed and tension was rising caused by the endless waiting for Bidwell. The sudden sound of thunder made us look up to the sky at the grey clouds that were now above us. Finally, we reached an eddy river left directly upstream of Bidwell. In that moment it started hailing. We refused to take this as a sign of doom and climbed along the shore down river to scout the rapid. We found a good line relatively quickly and all agreed on avoiding the giant boulder on the right.

bidwell

Full of excitement we returned to the raft only to get hit in the face by another, and this time rather devastating, surprise – we had broken the frame on our very first maneuver. We looked at each other and were speechless. Was this the final end of the trip? This would have meant leaving the raft and everything else behind and walking at least 40km to reach civilization. Gladly, we came perfectly prepared for such a situation – ratchet straps and Gorilla tape.

The frame broke at one of the joints in the front, but was still connected with a little bit of metal. So the obvious first measure was to wrap this piece in as much tape as possible. We then discussed the best way to take forces of the joint by directing straps in a variety of directions. The whole process still took at least an hour before we were confident enough to descend Bidwell.

Piotr mounted the oarsman seat and we were on our way. I got more nervous as we got closer to the rumbling sound of what lay ahead. But that suddenly turned into pure mega-stoke when we hit the first wave of the rapid. It was impressive, what looked big earlier was now huuuuuge! The wave gave way to a massive hole pushing us towards the boulder. Hard right!!!! Piotr plunged the oars and we paddled as hard as possible. We hit the line just perfectly, did another left turn and got flushed out over an amazing big wave train to marginally calmer water below.

We were more-than-stoked and knew there would be lots more to come. An endless odyssey of eddy out attempts started to switch out the oars man. We finally made it and caught our breath. Piotr and Artem switched on the oars, as did Skyler and Christoph places. Now, we all knew about the White Mile, however, we also heard rumors of it becoming five at high water. Well, we had high water. We took off and there was no stopping. We raged down the river through endless class IV rapids, around boulders and holes and frankly, did a pretty good job. Including a mid-rapid oar-lock adjustment. Artem kept us straight and we had the raft ride of our lives!

We were cheering and overwhelmed by the time we got into Lava Canyon, which looked like a float in a video we watched a month ago. Well we couldn’t even take pictures. It was also narrow enough that we had to retract the oars and paddle steer in a hurry. Only after the confluence with the Taseko River that for the first time things got a little relaxed and we opened our first beer to cheers our victory.

annika2

beer

A few ripples here and there allowed Artem and Piotr to hand over the oars to Christoph. He got us down the little ripples and there was talk about an exit drop we might have not noticed due to high water. Not quite… We floated around a bend out of the last bits of canyon and the first thing we heard was a whimper from Christoph. We had found Exit Drop. It was underneath a bridge and little wider than the raft and it was too late to switch to an experienced oars man. We took up some speed to increase maneuverability and were heading straight for the gap. The oars were pulled in at the last moment and we pinballed down the drop to calm water and open terrain on ice blue river. We even had some native fishers cheering from the bridge.

We were happy and exhausted and soon found a camp spot that provided grassy spots for our tents. And of course cowshit. It started to rain at some point but that could not change the good mood we were in. We sat under a tree and finished the day with some pretty hilarious conversations about mice and blue barrels. I swear we even so a Piotr mouse – it had a tiny red dry bag with tools in it. Piotr was dealing with the cowshit and after he stated: “I’m an animal; I scrape away other animals shit!” We decided it was time to get some sleep.

 

Christoph takes over:

Day 5: Things to do on a floaty day

The next day was a little different, there was no big white water to be expected, so we got ready for a floaty day on the beautiful river. The view from the raft was just spectacular. We saw the snow covered mountains in the west while we were floating along through forests and little canyons towards more open grassy land. We played “Contact” for a while, tried some fishing, and came up with a grading scale for white water depending on the amount of beer that is spilled out of a can of beer when placed on flat surface on the raft. Problem was, we didn’t really get past class II (beer spilling out of the can but staying on top of the surface) because no one wanted to waste any of the good stuff. However, we still ran out of beer.

oarsmen

Gladly, we remembered that Alexis Creek had a liquor store! My pre trip research showed a distance of only 2km to town straight from the river. The mission was clear – resupply. Dressed in wetsuits, we made our way to town, passing some cow fields and climbing several gates. If only we had a gate ramp. People gave us a strange look when we walked into the store with our wet stuff on but also not too surprised. Must be a thing, resupplying beer there.

We asked a mechanic in town for a piece of sprinkler pipe to fix the raft frame, but even Piotr’s friendly words couldn’t get the guy to even have a look for anything useful. But we had beer; and thus made our way back to the raft. We floated a bit longer and hit some nice class III rapids to finish the day.

I had marked a campsite a little ahead based on some satellite images and we would not be disappointed. There was a perfect eddy, flat tent spots galore, and a table with two benches and two chairs. The only thing missing was a self-roasting moose. We unpacked our barrels, cooked dinner, sat and drunk, looking over the river from a spot that could not have been any better.

camp

 

Day 6: Farwell and Big Dong Canyon

We got up the next morning prepared for another great day of white water. The day’s mission: Farwell and Big John Canyons. We packed up and left our perfect camp spot behind. We were floating again for a while before we got closer to Farwell Canyon. We eddied out one or two river bends before the actual rapid to have a little lunch and get ready.

We took a walk to look at the abandoned town and found a rafting guide chilling just near the rapid, waiting for his colleagues to come down with the customers. He gave us some good advice and seemed pretty stoked about our adventure.

Artem was concerned about getting sunburnt that day, but only had Piotr’s bullshit expensive organic vegan sunscreen. See for yourself. My guess is a circus would have hired him right on the spot.

artem

We had to sort out our usual sitting dilemma, who gets the oars, who sits up front. Piotr picked the oars for this rapid and I decided to give Skyler the front row through the canyon. Having scouted it a few days before we were fairly confident to hit the line. We pushed off and after the second bend, we saw the raging white waves ahead of us.

Getting into it was like sliding down a steep hill. The water was splashing of a giant boulder on the left. We paddled hard right and made an awesome steep turn on the wave. Piotr maneuvered us around another boulder on the left before we hit the wave train out of the rapid. A little miscommunication caused us to hit an eddy line on one side only to miss the better eddy on the other side but that couldn’t cloud our excitement. We were again mega-stoked and wanted more!

We switched positions and floated towards Big John. Now, Big John was never really mentioned in any of the trip descriptions or reports we could find but man, I tell you: John’s BIG. Actually, we kept thinking we passed it for a while until we got to the canyon. The entire canyon was a pile of class IV waves and holes and very much reminded us of the White Mile.

The fun we had was just incredible! Again, all of us did an excellent job steering through the never-ending rapids. We simultaneously shouted “hard left” and immediately turned towards the left canyon wall. We dropped down into the massive hole and pulled through the following wave. We looked back and concluded: now that was a Big Dong.

It kept going for a little bit mostly with class III+ until we dropped down a little ledge, floated around the corner and saw the mighty brown Fraser River ahead of us. Of course this was the spot to camp, especially due to Piotr’s love of confluencing. We went for a swim and I seem to recall some naked photos shot in the two rivers. We enjoyed the last bits of sun on the sandy river bank. It was a clear sky that night and we watched the stars till we all fell asleep.

confluence

 

Day 7: Deploy the drogue!

The next day should turn out to be an up and down of weather and arguments. We set off onto to the Fraser River and expected a long float to our final destination, Big Bar Ferry. It was way too hot that day so we decided not to wear wet suits. Only Annika turned out to be a little smarter than us, who would have thought.

We played around with our second great gadget that we developed for this part of the trip – the drogue. And what shall I say, it didn’t work. Endless loud comical shouting of “Deploy the drogue” only resulted in the damn thing sinking or pulling us in a random direction. Solution: tie an empty Nalgene to it to provide flotation. That actually did work; I mean the flotation part, not the drogue. Admittedly, we lost the Nalgene at some point, but no worries as we rescued it before it was lost forever.

Some of us, mainly Piotr, Artem, and Skyler, decided to eat melted chocolate out of a plastic bag, which pretty much looked like eating dog poo; but hey, we were floating and didn’t have much to do. Then it started to rain and got cold, really cold. Only Annika seemed happy, wearing her suit and rashgard. I pulled out my neoprene vest to improve my situation. Of course this only brought Artem to come up with funny names for my new outfit. He concluded on Scuba Stophi, don’t ask.

poop

scuba

Somewhat feeling miserable we should run into a wake-up call. The Fraser had presented itself quite powerful the entire day but mostly through giant whirlpools and massive currents. We floated around the corner already hearing a powerful rumbling. The ripples as we identified at first were actually quite decent waves so we got excited and plowed forward looking for the biggest one to ride.

Skyler was on the oars pointing us straight down the rapids as we saw the giant holes in front us. The last time I remember seeing something this big was while going through Bridge River Rapids. Skyler plunged the oars and we all did a massive forward stroke to pull us out of there. We should later identify this as French Bar Canyon. I saw some slightly shocked faces around me and I’m sure mine looked only worse. We had some discussion about this that would later on turn into more of an argument.

We were on our final km of the river, floating towards the end of our adventure of the three rivers we had rafted. We reached Big Bar Ferry, eddied out and congratulated each other for the successful descent and an amazing trip. However, we weren’t home yet. We started unloading straight away to get going and retrieve Trucky Truck which was at least a day’s drive away.

At that point we got into a little of an argument as Artem and Skyler wanted to keep going towards Lytton by themselves. The rest of us didn’t like the idea at all as we were a little concerned what might lay ahead due to our earlier experience at French Bar Canyon. After some discussion and an almost angry Piotr (gasp!), we settled on the safer option.

Piotr, Annika, and I took off with the zee Jetta to cover some road. Just after we finally got to the paved road we got stopped by the police. My eyes must have looked terrible but after a quick explanation we were free to go, including the advice to take the next campground. As good citizens we did that of course and fell asleep at around 1:30 that night.

 

Day 8: The shuttle

We got up early next morning as we wanted to hit the road no later than 6. We ate a few snacks for breakfast and were on our way. By roughly 14:00 we got back to the turn-off to Chilko lake and fueled up at the friendly gas station where we got free coffee again. Taking Schorsch down the logging road wasn’t really pleasant, but we made it to the put-in about an hour later.

We had a few things to check on Trucky Truck before we could drive back. Piotr went to grab a few things from his tool box and accidentally set-off his fire extinguisher in his trunk. A yellow powdered big guy looked at me and I just couldn’t stop laughing. We cleaned out the stuff, checked the oil and started to drive back.

With Schorsch now almost empty he was flying over the logging road and enjoyed the drive quite a bit. We missed a view point where we wanted to stop and look at the Fraser on the way back. We turned around for about 5 km, but couldn’t find the spot. What we did find was the most beautiful rainbow sunset you could imagine.

sunset2

It was already late when we got back to the logging road to Big Bar Ferry. We parked zee Jetta to save him some rough road. We were all kind of asleep already so we decided to camp at Big Bar Lake and drive the last final hour back to the guys the next day.

 

Day 9: The long way home

We got up somewhat early and had a Snickers and two bananas for breakfast. Piotr went for a quick swim to refresh himself before we drove off to meet up with Skyler and Artem. We reached Big Bar Ferry at 9 this morning. The guys had already packed up and we were loaded in record time. Maybe because the two dudes had an entire day of brutal boredom in the scorching sun and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

We made our way back to zee Jetta left at the highway and started the drive back to civilization and home. We arrived in Vancouver late in the afternoon and decided to have a final dinner together. Pizza seemed adequate, so each of us got a few slices and some sort of beverage. We sat and toasted to the amazing 9 days full of ups and down, raging white water, calm beautiful rivers and hilarious moments. I had an amazing time with amazing friends on probably the best trip I have ever been on!

 

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