HALF MOON BAY, Calif., July 24, 2012 — Before I got in a raft with seven other people to experience the class-IV whitewater of the Elaho River, our rescue boater ran over a list of safety tips.
“If you fall in the water,” advised Bernardo, “the first thing to do is think: be cool, be cool, be cool.”
The only way I’d be in the water on this rafting trip, I promised myself, was if I jumped in on my own.
The Elaho River, in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, is known for its rapids, ideal for whitewater rafting. Aside from that, the Elaho Valley has spectacular scenery from waterfalls to hanging glaciers to vast old-growth forests. It’s often hard to keep your eyes on the river with all the beautiful distractions around you.
On a rafting trip with Sunwolf, located in the nearby town of Brackendale, we traveled more than 11 miles on the Elaho and Squamish Rivers. Sitting in the front of the raft, I got soaked more than a few times as we powered through rapids named Cheeseball, Reflection Waves and the Devil’s Elbow.
The only two times I landed in the water were when I jumped more than 20 feet from a cliff into the chilly river and while body rafting through some easy rapids with one hand hanging onto the inflatable raft. At that point, I was so warm in my wetsuit that the glacier-fed river felt perfectly refreshing.
Lunch of grilled fresh salmon, salads, vegetables and hummus, and gigantic chocolate chip cookies was provided on the bank of the river, while we dried off. But before we got too comfortable, we launched the raft back into the water for a final try at some wild rapids, named Steamroller and 50/50.
The last rapid was called Tombstone. Warned in advance that if tossed from the raft, we’d either need to swim back to the boat or to the left shore, we were also informed that in the midst of Tombstone was a huge standing wave named Mike Tyson
When asked exactly where Mike Tyson hung out in the rapid, our guide Bob responded, “Don’t worry, you won’t miss it.”
Indeed, right about when I started feeling good about making it through that rapid, I looked up and saw a big wave ahead. We plowed right into it, water shooting up my nose like a cold, freshwater neti pot. But despite the big name, the wave failed to knock anyone out of the raft.
From there on, the rest of the trip was a leisurely float down to the take-out, where we peeled off our wetsuits and boarded a bus for the ride back to Sunwolf. I’d take that rafting trip again in a second.
Sunwolf has two rafting adventures, one on the Elaho Squamish River (the one I did) and a calmer float, ideal for families. Additionally, try to add on a few days to stay in one of Sunwolf’s riverside cabins on the banks of the Cheekye River.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.